Novelist turns fantasy into reality

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Jenny-Mai Nuyen started writing when she was five years old.

At the age of 13, she penned her first fantasy novel.

At 18, the Vietnamese-German published, Nijura - Das Erbe der Elfenkrone (Nijura - The Heritage of the Elf Queen).

Following the publication of her first novel, Nuyen enjoyed a nearly-meteoric rise on the German young adult market.

Now, at 23, the Munich-based writer boasts six best-seller fantasy novels which have been translated into German, English, and Vietnamese.

But Nuyen's success has not gotten to her head. She sees her early works as failures and thinks of her future projects as opportunities to improve.

"My first books were totally bad in the term of ideas and style," she told unicum, a German news website. "It's very important for you to be prepared to accept criticism. You also have to be willing to work hard to get better."

Before "Nijura" was published, Nuyen was firmly convinced that her dream of writing would go down like a stone.

"I've always been prepared for the worst," said Nuyen, who earned a film degree from New York University. "I always tell myself: "˜Keep looking forward and make it better next time.'"


The cover of "˜Nijura - The Heritage of the Elf Queen,' published in Vietnam recently

The fantasy novel Nijura - Das Erbe der Elfenkrone (Nijura - The Heritage of the Elf Queen) tells the story of Nill, a young half-elf half-human, who discovers a mysterious knife. The book follows her slow discovery of the knife's power to save the world.

A Vietnamese translation of the book was published, in Vietnam, this year. "Nijura" will be presented at European Literature Day in Hanoi on May 27 and 28.

Nuyen (who changed her name from the original spelling, Nguyen), recalled the moment when the idea of being a novelist came at the age of 13 in the preface of "Nijura."

"An October night in 2001, alone in a bed surrounded by bookshelves. Outside, trees rub their branches against the house. The 13-year-old girl jumps up like a spring. With notebook and pen in hand, she decides to become a novelist, a fantasy novelist.

"Her heart and mind boiling with inspiration, she vows to complete her first story before her 14th birthday and imagines showing her first book to her parents"”along with a hefty royalty check, of course."

Things didn't quite work out that way though.

Naturally, Nuyen had no literary connections at the age of 13 and didn't reveal her plans to anyone, including members of her family.

She was afraid of making grand declarations and then falling short. She worried she would be teased.

But, in six months, her first novel was finished.

"It is impossible to describe the moment when I finished my first novel," she said. "After six months living in the world of fantasy, I returned to reality."

In reality, Nuyen needed a publisher.

So she went online and sent her manuscript to every publishing house she could find online.

Three months later, everyone had sent the book back, with the same note: "This isn't fit for print."

Nuyen read it again and found that it contained many mistakes. Despite her embarrassment, she refused to give up.

Nuyen began working on a second project and paid greater attention to detail and quality this time. She refrained from sending the work to publishers until she had finished her third novel, at the age of 15.

A Munich book agent contacted Nuyen after reading her three manuscripts. They asked her to rewrite each one of them. Nuyen spent another year to improve the work.

In the end, the agent turned her down.

"My bubbles kept getting popped," Nuyen said. "I was down."

Driven by her passion for writing, Nuyen sought another agent who had expressed interest in her books.

Months later, she signed a contract with a publisher called CBJ, to release "Nijura."

It took another two years for the book to come out. Since then, she's released five more"”some of which have been translated into English by Random House.

"Young adult books are better than ever," she said. "They touch on more serious issues, especially in the genre of fantasy. Adults have begun to read them too. The readers, not the publishers, decide who is going to be successful or not. I don't think it's ever too soon to celebrate success. Age is not so important, as long as one has a dream and can fulfill it."

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