Ms. Steinbach’s students in Schenectady, NY and Ms. Baldauf’s students in Towanda, NY read Fly Free by Roseanne Thong and Eujin Kim Neilan and had many questions. We appreciate Roseanne Thong’s responses to our readers’ questions.
How long did it take you to write and illustrate this book?
The book took over 6 months to develop the manuscript. The first draft probably took 3 weeks, and then daily revisions and email between author and editor for another several months. In fact, I needed to confirm several details with Buddhist monks, and that took some time to get a referral. Eventually, the head monk from monastery near Berkeley, California, gave me feedback. In particular, I wanted to make sure that my definition of Karma was accurate and explained in a way that students would enjoy and understand.
In this book, you wrote about some very nice deeds. Did you make those up or did you see them or hear about them?
The story is fictional. However, I have seen children release small sparrows for good karma (while visiting Vietnam and Cambodia). Therefore, that good deed was based on a real practice.
Why did you choose to write a book about this place? Where did you get that saying from? Why did you put that saying on every page?
A trip to Vietnam gave me the inspiration. The verse, “Fly Free,” was purely from my imagination.
How did you come up with the character’s name, Mai?
Based on the trip to Vietnam, where I saw a small girl (name unknown) releasing birds for good karma.
At what age did you start to write books? What inspired you to write books?
I have been writing poems and short stories since age 7, but I started writing picture books when my daughter was born in Hong Kong. I wanted to write about Asia and Asian-American topics, in a way that American kids would understand.
Why did you pick birds to be in the book rather than dogs or cats?
Dogs and cats are not kept in cages; therefore, they are already free. The idea of releasing animals for karma only applies to animals in cages.
Why do you think that when someone does a favor, the next person does a favor?
I believe that giving is a gift, and gives us as much pleasure from the act of giving, as the receiving. This positive interaction causes us to want to give to others, and then, in turn, enjoy those who give to us.
Thanks for your interest in my book…and have a wonderful summer.