I met Kim at the Tucson Festival of Books and again at the California Crime Writers Conference. This interview talks a bit about her extraordinary accomplishment—an Edgar nomination for her first novel. Kim is one of the very few authors nominated for an Edgar Award for her first novel. Her novel, “The Map of Lost Memories,” was one of only six nominations for this award in 2013. The book is about a young American woman who embarks on a quest to find Cambodia’s lost history and uncovers secrets that will solve the mysteries of her own past.
“This book has dozens of influences, but there are two that are at the heart of it,” she said. “The first is my grandfather. A Navy sailor in Asia in the 1930s, he often told my sister and me ‘bedtime stories’ about his days in the Far East. This sparked my fascination with the region—a fascination I pursued after college, traveling to Southeast Asia and finally moving to live in Vietnam for four years in the 1990s. While in Vietnam I came across Silk Roads, the account of Andre and Clara Malraux, a young French couple who looted a Cambodian temple in the 1920s. The instant I read their tale, ‘The Map of Lost Memories’ came into existence. The Malrauxs are the inspiration for the Merlins in my novel, and while my fictional story diverges greatly from the true one, it owes a great deal to the actions and mindset of this couple.”
It’s that passion for the region that kept Kim working on the novel for many years. And that passion is what led her to be nominated for one of the highest awards a first-time mystery author can receive. She said, “The Edgar nomination was one of the greatest things to happen to me as a writer.”
Because of her fascination with the area, Fay was more interested in the historical aspects of the story than writing a mystery. But, as a long-time mystery fan, she seems to have ended up in the right place. “From the very first Nancy Drew I read as a kid, I became a mystery fan, and my favorite writer of all time is Graham Greene, the master of understated suspense. While I did not set out to write a mystery with ‘The Map of Lost Memories,’ I was not surprised when the mystery elements began weaving their way in. This came naturally to me. And needless to say, when the mystery side of my story was recognized with an Edgar nomination, I was thrilled and honored.”
In 2013, Mystery Writers of America (mysterywriters.org) nominated six new authors for the Best First Novel Award (www.theedgars.com). One might expect that such a nomination would make it more difficult for Kim to write another mystery. Not so, she said. “Rather than adding pressure, the nomination has given me a new sense of freedom. I’m deep into work on a new novel, ‘Last Night on the Saigon River,’ and feel that I’ve been given permission to delve deeper into its suspense murder mystery aspects.”
Kim also said that the nomination has helped her better define what it is she’ll write in the future. “The nomination also woke the secret dreamer in me. For a while I’ve been surreptitiously plotting out a mystery series, and now that I know I’ll have the support of wonderful groups like Mystery Writers of America and Sisters and Crime, I plan to take it out of hiding and bring it to life.”
Learn more about Kim Fay and her novel, “The Map of Lost Memories,” on her website at www.kimfay.net.
Cover photo: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (August 21, 2012); author photo courtesy of Kim Fay.