Interview of Andrew Hicks
ACROSS THE AIRWAVES
There now follows a transcript of an interview with Professor Andrew Hicks, author of the best selling novel, "Thai Girl", hosted by the feminist chat show hostess, Mylene Déranger, which was broadcast by the Bangkok based radio station, AsiaView, on 1 April 2006.
Mylene: Andrew Hicks, there are those who say that the many liaisons between foreign men and much younger Thai women here are just based on sex. What would you say to that allegation?
Andrew: Well, yes, Mylene, maybe you're right.
Mylene: But aren't you ashamed to admit it?
Andrew: Not a bit. If you've got it flaunt it, as they say.
Mylene: And what exactly do you mean by that?
Andrew: No, the problem's this. You see, Thai women think Thai men are philanderers. And, compared to us, they're rather small where it matters… know what I mean? And we've got these wonderful white skins and long noses, so yes, maybe that's why they go wild about us.
Mylene: No, no! I mean it's you men who go crazy about them. (Pause.) No, Andrew… I mean… do you like Thai women?
Andrew: Oh yes, I do. Thai men too… I really like the Thai people.
Mylene: No! I mean, do you find them attractive?
Andrew: Oh yes, certainly… almost as attractive as western women.
Mylene: You mean less attractive?
Andrew: Look Mylene, physical attraction isn't important… it's what the person's really like… their kharma. But since you ask, I actually prefer blondes, statuesque women with substantial assets. But there you go… can't win'em all!
Mylene: But isn't it your assets the women here are after?
Andrew: I think I've told you that already.
Mylene: No, I mean they're just after your money, aren't they.
Andrew: Thai women want my money? How outrageous, Mylene! Absolutely not... they're in it for the romance. We're more romantic than Thai men, you see. See'em swooning over an old farang, and then you'd know sighs really matter.
Mylene: Size matters?
Andrew: No, Mylene, sighs matter. You feminists!
Mylene: Well, thanks for that, Professor! Maybe we'd better get back to the book. (Pause.) Now "Thai Girl"'s been described in the glossy monthly, 'Farang Untamed Travel' as being one of the biggest selling English language novels ever published in Thailand… and I'm told you're hoping to be nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Is this true?
Andrew: Yes, it's true.
Mylene: But is this a realistic hope?
Andrew: You have to have faith, Mylene… sheer merit will be recognised.
Mylene: Yes, but…
Andrew: Of course my Nobel claim isn't just based on "Thai Girl". There's also my "Nigerian Law of Hire Purchase", published by the Ahmadu Bello University Press some years ago. You must have read it.
Mylene: If I have, it's slipped my mind. (Pause.) So Andrew, what are you writing at the moment?
Andrew: I'm writing a personal memoir about living in Isaan.
Mylene: So where are you writing it?
Andrew: In Isaan.
Mylene: And what's it about?
Andrew: It's about my experiences writing a personal memoir while living in Isaan.
Mylene: So how's it going, this new book?
Andrew: Well, at the moment I feel I'm going round in circles a bit. But then that's very Buddhist, isn't it.
Mylene: Is it?
Andrew: And it's all about living there with my Cat.
Mylene: Your what? (Pause.) Well anyway, Andrew, I must now finish by saying… thank you for coming on AsiaView.
Andrew: I'm sure it's been a pleasure, Mylene.
Why do they love "My Thai Girl" ?
The monthly magazine, Farang Untamed Travel has recently described my first novel, "Thai Girl" as being 'one of the biggest-selling English language novels ever published in Thailand', and I'm astounded. Reprinted for the fourth time in only a year and a half, the book has been well received here, but I didn't know it was one of the best sellers ever.
Half delirious with joy, I ask myself why. I've only written books on company law before and should be very dull, but nonetheless "Thai Girl" seems to have struck a chord or two. Messages sent to my Readers Forum on www.thaigirl2004.com often agonize over the nature of Thai women from the perspective of the farang male, bruised of heart and wallet, but any such insights can only be a small part of the book's appeal.
Early retired and old enough to know better, writing a novel was my foolish dream, and it was with trepidation that I consigned the final draft to the typesetters. I love all my characters and have a real passion for the Thai context of the story, but would the plot be sufficiently compelling and the writing good enough to sustain the reader over three hundred pages? I really wasn't sure.
The local publishing industry has produced a rash of expat novels, once described as 'a stack of tripe', so my novel would have to be distinctive and different; definitely not another bar girl story. Thus, when backpacker Ben falls for Fon, a modest young masseuse on Koh Samet, the story proves seminal, though in one sense only; Ben does not, it seems, get the girl! In this respect at least, the book is a literary first for Thailand!
In writing a travel novel, my aim was to inform the reader and to provoke thought; I wanted my story to be primarily about Thailand itself. And so, as I began my retirement, travelling alone, I revisited many old haunts in Thailand, my constant companion a thick notebook. These precious notes I later mined and polished as I wrote the story, producing gems such as the ladyboy fortune-teller outside Bazzas Bar in Sukhumvit and Stig Ruud the Norwegian truckdriver and sex tourist. As I wrote, I vicariously relived Ben's bosky nights on the beach at Koh Samet, and sat with his backpacker friends, slagging off the 'war on terror' over green curries at Odin's Pleasure Dome on Koh Chang. I loved every moment breathing life into my characters and maybe it shows.
Readers seem to find Ben's naïve passion for Fon and her dilemma over Ben both compelling and moving. Perhaps this reflects the enduring fascination we farang have for the Thais and they sometimes have for us. Sadly though, as we each aspire to be like the other, we learn that they're not as exotic as we thought; they just want to be like us!
When people ask me what "Thai Girl" is about, I find it surprisingly difficult to answer them. At one level it's just a poignant love story, an easy poolside read, but with pretensions to be something more that that too. As its author, I'm too close to it to be objective and only the reader can tell me what it means to them and why it's been so well received since its launch over a year ago.