Frankenstein and Costco: Khaled Hosseini’s Writing Journey – Part I

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini wrote his debut novel, The Kite Runner, over the course of a year, from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. before beginning a full day as a primary care physician.

“I really looked forward to those three hours in the morning,” he told the 700 people gathered at the Marriott during a June 9 event sponsored by the local university, public library district, and Old Firehouse Books. “I tapped into a different part of my mind.”

Despite his book becoming a New York Times bestseller, his mother didn’t quite appreciate the significance of his achievement.

“ ‘I went to Costco and they didn’t even have it,’ ” Hosseini recalled his mother saying. “She was very skeptical.”

These matter-of-fact remarks elicited a roar of laughter from the audience.

The California resident, who came to the U.S. from Afghanistan with his family in 1980 to seek political asylum, visited northern Colorado to discuss his writing journey and latest novel And The Mountains Echoed.

In fulfilling the role of “overachieving immigrants,” Hosseini said he and his siblings had limited career choices: law, engineering, or medicine. After four years of not writing and not reading for pleasure during medical school – an experience he called “unnatural” – and a subsequent residency, he settled into his new career.

“I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t a deep calling for me,” he said of being a doctor.

He wrote stories from a young age. But his parents worked so hard – his mother as a beautician and waitress, and his father as a driving instructor – he felt he couldn’t announce his goal of becoming a writer. After all, he couldn’t even speak English very well. His father was the only family member who spoke English when they came to the U.S.

He never gave up on his dream, though.

Hosseini quit medicine while writing his second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns. This disappointed his mother, who enjoyed the bragging rights that came with having a physician son.

“ ‘It was never really my dream to be a doctor,’ ” he recalled telling his mother at the time. “’ It was more your dream.’ ”

So he was surprised to realize his former career haunts his stories; his characters have medical careers. His editor complained about one character in particular: “Really? She has to be in medicine?”

“It would make a good drinking game,” Hosseini said of all the medical references in his books.

The second novel pleased his mother for one reason. She walked into the room “radiantly” and said, holding up his book, “Guess where I bought this?”

Hosseini drew more laughter from the audience with his final comment on the matter: “I felt like I had arrived.”

Tomorrow: Part II – Khaled Hosseini’s writing process and what it has to do with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Katherine Valdez blogs about author events and the writing life. Receive an email every time a new post is published by entering your email address at http://www.KatValdezWriter.wordpress.com/blog.

 

4 comments

  1. Thanks Katherine for sharing a piece of Khaled Hosseini. Some of your quotes made me chuckle and smile – would’ve liked to hear his talk. Your article reminded me how much I enjoyed the Kite Runner and will now pursue his other books.

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