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Mai Nguyen, author of Sunshine Nails

By Kobo • December 01, 2023Author Interviews

Mai Nguyen is a National Magazine Award–nominated journalist and copywriter who has written for Wired, TheWashington Post, TheToronto Star, and several major brands. Raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she now lives in Toronto. Sunshine Nails is her debut novel.

Kobo: What made you decide to tell the novel through a multi-person perspective?

Mai Nguyen: I wanted this to be a story about family and resilience and the things we do in the name of family, whether those things are right or wrong. In order to convey everyone’s different motives and innermost thoughts, I felt it made sense to give every character their own perspective so readers could understand the intentions behind each action.

Kobo: Who was your favourite character to write? Who was the hardest character to write?

MN: The mother of the family, Debbie, was a hoot to write. I loved subverting the stereotype of the sweet, innocent immigrant Asian mother. It was fun making her out to be not so innocent!

Thuy was a hard character to write given that her lived experience as a recent immigrant—and a teenager at that!—is so unlike mine.

Kobo: Was there a scene or character you wrote that didn’t make the final cut?

MN:I initially wrote a scene involving domestic violence between Debbie and Phil (the wife and husband), but I removed it before my agent or editor even saw the manuscript. Although I felt it was a memorable scene, I shuddered at the thought of inflicting violence on one of my female characters. I actually came across a clip of Natalie Portman urging Hollywood execs to stop making films depicting violence against women, and I think that call should also be heeded in the world of publishing, too. I hate the idea that a female character has to be harmed in order to earn her path to retribution.

Kobo: What are two books that you would recommend readers pick up after reading Sunshine Nails?

MN: The Fortunes of Jaded Women by Carolyn Huynh and Olga Dies Dreaming by Xóchitl González.

Kobo: What are you currently working on?

MN: I’m working on my second novel. I don’t want to say too much about it, but I will say that if you’re a fan of witty, sad girl books, stay tuned!

Kobo: What books are you most looking forward to reading in 2024?

MN: Women of Good Fortune by Sophie Wan and Come and Get Itby Kiley Reid.

Sunshine Nails by Mai Nguyen

A tender and funny debut about a Vietnamese Canadian family who will do whatever it takes to keep their no-frills nail salon afloat after a multimillion-dollar chain opens across the street.

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