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Barnes & Noble interview with Khaled Hosseini

(Page 9 of 9)

KH: It was disorienting, in a way. It's kind of surreal to watch fact and fiction collide and echo in all kinds of different ways. It was an especially curious experience to be on the set, and to see somebody try to realize a visual interpretation of my thoughts, of my feelings, of my story. There were times when I felt it no longer belonged to me, that The Kite Runner had gotten away from me and had a life of its own. Frankly, I still feel that way at times, even though it's a bit of a paradox in that The Kite Runner is a very intimate and personal story for me. There are pages in that book that very much resemble my own life, and there's far more of me in its pages than in A Thousand Splendid Suns; but at the same time, I feel it has a life that is separate from me, that other people have a claim to it. I feel removed from it, to some extent. The film was very much an example of that, watching these actors and this director and these producers put their own interpretation on what my life at some level was like.

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JM: Your books quite tellingly address relations between parents and children, and you've spoken today about how important that subject is to you. If you don't mind my asking, have your parents lived to see your success with these books?

KH: Yes. I am very grateful for that. They are both alive, and they've lived to see everything that's happened to me. They are thrilled for me and unabashedly proud.

JM: That's wonderful. I am very glad to hear that. Did they read the books, or see the movie, and say about anything, "Khaled, you got that wrong"?

KH: [LAUGHS] Actually, I gave both manuscripts to them before they were fully edited, just to see what they thought, and also to see if there were any factual things that they might have a spin on. But no, there weren't. They love both books. Both of them I think like the second book more. They're just very proud and thrilled. I have a seven-year-old and a five-year-old. I imagine that if either my son or my daughter achieves something like this, I'll be very proud and maybe like my own folks -- I'll have a blind spot to their weaknesses.

JM: What has your children's experience of storytelling been? To return to where we started, has it been different from what yours was at their age?

KH: I was starved for books growing up. But there's such an abundance in this country, and my children have their pick -- the challenge is how to narrow it down. They both seem to be very interested in at least hearing stories. I have been reading to them for the last few weeks the Lemony Snicket series, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and I know exactly when to stop reading for the night. They get frustrated, and they want to hear more, and I'll close the door and I'll overhear them talking about the story -- how could Mr. Poe not know that that guy is really Count Olaf, and so on. It's tremendously pleasing for me to hear them be involved and be interested. I'm hoping they'll have a love for books and stories just the way I did. But you know, I think of a line from The Kite Runner, which is a little hokey, but very true: kids aren't coloring books and you don't get to color them in. They'll declare their own personality soon enough.

JM: That is certainly true. One last question: are you into a third book?

KH: I am. But I'm not being coy when I say I don't want to really discuss it. I don't have a superstition or anything about this, but my books rarely end up being what I think they're going to be. So I may say, "Well, it's a book about this," and it may turn out to be something completely different. So I'd rather not. But yes, I've been working on a third novel, but its release is not imminent.

October 30, 2008

Now Editor-in-Chief of the Barnes & Noble Review, veteran bookseller James Mustich was a founder, and for twenty years publisher, of the book catalogue A Common Reader.