Ask The Author: Christine Ha

“The Virtues of Being Mary” by Christine Ha is a part of our July issue. She will now take our questions.

1. What is the weirdest thing you’ve worn that was secondhand?

I wouldn’t say this is the weirdest secondhand item I’ve worn, but it sure is the most memorable.  When I was a junior in high school, I had a gray and navy Georgia Tech t-shirt.  My biology teacher—a stiff, no-nonsense sort of man—saw my shirt, and a small smile crept over his face.  “I went to Georgia Tech.  Is that where you want to go, too, Christine?”  I answered truthfully, “Oh, no.  I just found this shirt at Goodwill.  I liked the capped sleeves.”  Needless to say, he never smiled at me again.

2. What are the benefits and hazards of wearing secondhand underwear?

The benefits are: (1) you’re spending little to no money on new digs, and (2) someone has already broken them in for you.  The hazards are, obviously, risking a case of the crabs.  If that happens, you can use the money you had save from buying secondhand and take a trip to the clinic.

 3. How has a drive to write destroyed or helped your relationships?

My desire to write has helped my relationships because in the process of collecting material for characters, I have become more compassionate towards others.  Empathy develops when you sincerely seek to understand people’s situations, perspectives, and thought processes.  It is important to listen and withhold judgment.  We as humans are all somewhat self-centered and broken; no one person’s problems are any better or any worse than the next.  It’s often hard to swallow, but in order to create believable characters, it is a truth I’ve learned to accept.

4. How did you decide to structure “The Virtues of Being Mary”?

I wanted to write a story that explored the seven virtues, so having seven titled sections—each section pertaining to one virtue—was obvious.  Each section would be a scene, and all the scenes would result in an episodic narrative illustrating how Mary’s virtuous and often passive choices did not always result in virtuous or desirable outcomes.  I liked the idea of revealing Mary’s life in vignettes rather than telling it in a straightforward, chronological order; this hopefully drew closer attention to the episodic nature of the way certain themes unfold in our lives rather than us simply wondering what’s going to happen next.  Yes, life is a series of events, but in order to make meaning of our lives, we have to find the links.

5. How has your loss of vision influenced the way that you write?

Now that I no longer drive and am stuck at home for the most part, I have no excuse but to get up every morning and sit at my desk with my laptop.  Vision loss, if anything, has instilled a little bit of discipline in me.  My laptop also reads everything I write back to me, so how a sentence or certain words sound together is important to me.  I now pay more attention to the music of language than I would have otherwise.  A story has to not only be good, it has to sound good.

 6. What’s the best way to get the blood stains of Christ out of the linen?

Use a stain remover, soak in hot water, and then get on your knees and pray in earnest.