1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. Tell us about what inspired your novel?
Having spent about 20 years outside of my passport country, I identify as a third culture kid. My parents are Korean and our entire family relocated to Manila, Philippines when I was about one. I spent much of my childhood on the outskirts of Manila where poverty and affluence could be seen side by side. Thinking back, I had an amazing childhood, and certainly a lively one–something I subconsciously missed when I got to Seoul, the big concrete jungle that felt oddly foreign, despite Korea being my “home” country. This novel stems from this sudden change in my life. I have had the chance to live with my grandmother, as well as become part of Korean society and over the past 7 years or so, I have been able to process my childhood and my life as an adult. A major theme in my book is about feeling trapped in our adult lives, as compared to how we imagine our childhood or even the previous generation we often view as having lived in the “good old days.” I channeled these feelings and perhaps even some of my discontent and also my gratitude into this novel that I hoped will be an accurate emotional depiction of modern-day Korea as contrasted with the Korea my grandmother experienced during the Korean War (1950-1953).
2) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
As much as this book is about South and North Korea, I wrote the novel mainly to highlight the universal human experience of coming-of-age–of war and of love in this fast-changing world we live in. I hope that readers will be able to see past the foreign landscape into the hearts of people who were living each day as it came at a very difficult time in history and understand that despite the passing of time, we live much in the same way and ultimately have very similar desires in life.
3) What drew you into this particular genre?
Historical Fiction hasn’t always been my favorite genre. I’ve spent a large portion of my adult life reading so-called “classical works’ for university that I must admit, I haven’t had a whole lot of time reading various genres in popular fiction. I have always enjoyed books and films that bring the past and present together and that employ elements of magical realism such as Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
4) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
Dae-Gun is a lively and often humorous character with seemingly simple motives. But there were moments while writing this story that showed great depth to his character. As an orphan boy who often finds kinship with people who are not related (and with people who may not find his company appealing), he seems to be a person too keen on making friends and on finding the next meal. However, the sacrifices he is willing to make and the genuine way he treats the people around him is certainly something I aspire to. There is a moment near the end of the story where Dae-Gun is given the chance to run away from the battle-torn Korea (and from the country that has left him an orphan) to follow his friend, Richard, to America. Yet, he doesn’t think twice about staying in Korea. I would love to sit down and ask him what made him decide to stay. I wonder if he ever regretted his decision. I have a feeling it has something to do with a girl; he is, after all, a simple boy. Yet, something tells me he would have given me a surprising answer.
5) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
There are many formulas out there and advice about how to write the best story and these are all helpful. But my advice is to live your life and do what inspires you. Channel this inspiration into concrete moments (or scenes) that feel real to you. If the moment doesn’t feel real, how can we expect the story in its entirety to feel real to our readers? Keep at it!
6) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
I am very excited about what the future holds and this book has been a huge blessing in my life. While I have no immediate plans to publish another novel, this particular novel has opened up opportunities to study postcolonialism in an academic context. I will soon be heading to the States to continue my graduate studies.