Author Interview: Young-Im Lee

I’m very excited to offer you another author interview. This time I’m featuring the author of the historical drama, Forgotten Reflections. Young-Im Lee lives in South Korea and this is her first book. I really enjoyed it and I’m so happy to speak with her.

Young-Im Lee was born in Mokpo, South Korea and relocated to Manila, Philippines at the age of one where she grew up in an international setting. She graduated with a BA in English Language and Literature from Seoul National University and an MA in English Literary Studies from the University of York (UK). She currently resides in Seoul, South Korea.

51t-0avsrNLBook Description

DARE TO DREAM IN THE MIDST OF WAR.

1945. Rice fields seem endless in a quaint farming village of South Korea, yet Iseul and the villagers have been on the verge of starvation for as long as they can remember; the last of their Japanese colonizers have taken every last grain with them. In the newly independent Korea, Iseul dreams of what her future might bring. Yet, war is on the horizon, and the boy she has fallen for is an alleged North Korean communist spy.

Amidst war, Jung-Soo and Iseul embark on a comic journey of self-discovery across the mountainous peninsula, as they are aided by the occasional appearances of long forgotten legendary figures. Music helps them pass the time, as does the radio and the crafty carpentry skills of Iseul who would eventually make history with her handcrafted hanji paper. Unexpected friendships are forged, love burgeons and betrayal taints their elusive dreams.

61SveiCzo2L._UX250_Interview

What research did you do for your book?

Researching for this book seemed to have no end. I visited one of the many museums here in Seoul and found that much of the relevant information could be found online. I tried to channel this feeling of being overwhelmed into the book where we see Jia, the granddaughter, feeling quite helpless in her own search for the truth of her grandmother’s past. After watching a few more documentaries about the Korean War, I did what I could to focus on letters and accounts of day-to-day occurrences in the lives of the soldiers coming from such a multi-national background.

In particular, I found an account of a Korean woman who remembered how grateful she felt as a young girl when the war had broken out. She explained how, for the first time, people focused on men dying, instead of her being a disgrace for having been born a daughter. As shocking as this statement was, it was somewhat understandable considering the status of women at the time. From this interview, the character “Mi-Jung” came into focus who can be found sharing the same sentiment as this woman from the interview since Mi-Jung is born as a daughter to a single mom who was pitied for having a daughter instead of a son.

article-2299134-006938EF00000258-941_964x639As for the events/plot that transpires in the story, I was particularly taken by the battle of Chosin Reservoir where UN troops were surrounded by over 120,000 Chinese troops who were hiding in the mountains before mounting an attack in a strategic location that trapped UN forces in the Northern Territory. A task force was created to rescue those trapped, though so few survived that those who did were later nicknamed “The Chosin Few.”

While my story is not located in Chosin, I was inspired by this battle that highlighted the mountainous landscape of the Korean Peninsula, the international scale of this war and the heroism displayed by those who risked their lives to save those trapped in by the mountains.

This is a really long, detailed book. How long did it take you to write? Can you describe your writing process?

Yes, it is certainly long! I had been living with my grandmother when the idea first struck and that was over two years ago! While I had written a rough screenplay of this story soon after, I eventually abandoned the project for over a year before finally returning to it, this time opting to write the story in the novel form instead. It took eight months of full-time writing to complete this project.

Writing the screenplay first was helpful since it made me focus on scenes that pushed the plot forward. It made transcribing the story into the novel form somewhat easier, although it took a while to seamlessly integrate the thoughts of each character into prose. I had a notebook dedicated to scribbling my way towards a novel. It was certainly non-linear and possibly the most round-about way of writing, but it somehow resulted in a novel. Honestly, I don’t think I remember it being a “process” at all.

Is this your first book you wrote? What are you working on right now?

Yes, this is my first book. I am currently doing research on post-colonial orientalism. I am grateful for this novel since it inspired a new academic topic of interest. I would love to continue writing fiction, but at the moment, I have been consumed with my research and a part-time job (I teach English here in Korea, which was one major inspiration for the character, Jia).

Part of your book centers around an elderly woman suffering from dementia. Do you have any experience with relatives in nursing homes?

While living with my grandmother, I had visited her sister in the hospice center who was also suffering from some form of dementia. Likewise, my late grandfather showed symptoms while I was living with my grandparents. It was certainly an eye-opening experience and one that was quite scary. Nursing homes have become quite common in Korea and I think I am at that age where I see my parents, aunts, and uncles seriously consider the possibilities of how best to care for our grandparents.

Iseul lives in a tiny village. Her granddaughter lives in a big town. Which one more closely relates to your experience? What are the advantages to where you grew up?

Contrary to what many readers may think, my background is quite far removed from that of Jia’s (the granddaughter). I did not strictly grow up in a city, nor did I grow up in Korea. I actually grew up in a somewhat suburban area in Manila, Philippines which was a cross between a big city and a smaller city. When I first moved to Seoul, I was both enthralled and overwhelmed. At eighteen, I was also living alone in the dormitory with my parents in a different country, which made Seoul seem even more vast. But during the course of my studies in Seoul, I moved to some of the rural areas of Korea for months at a time and found the contrast so shocking! Likewise, my grandfather lives in one of the smallest villages in Mokpo which had always been uncomfortable, to say the least! The toilet was outside and a truck would come and empty it only once a week or so. The house would reek of hay and manure from the barn that was attached to the living space. I was quite shocked to know that people still lived in old-fashioned hanok houses. It was only through research into the tradition of hanok homes was I able to appreciate the structure and utility of these homes that adapted so well to the bitter cold winters and hot summers.

 

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Hanok style house in modern city

Iseul’s granddaughter faces a lot of pressure about her education. What’s the difference between the American education system and the Korean one? 

I grew up in the American-adapted international education system. I had always known about the so-called “horrors” of the Korean education system growing up, but it was never something I experienced first-hand. I now live vicariously through my students who are under the same pressure, and it makes my heart break. On the other hand, what I also see is the resilience of children, though honestly, I don’t think Korean students can imagine it any other way. It is a sobering thought and one that made me want to write about fostering the imagination in students. How else would things change if people can’t imagine a different future?

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? What writers do you admire?

Between my job teaching English and doing research, I feel like the day goes by so quickly!

Honestly, I love knitting! It does take up a lot of time so I’m trying to limit myself J I also enjoy playing the guitar and taking a long stroll around my neighborhood/ nearby Gwanak mountain. I’ve recently joined a writer’s group and it has been so nice to finally meet other aspiring authors.

If I had to pick a few of my favorite novels, it would be Murakami’s “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle,” Bronte’s “Jane Eyre,” Towle’s “A Gentleman in Moscow,” Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” and Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

 

If a reader wants to keep in touch with what you’re working on, where’s the best place to keep up with your work?

I currently have a facebook page and a website where I post a few blogs every once in a while, including upcoming writing projects and updates about this book. You can reach me through both of these channels.

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/youngimleeauthor/

Website: youngimleeauthor.wordpress.com


Hope you enjoyed this interview. If you want to read more, Young-Im’s book is available free right now from Kindle Unlimited.

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What are you doing this weekend?

What are your plans this weekend? I’m looking forward to some more sewing time. I’ve been going through my Netflix queue and watching some pretty good stuff. I discovered a new Amazon series, Medieval Deaths, which is like Historic CSI.

I’ve also been watching Rosewood, but I can’t decide if I like it. The main character is kind of a know it all, and I really want to smack both him and his partner detective. I like the secondary characters though. Crossing Jordan is the opposite – all about the MC, secondary characters not really engaging at all. But I’m not very far into either series.

541803I do like the Father Brown series. Have you read the books by GK Chesterton? Mostly short stories, and in this case, I think the TV show is better than the books, but the books are free through Kindle Unlimited.

I’ve also been sewing a lot. I have a denim quilt I’ve been working on while I watch TV or listen to my audiobook and it’s close to being done. Then I have another quilt top done and I just need the batting and the backing. It’s a camping/woods quilt.

Here’s my list of what I’m currently reading:

  • Queens of the Conquest: England’s Medieval Queens
  • American Colonies: The Settling of North America (audio)
  • The Queen of Attolia (audio)
  • Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen

 

The Sans Pareil Mystery

Title: The Sans Pareil Mystery (Detective Lavender #2)

Author: Karen Charlton

“On a cold February night in Regency London, a dark curtain falls on the Sans Pareil Theatre following the death of April Clare, a promising young actress, whose body is found in mysterious circumstances.

Detective Stephen Lavender and his dependable deputy, Constable Woods, quickly discover that nothing is quite as it seems. As successive mysteries unfold, they soon realise that it is not only the actors from the Sans Pareil who are playing a part.”

It’s funny how sometimes your books align. I just finished 2 books about Regency England and crime. I already reviewed Newt’s Emerald  (verdict = good)  and now this one. Unlike the first book, this one does not have a fantasy element. It’s strictly mystery, with a little romance.

Let me say that I rated this 7/10, but I’m still looking forward to the next book. The writing could be better – too much telling, too much exposition in parts. I swear the characters must be dumb to have to have things explained to them! But the characters and the world building make these rewarding books. Detective Lavender is not your conventional copper. He is a Bow Street Runner, but he’s also more of a gentleman. Then there’s his lady love, Dona Magdalena, recently escaped from Napoleon’s invasion of Spain. I love her, and she gets a big part in this book. Constable Woods and his family are great too.

I mostly listened to this, but if you get it on Kindle Unlimited, you can switch back and forth between book and audio, which is awesome. The narrator did a really good job with the men, not so hot with the women. I’d recommend this one if you enjoy historical mysteries. But start with the first book, The Heiress of Linn Hagh.

 

Thumbs Up for This One

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions, however, are my own.

Title: Forgotten Reflections

Author: Young-Im Lee

Setting: Korea 1950s

I must admit that I haven’t read much modern Asian fiction, and even less Asian historical fiction, so when I was offered this book, I was excited to read it. When I got a look at how long it was, I admit to second thoughts. I’m glad I stuck with it because it was a great read.

This is two stories in one, the story of Iseul as a girl, and the one of her as a grandmother now suffering from Alzheimer’s and living in assisted care. Her granddaughter starts digging into her grandma’s past when they move her into the care facility. Meanwhile, Iseul herself is remembering her past.

Iseul grew up in a small village in Korea. She barely remembers the Japanese soldiers who roared through her town, killing her mother and many of the villagers. Now Iseul is old enough to help her father with his paper-making business. She attracts the notice of Jung-Soo, son of the local bigwig, and that relationship will shape the rest of her life. She and Jung-Soo become aware that the village has a secret Communist cell and soon war breaks out.

I won’t spoil the rest of the book, but I can say that their paths part, but neither can forget the other one. When they are reunited, everything has changed. Several times with this book, I thought it was so long I was never going to finish, but I just couldn’t give up on it.

Like I said, I’m not familiar with Korean books, and the author says that she was only born in Korea and grew up in the Philippines. But the writing is very different from what I’m used to. Sometimes the narrator (the granddaughter) addresses the reader directly. The way Iseul talked made me laugh too. She’s not like any other MC I’ve read this year, that’s for sure.

I definitely recommend this one. If you’re in the mood for a good long book, this one should be on your list.

It’s a start!

My new book club met last night. We had 3 people there! Me, Janae, and her little girl. Her daughter did read the book and actually had a few things to say, so that was OK. But it wasn’t the start I hoped for. We read A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen. It’s actually a MG book, but if you are into historical fiction you should give it a quick read. It’s about the Berlin Wall and a girl whose family was divided when the wall went up practically overnight. I really liked it.

We also picked books for the next two months, The Distant Hours by Kate Morton and Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth. Have any of you read them? What do you think? I sure hope the next meeting is bigger than this one!

Writing prompt

You get a chance to time travel. If you accept, you have a 90% chance of arriving where you intended, a 90% chance of arriving with your clothes and money, and a 90% chance of arriving with your memory.

You accept. You wake up 100 years before you intended, naked, with no memory of how you got there. What now?

New Book Club

I’m so excited! I decided to start a neighborhood book club! We haven’t met yet; our first meeting is the 24th, but there’s plenty of interest. I picked a short book for this first month, since we don’t have a lot of time, but it was a good one – A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen. I’ve been hearing a lot about it. It was more MG that YA, which I didn’t expect, but it was still a very good, very suspenseful read. It’s about a girl living in Berlin when the wall goes up and her efforts to get in touch with family trapped on the other side. I think everyone will enjoy it.

What about you? Do you belong to any book clubs, IRL or online? What kind of stuff do you read? How did you meet? I’d love to know all about it.

Fun Romance Romp

Disclaimer: I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Title: The Hidden Duchess

Author: Bree Verity

Celeste is about to be unjustly arrested for her husband’s murder. She needs a quiet place to hide out while her lawyers gets things sorted out. Marcel is her cousin. He has a little farm in the French countryside. It’s the perfect solution . . . If these two don’t kill each other first.

What a fun book! Like most romances, the question wasn’t whether these two would get together, but how. They had great chemistry. I have to say though I wasn’t so sure in the beginning. I liked Marcel right off, but Celeste was such a brat! So spoiled! But she gets better.

One caution – This book has some love scenes that were more explicit than I was comfortable with. If you like it steamy, you probably won’t mind, but I skipped ahead.

I’m recommending this one for fans of historical romance. Thanks for the chance to read it.

 

 

 

Top 10 Tuesday

Inspired my recent read, A Lady in the Smoke, which features a railway doctor, I thought I would give my Top 10 Books on Medicine that I would recommend. These are mostly non-fiction, but include some fiction as well.

  1. The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. This one is about cancer, and it’s a truly impressive book from start to finish. I was amazed at the amount of research that went into this. I read it after my dad passed away from cancer, and yet I found it an inspiration to read about all the people who are working so hard to find treatments and one day, even a cure.
  2. In Reckless Hands: Skinner V. Oklahoma and the Near-Triumph of American Eugenics by Victoria F. Nourse. If the last book inspired me, this one enraged me. Eugenics was a big movement for a shockingly long time which culminated in Nazi experiments in the prison camps. But it was big here in the US as well, and could have become law if not for a landmark court case.
  3. The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic that Shaped Our History by Molly Caldwell Crosby. I’ve read a lot of epidemic books, and this is my favorite on yellow fever. I tell you, you’ll be swatting mosquitoes a lot harder after this book!
  4. The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic by Gay Salisbury. This is another great one to read this summer when you’re sweltering in the heat. Read about the race through blizzards to get a diphtheria antidote to an isolated community in Alaska and you’ll feel so thankful for vaccines and for air conditioning both.
  5. Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of a Wonder Drug by Diarmuid Jeffreys. From its discovery to Bayer’s shameful Nazi connections to modern research, this covers everything.
  6. Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters by Matt Ridley. I really liked the way this book organized, a chapter for every pair of chromosomes, and a gene from every chromosome. It’s not even a little comprehensive, but it was compelling reading.
  7. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Lacks was a poor Black woman who died of cancer, but her cells live on in research that has saved hundreds of lives. However, that raises questions about the rights of patients in this book that’s now a movie.
  8. The Leper of Saint Giles by Ellis Peters. I love the Brother Cadfael mysteries, but this one is my favorite in the series. Not only is the mystery compelling, but the description of the nursing among the lepers in England, of the disease and its effects is truly moving.
  9. An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears. This one is big. But it’s my favorite look at 17th century medicine. It was a time of great discovery, but also a time of superstition and prejudice. Told from multiple POV, it makes the story more complex.
  10. The Physician by Noah Gordon. An orphan is driven by an urgent need to know how the body works. He makes his way to medieval Palestine so he can study medicine and learn what there is to know.

Review: Murder at Sedgwick Court

Title: Murder at Sedgwick Court, Rose Simpson book 3

Author: Margaret Addison

Genre: historical cozy mystery

Setting: Sedgwick Court, England, 1930

Rose Simpson and her beau, Cedric the Earl of Belvedere, are hoping for some quiet time enjoying each other’s company. (Suitably chaperoned, of course.) But Lady Lavinia, the earl’s sister, comes home from France bringing her own house party with her. A love triangle soon develops and before long, a young woman is murdered. Scotland Yard arrives to investigate, but of course, it’s Rose who solves the case.

These are fun, very light mysteries that are good to read when you want something fluffy. There’s not a lot of substance and certainly no realism, but that’s kind of the point. I enjoyed this one and I’ll probably forget about it within the week.