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

 

Review: Hawkeye

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Title: Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon

Authors: Matt Fraction, David Aja

Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, and Kate Bishop, aka Hawkeye, team up in a series of adventures. The first stories are mainly about Clint, while the last story is mainly about Kate with the Young Avengers. The art was good, but the stories weren’t anything special. The exception was the last story about Clint and Kate. That one I really liked. This is part of the Marvel Now! series, which I have generally enjoyed and is available free through Kindle Unlimited.

Unlocking the Past

Title: On Little Wings

Author: Regina Sirois

I’d whispered the entire thing. Every detail that fit into words. It sounded so much more civilized when I whispered it, when I turned down the volume of the fear and disgust. But horrible things whispered are still horrible.

Jennifer’s family is turned upside down when she discovers a photograph of a young girl – a girl who looks surprisingly like Jennifer. The trouble – the picture is 20 years old. Her mom has lied about her past. She’s not an only child. She has a sister. Jennifer wants to meet this aunt, get to know her, but her mother wants Jennifer to leave it alone. After some negotiations, Jennifer heads to Maine to discover her family’s past and along the way, discover herself.

I heard a little about this YA book, enough to add it to my list and then forget about it. But when I found it free on Kindle Unlimited, I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did. I don’t read a lot of contemporary YA. Most of what I read is fantasy, so this was a change of pace for me, but it turned out to be a good one.

The story kind of struck home for me. My mom also had a sister she didn’t talk about. Her sister wasn’t a secret or anything, but it was still a big shock when this woman called from out of the blue saying, “Hi, I’m your aunt.” I already had an aunt, and I knew this woman was not her. I guess I experienced this story from the other side.

Our relationship was still distant and things didn’t turn out quite the way they did for Jennifer, but I still felt it was worth getting to know something about this stranger who was my relative. Now my mom and my aunt have both passed away and I can only guess at what their relationship used to be.

I recommend this one to anyone who likes contemporary YA. There is some romance, but that wasn’t what stuck with me about the book. What I liked was the main character herself and her journey to figure out who she was and where she belonged. 3.5 stars/5

Author Interview: Brent Jones

fenderHow far must we travel to find our way home?

Today I have something special – my first interview with an actual author! I’m pretty excited! Shenanigans over at Reads and Reels organized this book promotion, but I actually got to read the book and ask the author a few questions.

The book is Fender: A Novel by author Brent Jones. You can get it here from Kindle Unlimited.

The book is about Brennan, a middle-aged guy whose life has been turned upside down when his wife and daughter are killed in an accident. He’s ready to hole up in his house and surrender to the grief, but thanks to his friends, he agrees to go on a road trip, just the guys and his beloved dog, Fender.

It was a change of pace for me, to read a book from a squarely male perspective. The only female characters in here are presented in flashbacks or as bit characters. I could really feel the difference in the way the book worked, but I enjoyed the difference.

I’ve traveled by car a lot in my life, driving to visit relatives, moving, family vacations – so I could really imagine that part of the book. There’s something magical about the open road. It really does feel liberating.

Brent Jones

From bad checks to bathroom graffiti, Brent Jones has always been drawn to writing. He won a national creative writing competition at the age of fourteen, although he can’t recall what the story was about. Seventeen years later, he gave up his freelance career as a social media manager to pursue creative writing full-time. Fender and The Fifteenth of June are his first two novels.

Interview Q & A

1. What inspired you to write this book?
As I mentioned in the afterword, my wife and I took a cross-country road trip with our dogs back in 2015. I recently published a blog post with photos and the itinerary from that trip. It was a life-changing experience traveling across America by car, and the road trip in Fender largely follows the same path we took.
I’m sometimes asked why I write contemporary fiction—literary fiction, as some call it. How come I don’t write about vampires or killer robots or contact with Martians? The answer is pretty simple. I think truth is strange enough without needing to invent alternate worlds. And when I come up with ideas for stories, I usually try to take two or more seemingly unrelated real life experiences and find a way to mash them together.
I started with the road trip idea and blended it with experiences I’ve had with my dog, Gibson, who much like the beagle protagonist in my book, is named after a guitar. Gibson has helped me through some difficult times, and I started wondering if there was a way I could combine the two ideas of a vehicular adventure and the comfort of a canine friend.
Both aspects of the story were worth telling, I thought. And so I worked backwards—what circumstances would need to transpire to bring together the therapeutic love a dog with a cross-country road trip? And that’s how Fender was born.
2. Where did you get the idea for Brennan and his close friendship with the guys? Is that based on real life?
I wish it were based on real life. I can’t say I have any close friends from childhood. For that matter, I’m a bit of an introverted loner as an adult. But there is something to being able to connect with people you share a history with. There’s an instant bond there, especially if those shared experiences include elements of overcoming adversity together. For two people to abandon their families and leave town for several weeks just to help out a friend, I figured they must share some pretty deep roots. And I felt that a shared experience of childhood poverty and neglect would be a powerful enough reason to forge such a bond.
3. Fender the dog is central to the story. Tell us a story about your dogs.
Fender, the dog, is largely based off Gibson, who is a pug mix and five-and-a-half years old. But the dog who usually gives us the most stories is Stirling, our four-year-old lab mix. It’s becoming a running (albeit unfunny) joke that whenever we travel with Stirling, we need to map out all the nearby emergency vet clinics.
When driving through California, Stirling got into something at a dog park and ended up ill for the rest of our road trip. He couldn’t hold down water or food after that. Last year we rented a waterfront property for two weeks in Nova Scotia, and Stirling decided to make friends with a porcupine. He needed several quills removed from his face in the middle of the night, and the closest vet was an hour away by car.
He’s a good boy—he comes to see me every morning for a hug! I’ll be sitting at my desk and he’ll walk up beside me, place a paw on my leg, wait for me to turn, then stand upright and wrap both his front paws around my neck. It’s just part of our routine and it happens just like clockwork. He’s a lot more work than Gibson, but he can be a lot more affectionate, too.
4. I loved the author’s note about the road trips you took before writing this book. Is there anywhere you’d like to visit that you haven’t been yet?
There are many places in the world I still hope to visit one day. But for the sake of staying consistent with road trips and the themes in Fender, I’m going to pick a location in the United States. My wife is originally from Atlanta, and we’ve made several drives there from Fort Erie. We recently drove to Washington, DC for a wedding and Miami, Florida for a funeral. Between us, we’ve been just about every state, and we’ve logged an absurd number of hours on the road. But there is one state I’ve always wanted to visit and neither of us have been, and that’s Tennessee. I’d love to drive out to Nashville or Memphis—or both!—for a few days to check out the local music scene and tour the Gibson guitar factory. We’ve driven through parts of the state, but have never stopped.

Pretty Good Urban Fantasy

Title: A Dragon of a Different Color (Heartstrikers #4)

Author: Rachel Aaron

Setting: alternate Detroit

SPOILERS FOR THE REST OF THE SERIES

I’m assuming that when you read #4 up there, you know I’m going to comment on the rest of the series up until now, right? Just checking.

Do you like dragons? Do you like the idea of dragons living among humans in today’s world? Then you should check out these books by Rachel Aaron. The series starts with Nice Dragons Finish Last.  Main character Julius is, as you might guess, a nice dragon, which makes him a liability in his clan. His mother decides to get rid of him. Lucky for Julius, he meets an aspiring mage named Marci. Unluckily, she’s in trouble with the mob about then. It’s a fun series. I really liked the first book, but I feel like the author is losing her steam a little bit here.

This one starts immediately after #3, No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished. In that one LAST SPOILER ALERT! I’M SERIOUS! Marci has died, Julius took control of the Heartstrikers clan away from his ruthless mother, and most of the clan has dispersed to their own lairs.

That’s when the Chinese dragons show up. They want to take over the clan. Julius is not happy – he didn’t work as hard as he did to set up a dragon council just to give control to some outsider – but unless he comes up with a plan fast that’s exactly what he’ll have to do. Fortunately, Julius can always come up with a plan.

My biggest complaint in this one was that there was so much talking! So much discussion, over and over and over, about how we’re all in terrible danger unless we do something fast. So let’s talk about it for another 2-3 pages before we do anything, right? How about no. How about you cut to the chase and do something! I still really like Julius as a character, but we hardly got to see him be awesome at all. And why have a book about dragons if they’re not going to be awesome all over the place?

If these do sound like fun, they are available from Amazon through Kindle Unlimited for free. You should definitely start with book 1 though. It really was fun.

Review: The Treasure at Poldarrow Point

Title: The Treasure at Poldarrow Point (Angela Marchmont, #3)

Author: Clara Benson

After solving two cases in close succession, Angela Marchmont is struck with a nasty case of pneumonia. Her doctor has ordered a rest cure at the sea side, so she’s headed to Cornwall. She’s barely unpacked when her impulsive goddaughter has shown up and discovered a local story of buried treasure.

Naturally, young Barbara has decided that would be the perfect project for their summer holiday. Angela is reluctant at first, but she gets caught up in the lives of the local residents. There’s a sweet old lady and her nephew, a quarrelsome married couple, an odd scientist, and an attractive Scotland Yard detective all involved in the events nearby.

The lighthearted treasure hunt takes a deadly turn when someone takes a shot at Angela and Barbara goes missing.

This one was my favorite in the series so far. The others were rather predictable, but not in a terrible way. This one I was actually caught off guard more than once. I thought I had it figured it out, but there were several surprises in there. I have already downloaded the next one in this series. If you like the British mysteries, this series is so much fun.

Review: The Murder at Sissingham Hall

question-mark-1750942_960_720Titles: The Murder at Sissingham Hall and The Mystery at Underwood House, Angela Marchmont books 1 & 2

Author: Clara Benson

Setting: England, 1920s

Looking for a mystery along the lines of Hercule Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey or Albert Campion? These might just be right up your alley. They have the fun of the Lady Daisy Dalrymple series by Carola Dunn.

Our sleuth is Angela Marchmont, a charming divorcee who has a bit of a past with British espionage, although this is disappointingly vague. The first book involves the murder of a wealthy gentleman during a house party, just when his wife’s former beau has returned to England from making his fortune in Africa. The second book is about a mysterious family curse that’s wiping out the members of the Haynes family once per year and the family reunion has struck again. Angela is on the scene, with a little obliging help from Scotland Yard, but I found it much too obvious who the culprit was in each case.

These are the kind of comforting reads that I gravitate towards when I need something soothing and light, something where it all works out in the end and my brain doesn’t have to work too hard. It’s the literary equivalent of chicken soup and crackers, or a nice bowl of ice cream. Maybe that’s not fair, but sometimes that’s just what I want. These are available through Kindle Unlimited too, so they’re worth trying.

Spoiler Alert: You’re Gonna Die

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Title: Spoiler Alert: You’re Gonna Die

Authors: Kourttany Finn & Jacquie Purcell

Genre: non-fiction fluff

Not to ruin your day or anything, but you’re going to die. Probably not today, but eventually, at some point, chances are really high that you’ll die. This book goes over a few of the ways that could happen, and then what happens to your body after you’re dead.

Ever wondered what a coroner does, exactly what happens in a post-mortem, how embalming works? This book covers all of that and more. It’s in a breezy conversational style, but it’s not disrespectful exactly. Just trying to take the mystique out of death. It doesn’t try to answer any of the philosophical questions about death or dying, just the practical stuff. It was a surprisingly fun read too.

Not very deep, but it was a quick informative read. Free with Kindle Unlimited.

Fantasy Rereads

I have been very stressed lately. My youngest child, W, is getting married this month. He’s the first one to get married and I am knee deep in wedding preparations here. In a moment of madness, I volunteered to make the wedding dress and plan the wedding shower. Yeah. So we got the wedding dress pattern, the fabric, the trim, then basically redesigned the whole thing, got it cut out. Then I realized that the shower was THIS WEEK so I had to rush and get all that stuff done. Then I found a stain right on the central front panel of the dress. It was sewing machine oil. I tried to remove it but only succeeded in snagging the fabric. The stain is still there. Fortunately, I was able to cut another panel, finish all the shower decorations, and tonight we had the wedding shower.

It was a big success, with only one minor flaw – my camera batteries were dead. Other people had cameras, so I’ll get to see the pictures, just not right away. And everything looked great, tasted great, plus we all had fun.

Tomorrow I am taking a break from sewing – hooray! – and I will instead relax with a book and maybe eat a salad for a change. I can’t wait.

In the meantime, when I had a few minutes to read, I reread a couple of fantasy titles I enjoyed before – NPCs by Drew Hayes and The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley. It’s an interesting match up. NPCs is all about taking the fantasy tropes and turning them on end, with a heavy emphasis on the RPG sort of gaming fantasy, and The Hero and the Crown is old school fantasy, with a heroine who has to go on a solo quest to save the kingdom. They are both available for free if you have Kindle Unlimited, so definitely check them both out. NPCs is Drew Hayes best book, IMO, since I didn’t really like Super Powered. It started out as a strong idea, but the series didn’t hold up and I got bored. This one I loved, even as a reread. And Robin McKinley’s book is I treasured 20 years ago and it’s still a wonderful treat. I forgot a lot of the details, but this is why I loved her books as a girl – great story, strong characters, and well developed settings.

Anyway, I think the posts will be hit or miss until this wedding is over. Long way to go on the dress still, but my back is killing me from hours at the sewing machine, so tomorrow I will rest and read.