ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview With Christina Farley, Author of GILDED

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Today, we welcome OneFour KidLit author Christina Farley to the blog to discuss her debut novel, GILDED. Here’s the book’s official blurb:

gildedSixteen-year-old Jae Hwa Lee is a Korean-American girl with a black belt, a deadly proclivity with steel-tipped arrows, and a chip on her shoulder the size of Korea itself. When her widowed dad uproots her to Seoul from her home in L.A., Jae thinks her biggest challenges will be fitting in to a new school and dealing with her dismissive Korean grandfather. Then she discovers that a Korean demi-god, Haemosu, has been stealing the soul of the oldest daughter of each generation in her family for centuries. And she’s next.

But that’s not Jae’s only problem.

There’s also Marc. Irresistible and charming, Marc threatens to break the barriers around Jae’s heart. As the two grow closer, Jae must decide if she can trust him. But Marc has a secret of his own—one that could help Jae overturn the curse on her family for good. It turns out that Jae’s been wrong about a lot of things: her grandfather is her greatest ally, even the tough girl can fall in love, and Korea might just be the home she’s always been looking for.

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Welcome Christina! First things first . . . what inspired you to write GILDED?

GILDED was inspired by the myth of Haemosu and Princess Yuhwa. Here’s a video where I talk about it:

There’s a lot of fascinating Korean mythology woven in the story. What was the more intriguing thing you came across in your research?

I found it interesting how little there was written on Korean mythology, especially in the children’s and teen fiction. There seems to be so much regarding many of the other Asian cultures, and as one who was living and teaching in Korea, I was fascinated with the stories that Korea held.

So, according to your — rather impressive — bio you lived in Asia (including South Korea) for a while . . . how did your experiences influence your writing?

My experience of living in Asia for 10 years, and 8 of those years in Korea, was a huge influence in writing GILDED. I’m 100% sure I couldn’t have written GILDED in the same fashion as I did without drawing in my own personal experiences and favorite haunts. Every scene in the book was inspired by a particular setting or the students I taught.

Living overseas is dramatically different than the US. And every country has its own feel and culture. What I found is that the students that came to the international school would over time take on that culture and ethos of the home culture. Koreans value education and have a very strong work ethic, hence the school I taught at in Seoul had that same culture. Students, especially those from the US, had a difficult time adjusting to this. I don’t think I would have understood this concept if I hadn’t taught at international schools and I really wanted to bring that into the book.

Can you tell us a bit about Jae? How did that character come to life for you?

Jae sprung to mind after I read the myth of Haemosu and Princess Yuhwa. I had been asking myself the question of what happened AFTER Princess Yuhwa escaped from Haemosu’s clutches. I wanted a real student like the ones that walked our halls at Seoul Foreign School, and I wanted to really break away from the many clichés of YA. I pretty much had a list of situations I did not want to see in the book because personally I was sick of reading them in YA.

So I hope readers will find the romance to not be the focus of the story, but that Jae is strong in her own right. I also wanted family to be a big component of the book because so often in YA parents and family are forgotten, and yet family is a huge part of the Korean culture and many American kids’ culture. You won’t find a love triangle in this book. And I wanted Jae to ask some tough questions that often we overlook or wish to bury in our society.

GILDED has such an excellent blend of action and romance . . . plenty of kisses AND roundhouse kicks. Any advice for writers trying to strike that delicate balance?

I’m a sucker for romance, but for Jae, I wanted her to be strong in her own right. When writing Jae’s story, the romance was just one component and one piece of the puzzle. It wasn’t her ‘end goal’ if you will. Her actualization was discovering how she fit in her world and that’s what I wanted to focus on. I wanted a character that could be her own person without needing a guy. Yet at the same time I wanted to show that love is so much more than kissing, swooning, and that fast food mentality to dating. So yeah, there is kissing and swooning, but there also is sacrifice, dedication and loss.

Without giving too much away, did you have a favorite scene when you were writing?

Wow, there were so many fun ones to write. One scene I really enjoyed writing was when the boars attacked Komo’s house and Jae was powerless to stop them. So often in life we are dealt with situations where we are powerless to stop the madness before us, and we have to pick up the pieces and move on. I wanted to capture that concept.

And finally, as this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you’re afraid of and something you’re not afraid of.

I’m afraid of failure. Of not being a good enough mom, wife, teacher, friend. I don’t like to disappoint people so I will do everything in my power to not fail.

Yet at the same time, I’m not afraid to fail. Because I have to fail to become better. I have to know defeat to understand true victory. And I have to be lost in the darkest cave to appreciate the view at the top of the mountain.

cfarleyCHRISTINA FARLEY, author of Gilded was born and raised in upstate New York. As a child, she loved to explore, which later inspired her to jump on a plane and travel the world She taught at international schools in Asia for ten years, eight of which were in the mysterious and beautiful city of Seoul, Korea that became the setting of Gilded. Currently she lives in Clermont, FL with her husband and two sons—that is until the travel itch whisks her off to a new unknown. Gilded is her first novel. For more details, check out her website at www.christinafarley.com. Christina holds a master’s degree in education and has taught for eighteen years. She is represented by Jeff Ourvan of Jennifer Lyons Literary.

melissagrey-headshot-175Melissa Grey penned her first short story at the age of twelve and hasn’t stopped writing since. As an undergrad at Yale, she learned how ride a horse and shoot a bow and arrow at the same time, but hasn’t had much use for that skill since graduating in 2008. Her debut novel, THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT, will be published by Delacorte Press in spring 2015. To learn more about Melissa, visit melissa-grey.com and follow her on Twitter @meligrey.
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