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.

ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview With Christine Kohler, Author of NO SURRENDER SOLDIER

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Today, we welcome OneFour KidLit author Christine Kohler to the blog to discuss her debut novel, NO SURRENDER SOLDIER. Here’s the book’s official blurb:

NSS cover jpg330pixelsA young man, an old soldier , and a terrible injustice. Should the punishment be death?

Growing up on Guam in 1972, fifteen-year-old Kiko is beset by worries: He’s never kissed a girl, and he thinks it’s possible he never will. The popular guys get all the attention, but the worst part is that Kiko has serious problems at home. His older brother is missing in Vietnam; his grandfather is losing it to dementia; he just learned that his mother was raped in World War II by a Japanese soldier. It all comes together when he discovers an old man, a Japanese soldier, hiding in the jungle behind his house. It’s not the same man who raped his mother, but, in his rage, Kiko cares only about protecting his family and avenging his mom – no matter what it takes. And so, a shy, peaceable boy begins to plan a murder. But how far will Kiko go to prove to himself that he’s a man ? Based on a historical incident, No Surrender Soldier is the story of a boy grappling with ancient questions of courage and manhood before he can move on.

Congratulations on your debut, Christine! What inspired you to write NO SURRENDER SOLDIER?

I graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Hawaii, then moved to Japan. Later I lived on Guam and worked as a political reporter and foreign correspondent for the Pacific Daily News, a Gannett paper covering the West Pacific. So I had a wonderful opportunity to study WWII history in the Pacific Theatre. One Japanese soldier, Shoichi Yokoi, in particular, did something mind-boggling. Rather than fight the U.S. Marines who liberated Guam toward the end of WWII, or commit hara-kiri, he hid in the jungle for 28, living the last eight years underground. When I moved back to the United States I never quit thinking about this soldier and what would cause him to live in such deprivation. This was the seed from which NO SURRENDER SOLDIER sprang.

What was the most difficult part of your journey as an author, from writing to publication?

The publishing end of writing has been the most difficult, and not because I didn’t know how to do the business end of writing. I had an agent at a top agency who left agenting. I’ve had editors who were laid off and I was paid a kill fee. I did pre-contract revisions for two years with one contemporary YA novel and when it was in acquisitions awaiting a contract the parent company sold the YA imprint. Even with this novel, Christy Octtaviano at Henry Holt had sent me a revision letter and was considering publishing NO SURRENDER SOLDIER when she became pregnant with her second child and cut back on her list, so had to decline it. (Christy since has her own imprint with a sizable list.) So you can see how no matter how much or how well you write, landing a publishing contract can be the longest and most difficult part of the writer’s journey.

What kind of research did you do? Did you come across anything that surprised or challenged you?

I have a reputation as a NF writer with solid research. As I already mentioned, I lived on Guam, where NO SURRENDER SOLDIER is set. My husband was a USAF officer so I’m very familiar with military. The Micronesian-Asian Center (MARC) at the University of Guam and the Pacific Daily News sent me copies of articles in their archives. I read accounts of Japanese stragglers in the Philippines. The most challenging thing was getting English translations of Japanese news articles, and I was fortunate to find a Canadian indie bookstore to get me that book.

What is it about Young Adult fiction that appeals to you?

In my opinion most children’s literature is superior in writing to nearly all adult pulp (mass market) fiction. In YA I love how the viewpoint is such a limited omniscient or first person. I could go on and on about this, but you can read about the craft of writing children’s lit on my blog READ LIKE A WRITER.

Can you tell us a bit about the characters of NO SURRENDER SOLDIER? How did you get into their heads?

NO SURRENDER SOLDIER is told in two points of view—Kiko, a 15-year-old Chamorro boy, and Isamu Seto, a WWII Japanese soldier—in alternating chapters. I wrote each character in distinctly different voices and dialects. Any character I write I try to empathize and imagine how he or she would feel in that situation. I think about what sensory details he or she would be experiencing. As for Seto’s chapters, because he is so isolated, I wanted an eerie tone to his chapters, and needed to keep this consistent while he was hidden, so I read and re-read Herman Melville’s TYPEE, Joseph Conrad’s HEART OF DARKNESS, one poem by Jane Yolen, and gothic poems by Akinari. I also re-read LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding, but to get the tone right for Kiko’s pig slaughter chapter.

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As this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of.

I am not afraid of death, but I am afraid of a long-term painful death. Otherwise I’m not afraid of much; I’ve always been an adventurous fearless person.

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Christine. Best of luck with NO SURRENDER SOLDIER!

Christine Kohler is the author of NO SURRENDER SOLDIER, published by Merit Press in January of 2104. She is a former journalist and teacher. To learn more, visit her website, blog, Goodreads, and Twitter.

Melissa 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.