Thursday, May 26, 2022

Grace K. Shim Interview - The Noh Family


Photo Content from Grace K. Shim

Grace K. Shim grew up in Tulsa Oklahoma as one of two Korean-Americans at her high school (her sister was the other one). Today, Grace writes books with Korean-American protagonists that she wished she had read about as a teen.

When she’s not plotting (the writing kind, not the world domination kind), you can find her wearing a Korean sheet mask, baking French macarons, and unintentionally killing house plants & succulents. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband and three kids.
        
  

Greatest thing you learned in school.
Wow, this is going to be hard to narrow it down to one thing…But I will say, that all the great lessons I learned in school did not come from textbooks. One thing I had to learn the hard way is that nothing comes easy. I know this sounds obvious, but there was always that student who could not study for a test and still ace it. I was not one of “those people”. In fact, if I didn’t put the work in, it always showed. So as I was pursuing writing professionally, as much as I wanted my first attempt at writing a book to be a hit, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. That mentality I had learned during school helped me to keep writing even when it felt hopeless at times.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
The most rewarding thing hands down has been the comments from aspiring writers who are inspired by my journey to becoming a published author or by readers who feel seen in the story itself. I think representation in all media is so important and that includes more books with diverse cast as well as authors of color!

Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
It wasn’t quite in my youth, but later in life when I was in graduate school obtaining my Masters in Early Childhood Education when I first considered being an author. As part of our teacher training program, we had an assignment to present five characteristics of ourselves and as I was student teaching in a Kindergarten classroom, I decided to present myself through a picture book written and illustrated by me. It was mostly meant to be creative in my approach to the assignment, but the instructor loved it so much she told me after class that I should consider becoming an author. Years later, her words stayed with me and when inspiration hit, it encouraged me to go for it.

What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
Read, read, read. Reading widely helped me see how voice can be diverse and engaging and through that realization, it helped me to discover my own voice. And, it should go without saying, but re-read your own writing, too. Out loud, if you can. I find that hearing my words read back to me helps listen for inconsistencies, authenticity, and flow.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I am currently working on a book 2, which is a stand alone YA contemporary (not related to The Noh Family). It is a deeply personal and exciting project for me to work on. The Noh Family was written during the pandemic and was exactly the escapism story I needed at the time. My book 2 embodies a more realistic experience of an Asian-American growing up in the US today and I can’t wait to share it with everyone.

In your newest book; THE NOH FAMILY, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
The Noh Family is a story about an eighteen-year-old girl who takes a 23 and Me test and discovers she’s related to a secret rich family in Seoul. Desperate to find family and to fashion a new future for herself, she drops everything to go visit her new found relatives in Seoul when they invite her to meet them. Despite her mom’s warning, she goes off to Seoul, meets her relatives, and discovers what family really means.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I hope readers actually won’t be thinking when reading my book! I hope they’ll be immersed in the experience with Chloe and going on the journey with her. The Noh Family is meant to be fun, entertaining, and ridiculous at times, but at the heart of it, it’s a story about finding your sense of belonging—something I hope everyone can relate to.

What part of Chloe did you enjoy writing the most?
The part of Chloe that I enjoyed writing the most was the parts of her that were most like me. Like Chloe, I grew up always feeling like I didn’t fit in in the place I was born and raised. It always struck me as odd, even then, that I didn’t have anywhere else to compare it to, but inherently knew it was not the right place for me to live. Writing that part of Chloe, the longing she had to find her sense of belonging (whether it be a physical place or an emotional space), was the part I enjoyed most. In a way, I felt like I went back in time to when I was Chloe’s age and journal my feelings.

What was your unforgettable moment while writing THE NOH FAMILY?
An unforgettable moment writing The Noh Family was being able to share it with my sister. Up until that point, many of my friends and family didn’t know I was writing and I shared very little of my journey (out of fear I would be a failure). Since the DNA experience was happening to us both, I was able to share an early draft with my sister who normally doesn’t read YA. Happily, and to much relief, she enjoyed reading it and it was fun sharing the writing process with my sister.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would love to introduce Chloe to Penny from Emergency Contact. Both Penny and Chloe are itching to get out of their small hometowns for something bigger and both raised by single-moms who they had loving but complicated relationships with. I think Penny has an edge about her that is under-the-radar cool, so she could teach Chloe a thing or two about that. All in all, I think they would relate to each other and everyone needs a friend like that!

What is the craziest thing you have ever done?
Yikes, what a question (are my parents reading this article? JK)! I think I would have to say the craziest thing I did (in hindsight) was to move from LA to New York City shortly after graduating college. At the time, I was working in television production and we had just wrapped a season of the show I was working on. I wasn’t sure if working on the production side of television was for me. When my friend in NYC was worried she wouldn’t be able to find a roommate to help cover the costs of her costly rental, I decided to take a chance and go. Two weeks later, I moved from Los Angeles to NYC without a job and about a months worth of rent in my bank account. By some miracle, I found a job a couple of weeks later at a television network station and was able to make payment on the next month’s rent. It’s probably not considered that crazy by young adults, but today, looking back, I think about how crazy it was to move across the country to live in one of the most expensive cities in the US without a job!

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Live abroad. It doesn’t have to be for a long time, but there is an invaluable experience to immerse yourself in another culture. For me, even though I have family in Korea and my parents are from there, it’s very much a foreign country to me. When I stayed there during the summers, it gave me so much perspective growing up knowing that not everyone has the same values or customs.

Best date you’ve ever had?
This may sound weird, but the best date I had was when I was pregnant with my third kid and my husband and I went to Las Vegas by ourselves for a weekend. Honestly, we were drowning in life (two toddlers at home, knowing practically no one in a new city we just moved to, and my husband managing a new job). The getaway was a perfect way for us to reconnect with each other, eat the foods we wanted to eat, be able to start and finish a conversation, and sleep uninterrupted. It was the best.

What is your happiest childhood memory?
I had a pretty happy childhood, but one of the things that always made me feel different was being one of the few Korea-American in my town. Growing up, my parents would take me and my sister to the summer to live with our relatives for a month. I got to spend time with family members we saw only once a year, immerse ourselves in the Korean culture, and most of all, I didn’t feel like I was the only Korean walking around. Sure, being from the US made me different from the Koreans there and I definitely felt like I was processing my identity of being not Korean enough and not American enough, but at least I got to blend in for a change. And there was relief and freedom in that, too. I looked forward to my summers in Korea every year.

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?
Aside from publishing my first book, my best early memory as a writer was when I went on a writing retreat at Big Sur that is run through the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. It’s a weekend in the woods with no internet—it’s heavenly. The best is that we’re placed into writing groups and we get to workshop our chapters. I met some great people there (who I’m still in touch with!). I also made a huge breakthrough in my writing process which helped me to get to the next step in my journey.

What is your greatest adventure?
Writing has been my greatest adventure. Most of my life has felt very scripted—I went to college, then graduate school, then got married and had kids. Writing and becoming a published author has taken me to such great heights I never knew was possible at this stage of my life. It is to date my greatest adventure and the best part is that it’s still going.

Where can readers find you?
Readers can find me at @gracemisplaced1 on Twitter, @gkshimwrites on Instagram and my website at www.gkshimwrites.com, but I’m mostly on Instagram.

TEN FACTS ABOUT THE NOH FAMILY
  • 1. The inspiration for The Noh Family came from my own experience with a DNA test!
  • 2. I have a rich aunt in Korea who Halmoni was somewhat modeled after. (She is not chaebol, but after writing this novel, I have learned from someone who lives in Korea that she would be referred to as a semi-chaebol!)
  • 3. I have personally visited all of the places described in The Noh Family (Myeong-dong, animal cafe, hair salons, medical spa, luxury department stores, Seoul N-Tower).
  • 4. Mr. Kim was actually supposed to be an older father figure in an earlier draft, based off of my aunt’s employee who was tasked to take care of us while we visited Korea when I was younger.
  • 5. I wrote this book during the height of the pandemic (insert upside down smiley face here).
  • 6. Two Korean dramas I drew inspiration on while writing The Noh Family was Hospital Playlist and Crash Landing on You.
  • 7. Like Chloe, I am from Tulsa, Oklahoma and spent my teenage years wishing for a big adventure that took me to New York City, LA, or even Seoul!
  • 8. Miso Dan is a late addition to the story, but the character I love the most!
  • 9. Even though my book is referred to as a K-drama inspired book, I am not that big of a K-drama person! I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love an occasional K-drama. But I don’t binge them like Chloe and Hazel do!
  • 10. Although The Noh Family is my first published novel, it’s the fifth manuscript I wrote. Moral of the story—never give up!
Meet the Characters
The idea for The Noh Family came to me because of my own experience with a DNA test. My sister took a test and was shortly connected with someone we had never met that was supposedly our cousin. It turns out, this person was a relative that had lost touch with our family generations ago and the DNA test was a way for us to get reacquainted. It was definitely a surreal experience, one you only hear about happening to others, and I was really struck at the way our relationship changed in the matter of days from strangers to relatives. Instantly, there was a kinship there, which gave me the inspiration to write this story about the complex feelings around what it means to be related to someone, even if they’re virtual strangers. But just to be clear, The Noh Family is a work of fiction!

With Chloe, the main character, I knew she would be pretty, but not unrealistic. I didn’t want her to seem like a typical Korean drama lead actress. I think the cover artist did a great job of bringing her to life! Halmoni is also a fun character that I drew a lot of inspiration from my own extended family. A feared matriarch that’s fiercely protective of her family is very much like my aunt who lives in Korea. And Chloe’s mother is someone not featured on the cover, but a character that I got the idea from watching my favorite Korean drama at the time (Hospital Playlist, which has been unofficially dubbed as the Korean Grey’s Anatomy). The character was a highly respected nurse who was great at her job, but as a single mother didn’t see the symptoms of her own child’s illness. One of my favorite lines in the book that pretty much sums up Chloe and her mom is: “We’re like the Korean Gilmore Girls, except without the cute boyfriends and rich grandparents. So, like, the poor, lonely reboot version.”

Deleted Scene from THE NOH FAMILY
In an early version of The Noh Family, I had Chloe spend an afternoon at a jjimjilbang, which is a Korean spa. There are hot and cold bathes, saunas, a unisex cafe, and body scrub treatments that rub your skin raw! It was so much fun writing the strangeness of it through Chloe’s eyes, as someone who’s never been to a jjimjilbang before. And as entertaining as the scene was, it unfortunately was cut because it didn’t move the plot of the novel forward. Although it made the manuscript stronger without it, I definitely mourned the loss of the scene!


A sparkling K-drama inspired debut teen novel by Grace Shim, THE NOH FAMILY introduces irrepressibly charming teen Chloe Kang, who is reunited with her deceased father's estranged family via a DNA test, and is soon whisked off to Seoul to join them...

When her friends gift her a 23-and-Me test as a gag, high school senior Chloe Kang doesn't think much of trying it out. She doesn't believe anything will come of it--she's an only child, her mother is an orphan, and her father died in Seoul before she was even born, and before her mother moved to Oklahoma. It's been just Chloe and her mom her whole life. But the DNA test reveals something Chloe never expected--she's got a whole extended family from her father's side half a world away in Korea. Her father's family are owners of a famous high-end department store, and are among the richest families in Seoul. When they learn she exists, they are excited to meet her. Her mother has huge reservations, she hasn't had a great relationship with her husband's family, which is why she's kept them secret, but she can't stop Chloe from travelling to Seoul to spend two weeks getting to know the Noh family.

Chloe is whisked into the lap of luxury, but something feels wrong. Chloe wants to shake it off--she's busy enjoying the delights of Seoul with new friend Miso Dan, the daughter of one of her mother's grade school friends. And as an aspiring fashion designer, she's loving the couture clothes her department store owning family gives her access to. But soon Chloe will discover the reason why her mother never told her about her dad's family, and why the Nohs wanted her in Seoul in the first place. Could joining the Noh family be worse than having no family at all?


You can purchase The Noh Family at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you GRACE K. SHIM for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Noh Family by Grace K. Shim.

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4 comments:

  1. A single sneeze travels 100 miles per hour

    ReplyDelete
  2. Betty White was born on January 17, 1922, ten months before the end of the Ottoman Empire (November 1, 1922).

    ReplyDelete
  3. Beautiful artwork. Most ridiculous fact I know is that I can't think of one..

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  4. collectively, we're destroying the planet but we're too self-absorbed to actually do something about it

    ReplyDelete