Nikhat Parveen, New Delhi
Literature from all over the world is exciting. Over the last three or four years, books from Korean authors have attracted a loyal following. The much-talked-about Hallyu wave has contributed, of course. India is one of the hotspots of K-Wave whether it’s culture or entertainment and now is of Literature too. Today, we will introduce you to the acclaimed and renowned Korean-American author Grace K. Shim with who we had the pleasure to conduct an interview with. Take a look!
About the Author
Grace K. Shim grew up in Tulsa Oklahoma and is a Korean American author. She debuted with the book The Noh Family. Grace writes books with a Korean American protagonist. The Author has pursued a Master’s and Teacher’s Certification in Early Childhood Education. The Author has not only amicably welcomed the praises but has also shown an open optimistic attitude towards critic reviews.
Synopsis of The Noh Family
A sparkling K-Drama-inspired Debut novel by Grace Shim, The Noh Family introduces irrepressibly enchanting teen Chloe Kang, who is reunited with her father’s estranged family via a DNA test and is soon whisked off to Seoul to join them. To know more about the author, let’s dive into the conversation with Grace K. Shim about her book, her experiences, and also her upcoming projects.
Miss Grace, you were born and raised in Oklahoma and so is your character Chloe. Do you relate to the essence of Chloe in any sort of situation in your day-to-day life?
Yes, I drew from my experience growing up in Oklahoma to write about Chloe’s perspective. I remember it was an interesting feeling of not feeling like I fit in at the only place I’d ever lived. I wanted to draw on that feeling for Chloe, so she would feel even more compelled to leave the second she had an opportunity to, even if that meant going to a country she’s never been to.
Since childhood, have you always found yourself inclining toward writing, or did you pick writing in your leisure time and happened to discover your hidden talent?
I’ve had time to reflect on that as an adult and I did excel in writing when I was in school. However, it didn’t occur to me until much later in life that I could do something with my affinity for writing. As I decided to put my career aside to be a stay-at-home mom, I found myself getting lost in the day-to-day responsibilities of motherhood. It was exhausting and I started to feel like I was losing my sense of self. I started writing as an outlet, not knowing where it would lead me, and soon after I felt compelled to write novels.
Your character kind of binds to Korean culture through means of Korean dramas. There are tons of references to Korean actors and dramas. As we all know, South Korea is right now one of the biggest cultural hubs in the world. What struck you to use these references in your book?
I used to watch Korean dramas during the 90s when I was in elementary school. I feel old even admitting this, but back then you had to wait for the new episodes to be available at a video store each week. Getting the latest Korean drama wasn’t as immediate as it is now. Throughout my adulthood, I had stopped watching Korean dramas, until recently when they started becoming easily accessible through streaming services such as Netflix and Viki. The first thing I noticed when I started watching Korean dramas again was how little the storylines have changed. There are so many tropes that are reused and recycled and yet the appeal still holds. I was fascinated by the power of Korean dramas, especially seeing how it was able to reach an audience on a global level, so I thought it would be fun to use some of my favorite tropes in my novel.
The book follows the cadence and trope of Korean dramas but somewhere we feel like it also indicates the idea of reality versus a fictitious world. What are your introspections on this?
So, to give you some background information on the inspiration for my book, my sister and I took a DNA test and we did get in touch with some of our relatives we didn’t previously know of. It’s not as dramatic as what Chloe went through in my book, but while we got to know the new relatives we had just discovered, there was a layer of mystery my sister and I were trying to figure out and we couldn’t help but notice the comparisons to an actual Korean drama. Everyone who told the story kept telling me how much like a Korean drama it sounded so that’s where the bulk of my inspiration for The Noh Family came from. And while it’s fun to imagine that your life is like a Korean drama, there are obvious complexities that cannot be worked out in an episodic series. I wanted readers to see the other side of it, without the Korean drama references, and how a teenager might cope with some of the realities she’s faced with.
You wrote this book during the pandemic; you outline the overall novel tracing from your ventures. Please share with us your research process as well as how reflective it was for you. Did you ever feel like I am writing a diasporic fiction?
I wrote this book from my perspective as a person of Korean descent living in America, so yes, I believe it is a diasporic fiction. Most of my research came from my own experiences traveling to Korea as a Korean American. It’s a very unique feeling being in a place where you feel like you blend in, but don’t fit in, so it wasn’t hard to write that from Chloe’s point of view. A lot of her reactions to the cultural differences are ones I’ve experienced first-hand. I have been visiting Korea almost every year since I was in elementary school. It has become less frequent since I’ve had children, but the last trip I took there was in 2017 with my entire family. Since, I was writing The Noh Family during the pandemic, we couldn’t travel anywhere, but drawing on my memories of visiting Korea was a fun escape.
The genre of your book is young adult fiction, why did you choose this genre or was it an innate process/outcome?
Since I started writing, the voice of my characters was always young adults, so I would say that writing for me is an innate process. Many of the themes I choose to deal with coming of age and I think that naturally put me in the young adult range. Some of the topics I’m exploring now as a writer are leaning more toward adults, but when I came up with the idea for The Noh Family, the main character came to me as a young adult.
Many Indian readers are showing great enthusiasm and interest in Korean American authors and poets. How do you see this globalization of the literature world, is it worthwhile for both the reader and author?
I think the increased popularity of Korean dramas and Korean pop music is helping to globalize Korean culture. It seems like a pop-culture trend, but what I appreciate about the things that K-pop and Drama are doing for Korea, is that it’s making Korean culture more accessible to people around the world. In books, you learn more about nuanced perspectives, which is extremely important when understanding the full scope of culture.
As this book is your debut novel, what is the most unethical or unusual practice you commemorated in the publishing industry? Share your experience as a rookie. Were there any challenges you had to face because you were new in the industry?
Publishing a book for the first time is so many emotions! There are a lot of hoops to jump through to get a book deal and it’s such a privilege to be a published author. When I got my book deal, I thought I had achieved the ultimate goal. But as time went on, I started to lose the joy in the accomplishment and began to worry about the success of the book. For a while, I compared my book to other debut books to measure that level of success and it made me unstable. The problem is because there is no “one way” of doing things in publishing and the amount of marketing each author gets varies, it’s hard to know what that level of success is. Instead, I had to learn to focus on the joy of writing if I wanted to continue my career as an author. It’s not always easy to do and takes some effort to shut out the negativity, but once I do, my writing is so much better, which is motivation in and of itself.
What perspectives or convictions have you inquired about with this work and what is the significant way your book changed when you wrote the first draft?
The Noh Family has always been about a girl finding her place of belonging, in her surroundings and her family. That has never changed throughout the editorial process. From the start, I had a pretty clear vision of the series of events that felt natural and organic. My editor helped come up with scenarios that raised the stakes for Chloe to make it more dramatic. The biggest change, probably, was the aging down Mr. Kim. Originally, Chloe’s assigned driver/assistant was an older gentleman, but we thought it would add more drama to have a little romantic interest between them.
Has writing and publishing a book changed the way you see yourself? Also, please tell us about your upcoming work, your readers would love to know what to anticipate next!
After debuting, it has relieved some of the pressure to “introduce” myself as an author to readers. Now that I’ve gained some readership, I can breathe easier knowing that my subsequent books don’t have to have that level of expectation. I am completing the final rounds of edits with my second book, which should be out in the Spring of 2024. It’s about a Korean American girl pursuing a music career in the mainstream US music industry and some of the challenges she faces trying to achieve it. It’s set at a boarding school for the arts in LA, loosely based on the boarding school I attended in high school. I cannot wait to share this book with the world. It has my whole heart <3.
Team Hallyuism and Indian K-Book Lovers are grateful to Author Grace for taking out time and settling upon giving us an interview. Indian readers who love to read books by Korean Authors and want to explore Korea via literature must read the Noh Family. The Book is available on Amazon India.
Do tell us how you find this Interview in the comments below.