Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Welcome Samuel Park!

I'm thrilled to have Samuel Park on my blog today to talk about his debut, This Burns My Heart. It's already had rave reviews, like this one:

TODAY.COM: ”Samuel Park’s This Burns My Heart is a remarkable debut novel that comes steeped in romance and cultural history… Soo-Ja Choi, Park’s protagonist, is an ambitious young woman trapped in the oppressive South Korea of the 1960s. Yearning to realize her dreams of becoming a diplomat in Seoul, Soo-Ja makes a hasty choice that comes with a price.”

I know, amazing, right? So I had the great opportunity to interview Samuel. Here we go!

1) How did the concept of this book come to be, or evolve?
Hi Lydia! Thank you so much for having me on your blog. I'm delighted to be here! Originally, the book was going to be about a father-daughter relationship. But in the course of writing it, as it so often happens, that became a secondary subplot. I realized that that wasn't what the book was about. So I cut out the first 70 pages that I'd originally written, and went in a different direction, describing the moment when my main character chose who to marry. I realized that that's what the book was really about--a woman making the wrong decision, and seeing how that affected the rest of her life. Those first 70 pages, though, set during the Korean War, became a memory that the heroine describes when she first meets the man she falls in love with, Yul.

2) What was the hardest part of writing it?
Writing the book was a very easy, joyful time. The hard part came after. Sometime before I finished the manuscript, my agent left the business. She gave me the name of a colleague of hers at the same agency, a very powerful and well-known agent. When I finished the manuscript, I sent it to her and kept my fingers crossed. Within a matter of days, however, she passed. That sent me into a tailspin; it was one of those so-close-and-yet-so-far kind of situations. After that, it just went from bad to worse. I kept querying, and I'd get an occasional request for a full, but nothing would come of it. That summer, right after I'd finished the book, was really the hardest. When I finally got a Yes from Lisa Grubka, at Foundry, it was really exciting. Now I'm glad those other agents turned me down, 'cos it paved the way for me to find Lisa, who is an amazing agent. I think I appreciate her more because I went through a period where I just didn't think I would ever find representation.

3) Okay, so I come from a Korean family. I know my mom would freak out if I wrote this book, worrying about "Everyone will think this is a thinly veiled autobiography about me!" How did your family handle the subject matter of this book?
My mother and I have a deal: I can't tell people *how much* was based on real life, and I can't say *which* parts were based on her life. That way I am able to preserve her privacy, while still being truthful about my inspirations. At the end of the day, it's a work of fiction. Even though my mother inspired Soo-Ja (the main character), she's not Soo-Ja, if that makes sense. Actually, *I* am Soo-Ja!

You're especially right about how tricky it is to write a book like this as a Korean person. Korean children, like Chinese, live under a doctrine of filial piety, under which you practically worship your parents. I was so worried about what my mother would think, that I didn't even tell her I was writing a book about her life. I only told her after the book sold. I think I was in complete denial that she would eventually read it. She hasn't yet, but I suspect when the Korean edition comes out, there will be some fireworks in the Park home! But all kidding aside, my mother really loves the whole enterprise of publication. She asks me all the time what the latest review was. When the Boston Globe review came out, which was mixed, she was very mad at the reviewer.

4) Illuminate us with something that surprised you about the publishing process, during the time AFTER your book sold. (Okay, that's just me being nosy, but I get to ask the questions, so what the heck.)
A number of things surprised me about the publishing process, and here are two of them:
1. I had no idea how "daily" the whole process is. I thought I was just going to hear from the publisher maybe once or twice a year. Not so. At peak times, I would get an email almost every day from my editor, her assistant, or from the publicist, or the marketing specialist. There was always so much to go over-- galleys, blurbs, jackets, bookseller reviews, industry reviews. I didn't know how "social," in other words, the process can be, especially since you spend so much time writing by yourself. I think that's actually one of the most fun things about the process--getting to work with people who are passionate about the book that you wrote.
2. I was also surprised by how important it is to have friends who support you. For instance, I thought, back in the day, that if you do a reading, people automatically show up. Not so. Unless you're a big best-selling author, you need to hustle up your own audience. My friends, bless their hearts, really came out in force, and showed up to my readings. If you think you "have it made" once you've sold a book, you're in for a surprise. After you sell the book, you're at the mercy of people more than ever before. It's a surprisingly vulnerable position. You're at the mercy of people who may or may not show up to support you. You're at the mercy of reviewers who may or may not like your book. You end up having to completely give up control. Having said that, I was lucky that it all turned out well--I've had as few as ten and as many as 80 show up at my events, and I was just as thankful for those ten as I was for the 80.

Thanks again, Lydia, for hosting me! It was an absolute pleasure!

You're very welcome, Samuel. :) And I have a particular treat for you guys too. Here's the trailer, in case that review above wasn't spectacular enough!


Connect with Samuel Park on his website,Twitter, and Facebook


Ooh, and more good stuff. Please check out Sarah Fine's blog where she's discussing the highly debatable subject of the Prologue: Do or Don't?


K R Weinert said...

Great interview, thanks Samuel and Lydia! I hadn't heard of this book before; and it sounds superb. The journey to publishing sounds nothing like I imagined it to be, and yet reading it here all that's been said makes total sense.

Although I never question what it's like for a female author to have a male main character, I do always wonder what it's like for a man to write a female lead.

I almost skipped the youtube interview; thankfully I didn't. It's really an interesting point about the period between the 60's and 80's and the term 'swallow your pain'.

I look forward to reading this one.

Sarah said...

I hadn't heard of this book, either, but I am definitely going to pick it up. It sounds amazing. Thanks, Lydia, for introducing us to Samuel!

jonyangorg said...

An Asian American author! Exciting. I'd go to his book readings. Thanks for this post and it's now on my TBR!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Wonderful interview -- and a very fascinating story! Thanks Samuel and Lydia!

Sarah Pearson said...

I love reading about other cultures and times. Thanks so much for bringing this book to my attention Lydia, and what a nice guy Samuel sounds :-)

Kimberlee Turley said...

You always have such interesting people stopping by your blog. Such a pleasure to get to meet Samuel.

I'm nervous enough to have my mom read my novel and it's not even about her! Sounds like an intense story, and I think the ladies in my book club would really enjoy this too.

Kimberlee Turley said...

You always have such interesting people stopping by your blog. Such a pleasure to get to meet Samuel.

I'm nervous enough to have my mom read my novel and it's not even about her! Sounds like an intense story, and I think the ladies in my book club would really enjoy this too.

Kimberlee Turley said...

You always have such interesting people stopping by your blog. Such a pleasure to get to meet Samuel.

I'm nervous enough to have my mom read my novel and it's not even about her! Sounds like an intense story, and I think the ladies in my book club would really enjoy this too.

Yvonne Osborne said...

I've never let my mom read my novels. And it makes me sad but I know she wouldn't like them and I feel like I'd be putting her in the position of having to tell me so. I wish you loads of luck Samuel. I want to read you book. It sounds really good and I love the cover!

Julie Dao said...

I tried my hand at writing a novel loosely based on my mom and her sisters' flight from Vietnam back in the 70s... did this for NaNoWriMo and told my mom about it. I'm not sure what she thought, to this day. It was more like a "hmmm" then a straight up like or dislike. I hope your mom enjoys your book no matter what - it's so cute that she got mad at your reviewer! Thanks for hosting, Lydia, and I'm really excited for host Sam next!

April Plummer said...

I am so buying the book. It sounds incredible! Not to mention the author is kinda cute. *blushes* Samuel, thanks so much for letting Lydia interview you, and Lydia, those were great questions! I think having my family read my book is the scariest part of publishing!

Ciara said...

Great interview. Oh, I'd cringe at the thought of cutting out the first 70 pages, but it sounds like it was the right decision.

Matthew MacNish said...

Samuel is the best. So insightful, and so kind.

Mark. K. aka - EvilDM said...

Great insight to the struggles of placing work with an agent, and how to bounce back from the negatives.

Great posting :)

Good luck, Samuel Park, hope it does very well for you, sir!

Southpaw said...

Congratulations Samuel! How hard it must have been to cut 70 pages! All for the better story, but still hard.

Karen Lange said...

It's great to see Samuel here! Really enjoyed the interview; thanks to both of you. Had to laugh at the part where Samuel's mother was angry with the reviewer. :) Nice to know Mom is on your team! :)

Anonymous said...

AWESOME! Congrats, Samuel.

Clara said...

What a great interview, thanks for this Samuel and Lydia!
I've thought about writing my mom's story, maybe that's the push I needed :)

Old Kitty said...

Hi Samuel Park! Thank you for sharing your amazing writerly journey with us here. It must have been quite cathartic writing about aspects of your mum in her voice! Incredible! Now I'm most intrigued about the "wrong" decision taken! Yay! Thanks Lydia for hosting! Take care

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Good luck, Samuel! Hope your mother reads your book one day.
I rely on my online support, and those people are truly amazing.

David P. King said...

How awesome is that? Here's to your success, Samuel. You're off and running with a great start. Thanks for introducing him, Lydia! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for introducing me to this book, Lydia. Fascinating interview. Samuel, thank you for sharing and for joining my TBR pile! ;-)

Krispy said...

Awesome interview and questions! I'm totally going to check this out now. Also, I'm totally with you about worrying about what the parental units would think. I'm vaguely worried about it even though I write straight up fantasy. Haha.

Carrie Butler said...

Wishing you the very best of luck with your book, Samuel! It sounds wonderful. :)

Great interview, Lydia!

Sherrie Petersen said...

Such a good book and Sam is such a great guy. Thanks for the link to the video. I hadn't seen that!

Angela Brown said...

My hat's off to you, Samuel, for taking things one step at a time, trudging through the more difficult times and sticking with your manuscript, which brought you to the agent best suited for you and your novel.

Your insight into the After-the-book-is-sold is rather enlightening for someone like me who is still on the pre-query side of things with my current WiP.

I wish you the best of success with this novel and other publications that follow.

Great interview, Lydia. Thanks so much for opening your blog as a platform to discuss things that gave to me, knowledge-wise, so that I leave with a few seeds to plant.

Theresa Milstein said...

Samuel Park and I are Facebook friends. How nice to see him here. I liked learning more about the book and the story behind it with family and agents. Another example of how getting an agent isn't the holy grail. I'm sure writing about family is tricky. I've tread in some shallow waters, but haven't taken the plunge.

Coleen Patrick said...

Great interview! Love reading about an author's process and also fascinating to hear how he handled the tricky family situation. Thanks for sharing--I'm off to check out his links!

Barbara Watson said...

Such great insight on writing and publication! The family part of this particular book is so intriguing too (and tricky).

Bee said...

This Burns My Heart looks so pretty and sounds so, so good. Thanks for interviewing Samuel, Lydia!
I would never have heard of this book otherwise, and that would've been sad cos it totally intrigues me and makes me wanna pick it up right away. I'm going to mark this on Goodreads shelf now.

Also, Samuel is cute :D

Rachna Chhabria said...

Congrats and good luck Samuel. I am sure your mother will like the book. I am glad that you found the perfect agent, at the end of the day that's what counts; an agent who believes in the story we write.

Lydia, I have tagged you on my blog.

Carol Kilgore said...

I can't imagine anyone reading a story that is even somewhat like their real life - much less my mother. I think you have a wonderful book here.

Hi, Lydia!

Suze said...

Don't all hasty choices come with a price ... ?

I remember the Lukeman book, 'The First Five Pages.' If I'm recalling correctly, it was fairly helpful. I did read it about ten years ago so I can't be sure how it's stood the drastic industry changes in the interim.

Have a great weekend, Lydia.

Leslie Rose said...

Loved the trailer. I am drawn to the MC's dilemma as well as the cultural backdrop of this story. The time in Korea between the war and the Olympics must be a fascinating journey. Congratulations to Samuel.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Oh my goodness. That was a FANTASTIC interview!! Every bit of it was fascinating, especially the parts about the unique challenges faced when being a Korean writer. Thanks so much for sharing!

Nas Dean said...

Great interview, thanks Samuel and Lydia!

Reading a little about Korean culture gave me an insight. Thanks for sharing.

Heather said...

I love historical novels that explore different cultures and this one sounds excellent! I'm adding it to my to-read list.

Kelly Polark said...

I finished Sam's novel this weekend. I seriously could not put it down. An amazing story and beautifully written.

Connie Keller said...

This sounds like a wonderful novel. I'll have to read it.

Mark K said...


I have taken the liberty of nominating you for a 'Versatile Blogger Award' - I hope you do not mind?

Please go to my blog site to find out the details.

Kind regards

Mark :)

Mei said...

Wish I can turn my blog to a book one day, dont think i can make it true with this dream, my English is so crap! And not many family and friends will want to read... even no real name will use. Hope you're doing well Doctor Lydia! ;-). Well done to your new book. Good luck. Mei

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