Ms. Lee is one of the humblest and most passionate authors in the contemporary world, who has written many books that touched teens’ and even adults’ hearts. She was born in Chungbug, Cheong-Won in 1962, and she received numerous awards for her books such as the 39th Socheun junior literature award. A few of her most famous books are You are the Sky, Just a Little Different from Me and Can I go there. Her books are well-known for creating a rapport with the younger generation, although she is an adult herself.
I had a face-to-face interview with her in order to learn more.
|<Student reporter with Mrs. Lee>|
When I was younger, I used to live in my grandmother’s house. She was a really good storyteller, and I loved listening to her stories. I was amazed at how she could spin the same story into a whole new one with small adjustments to the setting or resolution. I guess that was when I started to dream of becoming an author. Growing up, I read a variety of books from fairytales to works of the most famous writers at that time, such as Yu-jung by Author Yi Gwang-Soo. From there, I began to be curious of the world beyond Korea. I wondered what different countries looked like, and how western people were different from us.
|<The book, Can I Go There, and Ms. Lee’s signature>|
Yes, there are. Firstly, I make a trip to the setting of the story, because I believe that the author has to know really well about the place the story sets in when writing a story. For example, I embarked on several trips the year before, to write the book, Can I Go There. I was amazed by the history that could be seen from the Tokyo roads. I also stayed at a traditional Japanese house instead of those big hotels because I wanted to experience what Su-Nam and Chae-Ryung, the main characters of the book, Can I Go There, actually felt like. It was an enriching experience for me, and I guess that is what helped me make the descriptions in the book more realistic.
Secondly, I do self-casting for the main characters. It might seem ridiculous, but I search for celebrities online who seem like my mental image of the character. I print out pictures of my very own list of casted characters and stick them onto the wall of my work table so that when I run out of ideas, I can look at them and try to imagine those virtual characters in my head.
Lastly, many people ask me about where and how I got my inspiration for the story. I wouldn't say I made up those stories fully from my own imagination. You can say that I am inspired by my personal experience every day. Every single day of my life, significant incidents take a place in my mind. Overtime, all these memories somehow build up to become a story and a character. For example, Can I Go There was actually a story that had been in my heart for over 20 years. I think the inspiration for that book was mostly from my interest in the women during the time of the Japanese Occupation. They include people like the deceased Ms. Choi Young Sook and the deceased Ms. Yu Gwan-Soon. My grandmother was one year older than Ms. Yu Gwan-Soon, but she wasn’t an independence activist during the period. From there, I realized that although there were many people who were tortured and killed during the Japanese Occupation in Korea, there were also people of the rich families who were able to maintain a peaceful life. I got the character of Chae Ryung, one of the main characters of the book from that experience.
Do you think being an author is tiring?
It definitely is. I get started on on a work by pouring out all my ideas and thoughts, but as time passes by, it becomes really exhausting. Most people might think that authors write books with a “burning will” to make it a bestseller, but rather, we write with just the hope that we can finish the story well. Nevertheless, I think being an author is really meaningful,even if it can be really tiring because we get to communicate with our readers.
Are there any books that you are currently writing?
I am currently starting on a story that deals with ‘photograph-brides’ of the Japanese colonial period. ‘Photograph-brides’ are women who were tricked into advertisements by being persuaded that they would marry handsome men in the photographs if they were to immigrate to a Hawaii farm. However, it turned out to be a scam, and the pictures of those men in the advertisement turned out to be the pictures of the farmers there when they were younger. They had just used it to get cheap workers in the sugar cane farm and the young women were forced to marry the old men. I would like to tell this tragic story to my readers.
Is there anything you want to say to your readers?
I would like to say, "Never give up in chasing your dreams!” Actually, I wanted to bring across the message that, just like Soo-nam found her own place there and achieved her dreams at the end of the book, Can I Go There, I wanted all of my readers to find their own ‘There’ and chase after their dreams. But more than anything else, I would like to thank my readers for their support and I hope to continue the writer-reader relationship with them!
임다경 Im Dakyoung
Seoul Daewang Middle School
임다경 Im Dakyoung firstname.lastname@example.org
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