We are SO thrilled to have Maurene Goo on the blog today to talk about I BELIEVE IN A THING CALLED LOVE which comes out May 30th! I was lucky enough to read an early copy, and I was so blown away by the humor and heart in this adorable YA romance. I’m so happy that Maurene was able to answer a few questions for us.
1. Thank you so much for joining us, Maurene! First of all, tell us a little about your upcoming book! What made you want to write I BELIEVE IN A THING CALLED LOVE?
It’s about an overachieving Korean American girl who tries to get her first boyfriend by following tropes found in K dramas!
K dramas were my main source of inspiration. I’d always wanted to make my own when I was a teen and when trying to brainstorm book ideas, I thought, “How can I somehow bring in K dramas to a book?” That was the seed where IBIATCL came from!
2. As an Asian-American myself, one of the things I connected to most was how authentic the main character, Desi’s, experiences felt. How did you go about integrating Korean culture and K-drama references in a way that would feel true to Desi, but also introduce them to new audiences?
This is a great question. I wanted this book to be authentic to the Korean American experience (not that there’s just one kind, but to be authentic to at least one version of it) but I didn’t want it to be about identity, really. I wanted this to be a love story, in the end. When bringing K dramas to the forefront, there’s no avoiding having the entire thing wrapped up in something that may be “foreign” to Western audiences, but I tried to do it in a way that wasn’t disorienting or confusing, but rather have it be fairly natural. So, I decided that Desi would grow to love and learn about dramas so that the reader could join her on that journey if they weren’t already a fan. As far as other little touches of Korean culture—the food, language, little customs—I tried to throw all of that in there in a way that was very much natural. And that was actually quite easy because it is natural to me! To kick off your shoes when you get home, make ramen with an egg dropped in, say certain exclamations in Korean-only—that’s all stuff that I didn’t have to think twice about.
3. One of my favorite things about IBIATCL is how realistic the high school setting felt. How much did you draw on your own experiences as teen in building such a relatable world?
I grew up in LA, not Orange County, but I think the feel of the school campuses were similar—a lot of outdoor spaces on campus, grabbing pizza for lunch outside, etc. So in a way, I did draw from my own experiences, but I also did some extra research to get the details right since my high school memories aren’t as sharp as they used to be! (For example, my cousin who is an artist works at a high school and I asked her to make sure my art studio/classroom details were correct!) The other thing is, Desi goes to a very diverse school with a conspicuous lack of stereotypical social hierarchy. It’s not all The OC where she lives, with rich, terrible beautiful people on top. This was very much based on my own experience, my high school was incredibly diverse and a hierarchy was nonexistent because the school was just too big and segregated.
4. What advice do you have for young writers of color, especially Asian-Americans?
Writing, and the arts in general, aren’t always visible options for Asian American (and other POC) kids growing up. You can’t blame our parents, exactly, a lot of them came from unstable countries where jobs were limited (or they were fleeing oppressive governments, etc.) and all they want is to make sure we are get the best education and the best chance at stability in our lives. So if your parents don’t get it, try to understand where they’re coming from. But if you love writing, keep doing it. Make time for it, don’t give up. And read A LOT. That is your best education right there. If you’re going to do something your parents don’t approve of—work VERY HARD at it, prove to them that you are serious.
I was lucky in that my parents were very encouraging of my love of reading and writing. But even then, I had to carve my own path—they didn’t know what careers I could have (other than journalism and teaching), I had to discover writing as a possible career on my own.
5. Desi has many flailures (flirting failures) throughout the book. Have you ever had a flailure of your own?
I have had SO MANY. Let’s just say the BIG one that Desi has in front of Luca happened to me in a slightly different scenario. Also, one time I gave a very popular and handsome senior a Valentine’s day card in front of his friends while I was a shrimpy pining freshman in braces. I have to say, I was bold!
6. If you were to pull a Desi and recreate a K-drama trope in real life, which would you choose?
My favorite is the love triangle one—I’d love to fake that! So snakey. (I’m Slytherin, FYI.)
7. Do you have an all-time favorite K-drama?
I really loved Healer—mystery, action, great romantic chemistry and acting…the best!
Maurene Goo grew up in a Los Angeles suburb surrounded by floral wallpaper and piles of books. She is the author of Since You Asked… and I Believe in a Thing Called Love and has very strong feelings about tacos and houseplants. You can find her in Los Angeles with her husband and two cats–one weird, one even more weird.
Enter for your chance to win a pre-order of I BELIEVE IN A THING CALLED LOVE!
Winner announced Monday, May 29, 2017