Hi Axie! Did you get my last Snapchat? Wait, we’re supposed to be doing an interview about your amazing book REBEL SEOUL! I figured you’ve done a few cool interviews already so why don’t we have a little fun with this one!
First, I adored the amazing Sci-Fi YA world you built in REBEL SEOUL. Such vivid characters and complicated relationships. But, instead of talking about it all day (which I can) I’ll just leave the synopsis right here:
EAST ASIA, 2199. After a great war, the East Pacific is in ruins. In brutal Neo Seoul, where status comes from success in combat, ex-gang member Lee Jaewon is a talented pilot rising in the academy’s ranks. Abandoned as a child in the slums of Old Seoul by his rebel father, Jaewon desires only to escape his past.
When Jaewon is recruited into the most lucrative weapons development division in Neo Seoul, he is eager to claim his best shot at military glory. But the mission becomes more complicated when he meets Tera, a test subject in the government’s supersoldier project. Tera was trained for one purpose: to pilot one of the lethal God Machines, massive robots for a never-ending war.
With secret orders to report on Tera, Jaewon becomes Tera’s partner, earning her reluctant respect. But as respect turns to love, Jaewon begins to question his loyalty to an oppressive regime that creates weapons out of humans. As the project prepares to go public amidst rumors of a rebellion, Jaewon must decide where he stands–as a soldier of the Republic, or a rebel of the people.
PACIFIC RIM meets Korean action dramas in this mind-blowing, New Visions Award-winning science fiction debut.
Kat: Okay, how about an easy one to start out. Why is Toro so fat? (Note: Toro is Axie’s dog)
Axie: He’s not fat, he’s fluffy. <<this is an honest answer. He is actually very skinny, but is just very fluffy.
Kat: Okay, fine, I’ll stop calling Toro fat and now call him Poofballzilla! Marry, Kiss, Cruise (go on a cruise with for a year but only as friends): GOT7 Jinyoung, Lee Jongsuk, Park Bogum
Axie: Kiss Lee Jong Suk, Marry Jinyoung, Marry Park Bo Gum
Kat: CHEATER! Fine, try this on for size. Marry, Kiss, Cruise, Kill: Jaewon, Alex, Young, Tsuko
Kat: Fine run away from
Axie: This is really weird because these are my characters. **plans to take revenge on you later** Marry Young, Kiss Alex, Cruise Jaewon, Run Away from Tsuko.
Kat: What is Jaewon’s favorite Noraebang/karaoke song? Young’s? Alex’s?
Axie: Jaewon: A Big Bang song, Young: a SNSD song, Alex: probably an English song
Kat: OMG PICK ACTUAL SONGS FOR IT TO BE FUN!
Axie: IT’S THE FUTURE THE SONGS AREN’T MADE YET
Kat: THEY’RE RETRO!
Axie: I’M SUPPOSED TO BE WALKING TORO RIGHT NOW
Kat: [smooths out shirt, clears throat] Fine, back to the questions then so you can go walk Poofballzilla. If Jaewon,Young and Alex were in a K-Pop group what would their group position be?
Axie: Jaewon would be leader/main vocal. Young would be dancer/rapper. Alex would be vocal/visual.
Kat: Since I have you here, will you ever forgive me for almost dropping you on Halmoni’s fireplace? (note: Halmoni is Korean for “grandmother”)
Axie: I already forgave you because I don’t remember it, as I lost many of my memories when you dropped me on the fireplace.
Kat: That actually explains a lot…Okay, back to “serious” questions. Would you rather Rebel Seoul be adapted into a movie, television series, comic? Why?
Axie: A movie because the characters seem like they’d fit that medium best, although there’s so little Asian sci-fi I can’t think of what a good comparison would be. I feel like if it were to be anime, the style would be more similar to something like PSYCHO-PASS or GUNDAM 00.
Kat: I love GUNDAM! What is the favorite food and/or drink for each of your MCs?
Axie: Jaewon’s favorite food is probably ramen. Tera’s is probably fruits and vegetables. Ama’s is pancakes. Alex’s is alcohol.
Kat: Oh Alex, my beautiful broken boy. I will save you. Okay, on to some questions about writing REBEL SEOUL. What was your strongest influence in writing such complex relationships that blur the line between family and friendship, enemies and allies?
Axie: I guess for this specific dynamic, anime and K-dramas more than other mediums. I feel like the relationships in REBEL SEOUL are really rooted in the Korean culture, and so K-drama dynamics helped influence those aspects (brotherly camaraderie, ancestral legacy) but there’s also universal East Asian themes at work (filial piety, nationalism i.e. country as family), which show up in anime.
Kat: Yes! I totally recognized the anime and k-drama inspiration. It made me so happy to see so many things I love coming together. What was your favorite part about creating the REBEL SEOUL world and story?
Axie: Definitely indulging my own love of Korean culture. I loved putting in all that I love about Korea and its culture–my culture–into the book.
Kat: YES! I love all the wonderful cultural elements you incorporated. Made me want to go back to Seoul and eat all the food. If you could bring one technology from Neo Seoul to your life now, what would it be and why?
Axie: Definitely the cell phone that floats and follows you around. I would just lie flat on my back and read without having to hold my phone, haha.
Kat: Yes, AND it would stop me from dropping my phone on my face when I’m lying on the couch. I mean…I don’t do that… Anyway, if you were stranded on a deserted Island which of your characters would you want to have with you and why?
Axie: Tera. She could swim across the ocean and I could ride on her back.
Kat: CHEAT ANSWER! Which of your characters would survive the longest during a zombie apocalypse? Who would die first?
Axie: Tera would live longest. She’s a superhuman, guys. Between my four main characters, Alex would probably die first. But he’ll come back as a sexy zombie like in that one movie
Kat: WARM BODIES? Nick Hoult had an epic zombie run in that movie. Who are some of your favorite Asian authors writing today?
Axie: BESIDES MY COUSIN, KAT CHO? I feel like I should just link you to my goodreads. There are so many! Cindy Pon, Ellen Oh, Julie Dao, Maurene Goo, Jenny Han, Stacey Lee, Traci Chee, Tara Sim, Yoon Ha Lee, Valynne Maetani, Roshani Chokshi, Susan Ee, Rhoda Belleza, Marie Lu…this question is unfair…Mike Jung, Renee Ahdieh, Karuna Riazi, Sona Charaipotra, Kendare Blake, Gabrielle Zevin, Rin Chupeco…And there are others I still haven’t read yet! This is why I need my floating phone. So it can follow me around and read aloud to me.
Kat: I love ALL OF THOSE AUTHORS. Though I hear Kat Cho needs to stop watching so much Tiny House Hunters and write more. What is your weirdest writing habit?
Axie: Probably all my sticker-journaling. I have to chronicle my writing progress with stickers, like cute Asian stickers is my therapy.
Kat: Cute Asian boyz is my therapy.
Kat: What is your most productive writing habit?
Axie: My sticker-journaling. It makes me so happy!!! It’s literally soothing, and because I want that sticker, I’m motivated to write and earn it!
Kat: Ah! I started doing sticker journaling because of you and it’s been so fun to track my progress that way. Do you prefer writing series or standalones? Why?
Axie: I’ve never written a series…? So standalones, I guess?? I left REBEL SEOUL open enough that it could have a sequel or companion novel, but I wrote it to be a standalone. The main emotional arc of my protagonist is fulfilled. Yay!
Kat: YES! I am praying for a sequel of my precious Alex and Ama! Thank you so much for chatting with me for this interview. Make sure you check that Snapchat I sent you!
Everyone else be sure to check out REBEL SEOUL out with Tu Books on September 14, 2017!
Axie Oh is a first-generation Korean American, born in New York City and raised in New Jersey. She studied Korean history and creative writing as an undergrad at the University of California San Diego and is currently pursuing an MFA in Writing for Young People from Lesley University. Her passions include K-pop, anime, stationery supplies, and milk tea, and she currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada, with her puppy, Toro (named after Totoro).
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