We’re so beyond excited to host our friend, the incomparable, Axie Oh for our Author Spotlight this week. Today marks the release of her newest contemporary YA novel, XOXO!
MEG: Welcome Axie! Give us a quick pitch of XOXO for anyone who might not know what it’s about (but will very soon).
AXIE: Hi~~~ Meg!!! XOXO is about a Korean American girl, Jenny Go, who hits it off with a mysterious boy in her uncle’s Noraebang only for him to never text her back when the night is over! A few months later she moves to Seoul, South Korea and enrolls in a performing arts school where she discovers the same boy is a classmate of hers. Oh, and he’s also the main singer of a popular idol group—XOXO!
MEG: I love it so much. This is your first contemporary novel, what was it like switching gears from your incredible sci-fi companion novels, Rebel Seoul and Rogue Heart into XOXO?
AXIE: Honestly, a breeze! Haha, seriously though, I’ve always wanted to write contemporary since I’m a big YA contemporary reader, so it was a natural transition!
MEG: Wow, that’s awesome! Was your writing process any different this time around?
AXIE: I definitely think my writing process was different but that might have to do with experience rather than genre. This is the 5th book I’ve written from beginning to end, so I’ve found a rhythm to how I draft now! But knock on wood because I’m about to draft another book…LOL.
MEG: *knock knock knock* Don’t worry, you’ll crush it!
MEG: So next question – in XOXO, Jenny and Jaewoo are musicians. Are you a musician? What was the process of writing about music like? Did you have a specific playlist?
AXIE: I wouldn’t call myself a musician anymore…but I did play the piano in elementary school, the clarinet in middle school, and the harp in high school! I definitely channeled the feelings of performing as a soloist in the scenes when Jenny plays the cello—it’s nerve-racking, but when you give a great performance, it’s one of the best feelings in the world! And yes, I do have an XOXO playlist, you can check it out here.
MEG: Early on, Jenny makes a big jump from LA to Seoul to pursue her musical dreams. Do you have any experiences abroad like her? Did you incorporate any of them into the book?
AXIE: Yes! I travel to Korea every 2-3 years! Besides Canada and a cruise, Korea is the only country I’ve been to outside the U.S, haha. I also did a summer abroad at Yonsei University in Seoul when I was in college. I definitely incorporated my experiences into XOXO, especially when it came to writing all the food scenes!
MEG: Ugh, the food scenes are so good. The romance in XOXO is SO good too and sweet(!!)—were there any dynamics from other books/TV shows/etc. that you took inspiration from?
AXIE: I wanted to capture those swoony feelings that I’ve felt reading books and watching K-dramas. I also specifically channeled my love of manga, manhwa, and webtoons, which often focus on fun school settings!
MEG: There’s also obviously a very big K-pop element to this book, were there any groups that inspired you to model XOXO after?
AXIE: I modeled XOXO after every K-pop boyband that I’ve been a fan of over the years—a little bit from each band. The obvious answer is BTS, but also NCT, BtoB, B.A.P, Got7, Super Junior, and more!
MEG: Ahh, all awesome choices! I really felt like XOXO could be among all those groups. They’re all so charismatic!
MEG: Changing directions a bit – you’re the queen of different genres, not only with your sci-fi books, a contemporary under your belt, but you’ve got a YA fantasy coming out next year, The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea. Which genre do you enjoy writing the most?
AXIE: Oh wow, that’s a hard question! I do believe every book I’ve written I needed to write at that time in my life. I don’t know if I have a favorite genre to write…but my favorite genre to read is Fantasy, so there’s that! Oh! As an “element” in a genre, I always love to write romance ❤
MEG: Lastly, bit of a silly question: when you were a teenager was there a famous singer/idol you would’ve dated if you could?
AXIE: So many, ha! But I distinctly remember I went through a huge Super Junior phase when I was in high school, and my bias was Lee Donghae~~!
MEG: I love it! Thank you so much for coming on WBP today Axie and answering all our questions!
AXIE: Thanks for having me! XOXO
If you’d like to purchase XOXO or any of Axie’s other books, check out her website or your local indie bookshop!