Pen Friends~ Hopefully this interview finds you well and safe during this crazy season. Many of my author friend’s book launches and book release’s have understandably been cancelled and/or have gone virtual. Let’s try to support them as much as we can during this time! SO…
It’s my pleasure to introduce today’s debut YA (& adult) author, my friend and fellow Pitchwars 16′ alum, Suzzane Park! Sadly, her time in Seattle (where I am based) was also cancelled, but that won’t stop us from celebrating her and her upcoming YA book, The Perfect Escape!
SP: Hi Suzanne! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, can you tell us a bit about you and your writing journey?
I was a kid who loved reading, but was limited by the types of books we had at our school library and public library system. I grew up in a small suburb in Tennessee with underfunded schools and libraries, so you can imagine how limited the selection of books were for a curious Korean-American girl!
It never occurred to me that I could be an author one day. I didn’t do particularly well in my English classes and my HS English teachers didn’t think AP English was a good fit for me. I never took creative writing classes in high school or college because the courses they offered were for poetry or journalism.
As an adult though, I took a lot of writing classes (one was an intensive memoir class held at a Best Western in downtown Seattle). My first novel I drafted was an absolute disaster. It was a three-hundred page blog entry about pretty much nothing. I cleaned it up considerably and submitted the manuscript into a mentorship contest called Pitch Warsin 2016 (where I met you!). In this contest, my mentors helped me with plotting, planting (foreshadowing) and pacing. After a few rounds of intensive rewrites, my three-hundred page blog post turned into a real novel. From there I got a literary agent, and years later, I sold THE PERFECT ESCAPE!
SP: The Perfect Escape will come out with Source Books this April! (2020).
Here is a blurb:
Nate Jae-Woo Kim wants to be rich. When one of his classmates offers Nate a ridiculous amount of money to commit grade fraud, he knows that taking the windfall would help support his prideful Korean family, but is compromising his integrity worth it?
Luck comes in the form of Kate Anderson, Nate’s colleague at the zombie-themed escape room where he works. She approaches Nate with a plan: a local tech company is hosting a weekend-long survivalist competition with a huge cash prize. It could solve all of Nate’s problems, and she needs the money too.
If the two of them team up, Nate has a real shot of winning the grand prize. But the real challenge? Making through the weekend with his heart intact…
How did this idea come about? Which character surprised you the most while writing?
For my sister’s birthday celebration a few years ago, my brother, sister and I attempted (and failed!) a zombie escape room challenge. We were put into a group with a few drunk women who were there for a bachelorette party. The host was maybe in his early 20s, trying to keep his cool while he tried to explain the rules to these ladies who kept screaming “WOOOO!” and “YASSSS!” every few seconds. I thought how funny it would be to set a romance in the escape room because I couldn’t think of a less romantic place than in an room filled with undead.
The reason why we picked a zombie escape room activity in the first place was because my brother, sister and I are all obsessed with zombies thanks to THE WALKING DEAD show— we’ve seen all the episodes. So between my failed escape room experience, my love of zombies, and that I had always wanted to write an fun, action-packed #ownvoices rom-com, this book idea came together in just the right way. It’s a good (distracting) read for anyone who needs a fun, fast read for a few hours.
The character that surprised me the most was Nate’s little sister Lucy. One of the biggest changes from the first draft to the finished book was that Nate was originally portrayed as an only child. But as I started editing the book, I felt like a piece of Nate was missing. He lacked a certain emotional depth because he was so money-focused. By giving him a little (kindergartner) sibling, and allowing him to be really sweet with her when his parents weren’t there, and short with her when she Tasmanian-Devil-destroyed all of his stuff, you get to see a deeper side of Nate.
SP: In your “former life” as you say, you were comedian! (And you are always very funny.) Can you please share how you got into that? How does this part of you influence your work? Are you more prepared for criticism/reviews after doing comedy?
Well, the truth is I got into stand-up comedy completely by accident! I had wanted to become a humor writer (is “Humorist” a real job title these days?), and through a series of random events, I tried out stand-up comedy. My books include observational, absurd humor (from an Asian-American perspective), similar to what I had in my stand up comedy acts.
One big thing I learned from my stand-up days is how subjective comedy actually is. Knowing that my books are filled with my brand of humor, I am reasonably prepared for book reviews. But someone recently shared this post with me about how there are people who literally can’t recognize humor. It made me wonder about the wide range of reviews the book will receive. I guess we will see!
SP: On your writing process: How long did it take you to write ‘The Perfect Escape’ vs Loathe at First Sight?Do you write it all at once then edit? Or outline extensively and go chapter by chapter?
It took me about 5 months to write my barebones THE PERFECT ESCAPE draft of only 50,000 words (final word count was 63,000). LOATHE AT FIRST SIGHT took 8 months. For both, I wrote first and edited next. I have no real outline when I draft, usually just a really basic synopsis, and go from there.
Fun fact, I wrote THE PERFECT ESCAPE out of order. I wrote some of the action scenes first! I was taking an online writing workshop and we had to submit scenes each week based on the topics and themes covered in the lesson. I don’t think I’ll do that again (writing non-linearly), but it was an interesting experiment.
SP: Now to lighten things up:
Is Suzanne a night owl/early bird? Definitely night owl
Beach/Mountain? Neither? I’m a city girl!
Movie Theater/Home theater? I like movie popcorn. Mmm movie popcorn.
An item/food always in your fridge is? Expired produce
Favorite Childhood book? I loved Ramona Quimby Books and Choose Your Own Adventure ones
Current dream vacation spot? During the pandemic, my dream vacation now being seated in a cafe. But a bigger dream vacation would be going to London. I love London!
Would you rather fight with wind, fire, ice, or sand? Fire seems the scariest. But if electricity was an option I’d go with that.
Would you rather be a professional: Pilot? Deep Sea Diver? Speech Writer? Or, Talk Show Host? I’m not good with turbulence so no to the pilot option. I’m a shitty swimmer so no diving. Speech writing might be fun, but depends on whom it’s for (no thank you to most politicians). Talk show host seems like the best option by process of elimination.
Current fictional crush? I’ve read a lot of thriller books lately where there aren’t really crush-worthy people (they’re more killer-y/murder-y than swoony). I’ll go back to a classic TV series I’m about to watch again: ANNE OF GREEN GABLES’ Gilbert Blythe.
SP: Thanks so much for sharing with us, Suzanne! We are eagerly anticipating your book!
Readers, you can add The Perfect Escape on
Thanks so much Suzanne 🙂