Sarah Suk lives in Vancouver, Canada, where she writes stories and admires mountains. When she’s not writing, you can find her hanging out by the water, taking film photos, or eating a bowl of bingsu. Made in Korea is her first novel. LiterASIAN’s Sophie Munk interviews Grace Eiko Thomson as part of a series of profiles of this year’s lineup of authors.
Ricepaper: Your novel, Made in Korea, is a romantic comedy that also deals with the characters’ identities as the children of Korean immigrants. What was it like writing these characters and did you draw inspiration from your own lived experience?
Sarah: I really loved writing all the characters in Made in Korea, particularly the main duo, Valerie Kwon and Wes Jung. While neither of them are meant to be direct representations of myself, I definitely drew inspiration from my own life in shaping parts of theirs. For example, the feeling of being caught between multiple worlds and wondering where you belong, struggling to feel understood by your parents who come from a very different walk of life, and the experience of growing up in North America with Korean values and culture and interests. Writing these characters was like making eye contact with someone across a crowded room and sharing a look of understanding. A look that says, “I see you and I get it” without having to say anything out loud. Valerie and Wes were very familiar to me in that way.
Ricepaper: What surprised you most about the process of writing and publishing Made in Korea?
Sarah: I was surprised by how much the characters ended up guiding the plot and showing me what the story was meant to be. I started off with a chapter-by-chapter outline, but I found that things changed as I actually started writing. There were moments where I felt like a character was telling me, “No no I would never do something like that” or “I think this should definitely happen. Why isn’t it happening?” I find that occurs a lot in my process. Writing, especially in the first draft, is largely discovering, and my characters end up being my teachers.
Ricepaper: Who is a writer that inspires you and why?
Sarah: Min Jin Lee is a writer that inspires me. Her book, Pachinko, is one of my all time favourites. I admire her dedication to research and her ability to write stories that feel so large and so personal all at once. I think she is very wise as well, and I often enjoy the thoughts she shares on social media and in interviews.
Sarah Suk will be at LiterASIAN 2021 as part of a panel, Intersectionality, Feminism, and Power – Writers Who Define our Times along with Grace Eiko Thomson and Larissa Lai on May 1st, 12.00 pm – 1.00 pm (PST).
Sophie Munk is a graduate of McGill University, where she majored in international development and history. She is currently a coordinator at PCHC-MoM Society, one of ACWW’s partner organizations. She has a background in community based initiatives, research, and service. She is planning on pursuing a career focusing on the relationship between culture and health governance in an international context.