Once upon a time, on a magical day a couple of weeks ago, I got MAIL. You know, the good type of mail, a nice thick envelope crammed into your mailbox and it’s not junk mail or a bill, it’s something actually interesting. On this particular magical day, what I got in the mail was an ARC of Maurene Goo’s SINCE YOU ASKED… And, even better, not only did I receive this ARC, but then I got to spend a blissful couple of days sprawled out by a swimming pool reading it. Does life get much better? Well, for me, it does, because then I ALSO got to interview Maurene. It was pretty much a vortex of awesome.
Here’s what SINCE YOU ASKED… is about:
No, no one asked, but Holly Kim will tell you what she thinks anyway.
Fifteen-year-old Holly Kim is the copyeditor for her high school’s newspaper. When she accidentally submits an article that rips everyone to shreds, she gets her own column and rants her way through the school year. Can she survive homecoming, mean-girl cliques, jocks, secret admirers, Valentine’s Day, and other high school embarrassments, all while struggling to balance her family’s traditional Korean values?
I can tell you that I loved reading this book. Holly is snarky and hilarious and I totally identified with her as she tried to navigate her way through humanity’s most confusing invention: high school. And it’s a perfect book to read the way I read it, which is while on summer vacation. Lucky for you, you can buy a copy of it now and be sure to take it with you to the beach! It’s available at:
As for that interview I mentioned…
1. Holly Kim, the main character of SINCE YOU ASKED…, works on her high school newspaper. Is that something you did in high school? How is Holly like / not like you?
Yes, I worked for my school newspaper, The Explosion (hehe), it was a real highlight of high school. I loved the kids that I worked with, and it was really fulfilling creatively. Unlike Holly, I didn’t have a column, but I was an editor and then co editor-in-chief senior year. Holly is…very much like me. Anyone that knew me in high school will instantly recognize her. But she is probably closer to me now than as a teen. We’re both a little too quick to judge, value a good sense of humor, love reading, and fiercely love our friends. The biggest difference between us is Holly’s prickly attitude about love—when I was her age I was insanely boy crazy. I was more like her friend Carrie. I’d like to think that the right guy might change that for her, though!
2. How did the idea for SINCE YOU ASKED… come to you? What was the writing process like?
I had to submit a writing sample for a grad school’s children’s writing program (which I ended up not going to), and I had never written YA fiction before. Inspiration struck when I was filling out one of those Facebook lists, like “20 Things You Didn’t Know about ME ME ME!” and I remember thinking, what if I wrote some really obnoxious answers to these. So I started filling out that list in the voice of this antagonistic teenager—and it ended up being Holly. That was originally the opening to my very first draft of this novel many years ago.
3. Where is your favorite place to write? Is that where you wrote SINCE YOU ASKED…?
One of my favorite places to write is where I wrote a large chunk of SINCE YOU ASKED—the studio of my friend and fellow Scholastic author, Kazu Kibuishi. At the time I wrote SYA, there were lots of other people working there (making video games, graphic novels), and it was such an inspiring place to be. You just couldn’t slack off, you felt really stupid when everyone else was working so hard on their passion projects around you. And even now, I try to stop by when I can because I always get so much done.
4. Where were you when you first heard the news that you were going to be published? What was your path to publication like?
I was in the middle of my street—barefoot and wearing shorts on a hot day. At the time, I lived with a couple friends and I wanted to go somewhere where I could take either good or bad news. It was such a surreal moment standing there on the warm concrete realizing a lifetime dream had just come true. My path to publication was fairly unusual, I think, only because it was a lot of luck and good timing. My friend Amy Kim Kibuishi had read a draft of SINCE YOU ASKED just for fun, which I had kept writing while in grad school, and she said she loved it and wanted to recommend it to her agent. I was completely surprised because I never had any real goals of being published. I don’t know why, it was just something that never occurred to me. Her agent, Judy Hansen, was interested but said it needed work. So with the help of Judy and an editor, I finished SINCE YOU ASKED… within half a year. After a couple months into submission, Judy called me that middle-of-the-street-hot-day to tell me Scholastic was interested. It was crazy because I had started this so many years ago, but once I had an agent, everything was so satisfyingly quick—I feel really lucky about that to this day.
5. Where do you keep your works in progress and what are you working on now?
Everything lives on my computer, in Dropbox. Or in the form of notes scattered in like ten different notebooks. I’m so bad about organizing my thoughts. Right now I’m working on another contemporary YA with another Korean American protagonist. But quite different from Holly—we’ll see how it goes, mum’s the word for now!
6. Where is your favorite place for inspiration?
I have three: My bookshelf, husband, and friends. My bookshelf for the obvious reasons—nothing gets me opening up Word quicker than reading something amazing and feeling that immediate, very visceral urge to write. My husband, an illustrator and screenwriter, is one of the best storytellers I know—so inventive, smart, and full of heart. When I brainstorm with him, everything becomes 100 times better. And my friends—I have the best friends. They make me laugh until I almost puke, and each of their lives and personalities have inspired me in many different ways.
7. Where is your favorite setting, fictional or non-, written by someone else?
Is it cliche to say Hogwarts? I mean, WHO DOESN’T LOVE HOGWARTS? Find me that person and I’ll show you a robot. I had a friend once say that when he first read Harry Potter, he hated the real world for a good week just because it wasn’t Hogwarts. I mean?!
8. Where is your favorite “virtual” place on the Internet?
In the past year I’ve grown to really love Twitter. It was so overwhelming at first, but now it’s my connection to the world as I spend days alone writing. It’s where I can go for a quick vent about something mundane or to spread the word about something I care about. It’s also where comic writers shine—my favorite comedians are all on there as well as a bunch of comedy writers I never would have discovered without Twitter.
9. Where was the best vacation you ever took?
A couple years ago I went to Alaska with my husband Chris and our friend Jon Klassen (yeah, I’m name-dropping him! Caldecott what-what!). Our friend Pat lives in Juneau and had set up some visual storytelling workshops and presentations with Chris and Jon, and I tagged along. It was March and still SO COLD but so beautiful. We crossed and entered a glacier (um, btw this is very dangerous I DO NOT RECOMMEND IT! However…), it was the most magical thing I had ever seen in my life. The people in Juneau were so amazingly friendly and warm-hearted, and they showed us such a great time. It was very memorable.
10. Where is “home”?
Home is Los Angeles. It’s where I was born, grew up, and where I’ve been living for the past five years. It’s where my husband and I met, and where all my family lives. Even if we end up moving to another part of the country or out of the country one day, I will always consider LA my home—Cali girl through and through.
11. And finally, as this community is All for One and OneFour KidLit, we’d like to know two or three books that inspired you when you were a kid.
As a kid, I had a slightly unhealthy obsession with the Baby-Sitters Club series. I read those books from the wee age of seven to…well, probably way later than most. Another book that really inspired me was THE LITTLE PRINCE (who could ever forget that drawing of the snake swallowing the elephant?), it was so lonely and beautiful and haunted me as a kid. And SIDEWAYS STORIES FROM WAYSIDE SCHOOL. Those stories were really strange if you read them now—so irreverent, funny, and bizarre. They really stuck with me—especially the scene when you find out the “secret” about the new kid!
Thanks for stopping by, Maurene! Happy debut!
Maurene Goo was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, where she navigated her childhood by practicing extreme bossy lord-dom over her many cousins. She studied communication at the University of California, San Diego, and received a master’s degree in publishing and writing at Emerson College. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and a very old cat. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
|Skylar Dorset is a born-and-bred New Englander, which is why Boston was a natural setting for her debut novel, BREATHLESS (Sourcebooks, June 2014). Skylar shares her home with lots of Mardi Gras beads from the time she spent living in New Orleans and a harp she’s supposed to be teaching herself to play. She’d like to get a dog.|