KOREA-CANADA BLOG 2018

Interview With “The Silence of Bones” Author, June Hur: Part I

The Silence of Bones

Happy Leap Day, Everyone! Since today is an extra-special, once-every-four-years day, I have an extra-special treat for readers; an interview with June Hur, author of the upcoming young adult novel,  The Silence of Bones, which will be out in April 2020.

About a year back, I was working on my yearly “to-read” list (which is mostly still unread a year later, but at least I made the list!) While I was scrolling through my Twitter feed for inspiration, I came across the description for an upcoming, cross-genre, mystery YA novel, set in Josean-era Korea. What can I say? It had me at “hello”!

When I found out that the author of the novel was Korean-Canadian, I knew I had to get an interview for the blog, if I could, and June was so kind and gracious to allow me to interview her. In this section of our interview, we discuss what readers should anticipate ahead of the book’s release, the writing process, and the relationship between words and visuals.

Please check out Part I of the interview this week, and come back next week for Part II!

Interview with June, Part 1: 

As we eagerly await your debut, what are three things/elements/aspects (basically nouns!) in your book that we should look forward to?
1) The role of a Damo, because my main character is one (damos were arguably one of the world’s first female police officers with arresting power).
2) A historical mystery set in Joseon Dynasty-era Korea that will make you feel as though you’re stepping back in time
3) An emotionally gripping journey

What inspired you to write your novel?

For most of my life, I’ve known very little about Korean history, even though my parents are “very” Korean and even though I lived in Korea when I was a teen. Then in 2015, out of sheer curiosity, I read further into Korean history – and fell madly in love with it. I was fascinated by everything and was gripped by a terrifying desperation to write a Korean historical mystery. I hesitated for a while, wondering if I, a Korean-Canadian ‘diasporan’, even had the right to write about Korea, and afraid that no one would be interested in a mystery set in a non-western country. It was the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement that finally gave me the courage to write.

At the very heart of this book is a more personal story inspired by my family, a family dispersed. I spent nearly half my life living with my siblings in Canada, far away from my parents, far away from my relatives. And so, while I was writing this book, I found myself wrestling with two questions that always haunted me: What will it cost to keep family together when things are falling apart? And where is home when you live far away from those who have loved you for all of your life?
I love the blend of historical fiction and mystery genres within a young adult narrative but was (pleasantly) surprised that there isn’t a romance plotline. Was this choice intentional or did it come about as part of the writing process?
I used to only read romance novels. But in university I took an indigenous literature course and ended up deeply enjoying these books that had little to no romance. So it was authors like Eden Robinson and Louise Erdrich who helped me appreciate themes outside of romantic love, and challenged me to explore themes outside of my writerly comfort zone. Also, around the time when I was writing my debut, I experienced a lot of grief as I had to wrestle with the realities of being an immigrant, of living away from Korea, away from my parents. So when I began writing my debut, I initially tried to write a romance but ended up writing about the topic closest to my heart: family and the mysteries of life.

Do you feel Canadian and Korean audiences would appreciate different aspects of the novel (and if so, which ones)?

For most of my life I had no interest in Korean history; I didn’t think Korean history was relevant to me. Then, when I began reading about Korea out of curiosity, I ended up being deeply surprised, shaken to the core, to find that so much of who I am is rooted in Korea’s past. By studying the past, I learned more about myself and realized that I’m not as disconnected from Korea a I imagined myself to be. So my hope is that other Korean Canadian readers will also be pleasantly surprised to realize how connected they are to Korea’s past, even if they’ve never even visited their homeland before.
I love the illustration you commissioned for your book! Could you talk a bit about why you commissioned the illustration and how you chose the illustrator?
As a writer, I only work with words, so the visual side of me always yearns to actually *see* my story come to life. It was through Twitter that I noticed other writers commissioning illustrations of their characters, and there was one artist who caught my attention, Alexis Castellanos. She’d worked with several other authors, and I loved seeing how the artwork turned out, so I reached out to her. I sent her a rough sketch of how I envisioned my characters (basically I sent her a picture of stick people), and what she came up with blew my mind!
What do you hope readers will take away from your novel (if anything in particular)?
My heroine, while solving a murder mystery, is also solving a personal mystery: her search for home. By reading this book, I hope that those who are homesick, like I was and still am, will feel less alone.

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Thanks so much for the interview, June! : )  Follow June on Twitter

Please come back for Part II next week (we’ll be talking more about the book, June’s family, and all her Korean pop-culture favourites)!

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