CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- At 31 years old, Los Angeles native Maurene Goo is starting her literary career off with a bang with her debut young adult novel, "Since You Asked ...." I was lucky enough to talk with the new author about her life as a teenager and her desire to become a writer, as well as the process she uses to develop her characters.
Q: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
A: "I didn't always know I wanted to be one, but I always wrote. I wrote short stories in high school and this never-ending saga about three friends while I was in college. But I never thought of writing creatively as a profession until the day I got an agent.
"Before that, I was fixated on being a journalist, and then eventually working in book publishing. Writing stories was always a side hobby; I never imagined that it would eventually be my end goal and that I'd succeed. I feel incredibly lucky."
Q: In the book, Holly works as a copy editor for her high school's newspaper. Did you work for your paper in high school or college?
A: "I did in high school. I was a news editor, and then I became a co-editor-in-chief my senior year. It was really fun."
Q: Was your relationship with your mother as strained as Holly's is at her age?
A: "It was super dramatic. I was such a brat. I look back at that time, and I can totally see why I was so annoying for my mom and so frustrating.
"So I drew a lot on not only me for Holly, but a ton of my friends. We all had very similar kinds of volatile relationships with our parents. There's a generation thing; there's a cultural gap for a lot of us. It was kind of a mixture of a lot of different relationships I knew, but it did help that I went through a similar kind of angsty period with my mom."
Q: It's rare to read a young adult novel that doesn't feature a white protagonist, and you give readers a glimpse into what it's like growing up as a Korean-American teenager. Did you feel it was important to have a main character who's a minority?
A: "When I started writing this book, that wasn't the main goal. Like 'I want to make an Asian-American protagonist, and therefore I will write this book!' But that's my life, that's my familiarity, that's the perspective that I know, so to write, to me, the most authentic character, it was natural for her to be Korean.
"But now, I definitely see the importance in that. And there was a huge drive in me getting my book out there because while the focus isn't about being Asian-American -- it's just about being a teenager, really -- I do feel like there is a unique perspective that [comes from] Asian-Americans or Mexican-Americans or whatever culture identity you have.
"More than that, I wanted to feel like it was more normalized. Like reading about a Korean girl is not a weird, foreign thing, but rather because it's so normal and just about her every day life, it becomes familiar and part of the normal dialogue about Asian-Americans.