Author Interview with Judy Lee
1. When I first moved to Canada, a librarian taught me to write stories as a way to improve my English. I always loved reading and making up stories (growing up an only child there was a lot of make-believe and self-play), so I combined those interests together. Whenever I read a good book I always wanted to write something like it. Soon I knew publishing my own story would be something I wanted to do.
2. Many of my stories are inspired by questions of 'What if?' I love imagining a world where something's a little out of the ordinary. Ideas and problems I see in real life that can be explored, including my own experiences, tend to bring fresh inspiration as well. I want my writing to both parallel life as well as create something extraordinary. I think the best kinds of stories are where you can immerse yourself in a new world but still find glimpses of familiarity. Sometimes it's just my own thoughts needing to be fleshed out that end up in my writing: I love stories that are interrupted by pages of dialogue about existential questions or real world philosophies. It reminds me that the story is more than just about itself, but issues that exist outside of these pages.
3. Because I'm interested in the psychological and philosophical workings of relationships, I think plot is probably the hardest point for me (you see I didn't mention it much up there). When I read, I enjoy exciting plots, but I think because in my own writing I focus so much on the writing itself, what actually happens doesn't matter to me as much as how I write it. I want the way the story's presented to have an impact as much as the events. The events still need to make sense, of course, and I spend a good amount of time fixing problems and closing loopholes. Sometimes that process makes me see other issues and go back to the big picture. It's really easy for me to get caught up in one moment in a story and lose sight of the overall arc. Because I'm an exploratory writer I tend to just let things flow and see what happens, so sometimes I end up spending a lot of time doing multiple edits for one section, even one scene. I'm always looking for the best story possible, so I tend to change things a lot, too, depending on how well an idea seems to be working.
4. Henley is both a reflection of my inner thoughts and a different person in her own right. I think I see myself as very fearful so I tend to amplify that in my protagonists. I was also very observant and reserved as a teenager, and I see bits of that narrator role play out in Henley. Like me, she can be a bit idyllic and tends to see the best of people at first. I think a lot of her story is coming to grips with the imperfections of other humans and setting realistic expectations for both herself and others. Because she's so gripped by the idea of 'greatness' her family is supposed to portray, she unknowingly projects a lot of her expectations and disappointments onto others. She seriously needs to sort out her own identity apart from the people around her—something I struggled with in high school.
5. I would definitely say despite some of the more despicable characters, Henley is her own antagonist. I think this just reflects life—you could say a lot of people (her grandmother, her parents, her aunts and uncles, even Marley) are her antagonists, but in the end she and her mindset are what's blocking her path to living out that 'Ashwood greatness.' You could even say her privilege or her family name are her antagonists. In many ways she's dripping with privilege that she's blind to only because her cousins (initially) seem to have even more. Narrow perspective and comparison will hinder the best of people. Perfection and over-achievement isn't what you need to be successful—it's overcoming your personal obstacles. For Henley she needs to break away from all the baggage of her family name and find satisfaction in her own passions. I think living too comfortably can always be a challenge to that.
6. Oh I always have many projects in the works. I'm currently working on my first adult novel (a very different line of story from this one, but still strongly centered on relationships. I won't say too much but I can tell you it dabbles in a dystopian/science-fiction world (think Never Let Me Go—one of my favorite books and a classic example that not all dystopians have to be end-of-the-world rebellion craze). For YA I've recently started an exciting new series putting a modern Gen-Z /social media spin on Greek mythology. That one was really fun to write. Got a crazy inspiration from a post I saw on Instagram, no less, and finished a draft under quarantine.
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