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Frances Cha Zoom Interview, IF I HAD YOUR FACE

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Frances Cha, author of the debut novel, IF I HAD YOUR FACE for Columbia Fiction Foundry. Frances’ novel, published by Penguin Random House, was named best book of 2020 by NPR, TIME Magazine, USA Today, Bustle, Esquire, New York Post, and InStyle Magazine.

This riveting novel, set in a contemporary South Korea, follows the stories of four young women making their way in a world defined by impossible standards of beauty. The novel explores themes including Korean beauty culture, plastic surgery, friendship, and brutal social hierarchies. 

Frances, a former travel and culture editor for CNN in Seoul, grew up in the United States, Hong Kong, and South Korea. A graduate of Dartmouth College and the Columbia University MFA writing program, she has written for The Atlantic, The Believer, and the Yonhap News Agency, among others, and has lectured at Columbia University, Ewha Womans University, Seoul National University, and Yonsei University.

I had a great time interviewing Frances via Zoom to celebrate the paperback release of the book. Even though there were some glitches from my side of the presentation, like a blurry feed and my face too close to the screen (ugh), Frances’ insights were fascinating, and it was a lot of fun to talk to her and hear her thoughts on the book and her journey to publication.

Here’s to figuring out how to bring content and conversation into the world in a profoundly challenging year, as we all did our best to develop new skills and find ways of connecting from the cobbled-together corners of our home!

To watch the interview, click here.

IF I HAD YOUR FACE by Frances Cha (Book Review)

IF I HAD YOUR FACE is a fascinating exploration of contemporary South Korea told from the alternating point-of-view of four friends, Kyuri, Miho, Ara and Sujin. As they make their way in the hyper-competitive world of Seoul, they face daunting obstacles, including socioeconomic inequality, impossible beauty standards, and a culture in which it’s expected that women will be mistreated by men. Ultimately it’s their friendship that offers hope in a punishing world.

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Debut Novel Sneak Peek

Tania’s debut novel, formerly represented by Mark Gottlieb at Trident Media Group, is out on submission. Fingers crossed! Curious to know what it’s about? Here’s a sneak peek.

June Colter, 17, equestrienne in the one-ring Byrd Family Circus, thunders around the ring on horseback. When she’s not performing, June studies in secret, helped by Jeta, an aged Romani drabarni, June’s mentor and friend. Defying her parents’ wishes, June dreams of going to school to study science and biology.

When Shai, with his quiet intensity and easy smile, appears in his beat-up van before starting art college in the fall, June’s carefully constructed world falls apart. Events are set in motion that will challenge her belief in her family and herself as she dares dream in ways she never has before.

As June struggles to break free from the stories that twist themselves around her heart, will she find the courage to claim her destiny, one not decided for her by others, but chosen for herself?

The Waiting Time: You’ve Signed with Your Dream Agent. Now What?

You’ve finished your book and braved the querying trenches. You’ve signed with your dream agent, who has begun the process of submitting your novel to publishing houses. It can take months for responses to start coming in from editors, with no guarantee that there will be a publication contract at the end of it.

What do you do in this time of limbo and uncertainty, the waiting time?

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THE BASS ROCK by Evie Wyld (Book Review)

THE BASS ROCK by Evie Wyld is a bewitching, textured novel that lingers after the last haunting page has turned.

Told in alternating points-of-view, Viviane recounts the present-day arc of the story as she travels from London to clear out the family home on the Firth of Forth in Scotland. Forty-something and suffering from depression, Viviane struggles to thrive even as her name, which means alive, reflects a resilience and courage to bear witness to the stories that shape her life and world.

Ruth’s narrative takes place in the aftermath of World War II...

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Signing with a Dream Agent

Sometimes something happens that you’ve hoped and worked and waited for for so long, that it shakes your world and reveals fault lines of self-doubt and uncertainty that make you almost wish the good thing never happened. But of course that’s not true. You can’t quite believe it’s real, or no, maybe it’s more that you’re afraid if you blink, it will go away. Maybe this happens when, for example, your children are born. One day they’re a dream pressing outward from the inside of your body, and the next, they’re in your arms.

Only I’m not talking about the birth of my children, I’m talking about signing with a dream agent for my book. That word again. Dreams can be perilous.

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ON EARTH WE’RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS by Ocean Vuong (Book Review)

ON EARTH WE’RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS, by Ocean Vuong, is an incandescent, devastating novel/prose poem. Written as a letter from Little Dog to his mother, a letter she cannot read because she’s illiterate, the story explores language, family, identity, and what it means to be seen.

Little Dog’s mother, Rose (Hồng in Vietnamese), left school at five when a napalm bomb destroyed her school. At nineteen, having worked as a prostitute to feed herself, and pregnant with another man’s child, she married a US serviceman. She named her son Little Dog, hoping to trick evil spirits into overlooking something insignificant and of little value. His name, like language, like the novel itself, became a screen to both protect and reveal.

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SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jones (Book Review)

SILVER SPARROW, by Tayari Jones, is a complex, superbly written novel with no easy answers. Jones has created flawed, believable characters who struggle with difficult moral issues of family and loyalty even as the consequences of their choices unravel with painful inevitability. The voice is mesmerizing—deceptively simple, richly nuanced, and true to itself.

Dana Yarbor and Chaurisse Witherspoon have different mothers and the same father. Their father is married to both of their mothers. Dana knows this, but Chaurisse does not. Her father, James Witherspoon, is terrified that Chaurisse and her mother, Laverne, will find out about Dana and her mother, Gwendolyn. Only someone with Jones’ mastery and sensitivity could tell this story in ways that enlarge rather than narrow our understanding of what it is to be human.

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How to Set Yourself on Fire by Julia Dixon Evans (Book Review)

HOW TO SET YOURSELF ON FIRE, by Julia Dixon Evans, is a quirky story in the vein of Ottessa Moshfegh’s MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION, only sweeter.

Sheila, 35, is a mess. She can’t hold down a job, she barely sleeps, and when she does it’s often on the stoop of her run-down rental in LA. Vinnie, her slovenly but fleetingly charming neighbor, lives across the cement courtyard, their apartments so close Sheila can hear Vinnie’s Skype conversations with his ex-wife and 12-year old daughter, Torrey, as if Sheila is in the room with them. Their physical surroundings reflect Vinnie and Sheila’s relationship—distant, wary, weirdly intimate.

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Daniela Petrova Interview, Part III

The final installment of my interview with Daniela Petrova, author of HER DAUGHTER’S MOTHER, is up on the Columbia Fiction Foundry YouTube channel. Daniela’s debut novel, published by Putnam, has been named “One of Five Thrillers to Read This Summer” by Time Magazine, and “One of Summer’s Most Buzzed-about Debuts” by CrimeReads.

In this segment Daniela shares tips for landing the right agent and what to do if your agent doesn’t like one of the characters in your book! She also discusses the importance of feedback and how to get beta readers as she shares stories from her journey to publication.

Daniela was a lot of fun to interview, and I look forward to talking with her again when her next book comes out!

To watch Part Three of the interview, click here.