Grab a coffee, tea or hot chocolate and relax while we chat with Ellen Oh about her upcoming (AMAZING) book, PROPHECY: The Dragon King Chronicles.
Me (drinking my chocolate tea from Jeju): I am so excited about your upcoming book PROPHECY. (I have to admit I’m totally biased since I’m a complete Korean literature fanatic.) What was the hardest part of the whole process?
Ellen (making a face at Christy’s chocolate tea and gulping down her Diet Coke): Revising so many times. I rewrote the book 4 major times and have more than 75 saved drafts of it.
Wow! 75 drafts. That is mind blowing and just goes to show your determination. What do you think was your biggest obstacle in this process?
Ellen: My ego. I did this whole post on how writers need to “shut up and listen” (here’s the link) and it was really my biggest lesson. Learning to take my ego out of the equation. Not just the ego that thinks I’m all that, but the other one that loves to tell you how much you suck. Once I was able to overcome that, my next lesson was learning the art of patience. That is a lesson I’m still learning.
Over at your website you’ve posted maps, photos and a list of terms all pertaining to the Seven Kingdoms. It really shows how authentic and extensive your world building is. When did you first start dreaming up the Seven Kingdoms?
Ellen: I’d been working on a book that used ancient Korea as a setting for a long time. But Prophecy, which I was calling Seven Kingdoms at first, came to me as a fully fleshed out story idea three years ago while I was stuck in beltway traffic heading to work. I remember ripping pieces of paper from my bag – and scribbling different plot ideas on scraps of paper as I inched along the beltway.
And can I say to all my readers that you MUST go out and by this book because Kira is a true heroine. She’s strong and confident, and man, a fantastic fighter. Ellen, what gave you the inspiration to write a character like her?
Ellen: I’m a feminist – and proud of it too. I have 3 daughters. I’m all about Girl Power! The very first version of Prophecy was actually written from the boy’s perspective. But the idea was that this boy would narrate and show us how Kira, and not the boy, was the actual hero. And then I realized that the book needed to be completely rewritten so that I could tell the whole story from Kira’s perspective. Basically, I rewrote the entire book – I think there are possibly 4 scenes that actually survived from the first version.
What I especially love about PROPHECY is that it’s based in a historical setting. What were some of the challenges you faced as you researched?
Ellen: The biggest challenge is that there isn’t a lot of research out there for the time period of this book. 360 CE. Most of Korea’s historical documents were destroyed during the Mongolian invasion and then the two subsequent Japanese invasions. I did extensive research to hopefully make it feel as close to ancient Korea as I could, and then I let my imagination take over. After all, it’s first and foremost a fantasy novel. I invented cities that couldn’t possibly have existed, and that’s ok as long as I got the right feel for the time period.
Now that you have a book date set, what fills up most of your time? Writing a new book, working with your editor, or doing promotional work?
Ellen: I’m currently working on book 2 of the Dragon King Chronicles. It’s going to be even more action packed and filled with new Korean myths like the dokkaebi and the kumiho. Dokkaebi’s are like Korean goblins, but the cool thing about them is that they can be created from inanimate objects. The kumiho is a nine-tailed demon fox that supposedly eats men’s hearts and livers in a vain attempt to become human. It is so much fun incorporating these myths into my sequel.
And here are some quickies:
1. Favorite type of chocolate: Whenever my husband is in the doghouse or needs to put me in a good mood, he knows to buy me a box of Belgian chocolates by Neuhaus. I’m also a sucker for snickers bars. But my all time favorite way to eat chocolate is in a chocolate soufflé. Anybody who makes me good chocolate soufflé is automatically my best friend. But then again, anybody who brings me a chocolate glazed donut from Krispy Kreme is also my best friend. What can I say? I’m easy.
2. #1 country you’d like to visit: Korea. I’ve never been and I’m dying to go. I’m hoping that I can take the family next summer and that way I could write off at least my portion as research expenses!
3. Favorite mode of transportation: I’m kind of sedentary. I like sitting. But if I have to move, since I can’t clap my hands and have people carry me all around, I guess driving my bad ass new Mazda CX9 would be my preferred mode.
4. Preferred writing method: (i.e.) computer, pen, pencil: Is this a serious question? The idea of writing a manuscript longhand is absolutely horrifying. My hand cramps up at the thought. And even typewriters. Shudder. I don’t think I would have cut it as a writer in the old days. I’m waiting for technology to invent the computer that you can think all your thoughts into and have them all printed neatly out.
Wow. Are you guys inspired or what? I am. And to celebrate Ellen’s fantastic book deal and general all around brilliance, I’m giving away a cute silk purse from Korea. See silly me posing with it.
Great interview, girls!
Okay this really sound like a book I wanna read bad! Way to go Ellen and thanks Christina for bringing it to my attention.
This is what people who think they’re going to “pen a novel” and make a financial killing need to hear. Share your story of what perseverance is all about. 🙂
Wow Ellen, 75 drafts! I’ll check out that post on the why behind it.
Huge congrats to you–I wish you all the success in the world!
Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse
I step down from the extreme editing throne and pass the crown to you, Ellen. Wow. You’ve definitely mastered the art of determination. And it’s clearly paid off. Congratulations!
Great interview, Christina. YAY for girl power, Asian fantasy, and gorgeous giveaways like that silk purse!! And I love the “shut up and listen” post on Ellen’s blog. It’s SO true!! I’m really thrilled for her–it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.