I've been writing for as long as I can remember, and reading even before that. My mom still has stories that I wrote when I was in kindergarten. I was a reader and a re-reader. That's the main reason I became a writer. My first publication was a haiku in a children's magazine when I was 9 years old. I received one dollar for it! I gave the check to my dad for Christmas, and he framed it and hung it over his desk. About a year later the magazine company wrote to me, asking me to cash the check. I wrote back to explain where it was, and they said it was okay if my dad kept it. He still has it to this day!
That was back in Illinois, where I was born and raised. My parents had immigrated to the United States from Korea. My dad was determined to have an American life, so I grew up feeling completely American. I did visit Korea, though, when I was about 11. It didn't leave much of an impression on me at the time, but now my travels help me set the scene for my books. For example, having been in my aunt's traditional Korean house helped me imagine an important part of the setting of my first book, Seesaw Girl.
After high school, I went to Stanford University and majored in English. Of course, that gave me a chance to do lots more reading and writing. I also received degrees in London and Dublin — where I moved to be near a charming Irishman who became my husband! I worked in various jobs, including public relations, advertising, food journalism, and teaching English as a Second Language. Along the way I had two children, who are now teenagers. They help give me feedback on my writing. We are also the proud owners of a very cute Border Terrier named Fergus.
Even though all of my jobs required some kind of writing, it wasn't until the mid '90s that I discovered I really wanted to write children's books. I started by retelling Korean folk tales, and then began work on my novels.
The inspiration for A Single Shard came to me from reading. I had already written Seesaw Girl and The Kite Fighters, so the research I had done on these books led me to A Single Shard. It's difficult to say how long the research for one book takes because it's an ongoing process, but I do several months of investigation before I begin writing. I use the library and the Internet, and I also interview people.
Although A Single Shard contains a number of ethical questions and lessons, I don't hope for any specific lesson to be learned. What I hope is that each reader will take something different from the book — something that fits their own unique personalities and circumstances.
I can give advice to anyone interested in writing in one word: READ! I think it's much more important to be a reader than to be a writer!