Thursday, November 9, 2017

Interview + Giveaway: The Beautiful Dead by Jun Prince

UFI welcomes Author Jun Prince. Thanks for Joining us!!

What can you tell my readers about yourself that they might not know from looking on your bio or reading in another interview?

Linking this to the themes of The Beautiful Dead, which explores the lives of Korean celebrities and the supernatural, I sometimes say that I was raised by the World of Darkness. In middle school a friend of mine turned me on to the role playing games Werewolf the Apocalypse and Vampire: The Masquerade, and I spent more time playing these games (and other branches of the WoD) than I should admit. I'm glad for it because via this hobby I fell in love with both supernatural fiction and creating characters with lifelike struggles and personalities. Readers that are also fans of the "Classic" WoD will likely feel a sense of familiarity in some of the themes and tones I explore.

On the K-Pop side, most people probably don't realize that I've been following Korean Entertainment since first generation K-Pop. I was in high school when someone sent me an MP3 of the song "I'm Your Girl" by SES. From there Korean music grew on me, even though I didn't start learning the language until I was an undergrad. Back in the 90s-early 00s, it wasn't as easy to find a Korean teacher as it is now that Korean entertainment has exploded.

What do you enjoy doing on your down time?

I travel a lot. I've lived in both South Korea and Thailand these past few years, but every few months I take a trip to another country in the region. It's not like back in the USA where the entire region consists of a hand full of countries. A 1-3 hour flight can land you in the middle of a whole new culture and language, and I love it.

I also read a lot, but I don't tend to think of that as "down time" because I firmly believe that to be a good writer you have to read just as much as you write.

What is your Favorite part of writing?

Character is king for me, and I love making up new people, with new personalities, and odd quirks that make them special. Part of that process is asking myself "How can I make their lives suck a little bit more?" and then doing a bit of that. There's nothing worse than reading or writing a character that doesn't have any flaws. It's the exploration of character flaws, and striving to overcome them that make characters interesting.

I also get a kick out of coming up with stories that blend unlikely situations and genres. Whether it's pop stars and poltergeists, or Tinkerbell and the zombie apocalypse, I like taking familiar subjects and running with them in unexpected directions.

Do you have any certain routines you must follow as you write?

As a general rule, I prefer to only write one story at a time, though I may switch back and fourth between writing one project, and editing another. The two processes feel different to me, and I tend to put my energy in to whichever one suits my mood at the time.

I don't keep to a certain word count per day, though I probably should. When I'm in my groove I tend to write 2-3k words per day, but if I'm lazy or busy I'm lucky to squeeze out 500. I tend to produce my best stuff shortly after waking up.

What are some of your Favorite books or Authors in the Urban Fantasy/ Paranormal Genres?

I have a great love for Haruki Murakami (Wind Up Bird Chronicle, the Sheep Man Series, etc.), Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time), and Drew Hayes (Super Powereds, Villain's Code, Fred the Vampire Accountant, etc. especially his newer stuff). Then of course, who doesn't love their Harry (JK Rowling)?

I also consider Mercedes Lackey (Elves in LA, Diana Tregard, Valdimar, etc.) and Brandon Sanderson (Stormlight Archive, Wheel of Time, Reckoners, etc.) part of my writer's lineage so to speak, meaning that I look up to them, and have learned a lot about style and structure by reading and analyzing their work.

How would you pitch The Beautiful Dead to someone who has not heard of it before?

I had a daydream about a pop star being possessed by a ghost during a photo shoot. That image inspired the short story which ultimately became a novel about members of a Korean pop group whose lives have been invaded by the supernatural. The book is as much an exploration of celebrity life, as it is ghosts, nine-tailed foxes, shape shifters and psychics.

While the protagonists are all Korean women, you don't need to be a K-Pop fan to enjoy the book. The story is a merging of several subject matters - Urban Fantasy/Paranormal, celebrity life, and K-Pop. It will appeal to fans of any or all of these subjects.

Can you tell us a little bit about the world that The Beautiful Dead is set in?

On the non-supernatural side of things, the story takes place in modern Seoul within the world of K-Pop and Korean entertainment. I did a lot of research while living in Korea to bring the setting to life including meeting and chatting with a number of Korean celebrities, being a guest on a Korean cooking show so I'd know what it was like to be filmed in a TV studio, and of course living, studying, and working in Korea to establish a strong foundation for how people live and act there.

This real world setting however has a vibrant supernatural underlife that is more or less unseen by regular humans. In The Beautiful Dead you get PoVs dedicated to a budding psychic empath, a poltergeist, and the descendant of a gumiho (nine tailed fox woman) who is learning to become a sorceress. You also catch glimpses of other supernatural creature types that may appear in future novels.

I've always admired books that explain how magic and supernatural power work within their worlds, so I took care to lay the groundwork in my novel. Ghosts have to convert their emotions into energy to fuel their powers, sorcerers, shamans, and witches need faith in themselves and everyone who sees them working to pull off their magic.

There's a mix of traditional Korean folklore, western shape changer lore, and a lot of other stuff that comes from my imagination. For example, full blooded gumiho are fairly true to their folk lore counterparts, but I added that their descendants may become weres and have a chance of losing one of their tails with each generation.

Do you have a favorite scene in The Beautiful Dead?

It's a toss up between...

#1 - Jieun (my ghost character), is trying to save Tae-Eun's (a multi-tailed werefox) life after her first change, and meets Grandma Jang (a full blooded nine-tailed fox woman) for the first time. It hits all kinds of wonderful emotional notes from anxiety over Tae-eun's fate, to humor at the ancient fox teasing the younger ghost.

#2 - Jieun realizes that she's not as bitter and angry as she used to be, and has to whip herself into a frothing rage to get the power she needs to fight the shadow creature she encounters in a subway. Every time I read it I imagine cartoon "#$@%#$" floating around her head.

#3 - The scene where Tae-eun realizes that she actually has magical power of her own, and is able to cast her first spell using music. It's a beautiful turning point for the character.

Which one character out of all your books was your favorite to write about? What about the hardest to write about?

As of this interview I only have one published novel, and it's hard to pick one character because they are all, in part, autobiographical. It's like saying "Which of your kids do you like best?" Some of the best writing advice I ever received was "Write what you know." So I try to infuse each of my protagonists with a touch of my own life, and blend that with back stories that are uniquely their own. Where fact ends and fiction begins is different for each character.

The hardest character is in my upcoming novel Grey. I feel more comfortable writing women protagonists in third person point of view, and Grey is told from the perspective of a dude in first person. I wanted to challenge myself, so I did, but it's proven to be just that—a challenge.

What Other Projects can we look forward to reading from you?

I'm almost finished with my second novel, Grey, which is about alien abduction in the Pacific Northwest, USA. After that, I'm thinking about writing a series of character specific novellas focusing on the protagonists in my first novel. Later you can expect a full length sequel to The Beautiful Dead where they are acting as a group.

I've also been toying with ideas for a LitRPG, a near future sci-fi about full body transplants, and an urban fantasy-zombie apocalypse mash up. I always have a few projects brewing in my mind, even if I only write one at once.

Jun has lived in Asia for the better part of the last decade. During his years in Korea, he made a point of learning about and getting as close to the Korean entertainment industry as possible while writing his first novel "The Beautiful Dead." He enjoys telling stories about monstrous humans and humanized monsters.

He has a MFA from the University of California - Riverside, graduated with a BA in English Cum Laude from the University of Washington - Seattle, and attended Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea as an exchange student.

Find Jun and his books

The Beautiful Dead: A Tale of K-Pop, Ghosts, and Nine-Tailed Fox Women
Amazon Kindle Amazon Print
A lonely Korean pop star learns her high school classmate died five years ago. So why are they still texting?

ubin knows she’s different than the other girls in the pop group SIITY. Yes, they all got sucked into the same machine, giving up schooling and signing ridiculously long contracts with no guarantee of success, but that's how Korean stars are made. Yubin is supposed to be thankful for that, but she isn't. She doesn't even like the girls she performs with.

She’s more connected to her former schoolmate Jieun, even though all they ever do is text. Over the last two months, Jieun has become her confidant and best friend, connecting Yubin to the real world in a way she desperately needs. Now that SIITY is going to appear on the reality show Incredible Race: Asia, Yubin will need that connection more than ever, which is why she’s devastated to discover Jieun has been dead five years and is actually haunting her.

If that weren’t enough, Yubin’s not the only SIITY member with issues. Rena’s father is emotionally abusive. Somi has a learning disability, and after a near death experience, Tae-eun becomes a nine-tailed fox woman. The only way they’ll survive the show, each other, and the supernatural currents buffeting them is to work together and win the hearts of their fans. Because if they don’t, they have nothing to go back to even if they survive what's trying to kill them.
Excerpt #2:


“Ha Yubin! Where’s Somi?” Yubin limped into the practice room and sat in a folding chair next to her gym bag, both their manager and the choreographer looked annoyed.
“I don’t know. She wondered off.”
Manager said, “Yubin! You’re the leader right?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Then act like it! It’s your responsibility to keep everyone together!”
Then Somi walked in with a bagel sandwich from Dunkin’ Donuts. Everyone looked at her, but her eyes widened in an expression of bewildered “What?” as if nothing happened. Their manager snatched the half eaten sandwich out of her hand and slammed it into the garbage causing both Yubin and Somi to recoil as if slapped.
“No more junk food while we are promoting you fat cow! You want to go join the Piggy Dolls and sell music to fat kids?” Although the words were meant for Somi, the glare behind them was shot at Yubin. They both bowed their heads looking chastened. He mumbled “What a morning” under his breath.
“No, sir.” Somi murmured.
“That’s right…” Yubin thought. The maknae had every right to be ashamed, and yet it was somehow also Yubin’s fault that Somi didn’t know how to show up on time or stick to a diet. Yubin had never asked for the title of leader. There wasn’t much benefit, and quite a lot of grief. Those other stupid girls couldn’t take the job seriously. She was only the leader because she was the oldest, and she’d never be an equal partner with her manager because he was more than a decade her senior. The combination of his age and title entitled him to speak to them however he wanted.
“Now everyone’s here. Let's go. Take your positions.”
Yubin felt a sharp pain in her knee with each step and limped to her position in the practice room.
“I was hurt this morning. I fell down the stairs.”
“You fell down the stairs? During promotions? Yubin! How could you be so stupid?”
It wasn't like she wanted to take a header down the stairwell, and couldn’t help that she felt watched. It made her uneasy, but she also knew that voicing her protest wouldn’t help.
“I’m sorry…”
“Sit down! We don’t need you stumbling around and falling even more. We’ll get you a brace, and have doctor Kang send you some Vicodin. Don’t move until he gets here.” SIITY was pre-recording today, so they had to arrive at the studio early. She'd go to the hospital after they were done.
For the second time that day Yubin was struck by the things it was possible to get used to. Get hurt outside of promotions and everyone screamed “Hospital! Hospital!” Injure yourself within the first three weeks of your comeback, and it was “Eat some pills and get back to work! We’ll get you checked out when we have time.”
What did that make her within this chaotic world she’d grown into? The waves of contempt flowing off everyone with the title of “Manager” or above made her feel hollow inside. It was one thing to have the general impression that they only cared about profits, and another thing all together that her psychic whatever-you-call-it made it so she really knew.
She sampled the outside emotions simmering in that ghostly second heart of hers in the opposite side of her chest that was responsible for her psychic abilities, and she knew that to him her physical pain was nothing more than expensive broken merchandise. A man might be willing to crash his hundred billion won sports car if he thought he could make three hundred billion won in the process. They only cared when it might hurt profits, and while all the executives had private penthouses to call their own, she was trapped living in a dorm with three morons that she hated. What was the point? She'd expected to find more purpose in stardom. As it was, the only point she could see was to build more popularity.
She sighed. The show must go on. A few hours of rehearsals and then she’d be at SBS awash in a few minutes of cheers from her adoring fans. Then she’d remember why this was all okay, and why having some other reason to exist didn’t really matter. Until then and after, it was going to be a long day.

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