This Week’s Featured Author Interview
with Jun Prince
Hi, Jun Prince, welcome to the Indie Publishing Group website. Introduce yourself to us. Tell everyone who you are, where you’re from, what do you enjoy doing, hobbies and interests.
Hi. My name is Jun Prince. I’m currently in Thailand, but for the last six years or so I’ve been bouncing back and forth between here, South Korea, and other parts of Asia. Before that, I lived in Seattle.
As you might have guessed, I love world travel and experiencing new places. Later this month I’ll be going to the Maldives for the first time. I’m also a bookworm devouring five or six novels a month. I prefer fantasy and paranormal books, but I can get behind any well-written story. While living in Korea I was also really into Korean music and did a lot of activities related to that. I’m also a sucker for TV Dramas like Dexter, Sense 8, Humans, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, etc. My guilty pleasure is competitive cooking shows.
Jun’s not your real name, is it?
(laughs) No. Before I went to Korea for the first time as part of a study abroad program, my Korean friends from Korea decided I needed a Korean name. We took Justin, dropped a few letters, and got “Jun.” I used it the whole time I was in Korea, and I’d become so accustomed to using it that it’s been with me ever since.
When did you start writing and why?
For me, it started in middle-high school with RPGs and writing mini-stories for my characters. Mostly the old school World of Darkness, but I sometimes played other things.
My parents often said I was wasting my time, but now I have an MFA and graduated with honors from the University of Washington. I doubt either of those things would have happened if not for the games that made me fall in love with storytelling.
I was always a character story intensive gamer, and it took me a long time to realize “Wait, I can get paid for this?”
How did you research your latest novel?
Well, The Beautiful Dead is a paranormal/urban fantasy that takes place within the world of Korean entertainment.
During my years living in Korea, I made a point of getting as close to the Korean entertainment industry as possible. This means going to TV studios to watch the filming of music TV shows several times a week, meeting and chatting with popular Korean singers, attending the filming of a Korean movie/TV drama, and being a guest on a Korean cooking show so I’d know what it felt like to be filmed in that environment. It was a lot like method acting.
I’m really thankful to everyone that gave me behind the scenes glimpses into K-pop so that I could humanize my protagonists beyond just guesswork.
Which is your favorite book you have written and what gave you the idea for it?
So far “The Beautiful Dead” is the only novel I’ve published, but there are a few other projects brewing and there’s another entitled “Grey” that should be out in the next few months. Between the two “The Beautiful Dead” is my favorite.
It started while I was living in South Korea attending Yonsei University when I was given a short story assignment. After class, I tucked into my headphones, walked home, and slipped into a daydream about a Korean pop star being possessed by a ghost while doing a photo shoot.
The song that inspired me was “News” by Nine Muses if anyone is asking. I put that bad boy on repeat for over an hour and the daydream became more and more complex with each repetition. Eventually, I had everything I needed to write my short story. The end result became the foundation of my novel. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of mixing uncommon subject matters together. In the case of “The Beautiful Dead,” it’s the bright lights, glamour, and scandals of the Korean entertainment industry and the supernatural.
As for the non-supernatural storylines in my book, a lot of what I write is semi-autobiographical. Most people are shocked to learn that I have ADD and a reading disability, so I wanted to incorporate those struggles with the character Somi. I also had a deaf friend who was a musician in Seoul, so I blended our struggles together in creating her. There have been times in my life where I’ve struggled with simultaneous pride and loneliness and that’s where Yubin comes in. Rena’s story explores family issues I’ve wrestled with in the past etc.
The professor that gave me that short story assignment (as well as the other assignments that ultimately became separate PoVs) told me to write what I know, give my ‘Hollywood writing’ a soul, and that’s exactly what I did. It’s a blending of my own experience, mixed with what I’ve come to know from my first-hand experience living in Korea, and a bit of fiction to make everything more interesting.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
It just popped into my head, I liked it. It balanced the “Beauty” people associate with celebrities with “Dead” representing the supernatural. I also like to think it represents how each of my protagonists has sacrificed part of her life in pursuit of celebrity dreams.
Who helped you with the cover? Or did you design it yourself? What was your inspiration for your cover design?
I was ready to do a full custom job if it came to it, but I got lucky and found a pre-designed cover on Damonza that captured the feel I was going for. I loved the contrast between a young woman in a dress looking like she was heading to a party or a TV studio being caught totally out of her element trying to find her way out of a dense forest. The trees and eerie light serve as both a metaphor for the supernatural surrounding my characters’ lives and a literal representation of one of them running through the forest after she’s become a multi-tailed were-fox.
What are some of the themes of your story?
On the surface, it’s a straight-up paranormal/urban fantasy about the supernatural invading the lives of pop stars, but I also go much deeper than that. I’ll give you the bullet points:
- Wealth and Class – I take time to explore what can happen when a person sacrifices their personal relationships in pursuit of a whole lot of money. Does it equal happiness? Not so much.
- Disability – Having lived with ADD and a reading disability all my life, I know exactly what it’s like for people to underestimate me because of it. I felt this a lot while living in Korea, and growing up in the USA I was always treated like I’d never amount to much because of it. I really wanted to capture this struggle and say “Hey, that’s a bunch of bullshit. I’m living proof, and here’s a character to show it.” Bullshit…Can I say that?
- The Quest for Identity – A lot of my characters are trying to make sense of what is their authentic self vs what they should be, and learning what defines them.
- Growing into Personal Power – I’m not gonna lie, most of my protagonist’s lives are bleak at the start of the novel, but that’s what makes their journey special. They learn to overcome their personal obstacles, take control of their lives, and end on a note of hope which would have been incomprehensible to most of them at the start.
- Fantasy vs Reality – Most of my PoVs explore the idea that celebrities can be really different in their personal lives compared to how their fans or the media portray them.
- Perception – I loved playing with the idea that you never know how you look through another person’s eyes. Having 5 PoVs with many of the characters experiencing the same people and events allows me to show how radically different each person can read the same situation. I got a kick out of Yubin mentally condemning everyone around her as mindless bobbleheads and then jumping to their PoV to show how wrong she really was.
- Sacrifice – One of the darkest parts of the real world Korean entertainment industry is that people between the ages of 12 and 17 are recruited into rigorous training camps (idol factories as I think of them), and are thus forced to give up traditional schooling without any guarantee of success. They sign insanely long contracts (10-20 years). I mean… How many 16-19-year olds know exactly what they want to do when they’re twice their age? Add to that that Korea is such a heavily education focused society, and there’s a much smaller window for the age it’s socially acceptable attend university and it’s kind of tragic. Most people assume that stars who go to a university are only getting honorary degrees. I won’t say names, but there was one at my school and everyone talked about how she never showed up to class. What do these people do for the rest of their lives if the whole star thing doesn’t work out?
What’s your process when you sit down and decide to start writing a book? What is your process, and do you have a system?
I typically start with a situation and then jump directly into character. In “The Beautiful Dead” it was the whole pop star possession daydream. In “Grey,” it was a young upper-middle-class lawyer coming to his senses after being abducted by aliens.
I use that initial situation to make a personality profile, and profiles of people immediately surrounding them, because in my writing character is king. They need to feel like real people you can talk to.
Once I have all that worked out I start thinking about the plot. I tend to start at Point A, have an idea of where I want to be by E, J, N, R, and X and let all the points between them develop organically as I start writing.
I mentioned before that I have a reading disability. This means that I tend to type a few pages, go back, and then run the text through a text to speech program. As soon as I hit a word that I don’t like I stop it, make changes, and start listening again. I probably listen to each section 5-12 time before thinking of it as a completed draft.
A lot of people ask about how many words a day I like to write. If I’ve just taken a break I start with a mere 500 words a day, but then work up to higher numbers. When I’m in my groove, with no other obligations sucking up my time I try to average 3000-4000 words a day.
Who are some of your favorite characters and why?
For my own writing, it’s hard to pick just one, or even a few, in “The Beautiful Dead” because each of my protagonists is, at least in part, autobiographical.
If we are talking about other authors, I love Haruki Murakami’s quirky female characters. May Kasahara in The Wind Up Bird Chronicle is a longtime favorite. She’s brilliant. I also enjoy re-listening to sections of Matram in the Wheel of Time books, etc. Most recently I’ve been loving Titan in Drew Hayes’s “Corpies,” along with Torri in “Forging Hephaestus.” It’s so hard to make a short list because I adore so many of them.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Haruki Murakami, Brandon Sanderson, Drew Hayes (especially his newer stuff), old-school Mercedes Lackey, JK Rowling (Who doesn’t love their Harry?), Annie Choi for non-fiction.
I read a lot, and these are some of the names that I go back to when I hit 3-4 painful novels in a row, and I want to test if for some reason I’m just not appreciating fiction anymore, or if the books really were that bad.
Have you got anything you’re working on now?
I’m almost done with my next novel entitled “Grey” which has nothing to do with “The Beautiful Dead.” A while back I found myself wanting to read novels about classic grey style aliens, and was amazed to find that there were so few of them available.
I also have a few TBD character specific novellas and a full-length sequel brewing, along with:
- Ideas for a lit-RPG,
- Modern-day Lord of the Rings and Tinkerbelle meet the zombie apocalypse,
- A near future sci-fi surrounding artificial intelligence, and full body transplants.
Which of these I actually write next will depend on which feels most intriguing when I finish “Grey.” Most likely it’ll be a TBD character novella. I’m also currently working with Amy Landon in producing “The Beautiful Dead” audiobook. We hope to release it on early-mid December.
If you could have any superpowers what would they be?
Assuming I can’t choose something like the ability to grant superpowers of my choice to anyone including myself, it’s a toss-up between the following:
- Shape changing – The ability to shape change into any human or animal form.
- Immortality – Rooted from the ability to heal anything fast enough to negate life-threatening damage or aging
If you could travel to any location in the world where would you go?
I’ve already been around most of Asia and grew up in the USA, so Greece sounds nice. I’ve always wanted to see the old Hellenic temples. Then, there’s also stuff like “The homes of BoA, Lady Gaga, S.E.S. and T-Ara members,” assuming I had an actual invitation and wasn’t a creepy stalker.
Where do you hope to be in 5 years’ time?
In the words of Tod Goldberg, author, friend, and MFA Thesis Advisor, “Big Time Famous Author.”
Thanks so much for taking the time to do an author interview, Jun Prince! Take a minute and check Jun Prince out on the links below. Jun Prince’s book, The Beautiful Dead, is available now on Amazon!
Jun Prince Author Twitter
Jun Prince Author Goodreads
Jun Prince Author Facebook
The Beautiful Dead by Jun Prince is available on Amazon UK
The Beautiful Dead by Jun Prince is available on Amazon US
The Beautiful Dead by Jun Prince is available on Amazon AUS