By Stacy Mantle
Jae Hwa has spent sixteen years in Seoul, trying to destroy the evil mortals who’ve been torturing her family for centuries—the last thing she expects is to become their assassin.
Now, trapped in the darkest cove of the Spirit World as a servant to a Korean god, Hwa fights for her humanity and freedom. But she’s starting to lose hope that she’ll ever see her family again. Especially since her captor will do anything to keep her as a pawn in his quest to take over Korea.
In the third installment of her Gilded series, author Christina Farley truly puts her character through the paces. In this interview with The Big Thrill, she tells us a bit more about her latest release, BRAZEN, and what fans can expect from her next.
Tell us a bit more about your BRAZEN.
BRAZEN is the third and final book in the Gilded series. I’m super excited about this book, not only because it’s my favorite, but also because I pulled in some of my experiences and adventures while I traveled in China.
Hwa’s entire family thinks she’s dead, and Jae’s true love, Marc, believes she is lost to him forever. So, When Kud sends Jae to find and steal the powerful Black Turtle orb, Jae sees an opportunity to break free and defeat Kud once and for all…but first she needs to regain Marc’s trust and work with him to vanquish the darkness that threatens to overwhelm Korea. There’s much to lose as Jae struggles to save the land she’s come to call home.
Your novels are primarily focused on Korean myths and legends. Why Korea?
I was teaching at an international school in Korea (Seoul Foreign School) and we were comparing Greek and Korean myths. When I came across the myth of Haemosu and Princess Yuhwa, I was hooked! I started writing fun spin-off scenes for my students to get them interested, and suddenly I found myself writing a book. The characters and setting are all inspired by my favorite Korean haunts and former students and colleagues. I changed the character names except for the teachers (yes, those are all real teachers at Seoul Foreign School) and Michelle.
Can you tell us about your main character, Jae? What makes her story special?
Jae’s character stemmed from the myth of Haemosu and Princess Yuhwa. After reading the myth, I wondered what happened after the princess escaped the demi god’s clutches. And what if Haemosu, even today, is still searching for his lost Princess Yuhwa. What if Yuhwa’s descendant was a girl named Jae, and if so, what kind of girl would Jae be like? I think some of the best ways to discover characters is to ask the what-if questions.
You have a wonderful website! How has creating sections for writers and teachers helped with sales of novels?
Thank you! There’s a saying, “Once a teacher, always a teacher.” So my hope is that teens all around the world can be exposed and fall in love with Korea just as I did. So I created the teacher guides to make the teacher’s job easier. They are based on Common Core standards and delve into higher-thinking questioning.
As far as sales, many school districts and states have picked up the Gilded series as required reading. It’s my guess that the teacher guides have helped with this.
What’s been the most valuable promotion you’ve done to improve sales?
It’s always hard to guess what works best, but I do know that my school visits are fantastic because I’m able to talk and share my books with my target audience. Plus, school visits are so fun for me and they fulfill my teacher fix now that I’m not teaching anymore. I also joined up with two other YA authors and we created a group called The YA Chicks. We do online promotion, tours, and school visits together. Three is so much more powerful than one!
The key really is to find something that you love doing—whether it’s school visits, YouTube, sketches of your characters, photographing—and focus on that. If you love doing that type of promotion, it’s not work, it’s fun. And readers will feel that, too.
Your background is in education. On your website, we see photos of you learning archery and martial arts. How have these sports helped to improve your writing?
As I was writing, I realized that in order to be true to what I was writing, I needed some type of experience. So, I took archery lessons and went to the dojang at the bottom of the hill twice a week. The dojang and the archery center in the books are real places and the very ones that I trained at. Originally, I was going to learn just enough Tae Kwon Do to have a basic understanding of the sport. But once I got started, I was hooked and kept training until we left the country.
You’re a former teacher and we see that you’ve implemented this history on your site. What is your best advice for reaching teachers and their classes?
My advice for reaching schools is to consider what you can offer them. What types of skills can you teach? What inspirational tips can you pass on? Free Skype visits are great and easy for a school to set up. For my in-person author visits, I offer inspirational talks as well as writing workshops. Usually schools prefer the writing workshops because it fits in with their curriculum and the schools can get administrative support.
What is your best advice to aspiring authors?
My advice to aspiring and published authors is to never lose sight of why you started writing in the first place. For me, it was falling in love with writing. To be immersed and whisked away in a whole new world. Cling to that initial purpose and it will carry you through the tough times.
What’s next for you?
I’m super pumped about my upcoming middle grade called PRINCESS & THE PAGE releasing fall 2016 with Scholastic Press. It is set in France and loosely based on fairytales. It’s about a girl whose dark fairy tale comes to life after writing it with a magical Word Weaver pen. Here’s a picture of my sister and I at the castle that inspired this story: Chateau de Chenonceau.
Christina Farley is the author of the Gilded series, a YA contemporary fantasy series set in Korea. GILDED was nominated for Korea’s 2014 Morning Calm, Ohio’s 2015 Buckeye award, and the Tome’s It List. As a child, she loved to explore, which later inspired her to jump on a plane and travel the world. Christina’s adventures sparked her to write stories, infusing the real world with fantasy.
To learn more about Christina, please visit her website.