THE BAND by Christine Ma-Kellams, Feature
THE BAND by Christine Ma-Kellams, Feature
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The Big Thrill Discusses THE BAND with Christine Ma-Kellams

Book Cover: THE BANDSang Duri is the eldest member and “visual” of a Korean boy band at the apex of global superstardom. But when his latest solo single accidentally leads to controversy, he’s abruptly cancelled.

To spare the band from fallout with obsessive fans and overbearing management, Duri disappears from the public eye by hiding out in the McMansion of a Chinese American woman he meets in a Los Angeles H-Mart. But his rescuer is both unhappily married with children and a psychologist with a savior complex, a combination that makes their potential union both seductive and incredibly problematic.

Meanwhile, Duri’s cancellation catapults not only a series of repressed memories from his music producer’s earlier years about the original girl group whose tragic disbanding preceded his current success, but also a spiral of violent interactions that culminates in an award show event with reverberations that forever change the fates of both the band members and the music industry.

In its indicting portrayal of mental health and public obsession, fandom, and cancel culture, The Band considers the many ways in which love and celebrity can devolve into something far more sinister when their demands are unmet.

Author Photo: Christine Ma-Kellams

Christine Ma-Kellams

Christine Ma-Kellams recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss her debut contemporary thriller, THE BAND.

Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?

Deep into the pandemic in 2020, I was driving in my car along LA’s astonishingly emptied streets when NPR’s Larry Mantle came on the air to talk about K-pop sensation BTS. I had heard of the boy band before, but having been a die-hard NSYNC fan in my teens, I had spent the previous years resisting the urge to fangirl over the worldwide sensation. But then a listener called in and talked about how their appearance with James Corden on Carpool Karaoke was her gateway into Army-dom, and the way she talked about these seven guys from South Korea sounded so rapturous, I couldn’t help myself. I went home and Googled them, then watched the now famous late-night bit involving a mini-van full of Korean idols singing their hearts out with America’s favorite British comedian. I knew then what their 40 million fans have known all along: this was no ordinary boy band; this was something else.

BTS might’ve been my gateway drug into Korean pop music, but K-pop’s many storied fandoms ultimately became the inspiration for this book.

A novel is such a major undertaking; there’s the writing of it, of course, then you’re spending months and months revising, polishing, and then promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?

I actually wrote this book in three months, the shortest I’ve ever spent on a novel. Granted, I wrote it during the pandemic, so I had more free time than usual, or at least more time at home.

Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?

I created a whole Spotify playlist of the songs that I listened to before, during, and after writing this book that I felt spoke to its themes: Click here to listen.

When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?

I didn’t realize it until after I finished the novel and my agent pointed this out, but apparently there are a lot of books about K-pop in YA, but not Adult, and certainly not in the thriller space. And while the Korean pop culture zeitgeist is a very real cultural phenomenon, there aren’t any adult novels that I’ve read and liked that takes it on in a self-reflexive way. So I wanted to write a book that people wouldn’t want to put it down and wouldn’t find pedantic. So that sweet spot of being thought-provoking combined with thriller-esque pacing/plot/characters was what I went for here.

In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?

I always want to break and expand people’s conception of the world, and make them consider more seriously what they’ve considered before.

What can you share about what you’re working on next?

I actually allude to my next novel in THE BAND. In it, an interracial couple attempts polyamory in the era of MeToo, but in matters of love and infidelity, nothing goes as planned. I’m also working on putting together a short story collection, Love Languages of Anti-Heroes, featuring people we love to hate trying their hand at the trickiest of human ties.


Christine Ma-Kellams is a Harvard-trained cultural psychologist, Pushcart-nominated fiction writer, and first-generation American. Her work and writing have appeared in HuffPost, Chicago Tribune, Catapult, Salon, The Wall Street Journal, The Rumpus, and much more. THE BAND is her first novel. You can find her in person at one of California’s coastal cities or online at

To learn more about the author, please visit her website.