How did you become a writer?
I started later in life. As an alternative to making art, I wrote something, realized I didn’t know what I was doing, took a fiction class at the local Writer’s Center here in DC, caught the bug and joined a fiction writers’ group. After a year of kind encouragement from its members, I realized I still didn’t know what I was doing (writing memoir, biography, fiction? what?) and went to Bennington College for an MFA. Their low-residency format was perfect for my freelance job as a graphic designer, and in those two years, I discovered that in order to portray the emotional truth of legendary family stories, I needed to write fiction. Thus, fifteen years after that first start with pencil and paper, did THE CALLIGRAPHER’S DAUGHTER come forth.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).
James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Alexandre Dumas, Younghill Kang, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borges, so many others. Being a writer means being a reader.
When and where do you write?
Alas, I'm not disciplined about writing, and catch blocks of time here and there. Quiet mornings and very late nights are good; going-away residencies are best. I have a 6.5 x 9-foot room that’s crowded with shelves and books, with a solid ergonomic chair plus two hollow doors in an L for a desk. It overlooks a showy maple and the street where, when the window’s open, I can hear bar patrons in the wee of the morning looking for their cars.
What are you working on now?
Third novel. ‘Nuff said.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
I suffer from generalized terror when my fingers touch the keys to create new work. I love revising for that reason. Something to fix?—can do.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
It's probably cliché, but I think it was Stephen Pressfield (The War of Art), who said the muse can’t find you if you’re not at your desk.
What’s your advice to new writers?
Read. Study craft. Let your work rest to understand what it might mean.
Eugenia Kim’s debut novel, THE CALLIGRAPHER’S DAUGHTER, won the Borders Original Voices Award, was shortlisted for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and was a Washington Post Critic’s Pick and Best Historical Novel. Her recent novel, THE KINSHIP OF SECRETS, was a Library Reads pick, an Amazon Literary Fiction Best Book of the Month (November 2018), and its audio version was a Booklist Top Ten of the year.