IR Approved Author Jamie Zerndt: “I love it when what you’re writing surprises you…”

The Korean Word For Butterfly received a 4+ star review, making it an IndieReader Approved title.

Following find an interview with author Jamie Zerndt.

What is the name of the book and when was it published?

The Korean Word For Butterfly was first published back in 2013.

What’s the book’s first line? 

“We were met outside the airport by a man in a black suit holding a sign with our names on it just like you see in the movies.”

What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch”.

This is the pitch I used for a while. It’s just an excerpt from the book, but I think it encapsulates the whole pretty nicely:

“Americans. They think everybody is snowflake. Only one snowflake. Only one you. But in Korea we think like snowball. Everybody snowball.” Yun-ji packed an imaginary snowball in her hands, then lifted it, palms up, as if offering Billie a present. “You see? Snowball.”

Both of them looked at Yun-ji’s hands holding nothing.

“Snowball,” Yun-ji repeated, then looked at Billie, at her unhappy mouth, at her face that looked like it had been bleached, and she pictured that soldier sitting in a tank, listening to head phones, maybe reading a Rolling Stone magazine, then the call coming in over the radio, the hurried attempts to think of some reason why he didn’t see two fourteen-year-old girls walking down a deserted country road in South Korea.

“Never mind,” Yun-ji said and dropped her hands.

When she looked down at her shoes, she half-expected to see a puddle.

But there was nothing.

Just the flickering of the memorial candles.”

What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event?

I taught English in South Korea for a year during the period the novel is set in, and I was strongly affected by the deaths of the two girls involved in the tank accident. Not only because of the loss of these two innocent girls, but also because of how deeply it had affected everyone in the country at that time. I remember, too, how there was pretty much zero coverage in the U.S. media either. Maybe a part of me wanted to share their stories for that reason. I’m not really sure.

What’s the main reason someone should really read this book?

The book deals with a lot of different things: racism, abortion, and alcoholism to name a few. But I’d like to think that it deals with them in an everyday sort of way, without a lot of heavy-handed judgment involved. At least, that was my hope when writing it.

What’s the most distinctive thing about the main character?  Who-real or fictional-would you say the character reminds you of?

The book doesn’t really have one main character since it’s written from three alternating points-of-view. That being said, Moon sort of reminds me of myself a little and some of the struggles I’ve had in my life. I guess I can relate to him the most.

What’s the best and the hardest part of being an indie?

A few years ago, after I had written my first book (The Cloud Seeders) and had an agent and all that, there was some interest from Hollywood. One of the bigger studios was in contact with my agent at the time and there was a pretty famous director (Pineapple Express/All The Real Girls) interested. Needless to say, my wife and I were very excited and had high hopes that we’d get a book contract out of it at the very least. Well, after waiting around for about a year, the director eventually pulled out. And, as a result, the publisher did as well. It was a mess. After that, I’ve been going the indie route for the most part. There’s a lot more control and a lot less stress involved which is how I usually like things.

Is there something in particular that motivates you?

This is probably going to sound lame, but the writing itself is pretty much always the motivator. I love it when what you’re writing surprises you, when you find a way to tie in something you’d put in fifty pages earlier and weren’t sure why. And then, bam, it just sort of jumps out at you. It’s those moments I write for, the moments when you get lucky like that. But it’s not just luck. It’s being there, showing up, and the paying attention that allows the luck to happen. That’s how I see it anyway.

Which books do you wish you could have written?

Cannery Row. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. The Woman Who Walked Into Doors. Stump…


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