DOB: December 7
Contact information: fatsoko@gmail
Online aliases: fatsoko
Forums most frequented: soompi, solid
Completed fics: The Tiger, SANG.min, Frozen Grey–most of what I’ve written and completed are one-shots
Current fics: There are plenty of incomplete fics like Decapitation of the Wind and Whispers in the Dark, but I don’t have anything that I’m completely devoted to at the moment. There are always ideas but nothing fleshed out yet.
Additional information: I love reading and writing and I think I always will. At one or two or three points in my short life, I’ve felt the pull of boredom or staleness when it comes to reading and writing, whether in print or online. And I do feel bad about that. On the one hand, I know that there will always be something unexpected and beautiful that I just haven’t discovered yet, and the feeling of staleness that hits me will always be the shadow handcuffed to that great novel or fic that I just completed. But I get it now. For authors, I’m a huge fan of Ray Bradbury and his short stories. One of my favorites was a short story called The Swan. Although I don’t remember the characters’ names, it was about an elderly woman who chased the world in her youth and a 30-40 something year old man that was the grandson of her old flame. They meet for the first time in an ice-cream shop filled with all sorts of flavors and the woman feels compelled to speak to the man because he boldly chooses a flavor that is not the norm. As they begin to meet more often, she speaking about her travels and he listening, the townspeople start to view them as scandalous. As the story goes on, the woman, who understands that she is at the end of her life, leaves the younger man with her thoughts. That when they next meet in the next life or the life after, timing is key. That her dream is for them to meet at the same age, not 90 and 40, not 12 and 60, not a baby and an adult. The energy of that story was so tender and tinged with a simple, but complex sadness. I really felt the importance of timing. That even if events unfold, timing is key. I apply that story to my writing too. That timing is everything. Some stories can come to life only at certain times. That if you miss the opportunity, the opportunity still exists, but it won’t be the same opportunity anymore.
fancracked: Hey Kou!! Glad to finally get to do this interview with you! Could you tell us a bit about yourself? (:
kou: I’m the 6th child out of 13. I’ve always been an avid reader. Surprisingly, I don’t really write sci-fi/fantasy even though that’s where my heart lies. I grew up on The Boxcar Children, Harry Potter, Tamora Pierce, Garth Nix, Robin McKinley, Orson Scott Card and Meredith Ann Pierce. As I grew up, I fell in love with the words, “If you want to read it, write it.” I don’t know who said it or if I just made it up, but I believe in those words. I grew up in a household that was more crazy than sane, with constant fighting over the bathroom and chores that never seem to be done. I think that I grew up really fast in some ways, but in others I’m still very much a child, even at 22. As a middle child, I was fortunate to be able to witness my siblings as they grew up, seeing their missteps and compare their choices with my own. We all fight a lot and we love each other a lot and there is no way in hell that privacy will ever exist between us. It’s really a love-hate relationship with a bit more love than hate. I channel all of that into my writing; I can’t not do it, you know? How do I ignore 22 years of living in that crazy place with all of those crazy people? I think I falter into the crazy zone too; it’s how I GET my characters. They’re all crazy too even while they’re sane.
fancracked: Feels like you’ve been around for a loooong time now. How did you get into kpop/kpop fics?
kou: Long story short, it was a friend. Back in junior high, I always met with my friends in the library in the 30 minutes before school started. We’d do homework or read or just talk. My one friend was addicted to soompi at the time. I didn’t know or understand what kpop and fics were but she told me the site had really good stories. I was skeptical but I tried it out and I’ve been hooked ever since. I think that Sky Blue and The Bartender and the Beast were really big at the time.
fancracked: You shared some of your thoughts on writing in your photowalk and Fan on the Street interview, but I’m wondering if there’s anything you’d like to expand on in regards to your writing history. ^^
kou: There are some characters that I hate because I never can dig enough into them to get a clear picture of who they are, what their motives are. Why they’re important in the story. I never want them to exist as filler. It’s too sad, you know? I hate stories with useless characters. It’s like in real life. People who choose to be inactive (and I can attest to filling that role before) make me so frustrated. I hope that when I write, I can portray the full potential, or even the forward progression of the characters. Life will move forward without you but you have to decide to move forward on your own. When conflicts happen, when people interact, the movement may move backwards, but in the end, I hope that it’s sooner rather than later that the characters move forward. I come back home for the summers and I see high school friends who either never left home or got married real young and they’re stuck. They’re so young but they believe that they have no future. That there is no other life for them, no dreams left to fulfill.
fancracked: What are some stories that greatly influenced the way you write/your approach to writing?
kou: I stated it before, but I am in love with Ray Bradbury. I would marry him for his mind hands down. He writes the most thought-provoking, beautiful lines and does it so simply, so effortlessly that I’m floored, that I’m so jealous of his insight. The Illustrated Manwas beautiful. I always wanted to create a world as vivid as the one Garth Nix created in Sabriel and a heroine just as awesome. I always come across beautiful, quoteable lines all of the time and I tell myself that I should remember them but I never really do. I watched the Korean drama White Christmas a few months ago and I was in love with the script. The characters were evolved, the suspense was top-notch and I was hooked in by the one-liners. Lines like “Yes, I’m strange. I’m not normal. What is normal?” or even lines like, “Jo YoungJae, maybe you were born as a kind person too. There’s a reason why you’ve turned out this way. But I will never know what that reason is. You’re just a loser to me.” I’ve never seen such beautifully ugly people in a drama like I did in White Christmas. It reignited something in me. It reminded me that people will respond to things that ring true to them. It reminded me that even in a very marysue environment, there are brave and tenacious writers in Korea fighting to write a different story. In one of my lit classes, the professor asked everyone to write whatever came to us. To not censor it, to not force it to make sense. He gave us two minutes to just let whatever flew into our mind onto the page. Although my mind fought that, it was so freeing to see what random images emerged and how my mind connected thoughts. I use that sometimes when I feel like I’m in a slump and even when it doesn’t cure it, interesting things happen and the mind starts working again.
fancracked: You’ve written quite a lot of fics over the years… Could you give us an overview of your fics?
I love and hate this story. It represents my naivety and my idealism. And yet I can’t regret the love that I poured into Suma. She was strong, overprotective and narrow in her perspective. But she had the courage, even if it was tentative, to find what she wanted, to find a place where she belonged. She is very much the noble idiot, but it’s hard to hate the noble idiot. It’s a story about a girl covering up her scars with lies and pride. It’s about friendship and how it’s not as strong as you always want it to be and about family that isn’t always picture perfect.
DBSK are and will always be my love. I think that I wrote Oppa with the intent to rediscover Yunho, to look beyond that perfect smile and confidence. But somewhere along the line, the plot ran away from the characters and I couldn’t justify their actions and feelings with the spiraling plot. It was my most read fic but I just didn’t have the heart to finish it. At one point, I felt like I could finish it, but then I thought it over again and decided that I couldn’t salvage it. Yunho was too broken and the girl that he wanted to fix him was without character, bland, a victim without vengeance. Changmin was also too little, too late.
Whispers in the Dark
This was my love letter to DBSK. It was the first time that I decided to include all five members since Rising Gods of the East (in which Changmin tragically dies). WITD is something that I doubt I’ll finish but the characters are very much alive. There’s Okbin, the girl who thinks she’s in love with Junsu. But Junsu is too immature and too scared to say yes to her confession for fear that he’ll lose her one day. So she runs away somewhere far from Junsu. But Changmin follows her, watching after her, so very understanding. Okbin sees something new in Changmin, something other than strict and silent, judging and tall. And Changmin finds himself the role of the knight. He hates it, but no one else will be her knight. Jaejoong is a schoolmate who is broken. He may be Okbin’s soulmate. But they’re broken in the same places and only remind one another of their brokenness. Then there is Yoochun, the person who knows Jaejoong’s hidden self and doesn’t know how to stop it. There’s Byul, who is the sunshine to Okbin’s rain, who finds herself trapped in Jaejoong’s lies. And finally, there is Yunho. Who is so different from Okbin that she can’t help but clash with him. There’s a lot of potential with this story and each character wants to speak to the other.
I’ve always loved the relationship between Jaejoong and Yoochun. They’re made for one another and both have a gentle playfulness. They depend on one another and need one another. Frozen Grey illustrates their companionship and the darkness that follows the loss of a best friend. The color in the world fades, the temperatures cool and the loneliness materializes everywhere you look. For this story, I wanted the readers to feel that there is always a choice between letting grief hold you down or relearning how to live.
fancracked: Are there any interesting backstories to any of your fics? ^^
kou: The Tiger was broken into a format similar to GTO or Gokusen back in its early stages. Some of the stories, like sang.min, were woven with real-life facts and real-life people, but at the same time, I took my liberties.
fancracked: I felt like crying a lot reading The Tiger, not because it was downright sad (though it was sad at many points), but because I grew so attached to your characters/I felt so many different feelings for them as they faced their own demons/the ripple effect of others’ actions. As a writer, it may be cathartic to “write out your anger,” but I’m wondering if writing darker/more emotional pieces also has a negative effect on your everyday temperament as well ^^;;
kou: To be honest, writing darker pieces, writing things that are emotional makes me able to distance myself from things more. I’m able to look at it from an outsiders’ point of view and make sense of it rather than getting trapped in the emotions themselves. Sometimes I feel grateful for that distance, that disconnect, but more often than not, I feel isolated by the realization that even though in my mind I’m able to better grasp the cause and effect of an event, I can’t change it. When I wrote about Suma in The Tiger, I felt often trapped in her emotions. They were screaming at me to be written, to be shared. And after I understood her better and wrote everything out, I felt as if a weight had lifted. And even though I felt that I disagreed with her actions at times, I also felt that there was a certain validity to her actions, that each person has their own singular view of right and wrong, of love and friendship. I guess, to answer your question more simply, after I wrote something dark, outwardly I was the same old Kou. It didn’t affect my temperament. But it did slowly tweak how I chose to understand the world and the people around me.
fancracked: Looking back, what sorts of phases/trends did you go through as a writer?
kou: I’m a huge angst writer. But I never seem to stick with one way of writing. There’s always a different way to express words and feelings and if it’s different than the last time, it feels fresher, closer to the meaning that I meant to convey. For example, texture that is unusual or using something strange to describe a common action. I remember struggling to find different ways to describe anger and pain. You would think it would be easy, but it’s near impossible.
fancracked: Do you prefer to write by hand or on the computer?
kou: I like it all. When I write with a computer, my fingers don’t get as tired and I’m able to write more but it never feels as organic. When I write on paper, I usually write in pencil and then regret it because it fades and resolve to write only in pen and all in one notebook. But it never happens. I’m a natural tree-killer, using a few pages, leaving it and opening up a fresh notebook. I’m a bit scatterbrained when it comes to the writing process.
fancracked: Speaking of conditions, do you have to be in a certain mood/have set conditions before writing?
kou: I’ve tried it all. I think that I write the best when I’m angry. I get really worked up about something and have to vent it. I either disappear somewhere or write or sleep, but when I write, those scraps are the ones that I seem to be drawn to. Most of the time, I write without the intention of writing for a specific story. For example, certain scenes and feelings might get scribbled down but I don’t know who owns them. Is it this character that came through? That character? Does it fit with that story or is it something that I haven’t encountered yet? Sometimes scribbled notes get compiled into a chapter. And there are times when I just write chapters. One at a time, but sometimes two separate chapters for two separate stories. I remember when I wrote sangmin, I wrote it most of it in a week or a month before I ran dry. It was really fast, but the emotions and the characters were just very active.
fancracked: You’ve written about a wide variety of characters, each with his/her own interesting backstory/psyche. I’m wondering if you have any favorites/any that you struggled writing or understanding?
kou: This is a hard question. But if we’re talking about characters that I struggled to understand, it was definitely ChunSang and MinKi from sangmin. I wrote sangmin with the intention of venting. Because I hated seeing the unhappiness, the viciousness of people’s actions and lack of actions. And I felt a lot like DongWon, on the side, involved enough to have an opinion that should matter but not close enough to make the final decision. For the story sangmin, I think that the both of them were too young to be parents, too young and too stubborn to understand that communication is key. Both of them were making decisions for the other. Both of them had priorities that clashed with the other. And that lack of understanding piled on top of a child made it more frustrating. I think what was difficult for me was accepting that selfishness is normal, that it’s so very human to be wrong even when you’re right. That ChunSang may never be ideal and that MinKi is a fool to decide in his mind that she will be his ideal. Writing sangmin made me realize that it must be tough to move on, to break away from what you’ve built in your mind already and that the power to walk down a different road is solely up to the individual. It’s not simply a matter of right and wrong, of pros and cons. It’s the unwillingness to let go of the promises, of the dreams, of what could have been.
fancracked: What is the hardest part of writing a story?
kou: The hardest part is building a relationship between characters. I still struggle with it. It’s easy if the relationship is there already and all I have to do is dissect it, but if I have to start from scratch, I feel at a loss. I can grasp the complexity of a character’s history better than the lack of history. For example, in Decapitation of the Wind, the crux of the story relies and is built around three brothers and a secret. The female character that I introduced was meant to shake things up, to be that outsider’s eye and to ask questions that the audience won’t ask. But what ended up happening was that I gravitated towards the three boys, towards that tattered relationship and how they would nurture it versus MinHyuk (the protagonist) getting the girl. I think that it’s important to have new characters, to have something or someone that signifies a means of change for the story. I struggle with finishing stories too but yes, it’s definitely hardest for me to insert a new character into the formula.
fancracked: Do you have anyone you go to for support/advice/feedback about your writing?
kou: I used to not talk to anyone about my writing. It’s such an intimate thing and I’ve never been one to share. But as I grew older, I became more comfortable with telling my siblings about my ideas. I have a brother who is my best friend, and although he doesn’t understand a lick of fanfiction, we’ve had similar tastes in reading and hobbies for a long time. I think he knew I was hesitant because he would tease me about things I wrote but never pushed me to share. It wasn’t until the other year that I printed and bound my only paper copy of The Tiger for him for Christmas. He didn’t read it until a year later and he was very surprised? I guess that’s the word. And he was very supportive. A couple of my other sisters also started reading some of my work and I really feel happy that they understand that writing is something very special to me. I have tried to talk to one of my sisters about one story I wrote and she got lost. It’s hard for me to vocalize or make something sensible. It’s easy to just say, “I’m thinking about writing a story about a boy,” versus, “There’s an insomniac that may be dreaming, a salaryman who is actually a robot and a bookkeeper that’s really a vampire.” I do enjoy talking to people about my ideas, but since I usually talk in circles, I try to have something concrete before I ask for advice.
fancracked: Could you share some short excerpts of some of your favorite lines/scenes that you’ve written? ^^
kou: I love so many moments from Decapitation of the Wind. When I re-read a passage, I feel goosebumps and the emotional jolt hits me again. What made DotW unique for me was that it was without a doubt so forceful in its emotions. These characters are so unsatisfied and they know it. They mentally understand that something is not right and they know that they don’t know how to fix it.
MinHyuk, the protagonist, has such a unique perspective of life. And even though the readers feel as if they understand him better than the other characters, MinHyuk is still able to hide much of himself. I remember there were a few moments, a few passages where I felt so sad and happy for him as he opened up old scars to find the answers he needed to find. Even though he was unable to tell all, it was a trickle, a hole in dam that was a precursor to setting him free.
His hand moves to his throat. There are scars lined along his esophagus, bridged along the gums of his mouth. But they are scars. And they are healed. It took mountains of medicine but it is healed.
He can speak, right?
“I don’t know,” the foreign voice crumbles out, but that foreign voice is Han MinHyuk’s. It’s a voice that is no longer dead. He begins to laugh slightly in amusement at his answer. He is speaking but honestly…will he ever have the courage to speak what is important?
Alone, in his room, he practices speaking simple sentences, salty tears falling as he does so. Who knew that something so simple could bring a boy almost a man to tears?
“My name is Han MinHyuk.”
His hands rub at his pants.
“I’m twenty years old.”
He shakes his head in the darkness. Does he dare say it? His hand comes to his mouth covering it, muffling his words.
If you went to MinHyuk and pulled away his hand, you would have heard the heartbreaking words of his voice cracking, sputtering out, “I’m dying.”
If only he could have the courage to say these words to another person.
fancracked: Did you ever feel like quitting/taking a long break from writing before? If so, why so? — What brought you back? ^^
kou: I think it was definitely after I finished high school and started college that I no longer felt the same energy for writing, for soompi, that I used to have. I know I’m not as active anymore and I remember there was once a time when I couldn’t imagine my life without soompi. But now, I understand that soompi and writing are related but not the same thing. With soompi, I was able to focus my writing and learn about myself as a writer and a reader. I’m definitely in a slump and I’m not sure why. But I’m working hard to find that pace again, to write a little bit every night.
fancracked: Do you have any lessons learned based on what you’ve learned/gone through over the years?
kou: It’s really easy to start a story and to stop updating a story. Whenever an author says that they’re on hiatus, it really means that they want to write it but they can’t. The characters run away from the story or the story runs away from the characters and that insanity is what confuddles the writing. They contradict to the point that the characters are no longer enmeshed in the story or the story becomes too big or something and the characters just aren’t ready for that. That conflict is what I’ve come to understand. I think that’s a big thing. Another thing is, there is always something to read. Don’t restrict yourself to the usual authors and the usual story lines. You’re cheating yourself out of a whole history and spectrum of wonderful writing. As a writer, try not to judge other writers without trying to understand their intentions and their point of view.
fancracked: Before we end this interview, would you like to send any messages to anyone/the fic world as a whole? ^^
kou: To writers: Push yourself and find that voice for your story. You won’t regret it.
fancracked: Thanks SO much for sharing your time and thoughts with Time Vault and me, Kou! Means a lot and best wishes (:
kou: Thank you for this interview. I’m honored.