It’s been close to a year since the last time I posted an interview here, and to be honest, there were times when I thought I should leave Time Vault as is and stop interviews because I’m no longer as active as I used to be. But there still some wonderful people who I haven’t had the chance to interview yet, and until recently, kpopchild was one of them. — Major thanks to Mai/kpopchild for sharing your time and thoughts with us when you have a crazy busy schedule! Really means a lot ^^
**Just a mini side note for anyone who’s interested — By Heart, By Soul & Dark Blue by kpopchild have both been added to the fic library ^^ These are some of her older works and she hesitated to put them up here, but I insisted because no kpop fic reading experience would be complete without kpopchild & Lee Minwoo (the two are synonymous in my book/any Shinhwa fic reader’s book, really :P).
Contact information: maicvang[at]gmail (you now you’re old when your email is boring)
Online aliases: kpopchild, mai-au-bong (shinbiz), child (Writers’ Asylum), crybaby (solid forums), #1MINBONGstalker (minwoo forum) – the last two are obsolete
Forums most frequented: Soompi, Shinhwa.biz
Completed fics: Hunter, Primroses Outside The Gate, By Heart By Soul, Walking In The Rain, Dark Blue, Black Butterfly, Wolf & Sheep I, Wolf & Sheep II, and multiple one-shots
Current fics: The Difference Between A Wolf & A Sheep (part 3), Masterpiece (joint fic w/ Aziraphale, currently on hiatus)
Additional information: —
Hey Mai!! You’ve been a familiar face for a long time, so I’m assuming the majority of fic writers/readers will already know who you are, but for those who are newer, can you give a short introduction about yourself?
Hello, my name is Mai, otherwise known as kpopchild (on Soompi forums). I’ve been around since 2002/2003 and can now be considered a ‘living fossil’ Shinhwa fan. In my spare time, I like to work on my photography and other pretty-but-nonprofitable things.
I know you’re a pretty big Shinhwa fan, but I’m wondering how you got into kpop? ^^
During a rally in my junior year of high school (2002), two different groups performed the dances from H.O.T.’s “We Are The Future” and “Candy”. It was my first time hearing kpop music, but I was immediately drawn to it. My friend, who was an HOT fan, was sitting next to me and she began introducing me to kpop/HOT. When she lent me her HOT CDs and videos, she warned me to NEVER EVER like Shinhwa because they were “too conceited” (they were doing the whole topless thing right before ‘Perfect Man’). Thus, I became an HOT fan first, but they were already broken up for about a month by then and Shinhwa eventually got my attention because you cannot deny Shin Hyesung’s voice!
How did you get into fics? Did you start writing at the same time that you started reading?
I actually joined a Shinhwa roleplay blog in 2003 with five other wonderful girls and played the part of Min Woo’s girlfriend (I was determined to not let anyone else have that role). The person playing Eric’s girlfriend was Jina, or j-s0, and she had just finished writing her fanfic “Benevolence”. She was really excited about completing her story and had asked me to read it. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I read anyway and found it really amazing. I hadn’t even known that these kinds of things existed! I’ve always loved storytelling, and so when I learned about the kpop fanfic community, I decided to try my hand at writing. I consulted Jina first and asked her for advice on how to start. She told me to “just do it!”, so I did with my first fic ‘Hunter’ and just went from there.
As for reading, unlike Moley, I am a lazy person and I don’t read as often as I should (not fanfics at least). If I know a particular author is good and I like their style, I’ll read pretty much everything that they write (and this was way back when I still had time on my hands). I went with the current times and read what was currently out on the forums; I didn’t really go back to read any of the older or more famous stories that a lot of the writers from my time have read and loved. (Just for the record, I’ve never read “What I Did For Love” by Val.)
Who were/are some of your favorite writers?/What are some of your favorite fics? :)
I’m very lucky to have known so many wonderful writers in these past ten years, some of whom I’ve had the pleasure of becoming really great friends with. My favorite writers, in no particular order, are: Cirrus, etoile, JK, 4tang, j-s0, dongie, -bLuSh-, baboshay, Strawberry Kiss, saharial, and Aziraphale. Some of my favorite fanfics (I can’t remember all of them) are: “Blue Ice” by Cirrus, “Butt Out!” by Cirrus, “Jungle Fever” by Cirrus (and you won’t find this one anywhere!) – actually, anything by Cirrus is good, “Benevolence” by j-s0, “Poop In A Wine Glass” by dongie, “Jaded” by linkinpark, “Desideratum” by 4tang, “The Debt” by lorelei, “I Hate Guys Like You” by JK, and “Say My Name” by Aziraphale.
As you can tell, the majority of the fics I’ve read feature Shinhwa, and often with Min Woo as the leading man. Because I’m Shinhwa/Minwoo biased, I can’t really bring myself to read non-Shinhwa fanfics unless the fic is devastatingly irresistible or the fic features FlytotheSky (FTTS will always have a special place in my fangirl heart). I rarely read fics nowadays, and sadly, the few that I am currently following are rarely updated. There are a few old ones that I’ve wanted to re-read, as well as old completed fics that I’ve never read but would like to check out one day; hopefully the grammar-nazi in me won’t go berserk when I do find the time to go back.
So many familiar “faces” ! Can you tell us a bit about what sites you frequented, as well as your thoughts on the fic scene, then and now?
I started off going to a lot of the CGIWorld kpop boards for media content, and there were so many of them at the time that were easily accessible. I was hesitant to get into the bigger, more complex forums like Solid because you had to create an account with username and everything, so I stayed away from those until I got into fanfics, in which I eventually joined Solid forums.
I didn’t get into Soompi until after Solid began having issues (for reasons I shall not list) because, well, to be frank, Soompi was just a mess! LOL I remember going there and seeing someone’s signature containing 3 full sized images and a bunch of colorful text of all shapes and sizes. I’d be scrolling through a thread forever. Thank goodness it’s not like that anymore. Soompi so far remains one of my favorite forums to visit, and though I’m not as ‘active’ as I used to be (thanks to my friends abandoning me), it’s still a part of my daily sites-to-visit routine.
Aside from Soompi, I frequent Shinhwa.biz/forums, but given that it is a Shinhwa-related board, it is not as busy.
I’ve always admired the WA. Regretfully, I was never ‘active’ there as a writer/reader because the writers there were real tight with each other and I was just a visitor. I’m glad the WA is still around, and I’ve always liked their style and fanfics, but of course, a lot of good writers are gone and it’s not the same anymore, so I don’t visit as often.
What I still can’t get over is the sudden disappearance of the CGIWorld boards, including my own three boards that I had worked so hard on maintaining. I think a courtesy notice sent in advance by the host of CGIWorld would have been nice; I could have saved some really good stories that other writers have posted on my Fanfic Addiction and Strawberries & Chocolate Remedies board so I don’t have to live in regret about losing them.
As for my thoughts on the fic scene, well, many other writers have already mentioned (for their Time Vault interviews) plenty about the shifting kpop fanfic scene over the past ten years, from the Seshkies/HOT/Shinhwa fics to the “now” groups, from TFs to NG fics, and also the use of various media to enhance the story reading experience, so I won’t talk about that, but what I’d like to touch on is the disappearance of lemon fics.
I don’t mean to sound like a perv or anything, but lemon/lime/yaoi fics were a huge part of the kpop fanfic scene, and I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems like lemon fics are rare to find nowadays, let alone regular fics that have ‘lemon’ content incorporated. The trend itself has become obsolete, or not as prominent in the current kpop fanfics scene, but then it could just be that Soompi doesn’t allow explicit mature content (I don’t know if the rules have changed) and specific fanfic boards (like lemon/lime/yaoi boards) are no longer in existence.
On another note, do you have a favorite character/most memorable character that you’ve written? :) What about your favorite “version” of Minwoo that you’ve written?
My side characters somehow usually end up being a lot more favorable than the main characters. I don’t remember a lot of the characters from my earlier stories, but a recent favorite character of mine is Renzo from Wolf & Sheep. Renzo, who is a fictional character, doesn’t appear until the third story, but he makes quite an impression (or at least I hope he does). Renzo is still a relatively new character and he doesn’t have a big role, but hopefully the readers will like him just as much as I do by the time we near the end.
I particularly don’t have a favorite version of Minwoo because, well, he’s the same guy in all my fics! LOL I think if you read all my fics in one sitting, you will agree, and also potentially suffer a headache from trying to distinguish the minor differences that each ‘Minwoo’ has.
I only have one reason why my Minwoo’s are the same: I don’t find financially unstable characters attractive. That is to say if Minwoo is poor, he’s either got to be extremely gifted, has supernatural powers, or the lack of money/social status does not affect his role in the story. I’m shallow in this area, I know, and of course, this is a concern of mine as far as character development goes.
I’m aware that my Minwoo is more 2D than not; he has an infinite amount of income, is always fit and well-clothed, and always smooth with the ladies. I am working on improving this issue, of course, but you will not see a poor Minwoo anytime soon. Hell, he was not rich in “Hunter” and suffered a most terrible fate. LOL
Also, because my stories are mainly in the genre of “romance”, Minwoo being rich makes everything easier for me as far as story building goes; he has a car, a house, he’s independent, confident, etc. We can just cut right to the chase instead of me worrying about how he can possibly do this or that with no job/income/etc. Yes, I worry about these things. I don’t know why, I just do.
Your characters always have a lot of chemistry between one another — they seem to fit like puzzle pieces. How do you handle writing and plotting character relationships and dynamics? ^^
I write about really really hot guys that I would not hesitate to get freaky with.
… I’m totally kidding!
Well, actually, no, I’m not kidding. When it comes to Minwoo, the answer is always yes. LOL
Seriously speaking though, ‘chemistry’ and ‘relationships’ are the things that I dread the most when it comes to writing. I am assuming that we are talking about romantic chemistry here? If we weren’t, well, we are now! ^^
Although it’s not very difficult to imagine having romantic chemistry with Minwoo, I hate setting up a story and its characters. I find the whole boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy pursues girl thing to be really boring. I wanted to avoid that as much as possible when I was beginning to write my latest fic The Difference Between A Wolf & A Sheep, or Wolf & Sheep for short, so I purposely started Wolf & Sheep with my two main characters, Minwoo and Tyce, already knowing each other for 4 months.
Although I don’t mention specific dates in the story, I do keep in mind the amount of time that has passed between events or plot twists. This helps to build the starting relationship between two characters, as you have different scenarios to play with: Are these people already good friends? Do they have the hots for each other? Are they currently romantically involved?
In all of my prior fanfics, my two main characters were just barely meeting for the first time, and so it was difficult and tiresome to create a realistic ‘romantic’ relationship in such a short amount of time. By giving my characters in Wolf & Sheep some time ahead of Chapter One, I was able to dive in right away into the character’s problems/roles, and the conflict(s) that make the story interesting.
Given the circumstances/conflicts that are bound to follow as the story progress, the plot will eventually determine what the characters do and how they interact with each other. In between all this, I sneak in romantic chemistry when necessary; I also try to keep it consistent and layer it up so that it’s not always the same kind of chemistry (good chemistry, bad chemistry, understanding, frustration, etc.).
By having relationships pre-established, a writer can focus on the character’s interactions and, when necessary, just make simple or elaborate references to how they met/know each other. I’m not saying this is the better or the right way, but it is a trick I’ve learned when it comes to building chemistry without trying too hard. Also, this allows room for mystery, and a little mystery is always good.