Interview: Angie Kim

Want to know more about the backstory of Miracle Creek or are you a writer who wants advice from Angie Kim on how to publish your work? It’s our honor to discuss these questions with Angie Kim, author of Miracle Creek. For me, it was such a pleasure to talk to Ms.Kim, with whom I share the same interest in the courtroom and have a similar personal experience of coming to America from another country. Read on to find out more!

Sophia Cheng: This book is amazing courtroom drama! I am wondering, Ms.Kim, When you first drafted Miracle Creek did you have an idea of the kind of book you wanted to write? What inspired you to write a courtroom drama with multiple points of view?

Angie Kim: I did have an idea of what I wanted to write about insofar as I knew I wanted it to take place in this Miracle Submarine, which is a type of medical device known as a hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) chamber. And I also knew pretty quickly that I want it to be a murder mystery with a courtroom drama taking place because I used to be a lawyer myself, and I find being in the courtroom really fun. Given that I have an experience doing courtroom trials, it seems like a good thing to utilize that experience, especially since I myself love reading courtroom drama!

Sophia: Yes, being a courtroom lawyer is such a cool experience! I’m so glad to hear that you get to put your passion of being a lawyer into writing this novel. How did experience in the law influence the plot? How is the vision of Miracle Creek on shelves different than the one that began in your head?

Angie : My legal experience definitely contributed. I considered lots of different structures. For example, focusing on what happened right in the aftermath of the explosion. You know: following a detective as they investigate, trying to figure out who did it and why, how… that kind of stuff. I also considered that we know who caused the fire from the very beginning who did it, and we are just simply trying to figure out exactly what the ramifications are for all the characters. Those are the different structures I considered. The fact that I have the legal experience  made me gravitate towards a murder trial. I wanted to have a setting like Miracle Creek with a lot of drama and potential for twists. So that’s the first part of the question.

As for the vision for Miracle Creek, I didn’t know who set the fire in the very beginning when I started writing. In that way, the ending is definitely different from my expectation because I didn’t know at first who had done it, and what the plot was going to be.  I thought maybe the climax would revolve around actually being in the courtroom and have witness experiencing something really dramatic that happened in public, in the courtroom. And yet when I sat down to write it, it didn’t happen like that.

Sophia: Speaking of the plot of Miracle Creek, it’s so twisty! It always kept me guessing about what would happen next. At the same time, it’s earned because these twists come at the right time in the plot (for example when the reader realizes who caused the fire. How did you plot the novel? Have you ever struggled coming up with these turns? If so, how did you overcome it? How long did you spend on writing this book?

Angie: I love twists in plots, and I was very into that. I did have a plot outline when I first started, but after I wrote three chapters, I would have to go back to the plot outline and change it completely. I would outline it again, and then would re-outline again after three more chapters. It was a very iterative process. So by doing it that way, I would have a outline that was constantly updated. One thing that I did was to make the plot more twisty every time I revised the manuscript after the first draft was done.

Sophia: It truly takes a lot of work! In Miracle Creek, you depict a Korean-American immigrant family’s experience. It’s deeply moving. As an international student who comes from China to study in the U.S, I can relate especially to Mary, the daughter. What drew you to these characters and to depict this experience?

Angie: It’s mainly because I’m an immigrant myself. I’m very much an older version of Mary. I was an only child, and I came over from Korea when I was 11 just like Mary did. My parents and I immigrated to Baltimore just like Mary did. Both of my parents came over with me though. So my dad didn’t stay behind like Pak. We came, and my parents had a grocery store in downtown Baltimore, which is a really dangerous part of the town— just like the Yoos. And I was left behind in the suburbs to live with my aunt and uncle. So, much better situation than what Mary had. But still I felt very lonely and isolated, and I didn’t speak English and I had some of the same experience that I tried to depict in the novel of Mary and the Yoos. So that was really a painful time for me and affected me a lot. So that’s one of the main reasons why I gravitated towards writing about it in this novel.

Sophia: Yes, it’s such a touching story! I can totally relate to this experience.

Angie: Oh, I’m so glad! That makes me so happy to know because one of my favorite things is hearing from readers who have had similar experiences as the character and telling me they recognize themselves.

Sophia: Since The Mire is created by high school students, we would love to know more about your life in school. What did you think you were going to be when you “grew up”?  Was being a writer your dream job when you were at high school? Did you enjoy writing at school?

Angie: I never really was a writer in high school. English was one of my favorite subjects, but only because I loved my English teacher so much. He was the kind of teacher that I still adore and would still be influenced by. But that wasn’t really my dream job. I went to a place called Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan for high school. It’s a performing arts boarding school. I double majored in theater and music. And so I wanted to be an actress; that was my dream job, and that was what I wanted to do. But, first of all, I don’t think that I was that talented in acting. Secondly, being Asian—especially back then because you know I’m now fifty, so this was thirty-three years ago—there weren’t many opportunities for Asian to have a fulfilling acting career. So given that, I decided that I should do what I could be good at, which was school. So I ended up going to Stanford for college—which I loved—and I went to major in Political Science and Philosophy. After that, I went to law school to be a lawyer. I think what attracted me to law was the idea I would be in the courtroom ,and that I would get to act out the story and be performing essentially for the jurors—because you are telling the story to the jurors, and you are also cross- examining the witnesses and questioning them. So that to me was very dramatic; being a drama major who wanted a career in theater but gave it up for practical reasons, it seemed like the perfect thing for me. So that’s why I turned to law.

I didn’t really enjoy writing at first, but at Stanford, I thought maybe I should be a reporter. So I worked for the Stanford Daily, which is the school newspaper,and, in law school, I was the Editor of a journal called the Harvard Law Review. So I did writing oriented things, but I never did any creative writing, certainly not fiction, until eight years ago.

Sophia: Speaking of your writing experience, any advice you would give to others wishing to pursue this career?

Angie: I would say read a lot. Read and read and read! Not only the stuff that you like to read, but stuff that is outside your comfort zone. Stuff that is winning awards, stuff that’s popular, stuff that’s not popular, all sorts of stuff. Read a lot of poetry to really get that into the rhythm of prose, and I would say write a little bit everyday. If you want to be a novelist, don’t just try writing a novel first and foremost. What I did is to get your start writing short stories and something that’s manageable; you workshop that, show it to other people, get feedback, and revise. Revise, revise, edit, and revise again, send it out to literary journals, and get it published. While you are trying to publish, you will get lots and lots of rejection letters. I got so many. Just keep going, once you’ve gotten sort of training experience, then I would say work on your novel.

Sophia: Thank you so much for sharing your experience and advice to us. Thanks for taking your time, Ms.Kim! Congratulations on your debut novel. I so enjoyed reading it and spending time with your characters!