Interview | Ellen Oh

I came to know Ellen Oh through fellow author Marie Lu’s Twitter feed.  I checked out Ellen’s website and fell in love with her writing.  Her book sounded amazing….which meant I had to find out more about the person who created it.

Wow, was I not disappointed.  Ellen is sweet, smart, and speaks her mind.  She’s not afraid to talk about tough issues on her blog, such as why she (and I) hate the word “oriental”.  On top of it all, she’s incredibly down to earth and, as you’ll find out in the interview, we have a lot in common.

I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed conducting it!



1. Hey Ellen!  Your book sounds amazing! Best of all, it features an Asian heroine!  I’m a pretty rabid YA reader and I hardly ever come across Asian heroines! Was it a conscious choice on your part to write such a character?

Yes, absolutely. I started writing again because of my interest in Asian history. I got really interested in Korean history once I saw that there was very little about anything historically Korean. It led me to wanting to write a fantasy story based on Korean myths and legends.

2. Do you think there’s a difference in writing minority characters?

No, I don’t. It’s all about story, and research. I had to do a lot of research to make sure that I got the feel for the time period of ancientKorea. But that doesn’t mean it is all factual, it is still a fantasy. But I was writing about a different cultural era so I wanted to be as accurate as I could. But other than that, it was a story about a girl who just happened to be Asian.

3. Great answer.  🙂 So on your blog, you aren’t shy about anything! You talk open and honestly about publishing, writing, race, culture, failures and successes.  Anything you won’t write about?

Politics and religion. Politics is too divisive and religion can be too personal. Talking too much about either of them can be a huge turn off and I just would rather not go there.

4. Jodi Picoult (one of my favorite authors) once said something similar.  The two things that are supposed to bring people closer are actually the most divisible.  Or something like that.  She said it much better.  I guess great minds think alike.  🙂

Speaking of which…we have so much in common!  I’m Korean American, I love food, and I used to work in law!!  (Like you, I don’t miss it.)  Crazy!   Let’s see what else we have in common!  What is your….

a. Favorite color:  Brown.  Mine is Red!

b. Favorite word:  Food or Eat.  Carnivorous and Luscious.

c. Favorite vacation destination – beach.  Haven’t been there, but I’d love to go to Italy!

d. Favorite book – how about books? To Kill A Mockingbird, Persuasion, The Count of Monte Christo, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, oh boy, I’d better stop now!

Ha, I’ve got tons too!  Mine Til Midnight by Lisa Kleypas and Tell No One by Harlan Coben are pretty up there though. 

e. Most romantic moment in your life – So I have to admit to you that I’m not a romantic. Maybe I’m too practical or something but I have no romance in me. I can appreciate romance stories but I don’t seem to appreciate them in my own life. That said, my husband is very romantic. He has had to curtail his romantic streak bc I don’t tend to approve. But every once in awhile, he sneaks one in and I am reluctantly impressed. However, I won’t share them cause they are secrets! ;o)

I’m a hopeless romantic!  And I can’t tell my moment either!  So at least we have that in common. J

5. Okay, back to books.  Your book is being released January 2013.  Goodreads has a contest going on right now for ARCs.  You gave away one on your own blog.  People are reading your book!  They have their hands on your baby!!!  How ya feeling???

Suddenly I don’t feel so good. Excuse me while I go throw up…

Ok I’m back. I have to say that I’ve been so overwhelmed and so appreciative of all the interest and PROPHECY love I’ve gotten from so many people. People I don’t even know who are talking about how excited they are about my book. It moves me so deeply and I have to be honest, I just really really hope I don’t disappoint them. That’s my biggest fear. To disappoint all these wonderful people. And if they like it, well, I can honestly say that nothing will make me happier or give me more personal satisfaction.

6. Any big plans to celebrate the release date?

I’m working on it. I’m kind of a recluse by nature. I’m introverted but not shy. So I’m fine talking and meeting with people, but I find it very tiring. So the idea of a party is anathema to me. However, I’ve been told by many people in my life that we are celebrating this event OR ELSE. I’m inclined to take them seriously…

7. You better!  You only get one debut book release. J  Your book is the first in a series.  What advice do you have for writers who are working on the third, or fourth, or eighth book in their series?  What are some tips to keep them out of painting themselves in corners, or mixing up plot lines, etc?

Well, I may be a little anal but I do have an excel spreadsheet to keep everything organized. It charts my plotlines, all my characters, who they are, what they do, when they’ve been killed, etc. I also outline extensively.

8. I did a recent interview with the fabulous Kat Zhang, author of What’s Left of Me.  She wrote that when her first book actually comes out, many months have passed and she’s been done with it for a while.  (The nature of the publishing beast.)  🙂  She likened it to revisiting the past.  Is that what it’s like for you?

Well the whole publishing process has been incredibly eye opening for me. I finally understand why everything takes so long. The most amazing part was seeing my cool proof pages and realizing, this is what it is going to look like on the printed page. Once those are all done, I won’t see it again until publication. So yes, it will be a while. But it isn’t revisiting the past for me because I’m in the midst of revising book 2 and writing book 3 and so I’m always in the book 1 world making sure I stay consistent.

9. Back in May, you visited the HarperCollins offices, your publisher.  How has it been working with them?

I have the best publishing team in all of HarperCollins! My editor and editorial assistant, Phoebe and Jess, are the most wonderful people in the world. And they are amazing editors. I adore them! And my marketing team and my publicist! They are all so awesome and take such good care of me! I am really really lucky!

10. Finally, Ellen, what’s some advice you want to give to the writers out there?

I’m definitely an example of why you should never give up. I’ve had people tell me I can’t write. That I’m crazy for trying. That I shouldn’t waste my time. That no one would be interested in my book. I’ve heard it all. And every single negative only spurred me on to prove them wrong. So if you have the passion, the drive and the belief in your book, then don’t give up. That said, my MS was ever evolving. I was always looking to improve it. I never sat back and said it was ready or it was perfect. Every criticism I got was a reason to fix my book. Even now, I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% satisfied with it. I’ll always look at it and think I could have done this or that better. But I did get better at my craft. And I think that’s ultimately what helped land me a book deal.

0 thoughts on “Interview | Ellen Oh

  1. Ellen, I love that your favorite words are Food and Eat. Oh, that’s funny. I’m holding you to that promise to make me Korean food–Korean food so good I’ll weep like a baby. Meanwhile I’ll just have to make kim chee fried rice again…

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