After living in Korea for eight years, Christina Farley has made it her mission to bring diversity to the young adult genre.
“I think living overseas has given me new eyes and a fresh concept of what diversity is outside the box that many of us Americans give it. My goal for Gilded was to present to the world an ethnic Korean character who deals with differences in her culture and how she fits into the world, yet at the same time this is not the focal part of the story,” said Farley.
Gilded is the story of Jae Hwa, who is uprooted from her Los Angeles home to live in Korea, where she must deal with fitting in with her classmates – and being the target of a Korean demi-god, who steals the soul of the oldest daughter of each generation in her family.
Like her character, Farley had to deal with cultural adjustments when she moved from Java, Indonesia to Seoul, Korea.
“Coming from Indonesia to Seoul was such a contrast. In Seoul we had TV, running water that worked properly, consistent electricity, no bombings or safety issues, and we now lived in the city where there was always something to do. Seoul is modern, yet it holds onto the beauty of it’s past,” she explained.
While living in Indonesia, Farley and her husband taught at a boarding school, which housed roughly 300 students, mostly Americans, and was located in a rural, mountainous region. The school Jae attends in Gilded is based on that school.
“One of the cultural adjustments that Jae goes through in Gilded is how different the international school was compared to her public school back in the States, which was a reality students would face when they transferred to the international school.”
Farley’s journey to published author has been a long one. In November 2009, Farley started the first draft of Gilded as part of NaNoWriMo. It only took about three months to finish, but it took the rest of the year to revise it.
Then in August of 2010, Farley made the move from Korea to Florida. While she adjusted to life in the states, her writing was put on the back burner. It wasn’t until a year later, when she attended an SCBWI conference, that she began writing again and, in the summer of 2011, she signed with her agent, Jeff Ourvan.
For the rest of 2011, Farley and her agent worked tirelessly on revisions. It paid off when, in the winter of 2012, the book was sold. Now, with just two months until publication, Farley says the road to publication, especially the experience of passing her book off to an editor for the first time, has been surreal, awesome and scary.
Gilded is considered a contemporary fantasy, but Farley says she really didn’t pick the genre.
“Of course I love fantasy as well as those stories that are rooted in our present world. I was doing research for a different book I was working on when I came across the myth of Haemosu and Princess Yuhwa. I couldn’t get their story out of my mind so I started writing,” said Farley.
From there Gilded was born.
Would Farley survive a fight with a demi-god? Farley admitted she might not come out on top, but she would give him a good fight. “There’s a lot of Jae Hwa in me. Maybe a lot of her in all of us.”
While she awaits the official publication of her first book, Farley is hard at work on the sequel to Gilded, titled Silvern, which will be published in the fall of 2014. In addition, she’s currently writing on the third Gilded book, which hasn’t been bought yet, as well as two other secret projects, which she can’t share details about yet.
As a debut author nearing the publication of her first book, Farley shared some advice for the 2015 debut authors – who still have a long journey ahead of them.
“Be patient. Write the next book while you’re waiting. Enjoy every moment because you only debut once.”