It was a treat to host Angie Kim, author of Miracle Creek, at our first Virtual Silent Book Club author event on April 21. If you missed the live Zoom chat, you can watch a recording of it on YouTube.
We asked SBC members to submit questions for the event, and Angie was kind enough to answer all of the ones we didn't have time to get to during the discussion. Enjoy!
Do you know how the story ends when you start writing or does it develop as you write? - Susan, Oklahoma City
I never know how the story ends, whether it be for short stories or for Miracle Creek (or for the novel I’m writing now). For Miracle Creek, I didn’t know who set the fire until about a year into writing my first draft (about halfway through).
Do you have a specific daily schedule for writing? - Teri, Kansas
I haven’t for the last year or two. I haven’t been writing regularly due to touring for Miracle Creek, doing promotion, etc. Before that time, I tried to write at least 2 hours every day. After the kids were off to school, I’d go to my writing nook (a tiny, windowless closet shaped like Harry Potter’s cupboard), turn off wifi, and write for as long as I could. Some days, it would be 2 hours, and other days, I would write for 8 hours. I write one chapter at a time, and I can’t move on to the next chapter until I’m satisfied with that chapter.
How do you structure your writing day? Does anyone help you edit your books before you send them to the publisher’s editor? - Kristin, Richmond VA
As I said above, I write one chapter at a time, so I generally start each day by reading over the draft of the current chapter I’m working on, and then writing from there. Once I’m happy with the chapter, I submit it to my writing group, which is six writers I met through local writing classes. We meet once a month. For Miracle Creek, I got feedback from this group throughout the two years of writing my first draft, and then once it was done, I revised (based on their feedback) and submitted the whole thing to them, plus some of my close friends for a whole-novel read. Based on everyone’s feedback, I revised a few more times over the course of a year, and then queried agents. I then revised once more based on my agent’s feedback before my agent sent it out to editors/publishers.
What decisions did you make before writing? e.g. first person/third person, setting, age of protagonists - Kathleen, Nashville
I knew almost everything about the characters’ backgrounds, voices, personalities, and situations before I started writing. For about 6 months before I started drafting the novel, I did a lot of doodling and freewriting in the characters’ own voices (in first person, like a diary) to get to know them. The first thing I did when I sat down to start drafting the novel is figuring out the structure of the novel, as a multiple-POV narrative, with each chapter being written from one character’s perspective, as well as starting with the incident (fire/explosion) and quickly fast-forwarding to the murder trial.
How did you decide on the chapter style with the different characters perspectives? - Laura, Denver
I considered breaking up the book into large sections, like Russell Banks’ The Sweet Hereafter, which is broken into four sections, with one character taking over for each section. Or having different characters come in and out of each chapter, like Dennis Lehane does in Mystic River. I think my decision to focus on one character at a time is because of my natural tendency to write one chapter at a time. Because I started as a short story writer, I like having the feeling of completion with each chapter and trying to focus on one character’s journey in that chapter. Also, because I tried to differentiate between the voices of the characters, it was important for me to have a visual breaking point that divides the different characters’ narratives.
What would have still happened, if the hyperbaric chamber hadn't exploded? - Sujata, Berlin Germany
What an interesting question! The fire/explosion is so integral to the story, as it’s the inciting incident. If it weren’t for the fire and the death/injuries, I think it would have been a more straightforward story about these families coming together and meeting and getting to know each other through their times in the sealed chamber together, with more of a focus on the interpersonal conflicts between Elizabeth and Kitt (the moms), Rosa (the teenage girl with cerebral palsy) getting better and healing more. It probably would have also focused more on the relationship between Matt and Mary, and its effect on Matt’s marriage.
Did you have a favorite character in the novel? A least favorite? - KB, Iowa
The two characters I liked the most are Shannon (the defense attorney, whom I love because she’s so badass!) and Teresa, who is such a genuinely good, kind person. My least favorite is Matt, with Janine a close second least favorite. One of the most fascinating things in writing the book was how my feelings toward the characters changed over time. Young, for example, really frustrated me at first because she was so weak and passive, but by the end, I I really grew to admire her. Matt was the opposite; he started out being a very sympathetic character for me, and I liked and felt sorry for him, but by the end, with everything that happened with Mary, I grew to despise him.
Why did you choose for Mary to have a #MeToo moment in the book? - Anne, Honolulu, HI
I think I said during our Zoom discussion that Mary Yoo is really me as a teenager. I immigrated to the US around the same time as Mary (when I was 11), came to Baltimore, etc. A similar thing as the Matt incident happened to me when I was a teenager. I didn’t mean to have anything like that happen when I first started writing Miracle Creek, but one day, about 2/3 of the way through writing the first draft, I realized that that had to happen. (Sorry, I’m trying to be a little cryptic for those who haven’t read that part of the book yet, haha). I think this is a very common experience, as we’re learning these days, so it didn’t really surprise me that this type of thing had happened with the two of them. And as for the consequences (or lack thereof) at the end of the story, which I get asked a lot about—I would have LOVED for there to be dire consequences for Matt, but I didn’t think it was realistic, especially given that this story takes place over 10 years ago in rural Virginia. And that’s part of what I wanted the readers to take away from this story, that this type of stuff happens, and how infuriating it is that it goes unpunished and unnoticed.
What authors or books have inspired you or continue to inspire your writing? - Mary, Boone NC
Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River was a model for Miracle Creek in many ways, and I’ve written about it here: https://www.vulture.com/article/angie-kim-mystic-river-miracle-creek.html. Some writers I admire and read for inspiration are Jennifer Egan, Karen Russell, Lorrie Moore, and Kate Atkinson.
Who are three of your favourite authors? - Kate, London Ontario (Canada)
See above (Egan, Russell, Moore, Atkinson). I also love Gillian Flynn and Laura Lippman, and I’ll read anything they write!
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