Saturday, January 19, 2013

Ellen Oh Guest Post

I really enjoyed reading Prophecy even though I am someone that doesn't read high fantasy usually. Since this whole world was very foreign to me, I asked the wonderful Ellen Oh to tell me more about how Prophecy was born to I could get an inside look at this world, and here I am, sharing it with you. Prophecy hit stores on January 2nd so go out and get a copy. You can find my review of it posted on January 9th.

The Making of Prophecy

The wonderful Ellen Oh
It started with Genghis Khan. Strange, right? But he is the reason I became so fascinated with Asian history – in particular ancient Korean history. That’s because back in the year 2000, Genghis Khan was named Man of the Millennium by Time magazine. I remember buying that issue and reading all about him and thinking how cool it was that an Asian man was considered the most influential man of the millennium. So I went and bought a bunch of biographies on Genghis and I just fell in love with all the Asian history I learned. It made me crave more information. But it was actually really hard to find a lot of books on ancient Korea. And there was hardly any fiction novels at all other than Linda Sue Park’s classic novel A Single Shard. This is really the reason I began writing again. (I hadn’t written creatively since college.) I just felt that all these amazing historical facts would make for a great novel.
Between the years 2000 and 2006, I wrote 2 novels which are hidden in my files, never to be looked at again. Well, maybe one day I’ll rewrite them. But another thing that happened during this period is that I was reading a lot with my kids. We were always in bookstores and libraries reading book after book. And as they got older, I began to become dissatisfied with the lack of cultural diversity in the books we were reading. We loved reading fantasies, but they were all western centric. And I kept thinking how wonderful it would be to have an Korean fantasy based on the myths and legends of Korea. (As an aside, a wonderful Chinese fantasy finally was published in 2011 – Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.) At the same time, I was also very conscious of raising 3 daughters and the rampant feminist in me wanted to use every opportunity I could to teach them that girls can do anything a boy can do, and better.
It was back in 2007, I was stuck in beltway traffic staring at the unmoving bumper of the car in front of me when the idea hit me. What if there is a legend about a great hero, and everyone thinks it is this young  prince but then it turns out to be his despised girl cousin? I wrote the whole outline on little pieces of paper as I was stuck in traffic and ended up writing the whole book in 5 months. Of the 3 books I’ve written, Prophecy was the one that came out so smoothly, so easily. It felt like it was meant to be told.
I used a lot of legends and myths of Korea. One of the most famous legend is the story of the Rock of the Falling Flowers. It is a cliff in the old Paekche kingdom where 3,000 court ladies leapt to their deaths when faced with the invading Tang and Shilla army. Their colorful hanboks made them look like falling flowers – hence the name. I also use the myth of the 8 Heavenly Maidens and then twisted it to suit my needs. Usually, the folktales have the Heavenly Maidens descending to earth and bathing in a pool and some poor woodcutter comes and steals one of their clothes. Without her clothes the heavenly maiden cannot return home and is forced to marry the woodcutter. Well I never liked that myth. As far as I’m concerned, that poor woodcutter is a stalker/peeping tom/kidnapper. So I changed that myth to make my Heavenly Maidens strong and with an important purpose in life.
I admit that I love research. I’ve spent over ten years of my life learning as much as I can about ancient Asian history. And yet there is so much more to learn. The more research I uncover, the more stories pop into my head, which is a good thing with 2 more books to write!  


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