Author Chat with Stephan Lee (K-Pop Confidential) Plus Giveaway! ~ (US Only)
Today we're excited to chat with Stephan Lee author of
Read on for more about Stephan and his book, plus a giveaway!
Meet Stephan Lee!
Stephan is a YA enthusiast, ardent K-pop fan, and journalist. He currently works as Senior Editor at Bustle after a five-year stretch covering books and movies at Entertainment Weekly. At EW, he traveled to Seoul for three weeks to write a feature about Korean entertainment’s world domination, interviewing K-pop idols Ailee, Tablo, and Tiffany Young of Girls Generation. He earned an MFA in Creative Writing at The New School.
Meet K-Pop Confidential!
Candace Park knows a lot about playing a role. For most of her life, she's been playing the role of the quiet Korean girl who takes all AP classes and plays a classical instrument, keeping her dreams of stardom-and her obsession with SLK, K-pop's top boyband-to herself. She doesn't see how a regular girl like her could possibly become one of those K-pop goddesses she sees on YouTube. Even though she can sing. Like, really sing.
So when Candace secretly enters a global audition held by SLK's music label, the last thing she expects is to actually get a coveted spot in their trainee program. And convincing her strict parents to let her to go is all but impossible ... although it's nothing compared to what comes next.
Under the strict supervision of her instructors at the label's headquarters in Seoul, Candace must perfect her performance skills to within an inch of her life, learn to speak Korean fluently, and navigate the complex hierarchies of her fellow trainees, all while following the strict rules of the industry. Rule number one? NO DATING, which becomes impossible to follow when she meets a dreamy boy trainee. And in the all-out battle to debut, Candace is in danger of planting herself in the middle of a scandal lighting up the K-pop fandom around the world.
~ Author Chat ~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I’ve always thought the K-pop trainee process would make an incredible Young Adult novel. It’s almost like a real-life Hunger Games: teens who desperately want to become K-pop idols have to train for years and years at K-pop companies, training around the clock, going through extreme measures to adhere to an “ideal” image, and having to obey strict rules (including “Dating Bans”), all for a very slim chance at debuting. There’s fierce competition and forbidden love built right into the world.
I thought of my main character, Candace Park, right away. I wanted her to be an outsider into this world—a Korean American—who has to defy her parents to fly to Seoul to train. She’s a fish out of water … she’s always been well-behaved at home, but now that she’s thrown into this crazy environment, she needs to learn to assert who she really is and what she really wants, even though so many adults are telling her she needs to change everything about herself.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
Other than my MC, my favorite character to write was Helena. She’s the only other American girl in the trainee program and Candace’s instant rival. I think you’ll spend most of the novel wondering why Helena’s so awful to Candace, but little by little, you’ll see all of her hidden layers.
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
Writing K-POP CONFIDENTIAL taught me to embrace imperfection — it’s a lesson Candace has to learn as well. When I started writing it, I’d been working on a different book, an adult novel, for ten years. I was driving myself crazy trying to make it absolutely perfect and say everything I’ve ever wanted to say. But for complicated reasons, I only had three months to start and finish writing K-POP CONFIDENTIAL. The crazy deadline was really tough, but I think the impossibility of obsessing over every word made it a better book. It made me realize that the emotional arc and the characters were way more important than the perfect sentences.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
Oh gosh, I love my cover so much. It was designed by Yaffa Jaskoll and illustrated by Erick Davila, who’s done so many amazing YA covers recently. There are so many details that make holding it and looking at it so much fun. I love Candace’s flowing purple hair — which was very important to me to get right! — and Binna’s whole vibe, but I’m most obsessed with Candace’s face. There’s a mix of confidence and vulnerability, and even though she’s all glammed up, you can still see the regular girl behind the K-pop glow-up.
YABC: What’s on your TBR pile?
Oh gosh, what isn’t on my TBR pile?! No one tells you how much reading is required when you put out a book, whether it’s for panels, festivals, or to support your new author-friends. Luckily, it’s all been a joy. I can’t wait to dive into The Summer of Everything by Julian Winters, I’m halfway through Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest and loving it, and I can’t wait for You Have A Match by Emma Lord and How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao.
YABC: What’s a book you’ve recently read and loved?
Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett. It’s so addictive and powerful. I really think it’s a new classic. Also, if I can name a second, I have to say This Is My America by Kim Johnson. I find myself thinking about it every day.
YABC: Are there any film adaptations, tv shows, audiobooks, or other adaptations in the works for this book?
There’s a fantastic audiobook read by Joy Osmanski coming out on Oct. 6 … as for other adaptions, stay tuned. I’ve been sitting on some big news for almost a year now!
YABC: Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
I actually cried when I wrote pivotal scenes between Candace and her mom, Umma — once when Umma drops Candace off at the K-pop trainee headquarters, and once when Umma reveals to Candace a long-hidden secret of her past. It’s very much an immigrant parent-child relationship, and a lot of readers of all backgrounds have told me Umma reminds me of their own moms.
YABC: Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
Drafting! I love getting lost in a world, and the world of K-pop is so full of joy and glamour and fun, so writing the first draft was a wonderful whirlwind and full of exploration. I had to rein in a bit of the detail and fun, fascinating facts when I was revising, which ultimately made the book a lot better, but it was sad to lose some of my favorite scenes!
YABC: What would you say is your superpower?
Writing dinner scenes! I only got to write one good family dinner scene in K-POP CONFIDENTIAL, but in other things I’ve written, I think I’m really good at revealing characters’ true selves in the way people eat and share food. Food is so intimate and personal and something I think about every minute of every day. I didn’t get to write as many big meals in a novel about K-pop — writing about enforced dieting isn’t nearly as fun — but Candace’s tendency to dream about food at odd times is so based on me!
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
The Loveland Foundation is so fantastic. It supports women of color, with a special focus on Black women and girls, in connecting to therapy and mental health support. Therapy has been so important in my life, and it really should be a universal human right to get connected to the help you need.
By: Stephan Lee
Release Date: September 15th, 2020
One winner will receive a copy of K-Pop Confidential (Stephan Lee) plus a mask! ~ (US Only)
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*
What a fun-sounding read that dives into both the reality and fan-fantasy of the K-Pop world. The cover looks great, just like a real idol group.
This is such a relevant book for young adults' interests these days. Also, the cover is great! It almost looks like a photo!