Jae-Ha Kim, Tribune Content Agency
Go Away With... singer and author Jessica Jung
Before becoming an author and the creator of the fashion line Blanc & Eclare, Jessica Jung was a member of the K-pop group Girls’ Generation. Born in San Francisco, Jung’s young adult novel Shine (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $18.99) tells the story of Rachel, a young girl who dreams of becoming a singing sensation. Jung’s debut book is being released in 17 countries this fall. ACE Entertainment—the team behind the Netflix adaptation of the YA novel To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before—is developing Shine for film and television.
Q: Many people may think you’re writing about your own experiences. How much is fact versus your imagination?
A: It’s a mix, really. Shine is focused on Rachel’s training days, and I took a lot of inspiration from what it was like for me as well. Like me, Rachel doesn’t live in the trainee house, she lives at home. Like me, she is juggling a lot of different pressures from school, home and competitive training. Like me, she has some close friends and some rivals. Unlike me, she gets a whirlwind romance with a successful idol along the way. Obviously, I wanted it to be entertaining and authentic at the same time, so there’s a balance of real details and escapist fictional elements.
Q: If you and Rachel were travel mates...
A: ...We would certainly have to pay significant excess baggage fees! Not sure if that’s a deal-breaker, but it would make traveling a bit cumbersome. Other than that, Rachel would be a superb travel mate.
Q: How much of your book did you write on the road?
A: When I can find time to reread drafts by the hotel pool, or gain inspiration by walking around a new city, it’s great. It’s definitely time consuming, but I’m so used to living my life on the road that the travel aspect didn’t change this much. If anything, the flights give me time to read and write. And reread. And rewrite.
Q: Do you have a sequel in the works?
A: I can’t say too much about it yet, but I’m working on the sequel. Readers will get to see a lot more of Rachel and what her life was like as part of a major girls’ group. It’s very personal to me, actually! But it should also deliver the same wish fulfillment and fun of the first book.
Q: What was the first trip you took as a child?
A: As far as I can remember, it was to Korea. However, I was so young that the most memorable part of that trip was running around a plane thinking I was flying. I guess it was destiny that I would gravitate to spending a lot of time on planes.
Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your travels?
A: To learn as much as possible, whether it’s food, cultural or geographical. It’s really shaped who I am today.
Q: Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A: Two places that I haven’t been to but would like to visit are the Maldives and Marrakesh. A few of my friends keep raving about it, so I’ve had enough. It’s about time I go see it for myself.
Q: When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A: Must have a hotel room with a nice bathtub. It’s my go-to reset method. I always travel with my aromatherapy scents.
Q: What would be your dream trip?
A: A dream vacation wouldn’t really be confined to one place. Traveling for fun around the globe for a few months without a care in the world would be the ideal dream trip.
Q: What is your guilty pleasure when you’re on the road?
A: Ramen noodles on a long-haul flight. Guilty as charged.
Q: What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
A: When it comes to visiting a new city, my priorities are finding the best restaurants and the best shopping.
Q: What kind of places do you like to visit for fun?
A: I love beaches during our winter months and skiing during our summer months. The grass is always greener on the other side.
Q: Do you speak any foreign languages? And in the same train of thought, do you pick up new languages easily?
A: I speak Korean and English fluently and I’m a student of Mandarin. I wouldn’t say I’m good at picking up languages, but I’ve been told that my pronunciation is rather accurate.
Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times-bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow “Go Away With...” on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.