Miracle Creek by Angie Kim has been nominated for two Goodreads choice awards in best mystery/thriller and best debut categories. Of course, I am doing my famous happy dance over this news. I loved Miracle Creek and I love Angie Kim!! She has joined us twice for a Q & A. Once when we read Miracle Creek in our Traveling Friends Goodreads group and then again in our Behind the Pages Goodreads group. I have been slacking a bit with my posts due to life and haven’t posted till now. Now I am glad I have because I think this is a perfect time for this post.
Angie shared some insight into Miracle Creek, herself, her writing process and some of the most highlighted quotes provided by Goodreads. Today I am sharing some of the Q & A with you. You can find the full Q & A here
Brenda Let’s start with how all the success of Miracle Creek had felt for?
Angie Thank you so much, Brenda! It’s been more than a little surreal, quite honestly. I think all writers dream that their books will find an audience, and I of course did as well. But it’s one thing to have silly fantasies, and another to actually have so many of them come true. Because I’m new to the writing/book publishing world, I didn’t even know about many of the things that have happened to me, including Book of the Month, Indie Next, Amazon Best of Month, Library Reads, and all the magazines that feature most-anticipated and best-of lists. (SO MANY lists!!!!) It’s been really amazing and now that we’re gearing up for paperback publication next April, I’m finding out even more things, which are so exciting and fun. But the most fun and gratifying have been doing things like this and book clubs, where I get to interact directly with readers. So thank you!!
Brenda You wrote about themes you know from your life experiences. Can you share a bit of them that inspired you to write this story or shaped the characters for you?
Angie The three main threads of my life that I mined for Miracle Creek are my own experience being a Korean immigrant as a preteen, my first career as a trial lawyer, and my experience as a mother to three kids who all had medical issues as babies/toddlers. (All are fine now, thankfully!)
The immigrant thread – I moved from Seoul to the Baltimore area when I was 11 (much like Mary in Miracle Creek), and I went through a really rough period of being bullied in middle school, not speaking English at all and feeling lost as a result, and being separated from my parents (who ran a grocery store in a dangerous part of Baltimore). One of the things I loved most about writing Miracle Creek was that I got to explore this experience from my parents’ experience as well as my own. (The mom, the dad and the daughter of the immigrant family all have their own POV chapters.)
The courtroom scenes were amazingly fun to write for me, almost like going back to the courtroom, except that I got to control what the witnesses said! Being in the courtroom and questioning hostile witnesses was my favorite part of being a lawyer, so I loved revisiting that.
Finally, the parenting experience provided the foundation for Miracle Creek. I actually did HBOT (hyperbaric oxygen therapy) in a group chamber just like “Miracle Submarine” in the novel with one of my kids. I wrote about it in an essay for Vogue, which you can read here: tinyurl.com/vogueangiekim
Brenda You have a few different and very interesting characters each with their own heartache dealing with being a parent? What came first for you the plot/story or the characters?
Angie I would say the situation and setting came first – the HBOT world and the fact that there would be a disaster that occurs in that group chamber during an active session. Then, the characters–both the Yoo family (the owners of the HBOT chamber) and the patients and their families who are affected by the tragedy. The plot, the trial, what happened that led up to that moment of the fire, etc. – all that came as I was writing.
Brenda What character or characters did you identify more with?
Angie I probably identify the most with Mary Yoo, because she is me (as a preteen/teenager). The Yoos are the characters who are most directly based on people from my own life (me + my parents). As an adult, I also identify with Elizabeth, the mother who’s on trial, mostly because I, like her, felt guilty at times about having a child who had the least severe medical issues in the group HBOT setting and felt a lot of angst about that.
Brenda What does your writing day look like to you? Do you have a routine?
Angie I used to have a routine, which I hope to get back into once travel and events slow down a bit. After the kids are all off to school, I start with reading my previous day’s writing over coffee, and I just force myself to sit in my writing nook for as may hours as I possibly can. I don’t have any word count goals or time goals because it depends so greatly on what I’m working on. If I’m working on the beginning of a scene or chapter, it might take me days to find the right sentence. If I’m working on continuing a scene, I’m usually in the flow and can crank out the last 1/3 of a scene in one sitting.
Brenda On Goodreads you shared some insight into some for the most popular highlighted Kindle passages. Can you give us here some insight into them?
Highlight My Husband Asked me to Lie
Angie The first version of the beginning of the novel started with “The pounding. It’s the pounding I remember most,” and then went directly into the scene with TJ’s head-banging (in the middle of page 7). This original opening line was a rhythmic homage to Russell Banks’ THE SWEET HEREAFTER, which opens with “A dog—it was a dog I saw for certain. Or thought I saw.” I love the structure of that novel—the exploration of a tragedy, the causation and the aftermath, through four people’s POVs—and I wanted to do something similar with my novel.
But one day, the line “My husband asked me to lie” came to me, and I knew that had to be the beginning of the novel. It seemed so perfect for the themes of the novel, as well as the character arc for Young Yoo, who struggles to find her own voice and to stand up to her husband for much of the novel.
Brenda This is one of my favorite quotes from your book that I really could relate too. I love to see more insight into the quote “But life doesn’t work like that. Tragedies don’t inoculate you against further tragedies, and misfortune doesn’t get sprinkled out in fair proportions; bad things get hurled at you in clumps and batches, unmanageable and messy.”
Angie This is one of my favorites, too! As I commented earlier, I have three boys who all had medical issues. My first child was born deaf in one ear due to a neurological condition, which involved a lot of hospital visits, tests, and therapy when he was a baby/toddler. By the time he was four, when everything seemed resolved with that (and other associated neuropathies ruled out), we found out that he had two OTHER unrelated medical issues—celiac disease and ulcerative colitis—and my other child turned out to have severe anaphylactic allergies. Shortly thereafter, we had two medical scares with our third child for conditions completely unrelated to any of those. (Thankfully, all three kids are fine now.) I was a Philosophy major in college, and this set of events definitely made me think hard about how foolish I’d been to expect that going through one misfortune would mean nothing more would happen to my life, at least for a while.
Highlight “Having a special-needs child didn’t just change you; it transmuted you, transported you to a parallel world with an altered gravitational axis.”
Angie I did HBOT in real life with one of my kids who had ulcerative colitis. The standard treatments weren’t working, and he was in pain, throwing up every day, losing weight, and we became desperate and decided to try this experimental treatment. It was a group HBOT chamber like Miracle Submarine, with kids with chronic illnesses and special needs, including autism and cerebral palsy. It was an intense and intimate environment, with a confessional feel, and we parents talked about our lives and families. No matter what the condition or the severity, the one thing we all agreed on is that when your kids have a chronic condition, it’s not just your actions that change, but the whole world, your outlook, your relationship to society, EVERYTHING changes. One of my favorite things about having written this book is reading reviews and emails from readers who have children with special needs or chronic illnesses—hearing that they appreciate reading sentiments like this because they’ve thought it themselves, and it makes them feel less alone.
Highlight “That was the thing about lies: they demanded commitment. Once you lied, you had to stick to your story”
Angie I think lying is very difficult, precisely because of this. You have to stick to the story you tell, and you have to stick to all the ramifications of that story. My favorite part of being a lawyer (by far!) was being in the courtroom or taking a deposition, questioning a hostile witness and ferreting out and trying to find a weakness in their story. One of the best ways to do that, I found, was to ask them about a logical extension of their main story, something that must be true if they’re telling the truth, and then confronting them with a document or previous statement that contradicts that. The funny thing was, people would often continue to stick to their lie even when faced with incontrovertible evidence that it was a lie. It made them look ridiculous and destroyed their credibility, and yet, they’d persist. I found it fascinating, this commitment to their lies. It often led to a situation in which someone would lie about something little, insignificant, but rather than admit that they lied, shame would take over and they’d end up saying more and more outlandish things in support of that initial little lie, until the lie grew to something big and important. Shame is at the root of so many lies and secrets. I think it may be the most powerful emotion we have, certainly the most long-lasting
Brenda I really connected with the characters in their grief for their children and I loved that you added some of the inner thoughts that in grief we have, the ones that we are too afraid to say for being judged, unliked or feeling bad for thinking them. The thoughts that make us human. “So if a tiny part of us has these thoughts a tiny part of the time, thoughts we shut out as soon as they creep in, is that so bad? Isn’t that just human?”
Angie Thank you so much for highlighting this, which is what Elizabeth says to Teresa in response to what Teresa confesses to her, about her once having a fleeting thought (that she’s extremely ashamed by) of wondering if her life would be better if her daughter had died. This is a passage that Ari Shapiro read on NPR’s All Things Considered and discussed with me. I love that so much because it’s such a pivotal moment that’s at the heart of this novel for me. I think that there’s a Myth of the Good Mother, which is that mothers are and should be saintly. Elle Magazine said that Miracle Creek “tears the ‘Good Mother’ myth apart,” and I hope that that’s true. I think all humans have fleeting, shameful thoughts, but I think mothers who admit openly to having such thoughts are demonized. Being a mother is hard. It’s hard with any child, special needs and chronic illnesses or not. We should be able to be open and honest with each other about it, and not have it be so taboo. I’m not saying that it’s all hard and bad—not at all! There’s intense love and so much joy, but it can be awful sometimes, and we should be able to talk about that and process it with each other, together.
Brenda Can you tell us what your are working on?
Angie I’m working on my next novel (or trying to, anyway!). It’s about a 10-yr old boy who’s nonverbal (with autism) who goes on a walk at the beginning of the novel with his father, who’s his primary caregiver. But only the boy returns home. And because he’s nonverbal, he can’t tell us what happened to the father. His older siblings (17-18 yr old fraternal twins, one boy, one girl) become obsessed with working with him with assistive communication technologies and therapies to get him to communicate
What Angie had to say about us “I know this is an active group filled with passionate readers, and I loved getting a chance to think through and answer such thoughtful, insightful questions. Thank you so much for reading Miracle Creek and for inviting me to take part in this amazing discussion group!”
For more highlights on Goodreads can be found here