Q&A with Patricia Park
Interview by Jade Craddock
Patricia Park’s debut novel RE JANE – described as a modern retelling of the Charlotte Bronte classic Jane Eyre – has just been released. Here we ask her all about life as a debut author. ♥
1. What made you decide to write your first novel?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid. I used to write and draw stories about a horribly unkempt girl who grows up and has 20 kids. It was called Messy Bessy. Sadly the series – which was probably scrawled on flattened shoeboxes – is now lost.
2. Were there any particular aspects of the writing process that you found difficult and how did you tackle them?
The whole process! It’s laborious all the way through, and sometimes it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. With RE JANE I think I truly hit my stride in the 5th year of writing. In early drafts I tended to overwrite scenes, so it was a year spent weed-whacking. There was something cathartic about culling all those words and pages. Though heartbreaking, too.
3. Where and when do you like to write?
I start writing in the morning, when I’m not quite awake. That way I’m less harsh on myself and let the literary diarrhea (forgive the imagery) flow more freely.
4. What was the most important thing – object/person/quality – in writing the book?
Perhaps my most important objective was to make sure I expressed myself as clearly and originally as I could.
5. How did you go about getting it published?
The typical channels: after you have a finished manuscript you’ve worked and reworked, you query agents, sign with one, and you work on more edits with them. After several more drafts, your agent sends it out to publishers. It’s a bit strange to see your life’s work get wheeled and dealt in just a few months.
6. What was the timeframe for writing the book?
Officially I began RE JANE 7 years ago; unofficially I’d been working on it for 12.
7. What challenges have you faced as a debut author?
Saying, “I’m a novelist” without that first flicker of hesitation.
8. What are the advantages of being a debut author?
You’re the new kid on the block. Which I guess is both a +/-.
9. What did you learn about the publishing industry during the process that you didn’t know before?
There’s a lot of wait-around-then-sprint. It’s a cyclical industry.
10. Looking back, what was the one thing that helped you get your break and what is the one thing you may have done differently?
Finding a community of supportive writers, like Grub Street in Boston (though I live in New York). As for what I’d have done differently? I was peddling the wrong ending of RE JANE for about four years. If only I’d stumbled on the right ending sooner – I could have saved myself a lot of paper.
Patricia Park was born and raised in Queens. She received her BA in English literature from Swarthmore College and her MFA in fiction from Boston University. She has taught writing at Boston University, Ewha Womans University Graduate School of Interpretation and Translation, and CUNY Queens College. RE JANE is her debut novel.