I met Suzanne Park at YallWest last year, and she was absolutely delightful. She has two books coming out this year; her #ownvoices YA rom-com THE PERFECT ESCAPE, which debuted yesterday, and her adult romance, LOATHE AT FIRST SIGHT due out in August. Have a look:
Nate Jae-Woo Kim wants to be rich. When one of his classmates offers Nate a ridiculous amount of money to commit grade fraud, he knows that taking the windfall would help support his prideful Korean family, but is compromising his integrity worth it?
Luck comes in the form of Kate Anderson, Nate’s colleague at the zombie-themed escape room where he works. She approaches Nate with a plan: a local tech company is hosting a weekend-long survivalist competition with a huge cash prize. It could solve all of Nate’s problems, and Kate needs the money too.
If the two of them team up, Nate has a true shot at winning the grand prize. But the real challenge? Making through the weekend with his heart intact…
Melody Joo is thrilled to land her dream job as a video game producer, but her new position comes with its share of challenges. Namely, an insufferable CEO and a team that consists of mostly male co-workers who make the term “misogyny” pale in comparison to their obnoxious comments. Then there’s the infuriating—yet distractingly handsome—MBA intern Nolan MacKenzie, a.k.a. “the guy who got hired because his uncle is the boss”.
Just when Melody thinks she’s made the worst career move of her life, her luck changes on a dime. While joking with a friend, she creates a mobile game that has male strippers fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic world. Suddenly, Melody’s “joke” is her studio’s most high-profile project—and Melody’s running the show.
When Nolan is appointed a key member of her team, Melody’s sure he’ll be useless. But as they grow closer, she sees he’s smart and sexy, which makes Melody want to forget he’s her intern. As their attraction deepens, she knows it’s time to pump the brakes even with her Korean parents breathing down her neck to hurry up and find a man. But she’s here to work—and nothing more. All she has to do is resist the wild thoughts coursing through her mind whenever Nolan is near. Easy . . . or so she thinks.
With her pet project about to launch, Melody suddenly faces a slew of complications, including a social media trolling scandal that could end her career. She suspects one of her co-workers is behind the sabotage and is determined to find out who betrayed her. Could the man she’s falling hard for help her play the game to win—in work and love?
What was it like to be a stand-up comedian?
At first, stand-up was pretty hard. I got better with practice and learned some performance tricks over time that veteran comedians passed down to me. Like don’t squint at the blinding bright stage lights. Don’t play with the mic cord. Take a sip of water if you forget a joke. It was both thrilling and terrifying each time I went on stage, and I always had that pit-in-stomach-oh-no-vomity feeling when I took a mic in my hand. Some people say it gets easier with each performance, but for me it never felt comfortable. I was good at faking it, though.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of connecting with an audience—laughter and applause can be addicting! And silence can be utterly devastating. One of my earliest stand-up experiences was at an open mike performing in front of four people. They didn’t laugh at a single one of my jokes. I was completely demoralized, as you can imagine, and wondered if I should quit comedy altogether. After the show though, they came up to me and said they liked my performance even though they didn’t speak English well. It turned out they were exchange students from Norway!
There were some challenges though, being a female comic. The comedy field is 95% male, and I was constantly surrounded by crass locker room talk pre- and post- shows. I always felt like I shouldered a burden to prove over and over again that female comics could be funny. It was exhausting. I can’t even count the number of times I was told after getting off the stage, “Hey, you were ACTUALLY pretty good.” I knew what they were thinking. For a girl. Looking back though, I’m glad I did it. All in all I did pretty well— I performed in competitions and placed in them. I met some great people. Stand up comedy gave me self-confidence and I was able to hone in comedy writing skills for my books.
And you also overcame a lot of challenges. In THE PERFECT ESCAPE, Nate Jae-Woo Kim takes part in a survivalist competition. How did you know that this needed to be a part of Nate’s journey?
My brother, sister and I are all obsessed with zombies thanks to THE WALKING DEAD show— we’ve seen all the episodes and read some of the comics. After the first season aired, I bought a few guides about how to thrive in an apocalypse and the essentials of zombie survival. As I went through them, it occurred to me that it would take a special connection for two people to be on the same page on survival priorities. I had always wanted to write a fun #ownvoices rom-com featuring a Korean protagonist and this book idea came together in just the right way. It’s a good (distracting) read these days for anyone who needs a fun, fast read for a few hours.
Definitely an #ownvoices story that I look forward to seeing on the shelf! Another of your novels, LOATHE AT FIRST SIGHT, is set to debut in August. What do you like most about writing people who start out as adversaries?
I love writing banter between two adversaries, especially when it borders on revulsion. It’s especially fun to write the magic that happens when the characters flip from total hatred to the “ugh why do you suck but not so badly?” phase to the “damn it, why am I thinking about you?” phase. That progression of feelings isn’t easy for me to write but it’s a great feeling when you figure out how the relationship arc can move and change from total animosity to “I want you badly.”
I’ll bet! What are some of your current projects?
I’m working on my second #ownvoices YA rom-com book about two teens from different walks of life who meet at a digital detox summer camp set in a rural area. I’ve done a LOT of research and it’s scary how much I know about rustic farm life now. That book will be out June 2021. I also have another adult workplace romantic comedy I’m working on soon after that I finish the YA one. Like with the other books I’ve written, prepare for more escapism in 2021!