Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Q&A with A.H. Kim


Photo by Grace Han


A.H. Kim is the author of the new novel Relative Strangers. It's an updated version of Jane Austen's classic Sense and Sensibility. Kim also has written the novel A Good Family. She lives in Ann Arbor.


Q: What inspired you to write this new take on Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility?


A: I was querying agents for my debut, A Good Family, and feeling frustrated. I self-soothed by watching one of my favorite movies, Sense and Sensibility.


I remembered someone telling me the best thing to do when you're waiting to hear back about a book is to start writing a new book, and it occurred to me: Wouldn't it be fun to write a modern-day version of Sense and Sensibility?


Q: What did you see as the right balance between your own characters and Austen’s original versions?


A: Austen's characters are perfect, so initially, the only way I could think to do was to make them more diverse.


I started by writing little bios of each character in their own voice -- "Hello, I'm Eleanor Bae-Wood, the oldest daughter, the responsible one, the good girl." As I got into each character's head, they developed a life of their own, and the story kind of wrote itself.


Q: The writer Natalie Jenner said of the book, “A zippy homage to Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Kim’s second novel is full of pop culture shout-outs, zeitgeist fun and so much heart.” What do you think of that description?


A: I admire Natalie so much as a writer and Austen expert, and I'm honored to have her endorsement. Natalie's summary is exactly what I'd hoped people would get from Relative Strangers: fun, whimsy, and emotional punch. It's what I personally look for in a comfort read.


Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: My original working title was Finding Amelia, but my publisher wanted something more distinctive. We went through a long list of options before settling on Relative Strangers.


To me, the title evokes the feeling of being related to someone but not really knowing who they are as people. I think it's common for family members, especially siblings, to lose connection as they become older and start their own families.


In my book, Eleanor and Amelia have drifted apart geographically and emotionally, and taking shelter in Arcadia helps bring them back together.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am editing the manuscript for my third novel, a suspense-y story about a missing woman who may or may not be dead. I've been struggling with it for a few years now, so who knows if it'll ever see the light of day?


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I am very excited to go on tour for Relative Strangers. Because my debut came out in the pandemic, this is my first chance to go across the country and connect with readers and booksellers. If you live near one of my tour locations, please stop by and say hello. It would mean the world to me.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with A.H. Kim.

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