Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Q&A with Suzanne Park




Suzanne Park is the author of the new novel The Do-Over. Her other books include So We Meet Again. A former stand-up comedian, she lives in Los Angeles.


Q: What inspired you to write The Do-Over, and how did you create your character Lily?


A: The idea for the book came from a recurring nightmare (you probably don’t hear authors say that often). For years I’ve had a common school anxiety dream in which I need to take a final exam for a class I’ve never attended.


Early in the pandemic, this dream became so prevalent that I began to journal every day, hoping that if I wrote everything down that worried me that I would stop thinking about them subconsciously. One day I wondered, “What if I write a book about this? Surely this is something others can relate to” and that’s when I pitched the idea to my editor.


For Lily, I wanted to write about someone in her 30s who still doesn’t have her life together the way she’d hoped. Because she’s older than the characters in my previous books, her voice is different, and because she’s an author, she has different worries than someone who has a steady paycheck.


She has anxiety and imposter syndrome, which I think is something many people can relate to, but you don’t see it often explored and dealt with in works of commercial fiction.


Q: In the book's author's note, you write, “When I pitched the idea for this novel, I didn't know it would include themes of mental health in the Asian American community.” Why did you decide to include that theme?


A: When I first became published, I was worried about what my family would think if I painted a picture of Asian American life in any negative light. But when the pandemic hit, and I spoke with my AAPI friends on Zoom who were so worried, anxious, and lonely, everything changed for me.

Language barriers, stigma, intergenerational trauma, and the “tough it out” mentality are a few of the reasons why the Asian community doesn’t like to talk about mental health issues, and I want that to change. Early readers have already private messaged me and let me know that they were so grateful for the depiction of mental health, and let me know they found my book at the right time in their lives.


Q: How would you describe the dynamic between Lily and Jake?


A: I loved being able to write the flashback chapters so you could see Lily and Jake then versus now. They’re still playful yet more mature in their 30s, and neither of them have settled on a life path. You still see glimpses of why they are good with each other in the past and 10 years later, and both have grown in ways that possibly make them more compatible now.


One thing I wanted to do was to have their breakup long ago be realistic for a 21-year-old. People break up for all sorts of reasons, especially when you’re younger, and the way they ended their relationship and later explored feelings for each other again felt realistic to me.


Q: The writer KJ Dell’Antonia says of the book, “A satisfying story of overcoming your fears about expectations—other people’s, and your own—and figuring out your own worth.” What do you think of that description?


A: KJ writes stories with depth and layers, and I’m so honored she read this novel and thrilled that she enjoyed it. I do love that she highlighted the book’s themes of self-worth and setting expectations.


What happens to many adults is that career and personal goalposts keep shifting as you get older. Even when you hit a big milestone, the goal moves again. And again. What I question in this book is who is setting these expectations? Your parents? Society? And is this a good way to live your life? If you could ask Lily Lee at the end of the story, she would say it’s definitely not!


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m revising my next book (Spring 2024). I don’t know what I’m allowed to say about it since I don’t think we’ve locked down the title yet, but I’ll provide a teaser: it’s an adult book inspired by To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Suzanne Park.

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