Allison's Book Bag

Interview with Mauren Goo

Posted on: January 31, 2014

MaureenGooA few years ago, according to Bookshelves, Goo was filling out a Facebook survey and thought: “Wouldn’t it be funny if someone made a really obnoxious version of this?” Goo did just that, in the voice of a slightly antagonistic teenager who she channeled from her own teenage years. That voice ended up being the main character Holly, who became the main character in Since You Asked, which I’ll review tomorrow. Thanks to the success of her debut novel, Goo is able to work at home. Please enjoy my interview with her.

ALLISON: What is your earliest memories of growing up in Los Angeles? How has life changed?

MAUREEN: I kind of have a freakishly good memory of my childhood, and all of my earliest memories involve growing up around my many cousins and how bossy I was with them. Also, when I was really little, like preschool and before, I lived downtown in a neighborhood with a lot of Mexican American kids. I spoke Korean and Spanish before I spoke English, and I remember I always used to get in trouble for saying “Cállate!” to my sister, which means “shut up.” I think my parents knew it was bad, but didn’t know exactly what it meant, haha.

ALLISON: Since You Asked is about high school. Are you one of those adults who looks back fondly on their high school experience? Or are you happy to be done with it?

MAUREEN: I think it’s a mix of both. I had a good high school experience as far as school and friends—I was active enough but not super involved. I loved working for the high school newspaper, like Holly, and I tried to hang out with my friends basically every second I was awake. We were a wholesome bunch. What I didn’t like was all the studying (self-imposed, really, my parents didn’t have to push me academically, I did that myself), stressing out about getting into college, being self-conscious of how I looked, caring so much about other people’s opinions, and fighting with my parents about all of the above 😉 Very glad to have all that waaay behind me.

ALLISON: What are the typical duties of a book publisher? Do you recommend it for aspiring authors?

MAUREEN: Hm, not sure I understand this question? The duties of Scholastic in my case? And do I recommend authors going the traditional publishing route like I did? If yes—then:

MAUREEN: Yes I do recommend going the traditional publishing route. I think self-pubbing is great for a lot of genre fiction, like romance, but it’s hard knocks to get a contemporary YA any attention in that arena. (This is all from my own observation, I could be totally wrong!) I also studied publishing and wanted to work in it long before becoming an author, and I fully believe in it as an industry—that a big house with big authors means more opportunities to acquire new books that are bigger risks. They allow writing books to be a (albeit modest) career for non best-selling authors and that’s amazing.

ALLISON: What were your favorite parts of being a graphic designer? What is the worst mistake you made?

MAUREEN: I love being able to think purely visually as a designer. I think because, in the end, I am really a writer at heart, being a designer is a nice break from that while still being creative. It’s nice to take a break from words, basically! I have a huge appreciation for good design and feel strongly about it, so it’s nice to be able to go to it occasionally. I don’t know if one mistake comes to mind, but I’ve had some terrible realizations after I already sent something to the printers, which is the worst feeling!

ALLISON: Fair is fair. In an interview, you shared an embarrassing moment. What about a moment of pride?
MAUREEN: I think the most obvious moment was when I sold SINCE YOU ASKED! It was an incredible feeling that justified all my risky life decisions up until that point—and really made me feel like everything had aligned for that moment. In less big moments, I am always beyond pleased with myself when I can open a stubborn jar lid by myself because I used to be one of those girls who asked any male within vicinity to do that for her. As a rule, I never give up on them now.

ALLISON: Since You Asked is described as: “Can she survive homecoming, mean-girl cliques, jocks, secret admirers, Valentine’s Day, and other high school embarrassments, all while struggling to balance her family’s traditional Korean values?” What are some Korean values which you have tried to maintain?

MAUREEN: This is a great question, thanks for asking it! I think being married to a non-Korean has really made me recognize these values as of late. Something minor but reflective of my Korean upbringing: I am adamant about taking off shoes in the home. It’s not even up for discussion. Ever. And on a larger scale: I feel very strongly about respecting your elders in a very Confucian way. So that means beyond helping an old lady cross the street. I also mean speaking to anyone a few years older than me in a more deferential manner than I would to my peers. To not behave as casually or freely in front of them as I would my friends. And I expect the same sort of treatment from people younger than me—even if only by a few years. It’s a stubborn Korean streak in me, and one that I don’t see going away!

ALLISON: You and your husband both work from home. How you balance personal and work time? How do you balance individual time and couple time? (Yes, I know these are nosy questions!)

MAUREEN: We JUST stopped working from home full time! I work from home a few days a week and he’s been taking on-site projects. But, I can say at the time we did, we had to really make an effort to balance the personal and work time because it easily turned into just sitting side-by-side on our laptops until bed time. Technically, yes, we hung out all day, but we didn’t REALLY hang out. So we would try to make a “no work after dinner” rule and try to work on a regular schedule, like “normal” people. And we’ve never had a problem balancing individual vs. couple time in the 10 years we’ve been together. I think we’re both very happy doing things on our own and yet are always available when the other person wants more time together. We see couple time as “home base” so you always end up back there 🙂

ALLISON: Do you prefer to eat out or to eat at home? What meal is your favorite from a restaurant? Made by your husband?

MAUREEN: I love both! I’m particularly spoiled because my husband is a great cook and really enjoys doing it. I, myself, am an ok cook and an excellent dishwasher, so it works out 🙂 He makes a killer lamb burger, roast chicken, and pasta with peas and pancetta in a lemony cream sauce that are my top three favorites!
LA is, in my very humble opinion, the best food city. There’s just SO MUCH diversity. Plus, I love Korean and Mexican food and there’s just an abundance around here. I can never turn down a bowl of hand-cut noodles in K town, or a carne asada taco from a taco truck.

ALLISON: In one interview you say: “As for the most difficult scene—the big fight with her mom in the end. I used to fight a lot with my mom in high school, and it really pained me to go back into that headspace and relive all of it. I really regret how bratty I was with my mom to this day, so it was very emotional for me.” What other insights have you gained about yourself through writing a novel?

MAUREEN: Wow, so much actually that I can’t quite properly answer this. Basically, going back to a high school setting really brought back memories of myself that make me cringe. Nothing too terrible—just something ignorant said, a poor way I treated someone, my narrow world view. By writing a character like Holly, I was almost recreating a version of teenage me that was still flawed but a little better than I was. It was therapeutic in a way.

ALLISON: What’s next?

MAUREEN: I am knee-deep in a couple of writing projects—none of which I can talk about yet unfortunately. But more contemporary YA in the future! Stay tune

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