Kathie: Hi Graci! Thank you for taking a few minutes to answer some questions about your upcoming book, THE LAST FALLEN STAR, which will be published on May 4th by Rick Riordan Presents. Can you please tell our readers a bit about your debut novel?
Graci: Absolutely! The Last Fallen Star is a mythology inspired story about Korean-American witches in Los Angeles. It’s about the search for magic, forbidden spells, unbreakable sisters, and about one adopted girl who is desperate to belong.
Twelve-year-old Riley Oh is our main character, and she is desperate to become a healing witch like her sister and her parents. Except she’s adopted and her biological parents weren’t witches, which means despite knowing all the healing spells back to front, she doesn’t have a lick of magic in her blood.
Then when her sister Hattie discovers a spell that could share half of her magic with Riley, they cast the dangerous forbidden spell. As you can imagine, things go terribly wrong. And when Hattie’s life ends up hanging in the balance, Riley has to go on the search for the Godrealm’s last fallen star–whatever and wherever it may be–or risk losing her sister forever.
Kathie: Did you grow up reading or listening to Korean myths, and do you have a favorite?
Graci: Oh yes, my halmeoni (grandma) and my parents used to tell us loads of Korean folk tales and myths growing up. My sisters and I used to love huddling under the blanket on Halmeoni’s bed as she told us ghost stories from the small fishing village where she grew up.
My favourite myth is actually the one that inspired The Last Fallen Star, and is one of the origin myths for the Korean peoples. The story goes that there was a tiger and bear who both desperately wanted to become human. They prayed to their god for help, and heeding their call, their god bestowed upon them an assignment: If they could take a bundle of mugwort leaves and a handful of garlic cloves and withstand a hundred days in a cave, their prayers would be answered. After twenty days, the tiger became weary. He missed the warmth of the sun and the taste of flesh too much to stay another day in the cold and dark. So he left the cave, giving up his chance to become human. But the bear persevered. And on the twenty-first day, their god rewarded her by turning her into a beautiful human—the first Korean woman to walk this earth.
Kathie: Although I loved so many of your characters, I think Emmett was my favorite supporting character for his bravery and loyalty to Riley. If you could choose one character to know in real life, who would it be and why?
Graci: I think I would choose to know Taeyo in real life. There’s something about the unencumbered way he sees the world, and the genuine earnesty he gives off that I think would be a good influence on me 🙂 And also Emmett. He and I would geek out about dogs, and I honestly would love to try his baking!
Kathie: This is an action-packed novel that moves at a very fast pace. I was amazed at how many twists, turns, and plot details were revealed in only 336 pages! How do you keep track of everything that’s going on; do you work with an outline ahead of time, or does the story unfold as you write?
Graci: Yes, I work with an outline ahead of time. I adore plans and checklists and any kind of tool that I can convince myself will make the actual task of writing less painful. Does it, in fact, make the writing process less painful? Probably not, I suspect! 😉 But I find having a map gives me confidence that I’m heading in the general right direction. And if I happen to find a nice patch of flowers to stop at, or a random side path in the woods, I let myself get lost for a wee while before returning to the main road.
Kathie: OK, I have to ask, if you could choose one of the belong to one of the six clans, which one would it be and why?
Graci: Haha, this is a good question! Can I choose two? I would say I’d like to belong to the Gom clan and the Tokki clan. The Gom clan because their motto of Service and Sacrifice really resonates with me. I can’t think of a cooler superpower than being able to heal and help others. But also the Tokki clan because I’m a total foodie and I want to be able to infuse my food with magic!
Kathie: I can only imagine what it was like to have such a powerful editing team behind your first book. What was one of the best pieces of advice they gave you?
Graci: It has been an absolute dream working with Hannah, Stephanie, and Rick! I think one of the best pieces of advice I was given was to trust in my own voice. I was worried I hadn’t nailed the “right voice” for a middle grade audience (whatever that is!), and that I wasn’t funny enough (I’m not a very funny person in real life, as far as I’m aware!). But I was told to just lean into Riley as a character and to do her justice in the best way I could. It seems odd, but that permission to write what was authentic to me was exactly what I needed to hear.
Kathie: We know that the sequel, The Last Fallen Moon, is set for release in Summer 2022. Can you tell us anything about it yet, and do you know how many books will be in this series?
Graci: I can’t tell you too much at this stage, mostly because it’s still in the process of coming to life 🙂 I can say, however, that the epilogue of The Last Fallen Star gives a pretty good indication as to where the second book might be headed. And yes, the series has been confirmed as a trilogy, with the third book coming out in 2023.
Kathie: Where can our readers go to find out more about you and your writing?
Graci: They can find out more about The Last Fallen Star at www.giftedclans.com and if they want to know more about me, they can visit www.gracikim.com On social media, I can be found on Instagram as @gracikimwrites and on Twitter as @gracikim
Kathie: Thanks again for answering my questions, Graci. I’m very eager to follow Riley’s story and find out what’s going to happen next!
Graci: Thank you for having me over, Kathie! It’s been a blast 🙂
Graci Kim is a Korean-Kiwi diplomat turned author who writes magic-infused books for magic-infused readers. She grew up not seeing herself in her most treasured books, and has since committed herself to writing about Korean diaspora kids who achieve all their hopes and dreams. In a previous life, Graci was a diplomat for the NZ foreign service, a cooking show host, and once ran a business that turned children’s drawings into cuddly toys. If not lost in her imagination, you’ll find Graci drinking flat whites, eating ramyeon, and most likely hugging a dog (or ideally, many). She lives in New Zealand with her husband and daughter.