Book: Loathe At First Sight
Photos by Joanna DeGeneres
Author: Suzanne Park
1. When did you realize that you were funny, or at least had the ability to make people laugh?
Like most comedians I know, I grew up memorizing bits from SNL or from stand-up comics I admired. I discovered it wasn’t just about getting the lines recited perfectly, I found it was about context, beats, and timing.
Back in elementary school, I could make some people snort soda out of their nose just by imitating a teacher or changing the lyrics to a song. Maybe there’s something funny about my voice. Or my face? Insert shrug emoji here...
2. You’ve once stated that you, “write nerdy romantic comedies featuring Korean-American protagonists”. Why do you feel it’s important to tell culturally rich stories that highlight extremely layered characters of color?
When I read romantic comedies or see them on screen, I’m always struck by how gorgeous/attractive/rich/charming the main characters are. In contrast, my protagonists are geeky, awkward, down-to-earth, and relatable.
I want nerds to have happily ever afters, too! I wanted them to be Korean-American too because it’s important to see Asian-Americans (first and second-gen) who aren’t one-dimensional and aren’t stereotypical.
A recent review from the Asian Review of Books said it best: "With more books like The Perfect Escape, diverse characters will become the norm and old stereotypes may finally be put to rest."
3. What was the primary issue you are attempting to address in Loathe at First Sight?
When I started this book four years ago, I’d set out to write a book about a workplace comedy about the video game industry. But as I started my research, it was instantly clear to me that the gaming industry was not fun and no games for women, especially for women of color.
Sexual harassment and racism were (and is) pervasive and rampant. In my book, Melody Joo, a Korean-American video game producer, has to deal with misogyny, racism, and cyberbullying, but with the support of her love interest and best friends, she is able to fight back and release a game, speak out against hate, and create much-needed change in the video game industry.
4. How much of your own personality was transcribed into the character, Melody Joo?
42%. Approximately. They say writers should write what they know, so let’s just say a lot of her awkwardness was easy to write. As far as her outspokenness goes, it wasn’t until later in my corporate career that I started to speak up in meetings and raise issues that concerned me in the workplace.
5. How much of the blatant workplace sexism that Melody faces in Loathe at First Sight have you experienced in your own personal life?
There were lots of micro- and macro-aggression incidents I encountered at work, but the most sexist industry I’ve ever worked in was the world of stand-up comedy. 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.
Each time I got up on that stage, I showed the other comics and the audience that I was just as good as any of those male comedians.
6. Being as candid as possible, what are your feelings on “internet trolls”?
I really didn’t understand what makes people spew hate online (I still don’t honestly) so I had to read psychology articles about trolling. Toward the end of the book, my main character discusses trolling in a Q&A and asks, “Are you doing it for attention? For the ‘lulz’? Or is it really something deeper, maybe something else from your history that is compelling you to spew hateful words toward a stranger?
If we met face-to-face, could you say all the same things you’re posting online while looking me straight in the eye? Think about your nieces, daughters, sisters, and baby cousins. Would they be proud of what you are saying online? What would they think of your words?” I share all of the same feelings and sentiments as Melody: it’s unproductive, destructive, and cowardly.
7. What were some of your favorite video games growing up and do you still play any video games today?
I played a LOT of arcade games (I still love them!) and am unusually good at Ms. PacMan. When I had a lot more free time, I finished Katamari Damacy and Rock Band (I saw the rolling credits at the end).
8. Do you agree with the phrase, “it’s not what you know, but who you know” and how do you think that phrase applies to the character Nolan MacKenzie?
Ahhh, Nolan. Nepotism Nolan, who got his MBA internship because his uncle was the CEO of the game studio. My college years were the first time I saw people having an upper hand in life. Kids were getting internships left and right without even formally applying for them. It drove me bonkers!
So I don’t agree with that phrase, but I do know from first-hand experience that it exists for highly connected people. There were some college kids who got plum jobs or opportunities without asking for them who wanted to prove themselves by working hard, hoping to validate the hiring teams’ decisions. I wanted Nolan to be more of that type of person: he’s well-off and got a lucky break, but he works extra hard to show he knows his stuff.
9. How much writing were you able to get done during quarantine?
For the six weeks we sheltered in place, I wrote zero words. But my deadline was looming so I ramped up to 1,000 words a day (including weekends) and finished a draft of a YA book during quarantine. I just got those edits back so I’m working on editing that book now.
I’m also drafting the next adult romcom too as soon as the YA book is done. Writing in quarantine hasn’t been easy. I’ve had to change a lot of things around in my life to make this happen (mainly, I gave up TV arggghhh). Also, I don’t see sunlight. I don’t eat nutrients. Stuff like that.
10. What’s the best book you’ve read so far in 2020?
I’ve read so many wonderful books this year. Off the top of my head: FOLLOW ME by Kathleen Barber. VANESSA YU’S MAGICAL PARIS TEA SHOP by Roselle Lim, RECIPE FOR PERSUASION by Sonali Dev, GIRL GONE VIRAL by Alisha Rai, SHE’S FAKING IT by Kristin Rockaway, NEVER HAVE I EVER by Joshilyn Jackson.
And I’m thrilled to have gotten an early peek at Sandhya Menon’s new MAKE UP BREAK UP. I had no idea I’d read this many books. I’m impressed with myself. Thank you for this question.
11. What’s your best advice for getting over writer’s block?
For me, I try to read and watch movies and pay attention to the tender and meaningful discourse. Sometimes even taking walks gives me clarity and I come back with ideas for scenes.
But if you’re super results-oriented, give yourself small goals, like write a short paragraph a day or a short scene with dialogue. Usually, that will get your brain going and your fingers type more words than you expect.
12. Do you plan on writing more books in the future?
Yes! I have two books coming out in 2021 and I love those stories! I can’t wait for you all to meet my Korean-American characters, Sunny Song (YA rom-com) and Jessie Kim (adult rom-com). Titles and cover reveals coming soon!
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