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An Interview with Author Kyo Lee

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Kyo Lee is a queer, Korean-Canadian high-school student, writer, and dreamer. Her literature has been recognized or published by the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award, CBC Literary Prizes, PRISM International, Nimrod International, University of Toronto, Ringling College, New York Times, and more. She loves peaches, sunsets, and the idea of summer but not summer itself. She is trying to love more.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was ultimately what got me into both reading and writing. As a child, I always thought that being an author was not a “real job”—as in, it was not something a normal person could do. I don’t know if I assumed books appeared out of thin air but I suppose I simply could not fathom the idea that so many stories could be stored within a person. Upon completing The Outsiders, though (with tears in my eyes), I read that Hinton had only been sixteen when she wrote the book and I was shocked that writing…was something one could just start? Soon after, I started writing my own poetry collection, which, after several attempts, has finally become a book.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

“Books, Dreams, Power and Walls” by Jannabi

“mother tongue” by Liana Flores

“Blue bird” by Yoon Ji Young

“Let’s Fall in Love for Tonight” by FINNEAS

“Easy to love” by asking for a friend, DYSN, and Lostboycrow

“Hate Yourself” by TV Girl

Describe your dream book cover.

Some of my poems are inspired by Ren Hang’s photography, especially the collection of photos of people in lotus ponds, so I would love to have a book cover also inspired by those photos.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I am currently a high school student, if that could be considered a profession. Some fun things that readers might not know: my current favourite colour is #bdd9c9, I love water (drinking and bodies of), my favourite books are usually determined by how much I cry reading them, I can be found on YouTube talking about art and life, and I used to only eat the crust of the pizza until I was eight.

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

Closer Baby Closer by Savannah Brown

crush by Richard Siken

Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

These books often gave me the courage to write (even as they made me despair that I could never create something as beautiful) and the inspiration to start a new page. I also often read and listened to John Green, my favourite author, who has not only helped me through my writing journey, but my human one.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your work? How do you envision your perfect reader?

I think reading is a collaborative process between the writer and reader; it isn’t necessarily something I complete and offer for the reader to grasp, but a story that is built anew with each reading. So there isn’t a singular lesson I hope all readers receive, but I do hope that it makes readers feel and it makes them love the world a little more. My vision of a wonderful reader is one who might dog-ear pages and come back to passages to think, ask questions, and find solace in them.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

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Atmosphere Press is a selective hybrid publisher founded in 2015 on the principles of Honesty, Transparency, Professionalism, Kindness, and Making Your Book Awesome. Our books have won dozens of awards and sold tens of thousands of copies. If you’re interested in learning more, or seeking publication for your own work, please explore the links below.