I am a huge fan of Paula (because she is an amazing human being) and her books (because they are fabulously crafted pieces of works) so when I was asked to participate in the blog tour, I was elated. Vicarious was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it lived up to all my expectations even if there was a whole lot of heartbreak. . Today, I have Paula on the blog with a well-written and thoughtful guest post that I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I did.
Writing Outside My Perspective: Maintaining Authenticity and Respect; Balancing Cultural Information with Pacing/Storyline Needs
I wanted to portray my characters and their cultures authentically and respectfully, but for me that did not mean I had to paint any culture as wholly positive. No culture is perfect. “Right” and “wrong” are often subjective, and influenced by where and how a person was raised.
For example, one thing my Korean partner teacher told me (and keep in mind this was ten years ago, but recent articles show that things haven’t changed all that much) was that Korean orphanages are full of kids because adoption is taboo in Korean society. Maybe you’re wondering why that would be. Do Korean people hold a child’s unfortunate history against him or her? Would neighbors and family members really look down upon Koreans if they chose to adopt? On the surface, maybe that sounds very wrong to you.
But we can’t stand outside of a culture and judge it against the norms of our own culture. Korean society is very deeply rooted in Confucianism. Family ancestry is crucial in many aspects of daily life where it isn’t even a consideration in the US. If you read the linked article, it will help you understand more about why adoption is so rare in Korea. Then (if you’re American) think for a second about how we treat our aging population. Growing old in the United States is frequently seen as sign of weakness. Executives are sometimes coerced into retirement before they are ready. Aging actresses and performers are judged for losing their physical beauty. It is culturally acceptable in the US to put elderly relatives into nursing homes where they are cared for, often inadequately, by strangers. In contrast, many other cultures revere their elders, awarding them positions of prestige within families and societies. These cultures celebrate aging as a sign of wisdom, and the elderly often live in homes with children or younger relatives.
Rather than trying to judge individual aspects of a certain culture as “good” or “bad”, it is probably more beneficial to everyone if we strive instead to understand why things are the way they are. My strategy with Vicarious was simply to portray things realistically with no judgment rendered, leaving it up to the reader to pursue additional research if interested.
One specific thing that bears mentioning is the fact that Winter and Rose are trafficked into the United States and are forced to work in the sex trade prior to the beginning of the story. There is no getting around the reality that “Korean sex slave” is a potentially offensive stereotype. I wrestled with that throughout the entire writing process, but the sisters’ backstory is essential to both the plot and the development of their characters. Therefore, I attempted to neutralize that stereotype as much as possible throughout the book. First, the trafficking is completely in the past, and the single flashback to it is written in a way that conveys Winter’s despair without detailing any sexual encounters. Second, Winter and Rose are never fetishized in the story. Yes, men find them attractive, but not specifically because of their Korean heritage. Neither sister is doll-like or diminutive; neither sister is subservient to men. I crafted Winter and Rose to be brave, strong, and resilient characters, while still maintaining their own separate vulnerabilities. Readers won’t want to be them, because of their terrible pasts, but I think readers will respect them and root for them.
I don’t mean to focus on Korea and leave Jesse’s culture out of this blog post. Winter’s friend and stunt partner is the child of a white American mom and a Mexican father, and I did some research with him as well. However, since he’s not a point of view character and he grew up entirely in the USA, his culture did not come into play as much as Winter, Rose, and Gideon’s did.
As far as balancing being informative with providing information, as mentioned in the first post of this series, I did not set out to educate readers or teach anyone anything about foreign cultures. I tried to incorporate in enough cultural elements to make the characters feel real and I attempted to explain everything that a non-Korean reader would need to know in order to completely follow the story, which comes more into play in the sequel when Winter travels to Seoul. There are many things I learned while living in Korea that I found fascinating and wanted to share, but when I was revising, I cut everything that did not directly pertain to the plot. Even little things like explaining the translation of Miso’s name got cut, because I struggled to blend it organically into the narrative. When in doubt, I left it out, again relying on the reader to do additional research if so desired.
Tomorrow, find out more about the character of Jesse Ramirez. Plus, Crystal from Bookiemoji shares her review of the novel.
Find out more about Vicarious
Winter Kim and her sister, Rose, have always been inseparable. Together the two of them survived growing up in a Korean orphanage and being trafficked into the United States. But they’ve escaped the past and started over in a new place where no one knows who they used to be.
Now they work as digital stunt girls for Rose’s ex-boyfriend, Gideon, engaging in dangerous and enticing activities while recording their neural impulses for his Vicarious Sensory Experiences, or ViSEs. Whether it’s bungee jumping, shark diving, or grinding up against celebrities in the city’s hottest dance clubs, Gideon can make it happen for you–for a price.
When Rose disappears and a ViSE recording of her murder is delivered to Gideon, Winter is devastated. She won’t rest until she finds her sister’s killer. But when the clues she uncovers conflict with the digital recordings her sister made, Winter isn’t sure what to believe. To find out what happened to Rose, she’ll have to untangle what’s real from what only seems real, risking her own life in the process.
Paula Stokes weaves together a series of mysteries and the story of an unbreakable bond between sisters in this unforgettable high-tech thrill ride.
Author the Author
Paula Stokes writes stories about flawed characters with good hearts. She’s the author of several novels, most recently Vicarious and Girl Against the Universe. Her writing has been translated into eleven foreign languages. Paula loves kayaking, hiking, reading, and seeking out new adventures in faraway lands She also loves interacting with readers. Find her online at authorpaulastokes.com or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.
Follow the rest of the blog tour here
Mon. 8/15 Introduction + tour schedule authorpaulastokes.com
Tues. 8/16 Writing outside my perspective: Part 1 ivybookbindings.blogspot.com
Wed. 8/17 Review + interview with Paula readingandsometea.wordpress.com
Thurs. 8/18 Writing outside my perspective: Part 2 hiveretcafe.blogspot.ca
Fri. 8/19 Review + five facts about Winter bookcatpin.blogspot.ca
Mon. 8/22 Writing outside my perspective: Part 3 www.xpressoreads.com
Tues. 8/23 Review + five facts about Jesse bookiemoji.com
Wed. 8/24 Writing outside my perspective: Part 4 www.thesilverwords.com
Thurs. 8/25 Review + five facts about Rose cahreviews.blogspot.com
Fri. 8/26 Writing outside my perspective: Part 5 www.bookrookreviews.com