Ae-ran Kim’s My Brilliant Life explores family bonds and out-of-the-ordinary friendships, interweaving the past and present of a tight-knit family, finding joy and happiness in even the most difficult times.
Areum lives life to its fullest, vicariously through the stories of his parents, conversations with Little Grandpa Jang—his sixty-year-old neighbor and best friend—and through the books he reads to visit the places he would otherwise never see.
For several months, Areum has been working on a manuscript, piecing together his parents’ often embellished stories about his family and childhood. He hopes to present it on his birthday, as a final gift to his mom and dad; their own falling-in-love story.
Through it all, Areum and his family will have you laughing and crying, for all the right reasons.
Get to know Ae-ran Kim by reading our interview with her, and grab your copy of My Brilliant Life—available now!
Which character do you relate to the most?
That would be Han Areum, the storyteller in the novel. There are a lot of seeds in my earlier short stories that grew into this novel, and from the very beginning of my career I’ve been consistently exploring where I come from and rewriting my own foundation myth. With this book, I was finally able to move beyond my own history and become more interested in other lives.
What is your writing routine?
Like many writers, I try to read and write every day. Like athletes who train regularly to maintain their muscle mass even if they aren’t going to be competing right away. At the same time I do the things that everyone does in their daily lives, and depending on deadlines that proportion changes.
What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
Many people’s advice and support and criticism have all had an effect on me. Along with all comments about skills and aesthetics. What comes to mind now isn’t about writing but about life; this quote humbles me as a writer when I examine a character’s life.
“People so rarely tell us the truth . . . . The truth is, we know so little about life, we don’t really know what the good news is and what the bad news is.” —Kurt Vonnegut[English language source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/02/09/kurt-vonnegut-graphed-the-worlds-most-popular-stories/]
What was the book that made you want to become a writer?
I’d have to say almost all the books I’ve been fascinated by or found myself lost in. Of course, among them there are books that people said weren’t “serious” literature. I can’t pick just one single book that made me want to become a writer but I can talk about stories that helped me become a writer—those are actually stories I wrote myself. I imagine it’s the same for dancers and painters. No matter how clumsy, there’s nothing that teaches you more than the dance you’ve danced yourself, or the painting you’ve painted yourself.
What are the characteristics of a great book to you?
Books that trigger the desire to read another book. The way a great question is a question that triggers another question. Even if they aren’t classics or “good” books, I think any book that helps you go from the book you’re reading now to the next one is generally a good one. While recommendations by experts are great, too, I think it’s important to have a personal map of books that contain your own mistakes and failures.
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