Welcome to Debut of the Week, our series celebrating some of the most exciting new voices in YA. This week we welcome Kat Cho, author of Wicked Fox.
Miyoung is a Gumiho, a mythical nine-tailed fox who can wear a human form but must consume men’s souls for sustenance. She and her mother fly under the radar in modern-day Seoul, where she makes meals of unpunished criminals deserving of her justice. But saving a boy in the woods from a goblin changes everything: suddenly she and the boy, Jihoon, are bound, and the friendship-turned-romance that results leaves her on the precipice of sacrificing everything.
Here’s Cho on inspiration, writing (and reading!) romance, and the best part of the debut experience.
Tell us a little bit about what we can expect from Wicked Fox.
KC: A teenage gumiho—a nine-tailed fox that can turn into a beautiful girl—falls in love with a human boy and risks her immortal life for him.
What was the spark that became this book?
KC: There were a few things that sparked my idea for this book. The first was definitely the books of folktales that I sporadically read growing up. That’s where I first ever heard of the gumiho and fox imagery in Korean mythology. Then that myth was re-introduced to me through Korean dramas and I loved how they re-imagined her as a creature that wasn’t completely evil. It made me remember the contemporary and urban fantasy books I devoured as a teen and young adult where there was a paranormal creature (i.e. a vampire) that was often presented as evil but was given more layers so they could survive in a modern setting. I really wanted to do that for the gumiho in a modern Seoul setting and with the themes of a young adult novel.
What were the books you had to read throughout your life in order to write it?
KC: There were a few books that formed my love and fascination with stories. The first books that introduced me to addictive fantasy worlds were the Redwall Series. I loved the classic concepts of an underdog (or undermouse!) that rose up to help his friends and save his home! I also loved the food scenes. The first books that introduced me to family and romantic love in all it’s complicated nuance were Nora Roberts novels. I just really loved how, even though they were romance novels, family relationships & friendships were just as important and were just as fleshed out. And the first I fell in total and complete love with the complicated themes of Young Adult as we know them today was Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. I absolutely adored the unique characters and their moral and personal dilemmas throughout the trilogy. These books formed how I thought about stories and were very important to me when I started to write my own (I even wrote Redwall fanfic as a child). For craft books I really liked The Art of Character, The Emotional Craft of Fiction, and Wonderbook.
What were you like as a teenager?
KC: I was very studious because I wanted to go to a good college. So, my focus was mainly school and hanging out with my friends (before going away to said college). I really wanted to experience everything you were supposed to experience as a high school senior. I also wanted to be a writer at the time, but I was really stressing out because I didn’t know if it was something I was talented enough to pursue.
Favorite thing you’ve read recently?
KC: I really loved The Devouring Gray, by Christine Lynn Herman. I’m so excited for Rogue Heart, a companion novel to Rebel Seoul, by Axie Oh. It’s also set in Asia, but in a futuristic one and it draws heavily on k-drama themes just like my novels, so I am a huge fan of these novels.
What has been the most surreal part of your debut experience?
KC: It’s probably seeing fan art and bookstagrams of my novel. I never thought people would make other forms of art with my book, and I am so grateful for it!
What’s next for you?
KC: I have two projects I’m currently working on. The first is the sequel to Wicked Fox! I’m so excited to continue exploring the world I created in the first book and there are some side characters that get to take front and center in the second book! The second manuscript I’m working on is a middle grade contemporary fantasy based on Korean Mythology. It’s about two sisters who find themselves on the wrong side of some old Korean gods!
Wicked Fox is on shelves now!