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Writer Baek Hee-Na

I hope my books can provide happiness and warmth to my readers

 

2020.09.07

 

This interview was edited from the video “Authors of Korea Picture Books and Books for Children and Youth” made for the 2020 Moscow International Book Fair to celebrate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Korea and Russia.

2020 Moscow International Book Fair
www.mibf.info

Link to Introducing Republic of Korea as The Guest of Honor
http://mibf.info/korea

Platform of Republic of Korea as The Guest of Honor
https://goh-en.sibf.or.kr/

 

 

Baek Hee-na wrote and illustrated all her thirteen books. And her miniature dolls, full of expressions, come alive with the lights and detailed decorations on the page. With these illustrations, her books are simply awe-inspiring.
About these wonderful books, the writer commented that she tried to escape from the format of books and sculptures. And in her characters, one can see detailed expressions unique to the writer. The backdrops in her books are familiar and yet mysterious.
Given the nature of my job, which requires me to read many children’s books, I am not easily moved or impressed. But when I open the first page of her book, I fell in love with her illustrations. I felt that her heart was open to her readers, and I was in the embrace of its beauty. Children who read her books will learn compassion, joy, and love for this world.

 

Writer Baek Hee-Na

Writer Baek Hee-Na

 

Greetings. It’s good to see you. Please introduce yourself to our readers.

 

It is my honor to meet you through my book. I hope you can enjoy it.

 

I’d like to congratulate you on winning the Lindgren award. Please tell us how you felt about receiving the award.

 

It was an award I really wanted. But because I knew that the award is given not for one title but for the lifetime contribution of a writer, I had no expectations. I had no idea I was being considered for the award. And I couldn’t understand when they called because they spoke in English.
When they called the first time, I hung up because it was an international number, which I didn’t know. I thought I should answer it when I got home. When they called again, I thought it must be something urgent. I thought it was good news, and I heard something about an award, but I had no idea the award was that award. I thanked them first. In the TV report, they said I was calm about the news, but it was because I couldn’t understand it well… If I got too excited when it wasn’t the Lindgren award, I would feel let down and wouldn’t know what to do next, so I just thanked them appropriately at the time.

 

 

All I want to deliver through my books are happiness and comfort.

 

 

If you can pick a color that can represent your world of works, what would it be?

 

Prussian blue? It looks dark, but it has the feel of clean, crisp air. The air that enables you to breathe. And you can add water to it.
I have some readers who find my illustrations scary. I also think that there is a dark side to them—my illustrations. But the darkness is only a part. There is also hope and humor. What I want most is to offer happiness and comfort. So the color will be Prussian blue.

 

How did you become an illustration book writer?

 

Ever since I was little, I liked playing by myself, and I didn’t have social skills. I’m still the same…in that there aren’t many things I’m good at. One day I thought about why I seemed so behind compared to others. Not in everything, though. There were some things I was good at. I liked drawing, and I had a lot of confidence in it too. When I’d play by myself, I played with dolls, or I drew. In hindsight, I realized I created stories as I was playing, and that became the source of my stories later on.

 

What is it like to write a picture book?

 

It’s about mulling over how to tell a story using the physical characteristics of the book and the media called books. In other words, I think about how readers will first see the cover page, and turn to the flyleaf and see the subtitle, and read the story, and slowly become immersed in it.
I think of it as a complicated psychological game, which I find very interesting. The book as a medium is very limited, and it is fun and challenging to use it for its maximum effects to tell a story.

 

삐약이엄마

달샤베트

나는개다

 

꿈에서맛본똥파리

이상한엄마

장수탕선녀

Baek Hee-Na's representative works

 

You don't use just drawings in your illustrations, but sculpted shapes made with a variety of materials. What is the intention behind that?

 

After coming up with a story, I think about what will be the most effective way to deliver the story. And depending on that, I decide on the nature of illustrations. Whether I will do it with charcoal or watercolor paints, or make it into three-dimensional. Even with three-dimensional shapes, I have to decide whether to make them detailed and realistic, or very rough-looking.
Lately, I’ve published fantasy stories, and they are small-scale fantasy stories which even grownup readers can read and think they could happen for real. Because I liked these stories which could happen in real life, I thought visual representations that were not too far from reality would make them more believable, and that was why I worked with three-dimensional shapes in the illustrations.

 

What was the most memorable reaction from your readers?

 

I think a lot about how readers will like the story, and which parts will be fun, scary, or cathartic. So I read all the reviews online.
The most memorable review was a reader's comment online on my book, Magic Candies (Bear Books) She was a mother raising an autistic child, and she wrote in the review that instead of "magic candies," she hoped for "magic communication." She said one day, she hopes to have perfect communication with her child as if by magic like in the book. Reading that review made me cry.

 

<Magic Candies>

Magic Candies

 

 

 

I hope readers are relaxed and happy as long as they are reading my books.

 

 

What changes or developments have you had as you continued to work as a picture book writer?

 

Although I'm a grownup, there are still so many things I don't know, or I'm not good at. I make many mistakes, and I'm still learning. Because I'm working as a writer, I can tell myself that it's okay to have these many imperfections.
There is a book I recently enjoyed reading. It's about a girl who makes a living by sewing, and she says all the good things in her life happened when she was working as a seamstress. She says in the story that she's afraid she'll become nothing if she stops sewing, and I really empathized with it. Good things in my life happened when I was writing stories. Writing stories was hard and sometimes painful too, but everything that was good happened when I was working as a writer. I also feel that if I stop working as a writer, I'll become nothing.

 

What kind of books would you like to write in the future?

 

I want my readers to feel happy and at ease, at least when they are reading. I believe in the power of stories. I believe that stories have the power to reignite fire and passion, even in the darkest despair. I want my readers to be empowered and happy.

 

If you have any worries about your work, what would they be?

 

When it comes to not only the visual aspect but also stories, I worry they might fall into a pattern, and I might also get used to such patterns of storytelling, which I've been careful not to. If I think too much, I come to a standstill. I just spend time thinking. I have to start by making something, whatever that might be. I also have to keep studying. I need many opportunities to make observations. There is no answer, but I have to keep thinking and wondering. And I have to keep going.

 

 


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