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Korean Authors

 

Writer Jang Ryu-Jin

A Writer of Sympathy-evoking Hyper-realistic Stories

 

2022.04.04

 

Writer Jang Ryu-Jin made her debut by winning the 21st Changbi Prize for New Figures in Literature with her short novel The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work in 2018. In October the same year, the book was available for free online, recording 400 thousand views and going viral on Social Media. The popularity continued with her short story collection The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work (Changbi Publishers), published in 2019, and Moonbound (Changbi Publishers), published in January this year. With a historic record of making the 4th printing in less than 2 months since the initial printing, readers commented that the realistic background and settings were a perfect replica of their “own stories.” Following is an interview with writer Jang Ryu-Jin, who has captured the minds of the MZ Generation by telling the story of 2030 with empathy and hyper-realism.

 

 

Please introduce yourself to our readers.

 

Hi, I’m Jang Ryu-Jin, a novelist in Korea. I majored in Sociology at university and worked as a product manager at an IT company. I began writing novels when I was taking writing classes at a culture center. I was working at the company then. Then, I chose to go to a graduate school to study more about writing, and I completed a graduate degree in Korean Literature. I made my debut as a writer in 2018 when I won the Changbi Prize for New Figures in Literature with The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, and I have been writing stories in earnest since then..

 

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The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

 

 

You have received much attention from the young generation by drawing empathy from them with your new title, Moonbound. What do you think is the reason for the popularity?

 

Well, I’m not sure. I don’t think it’s something a writer can say for sure decisively. But I think I write sentences and stories in a style that I like as a reader. So perhaps that style, my preference, is universal.

 

Where do you usually get inspiration and key sources for stories? Also, if there is an element that impacts your writing, what is it?

 

I often fall into my imaginary world, thinking about useless things (or those that ‘look’ useless). And that’s where I usually get the sources for my stories. I named this “imagination that doesn’t go far.” It’s literally an imagination that does not go far off the daily life, only by a little bit. To take some examples, I imagine “What if this kind of person was put in a situation like this? How would he/she act?” or “What if I said something differently? Would it change the flow in the conversation?” in common situations or dialogues I have in daily life.

 

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Moonbound

 

 

You worked at an IT company for 9 years before choosing to become a full-time author writing fiction. What motivated you to make that decision?

 

While majoring in sociology at university for 4 years, I used to write my thoughts in logically, though they were not something literary. Then after graduation, I got to join an IT company amidst a national unemployment crisis. The job itself was quite satisfying, it suited my aptitude, but there was always one thing on my mind – the strong desire to “write.” I had almost no opportunity to write something of my own at the company (except emails or proposals). So, I personally looked for writing classes, and there I came across a fiction-writing class held at a culture center. That was the moment of destiny. There were many other writing classes too, but as I was so into reading short novels written by contemporary Korean writers at that time, I chose the fiction-writing classes.
I still worked at the company for a year before I chose to be a full-time writer after making my debut with my short novel. And I could hang onto two jobs as I mainly released short novels during that year. But soon, I felt it hard to do the two jobs together as I would run out of time. So, as I was planning to publish a full-length novel the following year, I decided I should quit working at the IT company and become a full-time writer, focusing on the writing. I also had several contracts to publish novel collections and full-length novels in the following years, which made me think of quitting as “changing jobs.” If I hadn’t had those contracts, I wouldn’t have made that decision to become a full-time writer, as I’m quite a realistic person.

 

What is the biggest difference between the life of an office worker and the life of a writer?

 

If you only think about the “writing novels” part, the biggest difference is that I work alone. It’s because, at a company, any other person can do the job you were doing and make similar, or sometimes exactly the same, outcomes. But novels, it is only you that can finish them. That originality is the biggest difference. It’s mostly good, but sometimes it’s what makes writing hard and burdensome.

 

Is there a writer that you particularly like or a writer that impacted your art world? If you had one, how were you affected by him/her?

 

I began writing fiction after reading short novels of active contemporary novelists in Korea. In the time frame, the works would range from the 2000s to today. So, I rather couldn’t read old classical literature. Among English-American writers, I like Gabriel Jevin, Joyce Carroll Oates, and Raymond Carver.

 

 

There’s a moment when the unarranged fragments of little imagination come
together suddenly and make a complete scene. Then, when I get enough of those
scenes to create a full story, I start designing the overall storyline and begin writing.

 

 

What is the thing that you prioritize the most when writing novels?

 

I try to be punctual. I try not to pass the midnight of the deadline date, and if I think I might be later than that, I tell the person in charge and set a new date in advance.

 

What message do you want to tell the world through your books?

 

Well, I think my writings are not a “message” but a “story.” When I write, I know that the message I want to deliver is in myself. But it is very dim and indistinct. So, just with the idea that “it is there, though not vivid and standing out,” I begin writing stories. I think the message melts into the story as I write without even noticing it.

 

Please tell us about your future plans.

 

I’m planning to announce short novels in literary magazines. I will also continue writing stories, making full-length novels as well.

 

 


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#Jang Ryu-Jin#Hyper-realism#MZ Generation#The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work#Moonbound
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