Q&A with Jung Yun

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Get to know Jung Yun, author of Shelter who has had work appear in the Emerging Voices issue of Tin House, The Best of Tin House: StoriesThe Massachusetts Review, and The Atlantic Monthly…

What author or book inspires you most, now and/or at any time in your career?

I first became acquainted with J.M. Coetzee’s work through his fiction. I include Disgrace and The Life and Times of Michael K among my favorites, and I try to reread Disgrace every few years. But I also admire his memoirs, particularly their unique forms, as well as his essays. He isn’t afraid to explore—topically, stylistically, intellectually—and I never know quite what to expect when he publishes something new.

What is your favorite part of participating in book festivals?

I look forward to Q&A sessions with readers. I’m always excited when someone asks a question or shares a perspective about my work that I hadn’t thought of before. It’s also fun meeting fellow writers, particularly first-time novelists who feel similarly surprised and elated by the experience of publishing their debut.

When did you realize you wanted to write this book?

Shelter came to me in stages—first in 2004, then 2007, and finally in 2010, which was when all the random paragraphs and pages I’d been writing aimlessly over the years seemed like they could fit together in a compelling way, and felt guided by interesting questions that I wanted to explore in book-length form.

Which part of the book are you most proud of?

By the time I reached the last third of the novel, it felt like there was only one possible ending that seemed true to who Kyung and his family were, so I’d say that I’m most proud of the final chapter, which came together very quickly, and doesn’t sugarcoat this family’s past or the possibilities for their future.

What are you working on next?

I’m in the early stages of writing my next novel, so better to say less than more right now!

At the Virginia Festival of the Book, catch Jung Yun in Emerging Voices: Critically Acclaimed Debut Novels, along with authors Viet Dinh (After Disasters) and Emily Fridlund (History of Wolves).