Katie M Stout is the author of our June Book of the Month: Hello I Love You so naturally, we couldn't wait to ask her some questions and fangirl over HILY's gorgeous cover. We ask her about her love of YA, K-Pop and the controversy surrounding her debut YA novel.
Hi Katie! Thank you for doing an interview with YA Love Magazine!
First of all, congratulations on the release of Hello I Love You! I understand it is your YA debut, what made you want to start writing YA? Are you a big fan of YA lit?
I started writing YA because that’s what I was reading. I’m one of the few YA authors who actually read YA as a teen. My first was Twilight, and I’ve never been able to shake my love for YA lit since.
I feel like your teen years are really important in shaping who you’ll become later in life, and I love exploring that through story. Plus, YA is often way more fun than adult books, right?
Specifically, your novel is a contemporary romance with a major theme of K-Pop running through it, is K-Pop something you’re passionate about and why did you want it to play such a big part in your story?
I do really enjoy K-pop! I’d say I like Korean dramas a little more, though. Hello, I Love You was more inspired by K-dramas than anything else. When I was plotting the book in my head, I thought adding the K-pop element amped up the tension (giving the couple more obstacles to overcome to get together), and it just creates such a fun backdrop. Everyone loves an escapist romance about a normal girl falling for a famous guy. ;-)
We absolutely LOVE the cover for Hello I Love You – did you have any input into the design? If not, are you happy with the way it turned out?
Thanks, I love it too! I actually didn’t have any input. I had shared some covers I liked of other books with my editor, but mine ended up looking pretty much nothing like those. Hah! But I’m incredibly happy with the way it turned out. St. Martin’s made my book look so pretty.
Your blog says that you have a passion for travel – where are some of your favourite places that you have travelled so far? Where are some places you’re dying to check off your bucket list?
I’ve been to so many amazing places, but I think if I had to choose, I’d say Thailand and Scotland are my favorite countries I’ve been to. So different but both so amazing. Hong Kong and Paris are my favorite cities, and going on a safari in Etosha National Park in Namibia was my favorite tourist experience. (Nothing beats falling asleep in your tent to a soundtrack of lions roaring.)
In terms of places I’m desperate to visit, my top choices would have to be Iceland, India, and the UAE. I’ve never been anywhere in the Middle East yet, so I’m really keen on a trip there. And I’ve wanted to go to India since I was a little girl.
There has been a bit of negative feedback with regards to the cultural aspect in the book, do you have any comments on these particular reviews?
Yes, I've noticed that there seems to be some misunderstandings about one of the major themes of my book, which is culture shock. And honestly, looking back, I think the confusion is perhaps because I was writing about something that many people never experience in their lifetime: moving to another country. And while it was clear to me and my readers who have experienced this firsthand, it hasn't been as clear to other readers.
Culture shock is a very real thing which I don't have enough time to discuss in detail here, but you can find quite a bit of research done about it. When you move to another country, you are immediately thrust into a situation in which your brain struggles to cope. Nothing is familiar. Your instinctive urge to feel comfortable is suddenly being attacked, and you find yourself reacting in ways that aren't rational.
I've known culture shock firsthand. When I first moved to the UK, I literally hated everything. I hated my life. I hated the way the rain fell and the bus system worked and the way grocery stores were laid out and how I sometimes had a hard time understanding people's accents. I vividly remember crying in the middle of the supermarket because I couldn't find eggs. My reaction was completely irrational, and it took me months to realize that there was nothing wrong with England - there was something wrong with my heart. I was drowning in culture shock, and I had reacted in a type of anger and judgment that I'd never experienced before.
This is the phenomenon that Grace experiences in Hello, I Love You. Except her culture shock is even more difficult than mine, because she has also moved into a culture that speaks a different language. She knows literally nothing and no one. Compound this with the fact that (1) she comes from a privileged family in which she's always gotten what she wants and (2) she's still grieving the death of her brother, and what comes out is her harsh, judgmental, and often bratty attitude.
Grace is supposed to be prejudiced. She is supposed to be bitter. She is being squeezed on all sides, and what's coming out isn't pretty. I believe this to be realistic. I've seen it a dozen times with my friends who have lived overseas for an extended period of time; I experienced it myself.
That's why I thought it was important for Grace to realize her faults. There's a key scene later in the book where Grace's mother is visiting and the mother is very rude and condescending to a Korean waitress. Grace watches her mother and is horrified, until she realizes that that's exactly what she sounded like only months before - and then she is ashamed. It's a turning point for Grace, an epiphany.
Many of us are never forced to face the worst parts of ourselves. Grace is. That's her journey, and that's what I hoped to portray in my story.
Finally, if you could recommend two books to YA Love readers (besides HILY, of course), what would you recommend?
Only two?! That’s so hard!
I think I’d have to go with The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey. It’s probably the most well-written YA book I’ve ever read. And then my second choice would be White Cat, by Holly Black, which is the book I wish I’d written. It perfectly captures the creativity of YA with a killer premise, impressive writing, a plot that will keep you guessing, and Holly’s amazing characters. Both of these books are some of the best YA has to offer, I think.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! ☺
Thanks so much for having me!