Paula Stokes's VICARIOUS, in which a high-tech Korean stunt girl searches worlds both real and virtual to find her missing sister, to Melissa Frain at Tor Children's, in a two-book deal, at auction, by Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
Translation: Taryn Fagerness Agency
Melissa Frain is the editor for one of my favorite books of all time, ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD! When we talked on the phone she really loved VICARIOUS, but she also had some suggestions for making the story more relatable that resonated strongly with me. While I’m very committed to writing additional contemporary YA novels for Harper, I feel like Tor Teen is a great place for me to explore some of the darker, more speculative stories I want to write. I cannot wait to dive in and start editing this book.
So what is VICARIOUS? It’s a mystery, an action-adventure story, a cyber thriller, a love letter to all things Korean, and a tale of two sisters whose bond is so strong that nothing can keep them apart. Oh, and there’s kissing. Not a ton, but some, because I like kissing :-) Once again, this book is different from all my other books. It’s darker than THE ART OF LAINEY and a bit more lyrical than LIARS, INC. Parts of this book will make you uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable writing them. Although I am striving to make sure the two-book storyline reads as hopeful, some of what happens to main character Winter Kim is devastating. This is truly the story of a girl who perseveres despite all odds. Those of you who are visual might want to go check out the book’s Pinterest board.
I got the idea for VICARIOUS during the drafting of my third work-for-hire book, STARLING (writing as Fiona Paul), when I became frustrated with some of the limitations to Cassandra’s character. I wanted my female MC to be totally kickass, but Cass was—had to be—hindered by her time-period, upbringing, and societal norms. I remember venting about this to my friend and crit partner Marcy Beller Paul like, “I want to write a female action hero.” And she so sagely responded, “Why don’t you?”
So I did. I had also always wanted to write a main character of color, but it felt inorganic to force a different culture upon one of my MCs “just because.” Like the wand chooses the wizard, I think the story chooses the characters. Winter, her sister Rose, and their guardian, Gideon, came to me as Koreans and it all just fit. You might not know that my dad was stationed in Korea, or that I have adopted Korean cousins, or that I spent a year teaching English in Seoul. These things don’t “qualify me” to write from a Korean perspective, of course, but I do think my past immersion in the culture helped me identify the questions I needed to ask during the writing process.
As the second book in this duology takes place partially in Seoul, I will be returning there next year for research. I plan to have Korean-Americans and native Koreans beta-read both books. I know that no matter how hard I try, some readers will be unsatisfied with Winter’s portrayal and see her as inauthentic. But not all Koreans think the same, just like not all women think the same, and not all teens think the same. If I try to please every reader, I’ll end up pleasing no one. All I can do is promise to work my very hardest to bring my characters and their culture to the page with authenticity and respect.
Maybe you’re wondering why I’m announcing this deal on Ensconced in Lit. Christina is one of the few people who have already read this story, and one of the Korean-Americans who’ll be there to help me stay true to Winter’s heritage. Also, Christina is awesome, and I can’t think of anyone else with whom I’d rather share my good news. Love you, C!
Love you too, P! I loved this book so I'm overjoyed you chose me to showcase it! Can't wait for it to come out!!!
Paula Stokes writes stories about flawed characters with good hearts who sometimes make bad decisions. In addition to writing, she enjoys kayaking, hiking, reading, and seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. Paula is the author of several YA novels including The Art of Lainey and Liars, Inc. (2015). She loves interacting with readers. Find her online at www.authorpaulastokes.com or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.