I'm so happy to welcome Maurene Goo to the blog today! Her books have been called funny, relatable, and endearing. Her latest, I Believe in a Thing Called Love, was released on May 30, and it has been garnering some really amazing reviews. In a starred review from Kirkus, they said, “Desi's implementation of measures such as ‘Be Caught in an Obviously Lopsided Love Triangle’ yields hilarious, at times unintended results, lending this teen rom-com a surprisingly thoughtful conclusion . . . [Goo's] funny, engaging narrative also delivers powerful messages of inclusion and acceptance.”
So let's get to the interview! :)
Hi, Maurene! Congrats on the release of I Believe in a Thing Called Love. Can you tell us a little about the story and what inspired it?
The book is about a girl named Desi who is good at everything but romance. So she decides to tackle love the same way she does everything else–by creating a list and studying it, this time based on tropes and formulas found in K-dramas. I was inspired to write this based on my love for K dramas and the desire to write one of my own!
In a starred review, Publisher’s Weekly said I Believe in a Thing Called Love ‘simultaneously honors and deconstructs romantic tropes’, which sounds pretty amazing! How do you go about planning romantic arcs for your characters?
With this book, it was fairly easy because I had K-dramas as a “cheat sheet.” They have romantic arcs down to an art. However, there was definitely work needed on my end because the reason why K dramas are so great is because the character growth for the leads are very believable. So I had to make sure that this romance made both characters grow—not just as romantic interests, but as humans that readers would care about.
What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and how do you tackle it?
I find the middle of the book very difficult—starting a book is a breeze for me. The excitement of introducing everyone and setting up everything makes it so fun. The ending is always easier, too, because I always know what the end goal is. That middle? Writing actual growth and plot that moves forward yet doesn’t move too quick—that is very difficult to keep interesting. My trick is to break it down into bite-sized pieces (for books, that’s easy, the bites are chapters!) and make sure that you are moving things forward in each piece.
In I Believe in a Thing Called Love, Desi creates her own ‘K Drama Rules for True Love’. For those unfamiliar with the framework of Korean dramas, what are some of their defining features? Also, which shows do you recommend?
K dramas are always very…dramatic. That is one hugely defining feature. Emotions always run high and there’s always crying, hospital scenes, and flashbacks. It can be difficult to get used to, that level of drama, but it’s what makes them very endearing, in my opinion. Some of my favorites that do this really well are My Love from Another Star, Healer, Goblin, and the recent Strong Woman Do Bong-Soon.
Your books are often described as hilarious. What tips can you give authors looking to incorporate more humor into their writing?
I think there’s humor in everything. Once you keep an eye and ear out for it, it’s easier to incorporate it into your own writing. You’ll notice how naturally it’s a part of life and then find ways to put it into your writing. For me, humor is often found in my main characters’ inner monologues (their reactions to things) and in the dialogue. I love writing banter between good friends. So, essentially, I find that using voice for humor is really effective. And the one thing that always guides me is my own hypothetical reaction to situations. “How would I react if my pants fell down in front of my crush?” It wouldn’t just be “embarrassing.” It would be “I felt every cell in my body light on fire and I wanted to hurl myself off a cliff.” Right? The details make everything better.
What are you reading, or otherwise currently obsessed with?
I just finished the YA Grace and the Fever by Zan Romanoff and OH MY GOD it was so good. I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s about a girl who is a HUGE fan of a boy band and then finds herself becoming a part of their actual lives. It’s not silly at all, it’s very sensitive and beautifully written. Anyone part of a fandom will immediately recognize themselves in Grace. It’s also swoony, which is always a plus. I’m also obsessed with Wonder Woman
which made me tear up in the first two seconds, cheer out loud in her first fight, and cry at the end. It’s so, so good, and exactly what women needed right now. Watching a strong woman kick butt for real.
What has been your most rewarding experience as an author so far?
Whenever a reader emails/DMs/says to me in person, “I’m so glad to read an Asian American main character like me in a book.” It makes me want to cry every single time. I know what that desire feels like.
What’s one steadfast piece of advice you would give to other writers working toward publication?
Keep the momentum and finish something—don’t get stymied by self-doubt or other people or the market or trends, etc. The first step towards publication is the finished piece. That’s it. You don’t have to write everyday, but you have to finish it. Do whatever it takes!
HUGE thanks to Maurene for taking the time to answer these questions, and for giving us some actionable tips on how to tackle romantic arcs, keep the middle interesting, and injecting humor through voice! I Believe in a Thing Called Love is the perfect summer book! Be sure to add it to your Goodreads list, or order your copy RIGHT NOW from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local indie.
If you benefited from any of Maurene's interview, or if you just want to tell her how much you love (or are looking forward to reading!) I Believe in a Thing Called Love, please hop on over to Twitter to tweet Maurene directly at @mauxbot. And for more information, check out her super cute author website at maurenegoo.com.