Have you ever written a story of your own? Even though it might not have been a long story, most people at one time or another will have likely scribbled down something. However, most people don’t think of turning those scribblings into one big complete story. One person changed her scribblings into a storybook. Her bits of notebook writings in high school are now published in the book, ‘He was Cool’, has gained popularity among teenagers. The Sookmyung Times (SMT) met up with Lee Yoonsae (LEE), better known as ‘Gwee-Yun-ee’ to learn about her transformation from pastime writer into published author.
SMT By writing various genre novels, geared towards teenagers, you have established yourself as a prominent figure among young readers. What motivated you to write novels especially for teens?
LEE In high school, I was a very quiet student who had no special talent for academics or sports. Also, I wasn’t interested in those areas, so I spent my time drawing or scribbling down stories or pictures during class. Whenever I was complimented by friends or other people about my short stories, I felt proud. I think that feeling of achievement and receiving positive feedback from others
made me continue writing short stories. Since I began this activity during my high school years, I frequently thought about stories that are much related to teenage romance. This genre, then, simply continued to appear in my novels.
SMT You write under the alias ‘Gwee- Yun-ee.’ Why did you begin your writing career using an alias and what does the alias mean?
LEE As mentioned earlier, I began my writings in high school. When I wrote ‘He was Cool’ in my second year of high school, I was quite sensitive, just as all adolescences are at that period in life. ‘He was Cool’ was a record of the many episodes that had actually happened during my high school days. Since I didn’t want readers to realize that the story originated from my real life, I adopted the name ‘Gwee-Yun-ee.’ The name refers to someone who is cute, and I took this name to refer me as an author. Using the alias, I felt like a person who signifies individuality.
SMT You have worked as an adjunct professor at Korea National University of Arts. Why did you take the position and how did it affect your work as a novelist?
LEE After my novel ‘He was Cool’ was made into a musical, I received a call from Korea National University of Arts and the school offered me a position as adjunct professor in the area of writing. Since I loved to teach students and share my thoughts with others, I accepted immediately the suggestion and throughout my sojourn, I enjoyed being a professor at Korea National University of Arts. The university specialized in the area of arts, so it was easy and interest for me to teach aspiring young writers during my professor years. This was a special opportunity to realize how important it is to consider my target readers whenever I write a new story.
SMT Recently, you wrote the novel ‘Special One Month in Laos.’ What made you write this book and what do you hope readers learn from it?
LEE I fell into a slump a few months ago, which made me reluctant to meet others and socialize. I think I started to doubt life since I couldn’t come up with new materials for a new book, so I decided to travel to a world that was totally different from my own. I wanted a life without smart phones or other electronic devices, so I headed to Laos to cure myself. There I met a lot of people, each acting and thinking differently. I realized many things from them and made great memories there. I incorporated these memories into a novel. I hope readers will feel what I felt living there as they read the book. I want my readers to realize that there are so many people with different ways of life and environments living in various parts of the Earth.
SMT Most of your novels are based on Internet languages, and as such, your stories are classified as Internet novels. How do you feel about being categorized this way?
LEE Since I make use of Internet lingo, my novels reach a wide proportion of the young readers who are familiar with it. Young people are used to Internet lingo so they are able to get closer to the novels and feel convenient. They actually get totally fascinated as they meet those in the paperback. Also, my stories are unique in that, they end at the climax. This style of writing triggers the readers to be concerned with what “ might” happen next. Also, it drives readers to want to read my next book, so the cycle never ends. Last, my novels use characters that are “cool” and live well-off lives, which is typically not possible to do in reality. By using such characters, readers can take vicarious pleasure in my novels. I think these points are my strengths of writing Internet novels.
SMT What do you think is the most important aspect of being a novelist?
LEE I think a writer needs to consider her/ his readers. To write a novel, authors must grab the interest of their readers and allow them to imagine they are part of the story. Since my target is mostly young readers in their teens or twenties, I have always tried to reveal my own personal emotions so that young readers gain a sense of connection to their lives. When readers pick up my novel, I hope they learn something or heal themselves by sympathizing with the characters in my story.
SMT What would be the most influential book that can be the turning point in your life?
LEE Since ‘Special One Month in Laos’ is the book that made me to realize many things in my life, it would be the one with ‘turning point.’ Even though other novels reflected my thoughts and ways in my life, my new novel, ‘Special One Month in Laos’ definitely triggered me to seriously look back upon myself. Also, since this book is far from the genre of Internet novel, it could be a huge difference compared with most of my past writings.
Lee Yoonsae (Lee)
• BA in Department of Theatre, Sungkunkwan University
• Author of 'He Was Cool,' 'Romance of Their Own' and more
• Adjunct Professor in Korea Nation University of Arts