Author Katie M. Stout talks about writing her upcoming YA debut novel, Hello, I Love You, a story about a teen who escapes to a boarding school abroad and falls for a Korean pop star.
BONUS: Find out what’s the original title of this book and what country it’s supposedly set in.
Tell us about the day you realized that your book was getting published.
I was in the process of moving to England when my agent emailed me and said an editor was taking the book to an acquisitions meeting. It was a couple days later that another editor decided to take it to acquisitions and then the following day that we got our first offer. My editor called me, then called again when the other editor offered, as well. It was an insane day! I was literally packing up my life and was going to leave in three days. I accepted St. Martin’s offer that day, and I totally cried. I never thought I would get published, so it’s been a totally surreal experience ever since then.
Your book had me at Korean pop star. Is there a particular Korean actor/Kpop Idol you pictured when writing the character of Jason?
This is one of my favorite questions to answer, because it’s a resounding YES! I totally pictured Jung Yong Hwa while I was writing Jason. But I love it when readers tell me they pictured someone else. That’s one of the great things about books – you get to cast it yourself!
Is there a character in Hello, I Love You that you see yourself in? If yes, why?
I think there’s a little bit of me in all the characters, since I wrote them. But actually, the one I’m most similar to is probably Jason, the love interest. …which is probably why I found him the easiest to write. (lol!) But I wish I were more like Sophie or Yoon Jae, who I think are probably the nicest characters in the book.
I’ve read on your blog that Hello, I Love You was supposedly set in China instead of South Korea. What’s the story behind the change?
Yes, the book was originally set in China and had a different title: From China, With Love (a play off the James Bond movie From Russia with Love). My editor and I decided that it made more sense for the book to be set in Korea, when it was about Korean pop stars.
The reason I had originally set it in China was because I had been there teaching English when I got the idea to write the book. I liked the idea of both Grace and Jason living in a country not their own, where they both were going through culture shock and could bond over both being foreigners. But ultimately, we decided it was a bit too convoluted for there to be three cultures represented in the book – and it was more easily explained and marketed as a book about KPOP, set in Korea.
What shall your readers expect in Hello, I Love You?
You can expect romance and swoons. You can also expect little Easter eggs for Korean drama fans – things that are often in dramas that I threw in for fun, like dramatic handholding, wrist grabs, and awkward kissing.
But more than romance, you can expect flawed characters who have a lot to learn, dysfunctional families, and forgiveness and redemption. While the book does have a lot of romance, for me, the story is less about the kissing and more about Grace and Jason discovering who they are.
Katie M. Stout is from Atlanta, Georgia, and works for an international charity that sends her to fun places like Spain and SIngapore. When she’s not writing, you can find her drinking an unhealthy amount of Chai Tea and listening to Girls’ Genetration, Teen Top, and all her other favorite Kpop tunes.
Grace Wilde is running—from the multi-million dollar mansion her record producer father bought, the famous older brother who’s topped the country music charts five years in a row, and the mother who blames her for her brother’s breakdown. Grace escapes to the farthest place from home she can think of, a boarding school in Korea, hoping for a fresh start.
She wants nothing to do with music, but when her roommate Sophie’s twin brother Jason turns out to be the newest Korean pop music superstar, Grace is thrust back into the world of fame. She can’t stand Jason, whose celebrity status is only outmatched by his oversized ego, but they form a tenuous alliance for the sake of her friendship with Sophie. As the months go by and Grace adjusts to her new life in Korea, even she can’t deny the sparks flying between her and the KPOP idol.
Soon, Grace realizes that her feelings for Jason threaten her promise to herself that she’ll leave behind the music industry that destroyed her family. But can Grace ignore her attraction to Jason and her undeniable pull of the music she was born to write? Sweet, fun, and romantic, this young adult novel explores what it means to experience first love and discover who you really are in the process.