Q&A with Pippa Park Author Erin Yun

May 01, 2020 by Erin Yun

Pippa, a girl in her school uniform, is in front of her opened locker holding her right foot in one hand while next to her left foot is a stray basketball. Above her head in block and cursive fonts against a blue gradient background is written the title of book one: Pippa Park Raises Her GameWhy did you become a writer?

There wasn’t a particular reason; it’s just something I’ve always done and always loved. I’ve been writing for longer than I can remember—first, in old notebooks with such terrible handwriting that no one, not even myself, would ever be able to decipher it, and then later, on the family computer whenever I could fight off my siblings for computer time. 


When you’re having trouble writing, what do you usually do?

I like to listen to music and kind of just zone out. Once my mind relaxes, I can start to hear the conversations of the various characters hanging around my mind. It’s often not the scene I’m working on. Sometimes, it’s not even the characters I’m writing. But it helps to give me a creativity boost and a fresh perspective, and it lets me go back to the text feeling reenergized. 


What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

I like debating, traveling (favorite places include Seoul, South Korea, and London, England), and playing games—I’m terrible at Mario Kart but unwisely competitive about it.


Did you draw from your own experiences when you wrote Pippa Park Raises Her Game?

My mom is Korean, and my dad is a mix of Polish and Germanic. In the book, the protagonist is a Korean American girl, and a lot of her favorite things—from her love of walnut cakes filled with red bean to the Korean drama Boys Over Flowers—were my favorite things growing up as well. The Chuseok scene where Pippa is playing the card game Go-Stop was also inspired by the time when my Mom casually mentioned that my grandfather had lost a farm during the high stakes game . . . I’m not sure if this is true or if it was an intimidation tactic of hers—my brother and I always lost our allowance money to my Mom’s Go-Stop prowess.


Tell us about the process of creating Pippa Park’s character.

Even before I started writing the book, I was already brainstorming Pippa’s character. I would draw sketches of her, make playlists of songs I think she would listen to, and take personality quizzes for her. (She’s an ESFP in case anyone was wondering.) I would also just daydream random conversations where she was talking to her friends or Mina or her teachers—anything that could let me get a feel for her voice.


Does she remind you of yourself at all?

Hmm, in some ways, yes. We both burst into tears during arguments, are terrible at math, and adore walnut cakes, for example. But I think we’re quite different, as well. Pippa is more exuberant and bolder than I am, while I’m a little more introverted and dreamier than she is. Plus, she’s much better at basketball. Like, way better.