By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Content Agency
July 30, 2013
An American expat residing overseas in London, Kalliope Lee makes her novel debut with “Sunday Girl” (Psychopomp Press). Set in 1991 Seoul, the book tells the story of two college-age friends struggling to live with the violent attack they both survived. One of the young women becomes obsessed with the plight of Korea’s “comfort women” — girls who were forced into sexual slavery to serve the Japanese Army during World War II. The other woman seeks to piece together the story of her past, something her parents had always been evasive about. For more information about Lee, you may visit her website.
Q. What place have you written about — that you’ve never been to — that you’d love to visit one day?
A. Sibyl Cash, the main character of my novel, “Sunday Girl,” is half Korean and half Caucasian. Her father is from Georgia, and though I describe his farm in the book, I myself have never been there. I’d like to go one day, not only to Georgia, but to the American Deep South. Some of my favorite writers — William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor and Truman Capote — hail from the South and their Gothic imaginations have impressed me deeply.
Q. What untapped destination should people know about?
A. Bath, England, is a lovely city west of London. It’s the site of the original Roman baths, when the Roman Empire occupied Britain around 43 AD. The baths are still there, a magnificent complex of ruins originally built around the only natural hot spring in Britain.
Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. So many amazing cities, so few vacations. But Sydney (Australia) takes the cake. I’d recommend the Botanic Gardens. It’s so lush and exotic, teeming with flora and fauna I’d never seen before — monkey-like bats called flying foxes and leaves six feet wide. Nearby are Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, as well as the Rocks. It’s a quaint, self-contained town.
Q. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your travels?
A. The British use the term “holiday” instead of “vacation,” and since I’ve been living in London, I’ve come to see time off as “holy days,” when I can connect with something greater than myself. Through travel, I’ve expanded my perspective on every aspect of life. The world has gotten bigger and consequently, my own day-to-day problems seem not as important. I suppose I’ve learned not to take every little thing so seriously.
Q. Where is the most romantic destination?
A. The south of France is delightfully romantic, particularly during the springtime. Several years ago, I was at a two-month artist residency in Cannes. After it ended, I met my boyfriend and took the train to Nice. It was a brilliantly beautiful day. As we walked along the beach, I was reminded of Fitzgerald’s description in “The Great Gatsby” — “the blue honey of the Mediterranean.”
Q. If you’ve ever gone away for the holidays, which was the best trip?
A. London is perpetually rainy and so far north that by the end of autumn, it’s dark by 4 p.m. So during Christmas, I try to go somewhere opposite of London, where I can horde enough sunlight to get me through the relentlessly bleak tunnel of winter. Last Christmas, I went to Scottsdale, Ariz., and just sat for hours in the constant blare of sunlight. It was wonderfully therapeutic.
Q. What are your favorite hotels?
A. My weakness in life is luxury hotels. I loved Le Royal Meriden in Dubai; Hotel Intercontinental in Seoul; St. Pancras Renaissance in London and the St. Regis in Manhattan.
Q. What would be your dream/fantasy trip?
A. I dream of one day going to the Maldives. Every picture I’ve seen of the islands looks Edenic. Sometimes, when I can’t sleep, I imagine myself there, in one of the luxury bungalows, enveloped in island breezes, then swimming in the turquoise sea.
Q. What are your favorite restaurants?
A. Sushi is my all-time favorite food, and the best sushi in the world is at Yamaguchi in Port Washington on the North Shore of Long Island, N.Y. Kum Gang San in Flushing, N.Y., serves consistently good Korean food. Ottolenghi in Islington, London, has succulent, Mediterranean inspired foodie-fare.
Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you’re on the road?
A. I’m a self-professed workaholic. I’m also very regimented during the day and live an ascetic, rather monkish life. So when I go on holiday, I let go. I sleep late, stay up watching pointless TV, raid the mini-bar, have the extra glass of wine and the indulgent pudding after dinner. I do all the little things I don’t allow during my real life.
© 2013 JAE-HA KIM
DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY
EXTRA, EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT: