Interview with Hildi Kang

What do you read for pleasure?
Reading for pleasure is an elusive concept, for what is pleasurable to one would be disastrous to another! As for me, i head for nonfiction, the academic books found in the catalogs of the various university presses--the marvelous books that often get lost in the heavy catalogs of academia. Within that, I stay with ancient Asia. Favorites that i keep returning to include "Beyond the Bronze Pillars: Envoy Poetry and the Sino-Vietnamese Relationship," by Liam Kelley. "East Asia Before the West: Five Centuries of Trade and Tribute," by David Kang, and "A Korean Storyteller's Miscellany: The P'aegwan chapki of O Sukkwon," by Peter Lee.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
i grew up near San Francisco with diversity always within elbow reach, even before i was aware of it. My parents died early and i was shifted from here to there, but a small foot locker of my father moved around with me, And there began my interest in Asia. My father had been doctor on several freighters that circled the world, and in his foot locker were small items from these travels: a red cinnabar box from China, carved elephants from India, a piece of a bamboo bird cage from somewhere. I loved these things because they came from my father. Only much later did i see the Asian connection.

I remember lying on the floor with a world map and tracing lines from one captivating name to the next... Samarkand ... Kashgar ... Ula Bator ... Who lived in these places? What did they do? How did they get there in the first place? As a college student, the only paper i saved (all these years) is one on the geography of the ancient trade routes from China across the Taklamahan desert into Central Asia.

And so what i wrote was only to answer some of these questions. When i searched and could not find anything, i became compelled to dig for answers.
When did you first start writing?
i never consciously wanted to "be a writer." i've always written to solve a problem. My first five books were written to help teachers work with children who had difficulties learning. My own training was to work with children who had learning disabilities. When I had moments of success and found in my bag-of-tricks something that would reach a student, teachers asked for help in their classrooms. When i realized i was repeating myself too often, i stopped talking and began writing. Those books are long out of print.

My next two books were written a bit later, but again to answer questions that no one else has thought of. For example, Korea was a colony of Japan from 1910 until 1945. Many books chronicled those years, but they were only of two kinds--tales of the desperate martyrs or books of dry facts. i wondered about the common families that survived. How did they live? What did they do to get through such dangerous years? I couldn't find such a book. I had to write it.

and thus it goes.
What's the story behind your latest book?
"Into the Stillness" is a short diary of my stay in an ancient Korean Buddhist temple, and the first page of the story answers this question. That is, every visit to a temple was during the day, and every day was filled with gawking noisy tourists. I wanted to be there when it was a temple, not a tourist stop.

There is, however, a bit of back-story to the visit, and that is that my first love of Korea was fueled by the architecture of the temples and palaces. I fell in love with the tiled roofs, so different from those of Japan and China. The multi-raftered roofs of Korea curve upward, but only slightly, just to the point where someone called them "the roofs that smile." This love of the architecture led my to continual visits to the palaces and temples, and always with my mind drifting back to imagine the people and details of living there.

From this came my longer visit to the temple.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Being utterly stuck describing something, banging my head again the wall, and then, finally, finding the right word.
What do your fans mean to you?
i am of course gratified that some readers appreciate my work. The biggest surprise has been the emails from readers of "Chengli and the Silk Road Caravan," for it was written for the ten-twelve year old kids and yet most mail has been from adults. i think adults enjoy the story because , for most of them, the story carries them to a time and place they never knew.
What are you working on next?
I am being pushed from several sectors to write my own life story. That's hard to grapple with ... i'm basically a nobody, and work out of sheer obsessiveness.... but the simple question "they" ask is how did a kid with not much family (only my very English granny) who sank from a family of five to being so alone... how did that kid survive.... how did that kid almost accidentally end up at University ... and how in later life become a Korean specialist, writing college text books and presenting at national conventions of the Association of Asian Studies? Professors have asked me, "where did you study?" and the answer is a mumbled "I didn't. I read a lot."

How did these things come about? i'm not sure. i have to think more. and then, is it worth anything? I don't yet have the answer.
Who are your favorite authors?
Ha! I do read fiction ... but you guessed it. Historical fiction. My three favorites are Brother Cadfael (so favorite author is Ellis Peters), The Judge Dee mysteries set in China of the 600s (author: Robert Van Gulik), and the mysteries of Ancient Japan featuring Sugawara Akitada (author I.J. Parker)
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Life, in all its varieties.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Oh, this is easy. Travel, and cello.

We, husband and i, have traveled most of Europe, all over Korea, up and down across China, out over the Taklamakan desert, and when the Soviet block fell, we were able to spend time in Uzbekistan still following the ancient trade roads. I've ridden my bike across southern France, hiked in the Swiss alps.... and most recently poked into the little-known countries of Bulgaria and Romania.

when not traveling, i'm a cellist in a regional symphony.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Truthfully, i do not read ebooks. i got pulled into Smashwords by a friend who knew i had the temple story gathering dust in my file cabinet and she knew Smashwords to be the one way to get the story out into the world. Thus , i am totally new to ebooks.
Published 2016-07-23.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

"Into the Stillness ... of an Ancient Buddhist Temple"
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 3,690. Language: English. Published: August 21, 2016. Categories: Essay » Sociology
"Into the Stillness" is a short diary taking the reader into the heart of a Korean Buddhist monastery, where one learns only by watching, listening, and absorbing the stillness. Both general readers and specialists with students in high school or college who study Asia, Asian history, religions, or Comparative Religions may like to supplement their factual study with this sensory journey.