What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment, personal or professional?
On a professional level, it would be being a published author, and being able to do it as a career. As a kid, I never would’ve dreamed that this is what I’d be doing. On a personal level, I put a lot of value on being a good friend and take a lot of pride and fulfillment in being a good friend.
Did you always want to be a writer? Why or why not?
I loved reading, as a kid I read on an obsessive level. I also realized at one point, in school, that I was a good writer: but I never put the two and two together, that I could be a fiction writer. I began studying journalism but in my late 20s, I realized I wanted to write books.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
It’s different for every book, but often when I write YA, I look back on my own experiences in my teen years. I think that when you start out writing, it’s easier to write what you know, it’s easy to tap into your own emotions. Because of that, my first book was kind of autobiographical, drawing off of my friendships, and the crushes I had, and my relationship with my family. I took those elements and spun them into a book. But inspiration is everywhere once you start writing. Every book is a different journey and I can’t imagine writing getting boring because of that.
Who are some Asian female authors that you love?
I really loved Jhumpa Lahiri when I was younger and so appreciate that she was one of the first Asian female authors I read during those formative years. Recent loves are Jenny Zhang, Nicole Chung, R.O. Kwon, Celeste Ng, and Crystal Hana Kim.
How do you stay in touch with your culture?
I live close to my family, and when you live near your family you can’t help but be reminded of your culture (over and over again). I love watching Korean dramas, I listen to K-Pop music, I eat a ton of Korean food‑ these are all superficial things but if I was disconnected from them I wouldn’t feel that it was so effortlessly woven into my life. I don’t ever feel like Korea is far from me, or foreign.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Read a lot of books, and just finish the thing! Reading is the best education you could have.
If you could ask yourself any question, what would it be, and what is the answer?
A lot of times I get asked, “What’s the hardest part of writing,” so I’d like to ask myself, “What’s your favorite part of writing?” I really love that first draft. When everything is exciting and new and the book has all the potential in the world. I love digging into characters, finding out who they are as you write, and letting the book kind of take on a life of its own. All the pragmatic polishing comes in revision—but drafting is when all the magic happens for me.
What is a typical morning like for you?
I’m a late riser: I stay up late and usually work late. I take care of my cats (one of them has a morning routine that everyone on Instagram knows), then I make coffee and listen to The Daily (The New York Times podcast) then I sit down at my laptop and get through emails!
What is your go-to coffee order?
A latte with whole milk.
What, in your opinion, is the biggest problem facing Asian women today?
I think I can only really speak for myself personally as Asian women have so many different experiences and struggles. But I think maybe mine might resonate with a lot of Asian women. I think for most of my life I’d been told to be respectful and humble as part of my cultural upbringing. While I definitely find value in both, I also think because of this hardwiring it’s difficult for many of us to assert ourselves with a lot of confidence. It seems like there is something distasteful and arrogant about it. I’ve learned to claim my successes as my own and understand my own value (on both a personal and professional level) but it’s been a long journey and one that I am still on!
Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.
Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.
We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.
You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!
We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.