I’m so thrilled to have June Hur, the author of The Silence Of Bones on my blog today! The Silence Of Bones is a historical fiction murder mystery set in 1800 Joseon (Korea). It’s amazingly written, has such sweet characters living in such a brutal life, and a fantastic mystery. I could honestly go on all day about how much I loved it. But, I was lucky enough to be able to interview June, so I’ll just cap it at this book is incredible.
Before I get into the interview, here’s some more information about the book that isn’t just me gushing!
1800, Joseon (Korea). Homesick and orphaned sixteen-year-old Seol is living out the ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Indentured to the police bureau, she’s been tasked with assisting a well-respected young inspector with the investigation into the politically charged murder of a noblewoman. As they delve deeper into the dead woman’s secrets, Seol forms an unlikely bond of friendship with the inspector. But her loyalty is tested when he becomes the prime suspect, and Seol may be the only one capable of discovering what truly happened on the night of the murder. But in a land where silence and obedience are valued above all else, curiosity can be deadly.
Praise Because This Book Is Incredible:
ABA Indies Introduce Selection
“June Hur paints a beautiful picture of Joseon Korea in her gripping historical mystery…tale that touches on class, honor, the value of one’s beliefs, and the lengths one is willing to go for loyalty and family. Hur presents such a vivid portrayal of the Joseon Era that it’s like stepping back in time. With its breathtaking prose and complex characters, this mystery novel is sure to keep you guessing until the very end!” —Kat Cho, author of Wicked Fox
“An emotionally gripping journey. The Silence of Bones is a suspenseful, thrilling read, and readers will be swept away by Hur’s meticulous weaving of historical detail and the depth of her characters’ family ties.” —Elizabeth Lim, author of Spin the Dawn
“I was struck by the depth of this gripping story. … The meditative quality of the narration of this historical mystery felt perfectly suited to the Korean setting and the backdrop of political and religious struggles. Seol’s courage, curiosity, and dedication make her a character I can’t get enough of.” —Tegan Tigani, Queen Anne Book Company
“The Silence of Bones is a historic and richly atmospheric mystery that is utterly unique and difficult to put down! … Mesmerizing.” —Sarah True, Joseph-Beth Booksellers
“A well-written depiction of a part of history that we rarely see, led by a smart heroine who defies everyone’s expectations of her.” —Jackie Jou, Mysterious Galaxy Books
“Had me gripped from the first page!” —Robyn Broderick, The Reading Bug
“I came out with tears in my eyes and a weight lifted off my soul. … The Silence of Bones not only brings something fresh to YA mysteries, but also transcends most adult mystery novels I’ve read … Stunningly visual.” —Sun and Chai
Writing a historical fiction book requires a lot of research. What’s something you learned that didn’t make it into the final book, but you wish could have?
Oh, tough question, mainly because there are so many! If I’d kept them all, my debut would have turned into a textbook. But the first thing that comes to mind is the controversial ‘Silk Letter’ written by the Korean-Catholic aristocrat, Hwang Sayông, in 1801.
During this period, Korea was a closed-door kingdom, where all teachings from the West was punishable by death, and so Korean Catholics were being arrested, tortured and executed for their belief. Hwang Sayông was so traumatized by the massacre of his fellow believers that he wrote a long letter on silk, where he begged the Bishop of Beijing for military intervention. His hope was that a foreign invasion would stop the persecution led by Korean government.
I found this letter of his both fascinating and heartbreaking: on the one hand, here’s a young man passionately fighting for religious freedom and desperate to stop a massacre, yet on the other hand, he commits treason by literally asking for the destruction of his homeland.
Seol is such a sweet character, but she carries such an inner strength. I loved her so much! When writing her character, what did you consider the most important part of her? The thing that made her truly her?
Her kindness. So often, kindness is mistaken for ‘niceness’ and it’s therefore looked down upon as a weakness, especially in female heroines. It’s not usually the first thing, or the fifth thing, that comes to mind when we think of traits belonging to “strong” female character. But it was Seol’s kindness that kept her going, no matter how terrifying or dangerous the investigating became. Her courage came from her desire to protect others, because at her core, Seol is a girl with a kind and compassionate heart.
Would you ever want to write another historical fiction book? If so, what is something you would want to explore in that book?
I actually only write historical fiction! (But maybe one day I’ll try writing in another genre?). I’m working on my second book in the contract, which is another YA Korean historical mystery set in Jeju Island, back when it was considered the island of criminals. It’ll be dealing with some dark issues that occurred in Korea’s past, but I can’t share too much about it yet since this book is in its early stage! 🙂
The mystery was incredible. What was the hardest part of weaving all the threads together, to make sure it was a balanced story, but still suspenseful and mysterious?
Oh, great question. The hardest part was figuring out who the killer was! I began writing this book with no idea, so I was always suspicious of every character. And that’s the way I wanted it to be: I wanted to create a killer who wasn’t obvious even to me.
But one danger in writing a mystery is focusing so much on the investigation and evidences that you end up losing the readers’ interest. I personally think it’s important not only to develop the mystery, but also to develop the main character’s own personal story. By doing so, you can create suspense, because readers will actually care about your character, and care about what’s at stake for them.
So that’s what I did. I wanted to make readers care so much about my heroine that they’d be on the edge of their seat, afraid for her, and afraid to see her lose everything and everyone she cares about.
Being a debut can be a difficult experience! What would you consider the most valuable thing you’ve learned about it?
One of the most valuable things I’ve learned is the importance of focusing on your own work. It’s so easy to let your eyes stray from your writing—and the moment they do, all you’ll see is people doing seemingly better than you. They might have a shinier book deal, their book might be receiving more attention, and etc. You’ll find endless reasons to compare yourself, endless reasons to feel discontent. So whenever I feel like I’m comparing myself too much, I end up going on a hiatus. I log off and return to my own work, and taking this break gives me the space to fall back in love with writing again.
And here’s more about the author herself!
June Hur was born in South Korea and raised in Canada, except for the time when she moved back to Korea and attended high school there. Most of her work is inspired by her journey through life as an individual, a dreamer, and a Christian, with all its confusions, doubts, absurdities and magnificence. She studied History and Literature at the University of Toronto. When she’s not writing, she works as an assistant for the public library or can be found journaling at a coffee shop. She lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter. Her debut novel THE SILENCE OF BONES (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, April 2020) is a murder mystery set in Joseon Dynasty Korea (early 1800s), and also a coming-of-age tale about a girl searching for home. It was recently selected by the American Booksellers Association as one of the top debuts of Winter/Spring 2020 (Indies Introduce). She is represented by Amy Bishop of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret LLC.
Thank you so much to June for stopping by my blog and answering my questions. June is such a sweet person and her book is amazing, so I very highly recommend checking it out!
Thank you for reading!