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May 17, 2017

Badass Ladies You Should Know: Maurene Goo

Kate Hart
headshot of Maurene Goo
Sometimes you meet people and immediately know you're going to be friends. That's what happened two years ago when I met Maurene Goo at the LA Times Festival of Books -- mutual friends had assured me I'd love her, and sure enough, they were right. Fast forward to 2017 and we've shared a publisher, signing tables, secrets, good times, and even weird stomach problem remedies. I'm grateful to have Maurene in my life and I'm happy to share her with you. Don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end!


cover of I BELIEVE IN A THING CALLED LOVE by Maurene Goo
Kate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) and passions led you there?

Maurene: I’m a YA author who does freelance editorial work on the side. I had a few meandering paths that lead me here—but always there, from the beginning, was a love of books. I thought I wanted to study journalism in college but took so many literature classes that I ended up minoring in English lit. Then I worked in a bookstore after graduating with absolutely no career plans. So I applied to grad schools and ended up going to Emerson College to get an M.A. in writing, literature, and publishing. I worked in textbook publishing while in school then worked for a few art book publishers in LA when I moved back here. During all this, I was writing my first YA novel purely for fun (it was a sample for an MFA program that I couldn’t stop working on even after I decided not to pursue it). My friend read an early draft and sent it to her agent who ended up representing me! In a way, my publishing journey was both long and short. A few months after I sold my book I started freelancing and writing full time.

cover of SINCE YOU ASKED by Maurene Goo
Kate: Do you have any (other) creative outlets? How do they influence/affect your main work (if at all)? 

Maurene: I have an interest in design, and I was doing that work when I sold my book, actually (I was the design director at a wholesale art house). I’m not sure if it influences my writing, but in general, I’m a pretty visually driven person, so I have some strong feels on book covers, haha. I don't have much time for it nowadays, but my website is where I have fun once in awhile.

Kate: What's your biggest challenge?

Maurene: Focus. I used to be super proud of my multi-tasking skills (a plus in project management work), but it’s now a huge detriment to getting writing done. There are always one billion other things that distract me…and I end up doing them a lot of the time. Having friends to write with has been invaluable, I work really well with accountability and deadlines.

Maurene Goo (center) protesting at LAX with authors Kirsten Hubbard, Sarah Enni, Victoria Aveyard and Alex Kahler
Kate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.

Maurene: Very tempted to list every boy that never liked me back but probably we’re talking career related ;) Well, I’m four years between books, which is like—eternity in YA years. I took a long break after my first book when a lot of my ideas were rejected. I actually didn’t write a single word for nine months straight. I know that's “bad” for writers (write everyday! Or something!), and I wouldn't necessarily give that advice to anyone. However, it’s what I needed at the time— some perspective beyond publishing and not having my identity shaped by success or failure at this one thing. So when I finished drafting my second book, I knew it was a book I really loved and wanted to champion. It was hard-earned.

Kate: Tell us something that makes you proud.

Maurene: Anytime someone says something I wrote made them laugh out loud, I am very flattered. I’m not kidding when I say that’s a big goal of mine every time I write a book—to make people laugh. A lot. I don't know why I feel this need to be like, a comedian, but humor is something I’ve grown to really value as a writer. (I’m sure it all boils down to simple narcissism!)

Kate: Did you have any defining moments that galvanized your understanding of and/or commitment to feminism? How does it inform/inspire your work? 

Maurene: I actually took an introduction to feminism class in college. Haha. But I think feminism was a part of my life from day one—my mom was always a strong figure and she never took shit from anyone. And she taught me and my sister to never take shit (while being polite, well-raised Korean kids). She also always pursued her career and prioritized it. At first, it was out of necessity, but soon it became clear that my mom found real fulfillment through work. This was like, step 1 of understanding feminism for me. That women are equal to men—as breadwinners, decision-makers, in strength and intelligence, etc. So I’ve always fought against any force that told me otherwise. As far as how feminism informs my writing? I write about teenage girls. They  might be flawed and have a lot of growing to do, but I think they’re valuable in a world that is always telling teen girls that their interests and opinions are silly. I want to tell their stories.

Maurene with friends at boxing class
Kate: Lightning round -- tell us what you’re…    

reading: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith
watching: The Handmaid’s Tale and Strong Woman Do Bong Soon (K drama of course!)
listening to: Spoon’s new album, Hot Thoughts and the Reply All podcast
eating: I just ordered Korean food! Spicy tofu soup.
doing: A lot of book promo, haha. Ha. Ha.
wearing: It got “cold” in LA so I’m wearing my fleece and thick camping socks
wishing for: A huge fail for the proposed GOP healthcare bill.
wanting: My cat to stop bringing lizards into the house
loving: My boxing class—it’s so fun, empowering, and really challenging.

Kate: Who are some other badass ladies we need to know & why? 

Maurene: Celeste Pewter for keeping the entire kid lit community properly informed and galvanized after the election. She’s a political staffer and book reviewer and she’s been invaluable in the whole #resist movement.

Ali Wong for being the funniest Asian American woman in the world. Ok, there are probably others I don't know about, but her Netflix special, Baby Cobra, nearly killed me. She writes for Fresh Off the Boat and lives in LA and it’s my personal mission to befriend her.

Megan Nicole Dong who works in animation. She does the funniest/slightly grotesque and bizarre comics and she was recently picked as one of Variety’s Ten Animators to Watch.

Maurene at art museum
Kate: What are the best ways to support other women?

Maurene: With your money! I’m only half-kidding. Supporting women-owned businesses, buying their art, consuming their content—that’s all ways you can support women’s work. But you can also be a good friend, support them emotionally and mentally. And be a connector, refer people, talk them up—spread the word on the women you want to support. (You are the BEST at this, Kate Hart!) [editor's note: I try, thanks Maux. <3]

Kate: What is your advice to aspiring badasses?

Maurene: Take risks and don't be afraid of failure. I’m not religious so I believe we only have this one life to get shit done.

 Win a signed copy of I Believe In A thing Called Love and a button pack!


badass ladies you should know logo
Maurene Goo is the YA author of Since You Asked and I Believe in a Thing Called Love. She grew up in a Los Angeles suburb surrounded by floral wallpaper and piles of books. Before publishing her first novel, she worked in both textbook and art book publishing. She also has very strong feelings about tacos and houseplants and lives in Los Angeles.

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preorder I Believe In A Thing Called Love:
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  1. Oh, Strong Woman Do Bong Soon was amazing. I loved her whole entire relationship with Ahn Min Hyuk. Now I'm watching Tunnel (featuring my husband #3 Choi Jin Hyuk), and it's so good but in a completely different way.

    Anyway, I loved this interview!! And I totally agree on the multi-tasking, it can help and hinder in equal measures.


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