I was introduced to Patti Kim’s books when we were on a panel together at the ALA Summer conference in 2018 and immediately fell in love. From just reading the opening paragraphs of her debut middle-grade novel, I’M OK, I knew I’d love the book and I was right. Patti blends laugh out loud humor with such deep heart. So when I heard Patti had a new MG novel out, I wanted to know more about it.
Here’s more about Patti:
Born in Busan, South Korea, Patti Kim immigrated to the United States on Christmas Day, 1974. Convinced at the age of five that she was a writer, she scribbled gibberish all over the pages of her mother’s Korean-English dictionary and got in big trouble for it. But that didn’t stop her from writing. She is the author of A CAB CALLED RELIABLE, HERE I AM, I’M OK, an APALA Literary Honor Book, and IT’S GIRLS LIKE YOU, MICKEY. Patti lives in University Park, Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and a ferocious terrier.
And onto our interview:
Patti, welcome to From The Mixed Up Files. Thank you for being here. Tell us about your new middle-grade novel, IT’S GIRLS LIKE YOU, MICKEY.
IT’S GIRLS LIKE YOU, MICKEY is about Mickey McDonald first seen in my previous book, I’M OK as Ok Lee’s unforgettable friend. Bursting with personality, she urged me to take a deeper look into her life and character. This book begins with the first day of 7th grade, and the bold Mickey we know is not feeling so great. Ok has moved. Her dad has left. Back-to-school shopping didn’t happen. Her mom is in a mood. With such a precarious home life, Mickey is all nerves and not so sure about herself. And turning 13 is no stroll in the park. What she really wants is a best friend, and she finds one in the new girl, Sun Joo. The two girls truly hit it off, but other forces soon interject, leaving Mickey with first major friend breakup.
This is a companion book to your debut MG novel, I’M OK. Tell us about that book too and how the books are connected.
The two books are connected by Mickey and Ok’s friendship. In I’M OK, Mickey forces a friendship with Ok which ends up playing a pivotal part in helping Ok open up about the death of his father as well as helping his mother find him when he runs away. She becomes his first real friend.
What made you want to write this companion book following Mickey’s character instead of a sequel with Ok?
Mickey loves the spotlight. It truly felt like she wanted her story to be told. So many intriguing details about Mickey’s life kept emerging in Ok’s book like her many animals, her little brother, her irritable mother, her often absent truck-driving father, her past pageant life, and the sheer force of her positivity. Her need and love for attention called to me.
What were the biggest challenges to writing this second book in the same world?
The biggest challenge was keeping echoes of Ok in Mickey’s story without him taking center stage. I had him move out of the neighborhood which made perfect sense since his mother remarried. I kept them connected as pen pals through postcards and letters. This ended up working quite well since the writing process plays a significant part in Mickey developing an introspective and reflective voice. It’s challenging to strike that balance of keeping a previous protagonist in the picture in a meaningful way, while not diverting the story. I also wanted to see these kids do all right without each other. So much of growing up is being able to say goodbye.
It was surprising how much I actually enjoyed the revision process. This is a big deal because I used to absolutely hate revising. After my first draft returned with my editor’s notes, I couldn’t wait to get back into that world and revise. The sensation felt like a blurry image gradually coming into focus. It was incredibly fun.
You write about some issues that haven’t been in MG novels for a while, like dealing with getting a period. Why do think it’s important to have characters going through these issues in MG novels?
Yes, the period scene. If these taboo topics aren’t covered in books, then where? Getting my period was shrouded in secrecy and shame, and that attitude informed the relationship I ended up having with my body. No body confidence whatsoever for me at that age. I really wanted Mickey to be Mickey about her period and to be an inspiration and encouragement, demonstrating a more positive narrative around getting your period. I couldn’t imagine writing a book about a girl, especially a girl like Mickey, turning 13 without making a big deal about it. Come on, we’re talking about Mickey.
I love the title, even if it does have me singing for the rest of the day. What gave you the idea of naming the book after an ‘80s song?
Since the original song is about a guy who breaks hearts, don’t you just love the idea of re-purposing the title to elevate a girl? And it’s so catchy. I couldn’t resist.
Agreed! What can we look forward to next from you?
I’ve been thinking a lot about Sun Joo Moon. I think she’s asking for stage time. Unlike Mickey, she’s quiet about it, but there’s a real depth to her that feels worth exploring.
Can’t wait to read that one!
Thank you, Patti, for being on From The Mixed Up Files today.
Check out IT’S GIRLS LIKE YOU, MICKEY on Bookshop.org, and enter the giveaway below for your chance to win an advanced reader copy (ARC).