Our interview with Graci Kim takes us from The Last Fallen Moon and whether we’ll ever get a true Rick Riordan Presents crossover, to the author’s next project. Enjoy!
The Gifted Clans series by Graci Kim is a beautifully vibrant world full of magic and mythology, steeped in Korean culture and bursting at the seams with the most delicious food you’ve ever read about.
Book 1 in the trilogy, The Last Fallen Star, introduces us to Riley Oh, who’s been adopted into a magical family of healers. While she doesn’t have any powers herself, that hasn’t stopped her from studying everything there is to know about Gom traditions.
A lot of things go wrong for Riley in the first book, but these series of events also open up the world in a way she never thought possible. When we find Riley again in The Last Fallen Moon (June 14), we see her dealing with the consequences of her actions.
Like the Fallen Moon to the Fallen Star, the second book in the Gifted Clans series is a perfect companion to the first. This one takes Riley to the Spiritrealm, where she hopes to fix what she’s broken and prove to her family that she belongs in this magical world she’s always called home.
On Prophecy Radio, our Percy Jackson/Rick Riordan Presents podcast, we had the extreme pleasure of conducting this Graci Kim interview and talking about her writing process, what we can expect in Fallen Moon, and even what projects she has coming up next.
You’ll also learn the answers to such questions as, “Will there ever be a full-blown Rick Riordan Presents crossover series?” “Who is your Greek godly parent?” and “What is your favorite cooking competition show?”
Below is Prophecy Radio episode #36, “Beautiful Chaos,” which features a full discussion of The Last Fallen Star (with a designated spoiler section), as well as our Graci Kim interview for The Last Fallen Moon‘s release. Beneath that is a partial transcript of the conversation, highlighting the author’s answers to our more specific Fallen Moon questions.
You’ll find some delightful stories, a few wonderful pieces of advice, and plenty to look forward to from Graci Kim’s upcoming projects. Enjoy!
Graci Kim interview
When you set out to write this series, did you have any particular goals, either personally or professionally, that you really specifically wanted to accomplish?
Personally? Absolutely. It was only until I became an adult that I realized that all these books I devoured and absolutely adored as a child didn’t have my representation in them, and only realizing later that that had made me feel invisible. At the time, because by virtue of being invisible, you do not consider yourself as a valid, existing presence, and so I didn’t even know that I was invisible until later. So for me, personally, I really wanted to let my teen-year-old self be seen. For her to read these books and see herself, and know that she is valuable and worthy, and that her voice can be heard and that she deserves to be a hero of her own story, too. You know, that, personally, to me was everything.
And professionally? It’s funny because, as a newbie writer, you just don’t know anything. You write words, but in terms of industry knowledge, it’s what you gain as you go through it. So, at the beginning, you think you know what success means, but these are all external validations of success, and markers that somebody else has decided for you. And, honestly, going into it, I didn’t know what the expectations on me were—my own or my publisher’s or anyone’s, or if people even had expectations. And if I’m being totally honest and vulnerable, when the book first came out last year—the first book, The Last Fallen Star—I remember going through a real lull, feeling really low afterwards, because I had felt like I had failed. But when I asked myself, “Failed against what objective? What expectation?” I couldn’t tell you what. And I think part of that was because I didn’t know. I didn’t know what, in my own mind, success looked like. And I was only pegging it on these external things that you hear from other writers or you hear in media is a sign of success. People ask you, “What do you do?” “Oh, I write children’s books.” “Oh, so you’re like J.K. Rowling!” Um, no? In many ways, but no. And so, you know, if you don’t have your own theme park that maybe you failed. So it was a big journey for me. Now, I realize—I’m still learning—I realize you have to decide what success means to you, professionally. And to me, right now, as long as I can continue writing these stories for, not just my teen-year-old self, but for all kids—kids of all ages, I should say—if I can continue sharing my imagination and stories with other people, and that is received and welcomed and encouraged for me to create more, that to me is the ultimate success. And if I think about it like that, then I guess, so far, I’ve been pretty successful!
I don’t think it’s super uncommon for authors to find the second book in a trilogy to be kind of tricky to write. Did you find that to be the case with this book, and was there any part that you particularly struggled with?
I find that really interesting because I’ve also heard the second book syndrome be talked about so much between my writer friends. The second book, for me, came so easily. And it was because, I think, in my head, it was almost an extension of the first book. It was just waiting to be put down on paper, but I knew exactly what it was going to look like. In saying that, I’m currently working on the third book, and [long, exasperated sigh] I have no words to describe the pain that I am experiencing. So, perhaps it was just delayed for me for the next book. Yeah, the struggle is real.
One of the aspects of these books that I really love is Riley and Hattie’s relationship because it’s really loving and honest, but it’s also not perfect. Is that based on any of your own family dynamics?
I’m the eldest of three girls. I have two younger sisters, and they are my best friends. I absolutely adore everything about them. And yes, I think—perhaps not so much openly, like consciously—but I think subconsciously, for sure, I’ve pulled from my own relationship with my sisters. My parents often joke that it’s incredible how one factory can create three such different products. Because the three of us are so different. You could not find three people more different in terms of personalities. We are three completely different humans. And that, to me, is fascinating to think about, and use—I guess!—as fodder for characters. There’s so much there to work with! I can’t say that relationship between Riley and Hattie is very clearly one person or another, but definitely traits or things that have happened in the past or personalities. I’m sure I have pulled from my sisters.
Your books are full of such interesting food! In The Last Fallen Moon, there’s the everyflavor cake, and I need this to be real. What’s your process for coming up with foods that don’t exist in our world, and making them really interesting and kind of stick out in the books?
Yes, food is life, and life is food. I put a lot of pressure on myself when there’s food-related parts of the book. It’s funny because in The Last Fallen Moon, I don’t remember putting a lot of effort into creating foods. There’s a scene in the book where they’re in this—this is not a spoiler, I guess I can mention it—there’s a forest-type place where everything is edible. And that, to me, was just a collection of all the different things I like to eat and just put in one place. So, that wasn’t too difficult. The everyflavor cake, actually, was something I wanted to include in a short story that I wrote for the Cursed Carnival anthology of the Rick Riordan Presents authors. And in that, Riley and Hattie go to this Gifted carnival, which comes every year—which is a normal carnival except with magic—and I really, really wanted to go there myself. Not for the rides, honestly, or the shows, but for the food! And I probably spent weeks just thinking about what could be there. And it wasn’t easy! I don’t know why, but I guess I wanted to make it really special, and there were just so many different possibilities. But the everyflavor cake came out of that thinking process because I love cake, but I get really full of cake. And then you’ve only had one flavor and then you think, “Well, that’s a shame because I’d like a few more cakes, but I can’t fit them in.” And so I thought how cool would it be if you could have just one cake but have all the flavors imaginable. And an everyflavor cake does that. Every mouthful gives you a different flavor each time.
Enjoying our Graci Kim interview? Check out our interview with Ballad & Dagger author Daniel José Older
In this book, you came up with basically the idea to restructure the hells, and I was just wondering if that’s because the originals were a little too scary—because they do sound kind of scary and violent for a children’s book—or if it was just a fun way to kind of reimagine this part of mythology.
I think it’s caught somewhere in the middle, actually. It wasn’t so much trying to make it more palatable for a younger audience because I’m always surprised at how resilient young people are. You can really discuss some—what, to me, is—really scary, frightening stuff in books so openly. So, it wasn’t so much for the audience but for me. [Laughs] I find this whole idea of crime and punishment in the afterlife and traditional Korean belief that you have to go through these hells to basically do penance for what you did wrong in life, I find that terrifying. And I also don’t personally subscribe to it. I don’t think punishment is the right way for anything, really. And so, I was trying to reimagine the afterlife through traditional Korean lens that if I were on the hot seat of restructuring how it would look, obviously there’s food involved, always. There’s animals involved, always. So, yeah, I made it more palatable, for sure, but for me. Not so much for my audience!
There is one line about various hells and underworlds and that sort of thing, and that leads me to this last question, which is: Have you and Rick or any of the other Rick Riordan Presents authors ever talked about a shared universe? Because there’s been hints in some of the other books that maybe things are a little more connected!
Wouldn’t that be amazing? Wouldn’t that be the most incredible playground to play in? Oh, my goodness. It has been discussed. And I think most of the time what happens is people’s minds break and it fizzles out into this goo of ideas. But I think what ended up resulting was the Cursed Carnival anthology. And for those who’ve read it, you may have noticed a thread that goes through many of the stories. And I think that’s probably, at this stage, the closest we’ll get to a shared universe of sorts.
I know this is a long way off—we have The Last Fallen Moon coming out June 14—but is there anything you can tease us about The Last Fallen Realm?
Ooh! Okay. Well, considering that I’m painfully trying to write it, who knows what may change? But I can say that in The Last Fallen Star, the story is set in L.A., right? And in The Last Fallen Moon, the story is set in, predominantly, the underworld, which looks and feels interestingly a lot like New York. In the third book, it will be set in what feels like—so I won’t say necessarily—but what feels like a very shiny city in the U.S. with lots of casinos.
In addition in The Last Fallen Realm, do you have any other projects coming up that you’d like to let people know about?
Oh, I’m currently working on a new middle grade series. I don’t think I can say too much about it, but what can I say? Ah! You know what I can say? The reason that dreams are so front of mind, and I mentioned Morpheus before, and all those questions I mentioned before about “What are dreams? Why do we have them? Do they signify something deeper?” Those are involved in this new series.
I am very much looking forward to this.
Really? Oh, okay, that makes me really happy to hear, actually. I really do have this obsession with dreams. I just think sleep is fascinating because we sleep for a third of our lives. By the time you’re 90, that’s 30 years we spend in bed with our eyes closed, unconscious. That is a lot of time! And we don’t, despite cutting edge science and what have you, we have no idea what happens to us when we sleep. Not really. And why. Or where we go. Do we go anywhere? Why are we knocked out for a third of our lives? I just find this whole thing fascinating, and every time I talk about how I find this fascinating with my sisters or my husband or anyone who I can stop to listen to me ramble, they don’t find it fascinating. And I don’t understand why. I’m like, “Why not? It’s so weird! It’s like a third of your life that’s been taken away. Don’t you feel like you want to know what the truth is behind this missing third of our lives?” And they say, “No.” So, I am so glad to hear that there are people out there who find that interesting, and hopefully maybe my new series will answer some of our questions for us.
‘The Last Fallen Moon’ published on June 14, 2022
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