Michelle Kim is a Vancouver-based novelist, filmmaker, and actor. A former journalist for the BBC and CBC, Kim has acted in and produced various feature films. Her directorial debut, The Tree Inside played at various film festivals around the world and won audience choice awards at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival and the Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival in Portland. Running Through Sprinklers is her first novel.
INTERVIEW WITH MICHELLE KIM
Q: First, congratulations on your debut novel! Did publishing your first book change your writing process in any way?
A: Getting published hasn’t really changed my writing process so much as it has changed how much I now cherish the writing process. For a long time, I was really focused on getting published and there was an incredible amount of anxiety surrounding achieving that milestone that I think I took the writing process for granted. Now that I am published, I’ve come to realize that the true joy and gift is in actual writing; so now, I carefully safeguard the time I spend writing and try to slow down and enjoy the process.
Q: Running Through Sprinklers includes several references to places in Surrey. What did you want readers—especially readers who have never been to Surrey—to learn about this Canadian suburb?
A: I was born and raised in Surrey and truly had a wonderful upbringing there. As I grew up, and eventually left Surrey, I realized what a bad rap it had. I remember people making fun of me for being from Surrey and there being a lot of Surrey girl jokes—which, in retrospect, was super sexist and basically sexual harassment! When I think about it, I’m not sure what exactly they were making fun of when they were making fun of Surrey. I mean yes, there was some gang violence in the 90’s, but that was not isolated to Surrey, and yes, people moved to the suburbs because it’s more affordable than living in Vancouver. Were they making fun of people who were lower income or working class? If you think about it, it’s a pretty terrible thing to do. Running Through Sprinklers is a response to such negativity and stereotypes surrounding Surrey. The truth is, Surrey is incredibly multicultural because a lot of immigrants move there for its affordability; in way, the world can be found in Surrey. I wish people knew that.
Q: You are a multi-talented creative with a background in writing, filmmaking and acting. How does film and acting inform your writing?
A: I do a lot of different things, yes. When writing and editing this book, I overlayed screenplay structural techniques onto the novel—acts and beats—which really helped me in creating narrative tension and a rhythm to the novel. I also implemented a lot of acting techniques I’ve picked up over the years. I used sense memory techniques—such as Stanislavski’s “Affected Memory” and Lee Strasberg’s “Emotional Recall”—to remember what it was like being a kid. When I was writing about something that I could connect to in the present day as an adult, I used the substitution technique and wrote with those feelings inside of me, hoping it would transfer onto the page.