After typing the first draft of his new book, Paul Yoon painstakingly rewrote much of the draft in longhand in order to edit the dense early manuscript thoroughly. Yoon, Andover’s new Writer in Residence, saw the rewards of his meticulous six-year writing process when his second book “Snow Hunters” was published on August 6.
“I need to know everything about [each character], like what their favorite food is and who their first girlfriend was. In that way, it was a very laborious first few years, just trying to figure out the world I was attempting to create,” said Yoon.
“Snow Hunters,” published by Simon and Schuster, is Yoon’s second published work after “Once the Shore,” a collection of short stories printed in 2009.
While researching “Once the Shore,” which takes place on a South Korean island over the course of five decades, Yoon stumbled across something that shocked and inspired him. According to Yoon, after the Korean War a group of North Korean Prisoners of War who had been in captivity in South Korea were released to return home and repatriate. The group declined the offer and instead accepted a proposal made by the United Nations to relocate to South America.
“It was so bizarre to me that this group of people decided to go to the polar opposite side of the world and start a new life. That’s basically how I started [“Snow Hunters”]. It was all based on this fact. The more I tried to research it, the less I could find about it, so I decided to just imagine it,” said Yoon.
“Snow Hunters” tells the story of an individual named Yohan who decides to immigrate to Brazil after being released from South Korea. The book starts with Yohan’s arrival in Brazil and recounts a decade of his life in his adopted country.
Yoon said the primary literary themes of “Snow Hunters” are loss, trauma, displacement and recovery, themes that also manifested themselves in “Once the Shore.” Yoon noted that he has always been interested in trauma experienced by outsider or underdog characters.
Yoon said he has always felt a connection to Korea, which plays a large part in both of Yoon’s published works. His parents emigrated from Korea in the 1970s and most of his extended family still lives there. “I have sort of an odd relationship with Korea. My origins are there, but I feel very distant from it at the same time,” said Yoon.
Aside from reading a general history book, Yoon was mostly unsuccessful when trying to research Brazil during the 1950s. Instead, Yoon looked at photographs to get the flavor of the country during the mid-20th century. According to Yoon, examining the architecture of buildings, color palettes and other visual aspects helped him accurately depict the Brazilian culture for his novel.
Yoon said that he did not intend to write “Snow Hunters” for a specific audience or type of reader. Instead, he writes as a response to books that he loved reading. “I read books and really fall in love with them. I just want to write back to them and respond to them in some way,” said Yoon.
Yoon hopes that the primary thing that readers take away from his novel is enjoyment. He said that the wonderful thing about writing fiction is that each individual has a different take on an author’s work.
> The characters in Paul Yoon’s novel SNOW HUNTERS “find others, even beloved ones, essentially mysterious.” [http://t.co/CzcS76TErQ](http://t.co/CzcS76TErQ)
> — New York Times Books (@nytimesbooks) [August 20, 2013](https://twitter.com/nytimesbooks/statuses/369832461473439744)
At Andover, Yoon teaches two Senior electives, one on poetry writing and one on creative writing. Yoon hopes to incorporate his background as an author in the classroom. “I think that essentially what I do as an author is a craft,” said Yoon.
“For creative writing, it’s more like nuts and bolts, like a studio art. Creative writing is like a potter who has a huge hunk of clay and throws it down and spins the wheel and makes a pot. For me, I see writing in the same way: it’s a physical labor. In my classrooms, we will be learning nuts and bolts about structure, almost as if we have a hammer and nails. That’s how I think of writing, so that’s what I’m going to be bringing to my classes. It’s that crafty stuff, the crafty aspect. I take writing workshop as a literal term,” he continued.
During his time at Andover, Yoon hopes to engage in future literary projects. Yoon said that he is currently dabbling in a few things, but taking his time to start something new. “For me, if you are actively looking for something to write about it never works that way. It kind of hits you when you least expect it.”
Yoon grew up in New York and attended Phillips Exeter Academy and Wesleyan University, graduating in 1998 and 2002, respectively. At Wesleyan, Yoon majored in English.