Steph Cha talks about the L.A. immigrant noir of ‘Dead Soon Enough’

IVY POCHODA

Steph Cha might be the world’s only author of Korean American feminist cha-e1412739533667noir. That might sound overly niche, but it isn’t. Her
Juniper Song detective series featuring, you guessed it, a female Korean PI, plays by most of the conventions of the noir genre and does so with much finesse.

Juniper might idolize Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler’s great hard-boiled detective, but she more closely resembles another Los Angeles PI — Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins. Like Mosley, Cha weaves her mysteries around Los Angeles’ immigrant and outsider communities, creating a richer and more ethnically diverse (and more accurate) portrait of the city than the average detective novel.

The third book in the series, “Dead Soon Enough” is a gritty, politically charged mystery that takes Juniper into the Armenian American community in Glendale. Cha spoke by phone about developing her heroine and writing fast.

So “Dead Soon Enough” is the third installment in your Juniper Song series. How has Song developed, grown or changed in the course of her adventures?

Song started out as this directionless millennial with an unresolved family tragedy and zero passion in her life, and then I put her through the ringer and ruined things for her even further. She’s taken it all pretty well, actually. Made a few new friends, got a job. She’s working as a private investigator now, and she’s good at it, so there’s that. She’s had a lot of illusions shattered for her, and she knows people can be pretty crummy, but she still can’t help trusting the ones she likes and hoping for the best.

You were pretty young when your first novel “Follow Her Home” came out. How do you feel you’ve changed as a writer since then?

I was 27 when it was published, but “Follow Her Home” is the novel I started writing when I was 22 years old, so, yeah, I’ve changed a lot. Almost everything I’ve learned about writing has happened on the job, some while I was writing the first book, and definitely some after. I like to think I’ve gotten better. I’m more comfortable with my sentences; my ear has improved. I have a good sense of how to structure a novel — a detective novel, at least.
I’ve also had to work on speed and discipline, since the expectation in the mystery world is a book a year, which is pretty crazy. My first book took me over a year and a half for a lean, flawed first draft, with another two years or so for editing. It took some adjustment to get to a place where I could bang out a manuscript in a year, but I am there, more or less. I’ve had to arrange everything else in my life to accommodate my writing life, but it’s worth it. Read Rest of Article at the L.A. Times Here

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