After a few months of not writing, busy querying and biting my nails in anxiety (good news: the request rate for TTR is good, much much better than with my first book), I was starting to feel antsy and out of tune. Writing is my way of processing life, and when I don’t process things, I feel rather disconnected. I knew this, so every day I’d wonder what my third book would be about.
One thing I knew for sure: my next project would be another Korean historical, since I’ve committed myself to learning more about the history of my homeland through novel-writing. But what exactly would my novel be about?!
For a while I was drawn to the tragic 1762 execution of Crown Prince Sado…but the idea just didn’t grab me enough. I wasn’t in the mood to write about royal conspiracies; I didn’t want to be walled in within the palace. Not yet. Maybe one day I’ll write about this event, but it was ANOTHER historical tidbit about Joseon Dynasty Korea that sent the magical I-NEED-TO-WRITE shiver down my spine:
Haenyeo is an all-female occupation first spotted in the Tamnasullyeokdo (Illustrated Record of an Inspection Tour of Jeju by the Governor) in 1702, and noted in literature since 1105.
Haenyeo divers still exist today, a tradition that is dying out, and they are a band of women — sisters, daughters, mothers, grandmothers — who dive into the dark depths without diving equipment or breathing apparatus to harvest seafood.
“We go to the otherworld to earn money,
and return to the earthly world to save our kids.”
Their community is divided into ranks based on their diving skill, starting from the lower skilled ha-goon (하군) divers, the middle ranking joong-goon (중군) divers, and the high ranking sang-goon (상군) divers. The highest, most respected and wise diver is the dae-sang-goon (대상군), the matriarch in charge of the community’s security and unity.
These women, so bad ass!
The loose plot idea I have so far is that it’ll be about a female protagonist in 18th century Korea, who is reluctant to accept the role of a haenyeo passed down to her by her deceased mother, but her deep contempt for this occupation shifts as she tries to solve the case of a murdered haenyeo who washed up on shore (or maybe not murdered but missing. Hmmm).
We’ll see where this goes. Book Three, here I come. Yay!