Mae Adams was born in Korea in 1933, as the second daughter of an Aristocratic Family and abandoned by her mother for she was not a son. Her grandparents raised her in their resort-estate in the mountain village where the family retreated when the Japanese invaded Korea in 1910. Mae’s grandma gave her a pair of magic silver chopsticks as a symbol of her love and to protect her life from poison by turning its color. There was an attempt to kill her.

When Mae’s father suffered from tuberculosis in S.e.o.u.l, her grandpa brought his son’s family to the mountain village to isolate him from the rest of the family. Grandpa put him in the guest house where he lived and ignored Mae as if she didn’t exist until he died a slow, agonizing death. Mae’s mother treated her with a cold heart and harsh words. Mae was five and a half years old.  

Then, Mae went to a Japanese school, learned the Japanese language, and endured their abuse of Koreans. After World War II, the family escaped from the Communist regime, made of low-born and commoner-class people, who hated upper-class people. They took over Mae’s hometown and came after the family to kill. Her step-grandma, who came from commoner-class people, stayed behind to give the family time to escape. After the harrowing escape from North Korea, the family lived in S.e.o.u.l as refugees and tried to rebuild their lives. 

We had a chance to interview Author Mae Adams this is what she shared up with us.

Most, if not all, books have a backstory about their creation, what inspired you to write Coin for a Dream: Stories from My Early Years?

I am 86 years old. Two years ago, I wrote my autobiography, “Precious Silver Chopsticks,” which had found many readers. Encouraged by my readers, my family, and friends to write more, I wrote this second book to dedicate it to my grandparents.

The characters in this book include monks, shamans, evil spirits, goblins, kings, and queens, how did you go about developing these characters?

Some of the stories are Korean myths and folktales told to me by my grandparents who raised me, and some of the stories are what I learned and happened to me while growing up.

While writing this book, did you learn anything new about yourself?

My long-term memory is still very sharp, and I want to write until, what Koreans call “Angel of Limit,” come knocking on my door.

What are some of your favorite authors, and why do you love to read their books?

War and Peace, written by Leo Tolstoy: I read it in Japanese translation when I was nine years old, and I wanted to be a writer ever since, though it took me a lifetime to do it. For whom the bell tolls by Ernest Hemingway: I love his book title more than the subject he wrote. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo: Reminds me of the Korean class-oriented society in the 1900s. To Kill a Mockingbird by Nelle Harper Lee: Although the Korean class system vanished during the Japanese occupation between 1910-1945, people’s irrational attitudes towards commoner-class and low-class still exists, not much different from racial discrimination. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: Romance of true love and pursuit of it.

Can you tell us a bit about what’s next for you? Is there another book in the works?

Yes. A story of passionate love.


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