Rebecca Lee’s return to her childhood home in Dunsmuir was the first step in a creative odyssey that resulted in her first novel, “All My Love, from The Land of Morning Calm.”
“After I moved back up here I had an idea that pretty much formed into a story long before I even put it to paper,” she said.
Her novel follows a young woman who “doesn’t overthink things, who lives according to her heart and wants to create something brand new from her failures,” Lee said in describing the story.
The young woman is an American named Cara, whose life journey takes her to South Korea. She decides to stay there and start over in a country “whose culture she admires and whose people she respects,” Lee said.
She called the story “part truth, part fictionalized truth, and part complete fantasy.”
Some of the circumstances in the novel have occurred in real life, Lee acknowledged, and some of the characters represent people she has met or would like to meet.
She said her own respect and admiration for South Korean culture has grown out of what she has learned by watching Korean television and movies via online streaming.
“The South Korean and Italian cultures share similarities. The Korean people have tight family ties and strict beliefs. They’re emotional, expressive and tactile. I identify with them,” said Lee, who is Italian American.
She said Korean people are also hard workers, very image and age conscious, and their culture is strictly male dominated.
All these cultural characteristics figure in the novel, playing a part in Cara’s experiences as an American in Korean society. Her independent, sometimes sassy nature and her quick intelligence open certain doors for her professionally, yet can be liabilities in her social and romantic life.
Cara adopts customs of respect that would likely be unfamiliar to most Americans and for which she is respected in return. But she also struggles with the constraints Korean mores place on the friendships and loving relationships she pursues in the course of the novel.
The arc of the story follows Cara’s experiences as they happen, involving characters that appear throughout the book but in different relationship to the heroine at different times.
Not written according to a strictly traditional novel formula, Cara’s story unfolds in a series of story arcs reflecting the ups and downs of her life and loves.
“Isn’t that how life is?” Lee asked with a smile.
The organization of the book and its descriptive details reflect how Lee conceptualized the story.
“I’m a very visual person. When I’m writing, I see the story in scenes, more or less in movie format,” she said.
She envisions the book “one day becoming a television series about the main character and Korean culture vis a vis American sensibilities,” Lee said.
Although she is not sure whether an American/Korean production collaboration is possible, she said she will explore the possibility.
“Korean drama TV is very well produced and popular in the culture. The stars are attractive and many of the shows are good, solid stories,” she said.
After a childhood lived in the Dunsmuir home her father built in 1939 and with a College of the Siskiyous associates degree in hand, Lee left Siskiyou County to “see the world.”
Study in a Palo Alto business school led to administrative office work in education at Stanford University, then in law and financial services.
Lee was self-employed as a financial planner when the recession hit seven years ago.
“I always knew I’d come back home eventually, and I decided to get out of financial planing when the market imploded in 2008,” she explained.
Her father, who lived in the family home throughout his life, had died in 2001 and she had inherited the house.
Lee moved back to Dunsmuir in 2010 and now works for the City of Mount Shasta.
She also is working on what she termed a “prequel sequel” to “All My Love...” involving some of the Korean characters to whom readers are introduced in the first book.
“All My Love, from The Land of Morning Calm” is available at Village Book in downtown Mount Shasta and online at amazon.com.