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Professor Profile: Dr. Jina Yoo

Dr. Yoo smiling at the camera
Photo courtesy of Jina Yoo

Dr. Jina Yoo is an adjunct professor at Meredith in the Communication Department. In her free time, she enjoys playing the piano, reading, golfing and writing. She is currently working on her third novel and sat down with The Herald to discuss her career as an author.

Dr. Yoo has always had a passion for storytelling. She recalled the first instance demonstrative of her abilities as early as elementary school. One day, a classmate asked Dr. Yoo to describe a book that she had read. As opposed to relaying the story as it was written, Dr. Yoo created her own version, from beginning to end. Several days passed, and the classmate returned to Dr.Yoo and told her that she read the story, and that it differed from the version relayed, and she preferred Dr. Yoo’s version. This was the moment that Dr. Yoo realized she had the ability to craft a good story.

Dr. Yoo taught as an associate professor at the University of Missouri - St. Louis for almost 10 years. When her husband received a job at Duke, Dr. Yoo and her family then moved to North Carolina, where, when teaching an online course, she found plenty of time to write.

She began her first novel, of which she uploaded “episodes” twice a week to the Korean publishing platform Naver. After she completed her first novel, Dr. Yoo joined the Meredith faculty and wrote and published her second novel, by which point she had gained quite a fanbase. Dr. Yoo’s novels became editor’s choice on Naver, and she received compensation for her work. Her first novel was purchased by a production company, and depending on how matters proceed, may become a TV series. Dr. Yoo is currently working on her third novel, which is close to completion. Episodes for her novels are published twice a week through Naver.

As for the genre of her novels, Dr. Yoo states that she primarily writes mystery novels which are based on both artwork and her day-to-day life. For instance, many of her characters have leukemia, something that she is able to explore in depth due to her husband’s knowledge as an oncologist. She also draws from other interactions and relationships like that of her now 13-year-old son, or an advisor she had while in school. Dr. Yoo once asked her son how he would express his love to an individual, and he said “Will you love me?” She then used her son’s answer in a story where a male character was expressing his love to an individual.

Dr. Yoo says that audience members who know her personally enjoy her stories more, as they try to figure out which parts are based on Dr. Yoo’s experiences and relationships. She often receives calls from friends who ask her if a storyline or character is “based on them.” Dr. Yoo even mentioned that her students provide her with inspiration and stated that she is the type of author who requires interaction to find inspiration. She can’t isolate and remain in a “cave;”otherwise it leads to stagnation and writer’s block.

Her first two novels begin with an attempt at revenge. The main character seeks to punish the perpetrator of a certain tragedy, but later down the line, the main character realizes that what they believed about the tragedy and those involved was incorrect. The main character’s beliefs are subverted, and the process forces them to reconcile with themselves, forgive the perpetrator and question reality. Dr. Yoo wants readers to question what is “good” and what is “evil.” She stated that some of her readers are frustrated, as they desire a clear “good guy” and “bad guy.”

Despite this, Dr. Yoo is content with her story format and urges aspiring authors to have the same steadfastness. She said that if someone has an idea, they should just “go for it” and not worry about potential dislike or criticism. She encourages aspiring writers with ideas to start now, and stated that writing is by far her favorite job.

Below are links to Dr. Yoo’s first and second books, both of which are titled after the art that inspired them. A fee is required to read these books.

By Amal Heda, Contributing Writer


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