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Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“Mr. Woo is turning… seventeen this year?”
When the editors read Yun Woo’s manuscript for his second book for the first time, they had had trouble imagining that it had been written by a seventeen year old. It had depth, but it was dark at the same time.
“I thought that even ‘The Trace of a Bird’ was a little dark.’
“I agree. This time, his book isn’t just dark. It’s also rather strong,” said Mr. Maeng, an editor who had recently changed jobs.
“On top of that, there’s a clown character that’s seemingly irrelevant. Every bit of that book is charming,” Ms. Song. She had been working as an editor for three years now, but she was the baby of the editing department.
“When that clown first came out, it was rather humorous.”
Yun Woo’s next book hadn’t been strictly ‘dark.’ The clown and his sole audience toward the middle of the book were the two characters who were the most distant from the overall atmosphere of the book. At the same time, the transition hadn’t been jarring at all. That was how the readers were able to enjoy the conversation between the two seemingly random characters.
“It’ll do very well. ‘The Trace of a Bird’ is still going strong. I think it’d be a good idea to keep pushing forward,” Mr. Seo said. He was the sales manager.
While Mr. Maeng agreed, Ms.Song expressed his concern.
“I’m sure it’ll do well, but I’m concerned about the content. I wonder if it’d be too provocative.”
“That’s a good point.”
Everyone nodded at Ms. Song’s opinion. Yun Woo’s books were rather immersive and addictive. It would be sold well as long as his name was on the book. High sales also meant that a lot of people were reading his books.
“It’s too heavy for something written by a seventeen year old teenager. It might be controversial. Even now, there’s a handful of people suspecting a ghostwriter,” Ms.Song’s said.
“Not many people actually take that suspicion very seriously. I do agree that Mr. Woo’s age is an issue. Some readers will definitely hold a negative view,” Mr. Maeng answered as he shook his head. It made sense considering how mature his style was for his age. Aside from that suspicion, some readers were bound to have a negative view. Being too talented had presented an issue in and and of itself.
“Right, especially towards the end of the book,” the editor-in-chief added.
At his words, Nam Kyung immediately thought of the body. There was a detailed description of the mother’s body toward the end of the book. The perspective was from none other than the narrator himself.
The son ran toward the mother to grab her, but he was too late. Her body had already hit the ground, and the son was left all alone. Yet, the son didn’t jump after his mother. Instead, he stayed at the rooftop. That had been the biggest difference between the two characters – a mother who took her own life after the death of her baby, and a son who’d sent her away. The ending portrayed the relationship between the two characters in a rather gruesome manner.
“Are you thinking about revising the ending, by any chance?” the editor-in-chief asked Nam Kyung. Revisions were a sensitive matter in many aspects. Nam Kyung wasn’t quite willing to change the ending, and there was only one reason. He had been content with Yun Woo’s ending.
There was no doubt that it was gruesome and provocative, but the intensity of emotions it conveyed would definitely be lessened.
“Does Mr. Woo tend to be sensitive about getting his book revised?”
“No, not quite. He’s actually rather skilled in exchanging opinions.”
“Huh. He’s really not like his peers, isn’t he?” said the editor-in-chief.
“I firmly believe that we should publish the book as is,” said Nam Kyung.
“Why is that?” Asked the editor-in-chief. Nam Kyung organized his thoughts for a brief time before explaining. “I think that the ending is the scene where the regret of the mother is maximized.”
Regret. The destructive life of two individuals and their end. Regret tended to be at the height of its intensity when it was too late to look back. Much like a glass of water that had broken, the past was impossible to undo. It was just like rash, careless words.
The mother’s death represented regret.
“The narrator carefully examines her body. This means that he didn’t try to neglect her death. It’s a scene where they face reality for the first time after having been running away from their faults.”
Nam Kyung too had been somewhat concerned about Yun Woo’s age, however…
“If we change the ending and leave it to the interpretation to the readers, I’m certain that they’ll criticize the characters rather than relating to their regrets.”
The editor-in-chief nodded. Mr. Seo opened his mouth after a brief time thought to say, “That might actually be beneficial for marketing. Books that are more provocative tend to sell more. We can ask for testimonials from other authors also. Besides, ‘The Trace of a Bird’ didn’t read like it had been written by a seventeen year old anyway.”
After contemplating for a brief moment, the editor-in-chief nodded.
“Very well. I’ll leave it up to you Nam Kyung.”
After that and after everyone presented their concerns, the meeting came to an end.
The classroom was filled with excitement. The kids seemed like they couldn’t contain themselves as they clamored. Some hadn’t even brought their backpacks. Because they were carrying less weight, they seemed all the more lively.
“I noticed that you haven’t been sleeping as of late.”
For some time, Juho had been spending about half of his time in his classes in slumber. Now, he was looking straight into Seo Kwang’s eyes. He nodded slowly.
“It’s summer break. It’s exciting.”
“You’ve been fine for about month now.”
“Well then, I guess I’ve been excited for a whole month.”
After finishing his manuscript, Juho felt a bit more relieved. He’d been writing at night while sleeping during the day, and it’d been rather exhausting. Although he believed that good writing came from a clear mind, there was no way around the schedule.
Juho thought about the ending of the book that Nam Kyung had mentioned. He had said that he wasn’t sure how the readers would respond to something so raw and direct.
It had never crossed his mind while he’d been writing. He’d been focused on writing alone. He’d thought that he should be writing what was in his head.
He had expressed to Nam Kyung that he didn’t want to change the ending, and Nam Kyung had agreed. From then on, they’d been mostly communicating through emails regarding changes to the vocabulary, removing certain sentences, and tightening up places where it dragged on.
While they edited when their opinions agreed with one another, they exchanged opinions and ideas with one another when their opinions differed. Nam Kyung had been relentless in his editing. Thanks to him, Juho had been quite nervous as of late.
In this stage of publishing, the editor played the role of the critic with its presence alone. His sigh was enough to make Juho rewrite his manuscript voluntarily. It had been better to get less sleep.
At that point, the publishing company would set a release date and proceed to putting the book together.
Juho asked Seo Kwang as he enjoyed his sense of freedom, “How’s your English lesson going?”
“Not well,” Seo Kwang answered with a sad face. “It would be a lot easier if the word order was similar to Korean at least.”
Word order. Juho thought of the Old English he had learned from James.
“I feel like word order isn’t as important in Old English. There wasn’t really a rule. I saw different examples, like subject-verb-object, or object-verb-subject.”
“Yeah, like German.”
“German??” Seo Kwang asked as he couldn’t relate to Juho at all. “How do you even know that?”
“Fun??” He said as his face scrunched up. He didn’t get Juho.
“Once you get better and start having conversations, it’ll be a lot more fun.”
“I’m sure it will be, but I have a long way to go… When do you ever speak something like German anyway?”
It had been useful in some occasions. It had been of great use when Juho was experimenting with the limits of his language acquisition device in his head.
He’d been learning as many languages as he possibly could. English, French, Japanese, Chinese, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch. He’d also learned unusual languages like Medieval and Old English, Lombardic, and Old Nordic.
It had all been possible. He’d been able to read, speak, and understand just about anything.
However, it wasn’t perfect everywhere.
Overtime, he noticed that he couldn’t think of certain words. He knew enough for basic conversations, but he’d been hesitating more and more while writing or thinking of a word. Language tended to get lost if one didn’t utilize it in a regular basis.
“The key to learning a language is repetition.”
Mistaking that he had been talking to him, Seo Kwang gave him an annoyed look.
“You should work hard if you’re still planning on visiting your first love,” Juho added as he smiled.
“Punk,” Seo Kwang said. At that moment, the front door slid open.
“OK, everyone, settle down,” the homeroom teacher said as he walked in.
“Let’s do some cleaning before we go.”
Sounds of groaning filled the classroom.
“I guess things will start picking up again soon.”
Mr. Seo grumbled with a sigh in the lounge. The sales department was the busiest department right before and after the book release. It had to do with the fact that they often had to meet and interact with people in person.
“I’m glad it’s Yun Woo’s book though.”
“Is that right?”
“Yeah, I really love it. No matter how hard I try to judge every book with fairness, I’m a still a person. Some books tend to speak to me more than others. You know what I mean… like the kind that makes you want to recommend it to others.”
“I know what you mean.”
“Yeah, exactly. His book really motivates me to sell more.”
“I appreciate that.”
“The revision weren’t easy, I’m assuming?” asked Mr. Seo.
Nam Kyung sighed before answering him.
“No, they weren’t. Mr. Woo has such a distinct style, so I had to be really careful not to take away from it.”
“My, that’s impressive.”
“On top of that, Mr.Woo is no ordinary high school student.”
It had been a challenging process. Yun Woo was someone who had become famous at a young age. On top of that, his style of writing tended to have a lot of character. Nam Kyung liked that character. He wanted to leave as much of it as intact as possible. In order to make that happen, he had to respect Yun Woo’s creative boundaries while pushing him as close as possible to it. While Yun Woo was understanding of Nam Kyung’s opinions in general, he had brought up every sentence that he hadn’t agreed with.
It had been a difficult process, but the outcome made it worthwhile.
“You need to start getting the testimonials, right?”
“OK, break a leg.”
Mr. Seo poured his last sip of coffee into his mouth and went back to his office on the third floor. Nam Kyung, too, made his way back to his desk.
‘Who do I go to? This is Yun Woo’s book we’re talking about,’ he thought. He wanted to give his very best for the book. Like Mr. Seo, he too had been quite fond of the book.
“Mr. Uhm is a good candidate,” he murmured. He had arranged a meeting for him and Yun Woo in the past. Dong Gil would write an honest testimonial. It seemed to be in line with the tone of the his new book.
‘Maybe I should ask him.’
As he thought about Dong Gil, another person naturally came up in his head, Seo Joong Ahn. He was unpredictable, but he had recently made a comeback with his new book, ‘One Room.’ It didn’t seem like a bad idea.
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