Koji A. Dae is an author living in Gabrovo, Bulgaria with her husband and two children.
From Tucson, Arizona, she is not a fan of the snow but enjoys the wide variety of nature and social experiences Bulgaria offers.
Ernest Hemingway, for the way I can taste his words.
Jeanette Winterson, for her blurred lines between fairy tale and reality.
Italo Calvino, for his all-consuming stories.
Piers Anthony, for his puns.
Margaret Atwood, for her imagination of possibilities.
Youth Issues. Not your average YA, I like to explore the darker sides of adolescence, pulling from my own mental health struggles during my teen years.
Women’s Fiction. Women have complex lives, and I love teasing out all of the components that function behind a cool feminine exterior.
Light Science Fiction. I enjoy playing with the darker sides of technology similar to Black Mirror.
Fairy Tales. Whether it is middle grade fantasy or a dark adult retelling, I love the old magic steeped in ideas that have been passed down for generations.
Why I Write
My relationship with books started when I was four years old. My older cousin came to visit and started reading Little House In the Big Woods to me. When she returned home she left the book for me and, desperate to finish it, I taught myself how to read.
From that early age, reading was an escape for me. But writing… when that came along it was far more than an escape.
In first grade, I was sent to the principal’s office. I had written a story on those huge landscape pages made of recycled paper, so thin and soft, with the dashes in the middle of two solid lines. I can’t remember what the story was, but I read it to the principal and he was proud of me, and at that moment I knew I was a writer. Simple, right?
In sixth grade a family friend gave me my first journal. Not a diary, but a journal. It had a blue and cream canvas cover and plenty of empty lines for me to fill. I filled them.
Journaling was how I processed my life. Everything from crushes (embarrassingly many) to tiny, insignificant details went in the journals. From sixth grade through college I was never without a journal. During this time I suffered from some form of depression and mania. Although it was never diagnosed, never given a name, it ruled my life. And the only way for me to keep it under control was through writing. When I was depressed, the words bled out on the paper, helping me keep my self-harm in check. When I was manic, the straight lines tethered me to reality.
Although writing was not an ideal medicine, I am certain if I had not had it, I would not have made it through those early adult years.
In those days, I knew I would “grow up” to be an author. It was a certainty. There was no question in my soul about it.
Then life happened.
When I joined the Peace Corps in 2010, my writing ground to a queer halt. Short stories, journaling, all of it stopped. Perhaps I was overwhelmed from moving to another country. I was managing my mental issues with running, filling my head with a new language, finishing college courses online, and barely had any time to breath, let alone write. Tacking on a husband and two kids, writing faded into a distant memory.
But after the birth of my first child, an amazing and inspiring boy, I suffered from postpartum depression. Not knowing where to get help in a foreign country, I turned back to the one thing that had always been there for me: writing.
During those first years, I wrote Pitak Petuk and the Golem Master, my first attempt at middle grade fantasy.
With my second pregnancy, my depression worsened, accompanied by anxiety and, eventually, rage. Barely holding on, I sought medical help. In the clarity the medication allowed, I realized how necessary writing is to my being, and I determined to revisit my first-grade certainty that I would become an author.
To answer the question of why I write: it is a necessity for me. It is a question of sanity. Writing, one foot in the romance of interpretation, allows me to stay firmly rooted to the reality of my life.
Reading is my escape, writing is my reality.