If I Had Your Face is a riveting debut novel set in contemporary Seoul, Korea, about four young women making their way in a world defined by impossible standards of beauty, after-hours room salons catering to wealthy men, ruthless social hierarchies, and K-pop mania. We spoke with author Frances Cha about her inspiration, representation in audiobook narration, and more.
Absolutely stunning . . . If I Had Your Face marks the entrance of a bright new voice in fiction.Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six
Kyuri is an achingly beautiful woman with a hard-won job at a Seoul “room salon,” an exclusive underground bar where she entertains businessmen while they drink. Though she prides herself on her cold, clear-eyed approach to life, an impulsive mistake threatens her livelihood.
Kyuri’s roommate, Miho, is a talented artist who grew up in an orphanage but won a scholarship to study art in New York. Returning to Korea after college, she finds herself in a precarious relationship with the heir to one of the country’s biggest conglomerates.
Down the hall in their building lives Ara, a hairstylist whose two preoccupations sustain her: an obsession with a boy-band pop star, and a best friend who is saving up for the extreme plastic surgery that she hopes will change her life.
And Wonna, one floor below, is a newlywed trying to have a baby that she and her husband have no idea how they can afford to raise in Korea’s brutal economy.
Together, their stories tell a gripping tale at once unfamiliar and unmistakably universal, in which their tentative friendships may turn out to be the thing that ultimately saves them.
Please tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book and how this story took shape for you.
I had always wanted to write a novel set in contemporary Korea where I grew up and returned to work after college. Working for CNN in Korea and contextualizing my articles in English for an international audience was great training—I would routinely encounter subjects and topics that were interesting to me, and would store it away for future exploration in my fiction.
In two sentences or less, what’s something that might surprise Libro.fm listeners about your audiobook?
I recorded my section of the audiobook—I voiced one of the four narrators—on the last day before New York City shut down because of the pandemic. Everyone was already working from home by then, so I walked into a studio—the owner watching me from a safe distance and saying hello—and recorded in an empty room where the director and the engineer both Skyped into my headphones.
Have you listened to your own audiobook? If so, what struck you about the narration?
I have listened to parts of the audiobook that were recorded by the other three narrators, and it was so fascinating to hear the actors’ beautiful renditions. They completely understood the mood and tone that I had had in my mind. I loved it to pieces.
Are you an audiobook listener? If so, what are some of your favorite audiobooks?
I only recently discovered audiobooks when it was time to record mine. I started frantically listening to a number of them and fell in love with the art form. I now listen to them around the clock and particularly love memoirs narrated by the writers. I just finished Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, written and narrated by Amy Chua, and am now nearing the end of Bossypants, written and narrated by Tina Fey. Both are excellent and hilarious—I really didn’t expect Battle Hymn to be so funny!
What have independent bookstores and/or booksellers meant to you personally and professionally?
Independent bookstores have been the source of all of my dreams, inspiration and encouragement. A happy day is when I visit all three bookstores in my neighborhood in Williamsburg—McNally Jackson, Spoonbill & Sugartown, and Book Thug Nation. When I am stuck in my writing, I am always revitalized by a trip to a bookstore. I plan trips around them—both of my babymoons were structured around independents that I wanted to visit—the first was Shakespeare and Company in Paris and the second was Parnassus Books in Nashville.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
All four narrators of the book are Korean-American, which was very important to me.