Texas Book Fest Q&A with Steph Cha

Steph Cha is the author of the crime novel Your House Will Pay.

TBF: Why did you write your new book? What was your inspiration? Where did the idea start?

Steph Cha: This book was inspired by the 1991 murder of Latasha Harlins, a fifteen-year-old black girl shot in the back of the head by Korean liquor store owner Soon Ja Du. I grew up in Los Angeles but was a child in the early ’90s and only really learned about the L.A. Uprising and the fraught history between blacks and Koreans in South Central as an adult. I heard a radio interview with Professor Brenda Stevenson, who wrote a book on the Harlins murder and its impact on L.A., and it struck me at my very core. I’d already been thinking a lot about legacy and history and the way members of minority groups process things like anger and guilt and shame (my third book dealt pretty heavily with some of these questions), and I decided to write a contemporary novel that dealt with the continuing fallout of that 1991 murder (or rather, a fictionalized version thereof). This was also around the time of the Michael Brown murder, and I just felt like the issues that caused the L.A. Uprising were still very alive and contentious in present day. I could really go on and on about this, but that was the original seed, and it kind of went in all sorts of directions from there.

TBF: What’s the last book you read, loved, and can’t stop recommending? Why is it so good?

SC: The Infinite Blacktop by Sara Gran. It was my first Claire DeWitt book and now I have to go back and read the first two. Gran is an extraordinary writer, and The Infinite Blacktop is just the perfect blend of noir and existential weirdness. I don’t understand why she doesn’t have a massive, rabid following, and I think everyone who digs her books feels the same way.

TBF: What’s the first book you remember reading? Who gave it to you?

SC: The first book I remember reading was a picture book by Maira Kalman called Sayonara, Mrs. Kackleman. It’s about a brother and sister who take a trip to Japan, in part to avoid their piano teacher. I think it might have been a gift from my piano teacher, but that could also just be my brain mushing early childhood memories together. I loved that book and have read it as an adult and think it holds up incredibly well. Had no idea who Maira Kalman was when I was a kid, but I like to think I had the good taste to recognize her brilliance. Or who knows, maybe her brilliance helped shape my taste.

Steph Cha is one of 300 authors who will appear at the 2019 Texas Book Festival which takes place October 26-27th 2019 in downtown Austin. The Festival is free and open to the public! Check out all of this year’s authors.