William Amos The Seed of Joy

ISBN 13: 9781517624569

The Seed of Joy

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"Trouble is the seed of joy."
Paul Harkin, a US Peace Corps Volunteer from Indiana, comes to Korea on his first trip away from home. The Peace Corps gives him more than he ever bargained for − from an inept public health official, to violent political strife in the cities, to a hard winter in a leper colony. But when he falls in love with Han Mi Jin, a troubled, politically active schoolteacher, he defies the Peace Corps, the United States government, and the Korean martial law authorities to take up her cause. Caught up in the bloodshed of the Kwangju Uprising of May, 1980, he wrestles with love and loss, freedom and responsibility.

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From the Author:

Q&A on The Seed of Joy

Why did you write The Seed of Joy?

When one is thrust into a unique set of circumstances, I think it's natural to assemble the sights, sounds, emotions, and events into a coherent story that you can give to others. The Peace Corps experience is full of source content for a good story, and a great many Volunteers have written fine books of their own. For me, Fate -- and the Peace Corps -- plunked me down into a country that was going through massive, violent changes. I wrote The Seed of Joy not only to document my own experiences but to make sense of the forces that shaped them. And to tell a good story.

Are you Paul?

Family members asked me this a lot because my middle name is Paul. But that's not the reason I chose this name for the main character. The fact is, I was reading Dune by Frank Herbert during the formative stages of my book, and Dune's main character, Paul, appealed greatly to me. He was a pampered, somewhat callow young man at the start of his story, and he grew into a man deeply involved in a revolution. Paul Harkin has no power to disrupt matter with his mind, and to my knowledge there are no sandworms in Korea, but the arc of his story takes a somewhat similar path.

Having said that, I drew a lot of material for the book from my own experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Korea during the time covered in The Seed of Joy. Generally, if the action involves the day to day grind of living in Korea as a Volunteer, it reflects my own experience. The exciting stuff involving protests and drama and the Kwangju Massacre is made up. The only exception is the massive student demonstration in Seoul that happened a week before things went to hell in Kwangju. I was there for that one. Tear gas sucks. Here are some other points:

  • Living in a leprosy resettlement village: Me.
  • Doomed romance with a Korean schoolteacher: Not me.
  • Dealing with a health center administrator who saw me as a personal English language tutor: Me.
  • Exceptional skill in speaking Korean: Definitely not me.
  • Dealing with a Peace Corps administrator who didn't like me very much: Me.
  • Being privy to the student movement: Not me.
  • Finding out about President Park Chung Hee's assassination while naked: Me.
How much of the story is true?

Within the constraints of historical fiction, it's as true as I could make it. As mentioned above, a lot of it comes from personal experience. Major political events in Korea -- the assassination of Park Chung Hee, the rise of the generals, student protests, and the Kwangju Massacre -- actually happened. Several of my Peace Corps colleagues were in Kwangju during the troubles there, and I pumped them for information when I could get it. I also did a lot of research into the political events of the time, most of which were completely unknown to us who were there. The only part I really had to guess at was the inner workings of the student movement.

About the Author:

William Amos was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin, where he graduated from the University of Wisconsin. After college, he joined the US Peace Corps and served in South Korea from 1979 to 1980. Upon his return, he earned a law degree from Loyola University of Chicago. He currently lives and writes in Boise, Idaho.

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