BackStory: Four Questions with Heain Joung

Black and white photo by Sooyeoun Baek

BackStory: Four Questions with Heain Joung
Author of The Myth of an Unknown Girl

What inspired you to write ‘The Myth of an Unknown Girl’?

This writing is drawn from an episode of my life as a young girl from South Korea in the 1980s. It was a family trip, and the first time I saw the sea. It seemed so large, mysterious and a little frightening to me. My mother told me about the tide but it didn’t really make sense. How could the sea disappear? Where could it go? The trip didn’t end very well either. From that experience I wished to write a story. A story which I hoped could catch some of the fleeting impressions that contribute to our experience without trying to impose or explain too much. I wrote the story as a kind of myth. I hoped this ancient form of history telling would allow me to open up and question my personal, cultural history, in an uncanny and hopefully interesting way. While writing this I felt at times that my own histories were in themselves creative acts of fiction, and that possibly all history was actually at least partially so.

What is your favourite piece of historical flash? What do you like about it?

For me, it is Kafka’s ‘The Next Village’, which was written between 1917 and 1923. What is the next village? Where is it? Can we arrive there eventually? In this piece of 66 words, I feel you can wander in Kafka’s landscape and wonder at its possible meanings for a lifetime at least. But I am not quite sure of where I would arrive or if arrival is possible? Derrida says philosophy is a form of fiction, and I think that quote applies particularly well to this piece. I always come back to this text, thinking about not only what Kafka says and the words he uses but also about that which he leaves unsaid. I am happy to lose myself there.

What is your favourite part of the writing process? Your least favourite?

My favourite and least favourite part of writing is the same. It is the moment of writing down the first sentence. It is a good promise or a key for a journey of writing but it can also be a misstep a trap or a falling out of writing.

What do you like most about writing flash?

The nature of the words I use seem to change when I write short pieces. They can become heavier, more expansive, and they seem to have more fluidity. The words themselves start to play with me as I play with them. I am often surprised when I use fewer words, they have more room to move in. I feel there can be more flexibility in this form. I can travel to the edge of language and perhaps beyond. This is what I like.

Originally from South Korea, Heain Joung holds an MA in Creative and Critical Writing from Sussex University.  She now lives in the UK. Her short fiction has appeared in the Quick Fiction app (Myriad Editions, Brighton), Virtual Zine, Fudoki Magazine, Full House Literary, and elsewhere. Twitter @heainhaven.

Photograph by Sooyeoun Baek, published with permission of the artist.  Find her on Instagram at