My first novel, Wait Until Twilight, has been released this summer. It’s a southern gothic/coming of age tale but it was the southern aspect that seemed prominent while I wrote it. All the elements are there. The country roads, hot humid summers, the kind of rundown beauty one might imagine of a small southern town. But the one thing I shifted into an alternate reality was the language. I instinctively kept the drawl scaled down even though from an experiential reality, and if anyone has spent time in the rural deep south they know the drawl is thick and it’s real. I think it reflects the “Southerness” in me. Being Korean American, I don’t think that would register immediately. Even the drawl I used to have growing up has faded after many years of living overseas and far away from the American south. But if one listens closely it’s there. After a few beers it becomes even more prominent.
To be honest with you, if one writes southern dialog with a true drawl, it can read like Faulknerian or Mcarthian hieroglyphics for the uninitiated. Something to be occasionally deciphered. Yet, even the dialogue in the most inveterate southern writer belies the drawl that’s found in the rural south. They are all toned down. This of course is because novels are reflections not of the actual world but the inner world of the writer that has been cultivated from the totality of their experiences and their desire to express this. This includes everything they’ve read, whether the bible or the works of Shakespeare. It all influences the writer. And this can be seen in the dialogue of the southern writer. I think if I’d stayed in the south instead of leaving after high school, the dialogue I wrote would have probably contained a much stronger drawl. Again it would have most likely been instinctual.
Being raised in the south is a very specific experience. No doubt even more specific for someone of Asian descent. But the interesting thing about the south is that for all the complexities many of which are dark, at its heart it is welcoming. And for anyone spending their formative years in those welcoming arms it’s impossible not to walk away with an implicit understanding of the southern heart and mind….and tongue.
I just want to thank Sang Pak again for giving me a chance to read WAIT UNTIL TWILIGHT and for visiting today!