BPM: Introduce us to your book and the main characters. What makes each one special? Do you have any favorites?
There are four main characters, Marcus Richardson, Kim Han, Tyrell Jones, and Delonte Harris. Marcus Richardson is in his early twenties during the main events in the book. He is the primary character that the story revolves around. He is special because he is street smart and book smart—a fisher of men. He adapts to his surroundings, and he knows how to handle himself around people his age and older generations.
Kim Han is also in her early twenties. She is the Korean woman who is the secondary character and Marcus’ love/friendship interest. She is special because she navigates a world between Korean, Korean American, and African American cultures. In addition, her father and mother own Sunbeam market, the liquor store/bodega which is central to the action in the novel.
Tyrell Jones is in his early twenties. He is Marcus’ best friend since childhood. He is a character who complements and foils Marcus—almost like Marcus’ child-like and immature side. He is special because he is unwillingly involved in events that cataclysmically affect Kim and Marcus.
Delonte Harris is a little older than Marcus and Tyrell. He is the neighborhood thug, who like Marcus, is very versatile street wise. He manages himself around people his age and the drug kingpins and older customers. He is the catalyst for conflict in the novel due to his unsavory dealings and disrespectful demeanor.
Those are the main characters, but a couple of my favorites are not the main characters, but auxiliary characters. Carlos Morales, mid 30s and Dominican, and Sobah, mid 40’s and African are two characters whose accents I write out in onomatopoeia. I love writing this way because it opens up my imagination comedy-wise. Example:
1. After P-nutt tackles Delonte to the ground Carlos shouts: “Towche doune! P’no!” Translated: ‘Touch Down P-nutt’’ (accentuating the vowels)
2. After Delonte swears revenge on Marcus after a fight, Sobah overhears and comes to the aid (tense moment comic relief but serious): “Don’t wahrry my little kneegas, we are all wahriahs in dis joint. I saw dat little thowg kneegah weet a blowdy mout, wall-kin’ downda street talkin’ sheet ‘bout chu kneegas. Sobah keep his peepo fram dengah, an I see da blowd on ya sheet kneega, so I know you facked daht kneega ahp.”
Translated: “Don’t worry nephews, we are all warriors. I saw that thug bloodied up, talking about revenge. I got your back. I see blood on your hands [Marcus], so I know you did it.”
BPM: What drew you to tackle the topics in your book?
When I visited my father who lived in DC in the 90s I became intrigued about Asian store owners in predominately Black neighborhoods. Since I lived in a predominately multicultural suburb outside of the city, I was used to seeing Asians, but not against the backdrop of poverty. As a youth, whenever I saw poorness I saw blackness.
More interesting were the ways that the Asians and Blacks interacted–the bulletproof glass and the rotunda. On more than one occasion I noticed that Asians brought their children to work with them at these corner stores. I wondered how they felt and would they interact with people beyond the glass.
Later in life I would hear certain family members talk about Asians selling poison to Blacks because there was a “liquor store on every corner”. As I got older I learned about the drug trade and black markets, I studied economics and some realities about owning businesses and I realized how the black market is a market, and the mentality of profits were the same regardless if one owned a store or sold contraband.
One day it hit me to combine the things that I learned and experienced into a fiction of sorts and out came Seoul Revelations. It originally was going to be called ‘Seoul Food’ because of how the two main characters got to know each other.