This month, David has challenged us to think about starting fresh:
Imagine you suddenly moved to a new school in a new town where no one knew anything about you. It’s a huge opportunity to be the self you’ve always wanted to be…
A Interview with David Yoon
What inspired you to write Frankly in Love?
I was inspired when I had my daughter, and began seeing the world through her eyes. Seeing the world through the eyes of a child naturally made me review my own childhood and all its ups and downs, and I remembered how in high school my parents were pretty dead-set that I should only date Korean girls. This was a pretty tall order since Southern California was a pretty diverse place, and as a result, I had to hide my love life from them. Looking back, I realized how strange it was to hide something so important from people so important in my life. It became the fake-dating setup that is the starting point for Frankly In Love. If you take fake-dating really seriously, especially in a racially-charged situation, then there are all sorts of interesting implications for family, friend, and love relationships.
What was the most difficult and favorite part about writing this book?
The hardest thing was to make sure Frank loved his parents. It would’ve been so easy to have him be the stereotypical teen character who just hates his parents, rejects them, and runs away or something. Instead, he loves them and wants to make them proud—but what is he supposed to do with parents who drive him nuts and disagree with him on fundamental issues like race and what it means to be American? His journey is one toward acceptance, which means taking his parents at face value without judging them or wishing they were somehow different. I think that’s the hardest thing for human beings to do, and it’s one of my favorite themes to think about.
When readers finish reading this book, what do you hope they will take away?
I definitely want readers to think about acceptance. How much time do we wish we were someone/somewhere else, instead of accepting the reality of where we are right now? How much time do we wish people around us were someone else? The opposite of acceptance is denial, and I want more people to be aware of how often our habit of denial kicks in in our daily lives. It’s a super tough habit to break, but I think doing so leads to acceptance, which is one of the most worthwhile pursuits imaginable.
The other, equally important thing I want readers to think about is the concept of whiteness, and how it is a deliberately constructed form of power mythology designed to erase ethnicity (among Whites) while creating false ethnicities (among Blacks, Asians, etc). What if the concept of White had never been created? What would people call themselves? And since all Americans have historically come from hybrid, immigrant backgrounds since the country’s very beginning, is there a terminology or nomenclature we can use to call ourselves that puts “American” first, and whatever ethnic origin second? How would that reframe our idea of ourselves as a nation?
Did you learn anything about yourself in the process of writing this book?
I learned so much. Mostly, I learned how much I am a part of my parents’ history, whether I want to be or not, and how grateful I am that they put up with so much to give me a better life.
What advice and tips would you give to young writers writing a book?
I always quote the great Margaret Atwood: Read, read, read, and write, write, write. Read everything you can get your hands on, especially stuff you think you might not like. Inspiration can come from anywhere, so try out everything! And practically speaking, write as much as you can and as often as you can. Just like any sport, writing takes practice and training that absolutely will improve your skills over time. Also, if you’re lucky enough to get a meeting with an agent someday, you’ll have a stack of stuff already done and ready to show!
What is your day-to-day writing process?
I write from morning to tea-time, five days a week, in a dark silent room all by myself, free from distractions. I take breaks every 30 minutes to get up, make more coffee, or kiss [my wife,] Nicola, who is usually writing in the room next door. I meditate, journal, and exercise regularly. I try not to write too much (this is a real thing, and for me usually decreases the quality of my prose). When the writing day is done I do admin stuff (bills, emails) and make sure to play video games or watch movies with the fam or bang on my drum kit—anything fun—to relax the brain. It’s super-duper important to leave time for play so your brain can forget about writing and focus on something else. and are proud of it, it will always be an end in itself.
Join us for summer camp!
Each of our Young Author’s Studio camps runs Monday-Thursday for 2 hours per session. We’re inviting passionate young writers to join us on Zoom for writerly learning experiences. Each camp will include lively skill-building activities, time for drafting, and collaboration with peers.
A special thanks to David Yoon for sharing with us! You can find David’s debut novel, Frankly in Love, here.
David Yoon is a New York Times bestselling author. His debut novel is Frankly In Love. In August 2019, Entertainment Weekly called David “YA’s Next Superstar”. He lives in Los Angeles with his brilliant author wife, Nicola Yoon, and their daughter. David also invented the Sorta™ notebinder, because he is, “a big office stationery nerd”.