Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Nuh Mi Fi Like It, with Len Heymont

Today I get to welcome Lane Heymont to my blog. Lane Heymont is the author of The Freedman and the Pharaoh’s Staff, a time travel adventure set in post Civil War Louisiana. Born in Pennsylvania, he earned a BA in Liberal Arts with a focus on literature and history. He also holds a double minor in psychology and business. Currently pursing a Masters in Creative Writing at Harvard University, he has had several short stories published, one of which was recommended for a 2012 Bram Stoker Award.

For more info, visit:
Follow Lane on Twitter: @laneheymont 
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And find The Freedman and the Pharaoh's Staff on Amazon and where good books are sold: Jeb, a former slave, rescues his brother-in-law Crispus from the Ku Klux Klan, pulling him into a world of Creole Voodoo, hatred, time travel, and redemption. The two brothers-in-law set out to stop Verdiss and his Klan followers from using the Pharaoh's Staff, a magical artifact from ancient Egypt. Soon, Jeb and Crispus learn Verdiss’ diabolical plan and discover that he is working for an even more evil force. In the end Jeb and Crispus must stop the eradication of an entire people and each must find redemption for his own past sins.

That blurb certainly grabs my attention and I'm eagerly looking forward to reading this novel, and to enjoying Lane Heymont's post, below.

A Nuh Mi Fi Like It

First, I’d like to thank Sheila for giving me the honor of writing a guest post on her blog. Thanks so much.

Not at all; I'm delighted to welcome you here.

For those of you who don’t know, the title of this blog post is in Jamaican Patois. It means, “I am not one to like that”.  Accents are usually frowned upon in writing, perhaps not frowned upon, but are often a cautionary tale. The proverbial “they” say one should not write accents in dialogue unless you are absolutely certain you can pull it off. Why? Because, it’s distracting and leaves people wondering what the heck is this character saying.
     Considering the title you might be able to tell I’m not one for accents when I read, which is ironic since my debut novel The Freedman and the Pharaoh’s Staff is rife with them. While writing the book I wrestled with the use of dialects, Southern, Jamaican, and Haitian—most of the character fall into one of these categories. So why did I do it? Authenticity is my answer.
     Writing from the perspective, or even about, another culture must be done so with care. Particularly when it comes to those such as the slave culture, which suffered oppression at every turn—mainly Imperialism, or “white-washing”.
     After much deliberation and numerous rewrites I finally decided I needed to incorporate dialect into The Freedman and the Pharaoh’s Staff. To do otherwise would be to commit that which I was writing against—inserting my personal mores into a different culture—of course this is all in a fictitious world, but it was the principal of the matter.
     I was not going to write a Voodoo priestess straight from Haiti in a way that she speaks perfectly grammatical American English. It would be an insult to the culture and those who come to America for whatever reasons and are judged for not speaking “proper English”. Nor was I going to do the same for the main character Jeb’s wife who is straight from Jamaica. Despite the fact it’s distracting, which believe me I understand completely. It was that very reason I decided some characters needed to be written in proper English in order to allow the reader to connect with them on a deeper level. The villain Verdiss is one, Jeb another, and Crispus, too.
     Another great thing about using dialect was the atmosphere it provided the world. The culture of Creole Voodoo wouldn’t have felt as real, to me at least, if its practitioners’ speech had been written in proper English.  The same goes for deep bayou Southerners without their drawls.
     My advice for others is to consider the consequences of using dialect in dialogues. Unless it serves the story in some impactful way I would advise against it. But, if you’re like me and feel the itch to be authentic as you can possibly be, be prepared to turn off some readers. So, for those buying The Freedman and the Pharaoh’s Staff, hopefully a lot of you, be warned: Dialects have their place.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog, Lane, and I'm really looking forward to reading The Freedman and the Pharaoh’s Staff, especially having just read a novel set in historical Scotland where the dialect blended so perfectly with the story that I just heard it in my head and knew it had to be that way--that's how I tell the kids Shakespeare should work once they're used to him. And I have a feeling that's just how this novel will feel.

I wish you every success with the book's release--and with pursuing your Masters at the venerable Harvard.

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