Tell me about the painting that was the germ for this novel.

I’d organized a tour as part of a teacher’s conference at the Hunter Museum of American Art on how to use art in writing assignments. We were shown several paintings and then told to choose one as a writing prompt. I was drawn to a painting called Confrontation by Hughie Lee-Smith, which showed two girls not looking at each other on a surreal and crumbling beach front (on loan from the Smithsonian American Museum of Art). The painting expressed alienation and disconnection, and hinted at a destructive past. I asked myself, who are these girls and what has happened that makes so disconnected? Almost immediately, I decided the girls were sisters, but one was adopted, Korean. The novel took off from there.

By the end of the first month, Wayne was smoking dope bought by his friends’ yobosayos from the Korean pharmacy, which the GIs weren’t allowed to enter. The stuff was weak, low grade compared to what people grew back home, but it was all there was. He’d roll and smoke joints at night in one of his buddies’ hooches while they were out in the Ville. Back in his bunk he’d listen to the Armed Forces radio play all the good music he grew up with, fixing his eyes on the Bible, trying to get past Genesis. That lasted a few more weeks until his buddies got tired of his using their hooches and yobosayos to get his stuff. “Get your own shit, you cheap lazy motherfucker,” one of them said. And so one Friday he went out with them to Duffy’s, intent on doing just that.