Exclusive Interview with
When did you start writing?
I started writing fairly early, with short stories when I was 8 or 9.
What makes writing your passion?
I like the challenge of communicating well.
How long have you been writing?
Just shy of 50 years, but that says more about my meandering path than my accomplishments.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
Relief. How naive I was, thinking I was done.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
Taro is Japan’s legendary boy samurai. He’s also the quintessential hero of three timeless Japanese folktales: Kintaro, Urashima Taro and Momotaro [Golden Boy, Island Boy and Peach Boy]. Each legend stands alone, they’re unrelated except in name [Taro is roughly equivalent to Junior], but I thought it might be interesting to weave their stories into Japanese history, an alternate history of course.
I have a strong affinity for folklore, fables, myths, and legends, innately, and for all the reasons that Joseph Campbell expounded. I imagined a parallel between the personalities of Japan’s three warlords, the Great Unifiers, and Momotaro's animal companions, the pheasant, monkey, and dog, and I thought it might be interesting to write a story about it, an update of the classics in an alternate historical context, a new legend, one that might enchant new generations to appreciate Japanese folklore.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
There's just not enough time in a day to do it all.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
There are so many other tasks to support the writing. When I find myself at a writing impasse, I read, research, and outline.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
Just write and read and re-write and you will find your inspiration.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Get busy! Time's a-wasting!
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
Of course, I do, and even the bad ones can a have a positive effect if the criticism is constructive. As for the really bad ones, the haters, it's best not to spend a moment's thought on those.
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
It feels great, knowing I connected with the reader. We all want the praise, but I get the most satisfaction out of knowing the reader enjoyed my writing.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
Absolutely. Mark Twain is most often attributed with the saying, "write what you know," and I do wholeheartedly subscribe to that theory, even if it's just an oblique reference.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
If we're talking about my most recent novel, Taro: Legendary Boy Hero of Japan, sure, I drew on some of my own feelings for Taro, but he certainly wasn't based on me. He's intended to be larger than life. Hopefully, I succeeded.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
It's an unfair question when you consider you're not supposed to judge the book by the cover, but these days, with so much competition to entice readers to the story, the cover can be the hook that gets the reader. So, while I do believe the story is all that matters in the end, the means to that end starts with the cover.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
Of course, I prefer to reach my readers through my writing, but I always welcome reader questions and I do connect with my readers on occasion.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
Proud and humbled.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
It's an unfair question because I have so many favorite authors, for so many different reasons. Robert Louis Stevenson deserves first place for being the first author that truly captured my imagination, Treasure Island the quintessential adventure story. J.R.R. Tolkien was a genius. Say what you like about his writing style, to me it conjures the epic poems, Beowulf and Chanson de Roland, but his imagination, his world-building, every fantasy writer after him is destined or doomed to make his stand in Tolkien’s shadow. What wouldn’t I give to read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for the first time again, not knowing what comes next. I was glued to those books for days, you know. So, I guess you could say I like fantasy and adventure, but I love history and historical fiction, too. And I have my writers who inspire me with their incredible styles, Faulkner, Mishima, Marquez. Their narrative makes your head do somersaults.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
I don't really dream of being as big as someone else, but I would like to reach a wider audience. I just want to connect with my readers and share what I have to offer in the hope that people may enjoy it.
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
This is a terrible question. Of course, I'd rewrite all of them, endlessly! Why do you think it has taken me this long to publish?