Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Midori By Moonlight Book Trailer

I'm pleased to present the Book Trailer for Midori by Moonlight, produced by myself, with music composed by my husband Manabu Tokunaga

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

EVERYONE SHE LOVED - by Sheila Curran

My guest today on the Girlfriends’ Cyber Circuit Lit Blog Tour is Sheila Curran, author of the wonderful new novel, EVERYONE SHE LOVED. Joshilyn Jackson, author of Gods in Alabama and The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, has said:

“EVERYONE SHE LOVED is peopled with women of strong appetites---for love, for sex, for food---and Sheila Curran has amazing insight into the love-hate relationship that women have with each other and their own bodies. Curran is a beautiful writer, both witty and evocative, and she knows how to keep a reader riveted. I was up way past my bedtime, unable to stop turning pages. I had to know what happened to this family and their tight-bound troupe of friends as they meddled and muddled toward hope and new beginnings in the wake devastating loss. I fell in love with them all, from artistic, earthy Lucy, to broken little Tessa, to the oh-so-tightly-wound and mercurial Clover. Read this book, then pass it on to your dearest friend. She’ll thank you.”

Sheila stopped by to answer a few questions.

What was the inspiration behind the writing of EVERYONE SHE LOVED?

I wrote an article for McCall’s magazine about two little girls whose parents died unexpectedly within months of each other. These children were lucky, because their mother had asked her best friends to agree to be their guardians if anything should happen. However, in many states, unless you specify in writing who will take your children, they will be sent to foster care. I was talking to a dear friend about the difficulty of trying to decide which couple I knew could take over for my husband and I. Suddenly, it occurred to me that something EVEN worse could happen. If my husband were to survive me and marry on the rebound, he might not be able to discern who would be kind to my kids and who wouldn’t. Into my head popped an idea: if I really wanted to feel good about his choice, all I had to do was ask that if he were to remarry, he’d have to introduce the woman to my sisters and best friends. I knew without a doubt that I could trust their collective opinion.

So that’s the premise to this novel: a woman like me, a little imaginative, a little neurotic, a lot anxious, talks her husband and friends into setting up a vetting system by which her husband’s choice will be approved or vetoed. Everyone laughs, but the sign the agreement anyhow, wanting to put her mind at ease. Two years later, she’s gone, and they have to carry on without her. Neither child is thriving: her fourteen year old is very thin, her ten year old a bit overweight. Enter a newcomer to town, a confident, lithe, fitness instructor with a degree in nutrition. This perfect stranger seems to offer all the answers, but she has no sense of humor, she’s very pretty, and she thinks she has the answers to all questions life has ever offered, despite the fact that she is ten years younger than both the vetting committee and the widower.

What is one thing you’ve learned about the publishing industry since getting your first book deal?
That a book has a very short time in which to make it or break it, and that most authors have to do all their own publicity unless they have hundreds of loyal fans willing to spread the word about their book.

How do you approach writing your novel? Do you outline the plot? Start with a character or...?

I start with a character, and a sort of question that the plot will eventually help answer.

Who are the top three writers who have influenced your writing style?

Oh there are too many to name. Plus I’m not certain whether the writers I admire have really influenced me, despite their excellence. I think I write a little bit like Zadie Smith, Diane Johnston and Claire Messud, in that I write fairly intricate domestic novels with lots of personal observations on character and on social norms…But the writers I adore? William Styron, Wallace Stegner, John Le Carre, Mary Doria Russell, Elizabeth George, Virginia Woolf, George Elliot, the Brontes, Jane Austen, Trollope, John Fowles and Kaye Gibbons. And that’s just off the top of my head. Oh, Geraldine Brooks, too. And I won’t even name the writers I’ve been blurbed by because that’d be way TOO obviously sucking up. There are probably billions of writers I’ve forgotten, like Charles Frazier, Anna Akmatove, Dostoyesvski, Tolstoy, Turgeneve, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

What is your writing schedule like?

9-3 with a break for exercising and lunch.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? I read, walk, and watch movies.

What is your advice for those who looking to get their novel published?

Write every day. Make your goal at least one page a day, no matter how bad, or one hour a day, even if all you do is sit and stare at your screen.

Find out more about Sheila at her Web site. We wish her the best of luck with EVERYONE SHE LOVED.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Oh! A Mystery of Mono no Aware - by Todd Shimoda

Todd Shimoda’s latest novel, Oh!: A Mystery of Mono no Aware, published by Chin Music Press, is a fascinating and compelling book that weaves themes of both traditional and modern Japanese culture. You’ll be drawn in by Shimoda’s spare but elegant prose, which reminds me of the writing style of Haruki Murakami.

The protagonist of Oh!, Zack Hara, is dead inside, devoid of passion, hate, love, any sustained emotion. The twenty-something technical writer trudges through each day in LA like a zombie, until he leaves his job, part-time lover, and antique Chevy pickup truck to travel to Japan. There, searching for an emotional life, Zack becomes entwined with a tragic poet, a sensual but disillusioned woman, and young people who form suicide clubs –- all propelling him down a dangerous path.

Todd Shimoda, a third-generation Japanese-American, lives in Hawaii. He has published two other novels that deal with Japan and Japanese themes: 365 Views of Mt. Fuji (Stone Bridge Press) and The Fourth Treasure (Nan Talese/Doubleday). The books have been translated into six languages with over one hundred thousand copies printed worldwide. The Fourth Treasure was listed as a 2002 Notable Book by the Kiriyama Prize.

Oh! is not only a beautifully written novel, but the book itself is beautifully produced and includes artwork created by Todd’s wife, Linda Shimoda, an accomplished artist, illustrator and book designer, who is also the curator of the Kauai Museum in Hawaii. Her illustrations and artwork have appeared in both of Todd’s first two novels. In Oh!, her artwork offers clues to the fate of Zack Hara.

Todd was kind enough to take some time to answer some questions.

What was the inspiration for the novel? When did you first become aware of the term mono no aware?
I came across the Japanese aesthetic and poetic ideal of intense emotional reaction to things (mono no aware) when I was working on my novel The Fourth Treasure. I tried to write a non-fiction monograph about it, but couldn't capture the real feeling of the concept. I toyed with a fictional character trying to find an emotional life and how/if mono no aware could help him. I wrote a short story and as it often happens, that turned into a novel.

What fueled your interest in Japan’s suicide clubs?
It's a very tragic phenomenon which I first read about in a news story. I couldn't understand the whole idea of people meeting online and coming together to commit suicide. All sorts of questions haunted me: What do they talk about? How do they plan it? Why do it as a group? I tied it to the other plot ideas in Oh! as a way of showing the extreme actions people take to emotions.

Do you feel that your protagonist, Zack Hara, has anything in common with the hikikomori and otaku youth in Japan?
Despite Zack's lack of an emotional life, he enjoys being with people in a social way. This makes him different from hikikomori and otaku who I believe prefer not to interact with people. Or at least limit their face-to-face interactions.

What character in the novel do you relate to the most?
I mostly relate to the main character. Zack is about 5% autobiographical: I was a technical writer, we taught English in Japan, both our grandfathers came from Japan and worked in farming then landscaping, we watch way too much TV. As Zack does, I sometimes feel a little numb about life but not chronically and not to Zack's extent. But I'm closer in age to Professor Imai and can sometimes feel the weight of memories and the past as he does.

Your wife, Linda Shimoda, often illustrates your books. Can you describe your collaboration process?
We work separately for the most part. I tell her the basic elements of the story and she uses that framework to work her magic. She tells me what kind of art she is working on so I can incorporate it into the story. When I've finished a draft and she has her pieces ready, we look at each other's work. It's always amazing how well it jibes!

Have you formally studied Japanese? Are you continuing to study?
My nisei Dad never spoke Japanese so I never learned it. I lived in Japan in the mid 80s and studied it informally then. I never got much beyond a few phrases, kana, and some kanji. And now it's mostly gone I'm afraid.

According to your Web site you are working on two novels-in-progress. Do you work on them simultaneously? Are either being close to finished/released?
Drafts of both Subduction and Why Ghosts Appear are finished and I'm revising them now. I worked on them at different times, a couple of years apart, but now am revising them and working on proposals simultaneously. I rarely do that (work on two novels at once) but I find it keeps me interested and fresher.

What is your favorite Japanese food and/or Japanese restaurant?
I'm mostly a veggie these days, so I'm a lover of tofu. Living in Hawaii (Kauai) I eat sashimi or fish maybe once a month, especially when I get a present of locally caught fish. Kintaro's is the best local Japanese restaurant. When I lived in San Francisco on Bush Street I loved Sushi Man, just down the block.

Visit Todd’s Web site here.

Monday, June 1, 2009

"In Over Her Head" by Judi Fennell

Judi Fennell is my guest today as part of the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Blog Tour. Judi writes fairy tales with a twist and Publishers Weekly has called her novel, In Over Her Head "A playful debut with sincere wit." A whimsical romp about a marina owner with a fear of the ocean who meets up with a merman at the bottom of the sea, paving the way for the adventure of a lifetime, this is the first of a three-part series published by Sourcebooks and is available now.

Judi has worked hard to achieve her dream of becoming a published writer by entering a number of online contests and being active in writers’ organizations like the RWA. She stopped by to answer a few questions about her writing life.

What is one thing you’ve learned about the publishing industry since getting your first book deal?
That it only gets tougher. All of a sudden, writing the book is the easy part. Then there's the promo, the interviews, time management, deadlines, looking toward the next book/contract, and THEN the reviews come in. :) But a whole lot of us are working towards this so obviously the pay-offs are way better than the bad stuff.

How do you approach writing your novel? Do you outline the plot? Start with a character or...?

I usually have an idea or an opening sentence, or the black moment or a character. I put it on paper/the screen and run from there. I'm a pantzer so I don't tend to do a plot outline, but I usually do have an idea where the story is going, so I can craft a synopsis. Of course, the characters don't necessarily want to adhere to that synopsis and that's when the fun starts. LOL. I do love following them through their world, especially when it comes at me so fast that I have a hard time keeping up with the typing. You should see the first run-through of those scenes. They typing is horrific, the spelling atrocious, the formatting all over the place... but it's out there and that feels so good.

What is the elevator pitch for In Over Her Head?
He's a merman and she's afraid of the ocean. This is invariably followed by the question, "So how do mermen have sex?" My answer? "You're going to have to read the book, but think of your mythology." Do they really expect me to spill the beans on that? :)

What is your writing schedule like?
Schedule? I'm supposed to have a schedule? It's more like, when am I living the rest of my life. With deadlines as close as mine are, I'm always writing. And if not writing, I'm doing promo. Or thinking about writing.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

You mean I'm not supposed to be writing? If I'm not writing, I like to read. I like some reality television, and I like to do some gardening, travel with my family, but usually, I'm reading.

Describe how you got your first book deal.

Deb Werksman, my editor, and I got to know each other at conferences and she said she wanted to make something work for us. She had In Over Her Head on her desk, but learned at the Long Island Luncheon that I had partials for the next two stories. I sent them to her the following Monday and less than a month later she called me that she wanted the series. A month to the date since I sent her the partials, I accepted the deal. Then the wonderful folks at RWA worked like crazy to get me my pink ribbon for my First Sale at National - they were shipping everything out the next day. That was so nice of them and I had a blast walking around with that pink ribbon. I have it framed in a shadow box, along with a cork from a bottle of champagne my Wombat friends (an online group) bought for me.

What is your advice for those who looking to get their novel published?
First, learn craft. Second, join a critique group. Third, don't give up. Ever. Not if you're committed to this. Fourth, network. Learn who the industry people are and foster a working relationship with them. Learn who's looking for what, who likes what, etc. even if you have an agent. I liken this whole getting published thing to becoming a doctor or a lawyer (or any other profession). You wouldn't expect to be able to walk into an operating room or courtroom and do a heart transplant or murder trial without having the necessary background. Same thing with publishing. Have the tools and knowledge at your disposal. ALL of the tools, from the creative side and the business side.

What and where is your favorite restaurant and why is it your favorite?

Outback Steakhouse. I love steak and Outback has great prime rib and wonderful sides. And that Chocolate Thunder From Down Under? I'm so there!

So let’s put some steaks on the barbie and then hop on over to Judi’s site where you can enter a fabulous contest to win a romantic getaway to a charming bed-and-breakfast in Ocean City, New Jersey or West Palm Beach, Florida. I already have my bags packed.

Thanks, Judi!