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What is the sweetest thing someone has done for you?
My husband is not a fan of dogs, dust or dog hair. And he’s really not a fan of dogs on the bed. So when he bought a tiny staircase to put against the bed so my elderly cocker spaniel Pahoni, no longer agile and spry, could climb up to our bed to sleep, that was very sweet. Even sweeter was when he presented me with a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy of impeccable lineage a few years after dear Pahoni’s passing.
How would you spend ten thousand bucks?
I don’t have to be practical and save for retirement or something sensible like that? That’s easy. $5k for a Babylock Ovation Serger and $5k to go to Scandinavia to research my Viking series.
Where do you get your best ideas?
Broad, diverse reading, fiction and non-fiction, high-brow and low, plus long walks under the aspen trees in the Rocky Mountains. Really long walks, like seven or eight miles, so you chew through all the stupid ideas for the first hour, and then you start to settle in on a couple of really cool ideas and spin them out for the rest of the walk. I get home and it’s a shock to be back in my own time and space after living with characters and story for several hours.
What comes first, the plot or characters?
For Tōru, it was the world, setting and situation that came first and drove the plot. But to make the plot work, I needed a solid understanding of the character. Once I had world, setting and situation, high-level plot and character interacted to drive the outline and detailed plot. With my historical novel set in Mexico, the plot is set by history, although of course I have to pick and choose the incidents to drive the history and the plot. But I chose the project and story because of the amazing main character, a historical woman who came from nothing and changed the world.
What does your main character do that makes him/her special.
I came up with a way for Tōru to be raised poor among commoners, but have a lord’s education and all the raw talent of a classic hero. He’s smart and athletic and disciplined. Those things make him exceptional but not special.
It’s funny, but my main character Tōru is to me the most endearing when he’s screwing up. He’s not good at engineering or teaching in a plot where attaining technological superiority is everything, he gives terrible speeches, he lacks flashy charisma, he fails to see the leadership merits of his best friend because he’s of the wrong class and worst of all he manages to piss off the woman he loves by being over-protective and sexist. He’s not a perfect modern hero. He’s got this huge job to do of saving the nation and in many ways he’s all wrong for it.
What makes him special is a certain relentless commitment to his cause, no matter how impossible it may be or how often he screws up. He just keeps going, no matter how stupid or crazy or outrageous or impossible his plan is, because there is no other option. I think Sam and Frodo discussed this kind of commitment on the border of Mordor on their way to toss the Ring into Mount Doom. He’s a hero not because he does something special, but because he refuses to give up and because he loves--his cause, his woman and his nation—in a relentless way.
A noblewoman with everything to lose
A fisherman with everything to prove and a nation to save.
In Japan of 1852, the peace imposed by the Tokugawa Shoguns has lasted 250 years. Peace has turned to stagnation, however, as commoners grow impoverished and their lords restless. Swords rust. Martial values decay. Foreign barbarians circle the island nation’s closed borders like vultures.
Tōru, a shipwrecked young fisherman rescued by traders and taken to America, defies the Shogun’s ban on returning to Japan, determined to save his homeland from foreign invasion. Can he rouse his countrymen in time? Or will the cruel Shogun carry out his vow to execute all who set foot in Japan after traveling abroad? Armed only with his will, a few books, dirigible plans and dangerous ideas, Tōru must transform the Emperor’s realm before the Black Ships come.
“Omae wa dare da? Who are you? Whose ship is that? Why are you here?”
They forced Tōru to his knees.
He bowed down to the sand and spoke in the rough unhewn Japanese of a fisherman.
“Noble sirs, I am Tōru, of the village Iwamatsu, some days’ travel north of here. I was fishing with my father. A terrible storm destroyed our boat and cast us all into the sea. My father gave me a piece of wreckage to cling to as everything sank.”
Tōru struggled a moment, the words and flow of his native language catching on his lips after more than two years without a soul to speak with in Japanese. The memory of the storm and his last memory of his father that night rose up before him.
He steadied himself as the men listened intently, their swords never wavering from his throat, nor their gaze from his face.
He chose his next words carefully.
“That night was the last I saw my father. I was picked up by an American ship and taken to America.”
He bowed down to the sand again, easing between the blades.
“This night I am returning, to look after my mother. She has no other child to care for her, and no husband to feed her. The Americans brought me home, so I might do my duty by my mother and my people. I beg you, forgive me any crimes I may have committed by landing on your lord’s shore, and allow me please to return to my home.”
As he looked up into their eyes, he saw they would permit no such thing.
Recognition for "Toru: Wayfarer Returns"
-- Finalist, Fantasy category, 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards
-- Bronze Medal Award, Multicultural Fiction category, 2016 eLit Book Awards
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