Day 13. :) You all know of my love and undying support of debut Canadian YA authors, and if you're a reader of my weekly recap posts (where I babble on about my week and if I happened to get any books), you might remember last year's rediscovered love of anime and manga. When I first heard about this book and this author, I freaked out a little. Okay, maybe a lot. ;)
Amanda Sun currently lives in Ontario with her husband and daughter. When she's not busy writing YA, she's either reading YA, watching Japanese dramas, making fun geek crafts like a knit Companion Cube from Portal, or sewing costumes for anime and fantasy conventions. Her Twitter profile pic currently claims she's Fluttershy from My Little Pony (but I've seen pictures of her without the pink hair). Previous short stories have been published in the anthologies Playthings of the Gods and Tesseracts Fifteen. Her debut YA novel, Ink, is set to be released on June 25, 2013 by Harlequin Teen, the publisher's teen fiction imprint. The prequel novella Shadow will be available in e-book form on June 1, 2013. You can find her at her blog and on Twitter (@Amanda_Sun). :)
Q: Since it's an event featuring Canadian authors, I figured I'd ask all the authors who chose the Q&A to say how they would count as a Canadian author, be it they were born here, lived here, or moved here. So, how Canadian are you?
A: I'm Canadian through and through! I was born in Deep River, Ontario, a small town surrounded by forest on the banks of the Ottawa River. Stranger safety there is comprised of what to do if you meet a skunk or bear on the walk to school. One time I did meet a bear, by the way. He was on his hind legs scratching his claws against the tree bark. I just backed up quietly and went a different path to school. Never met a skunk, but I did meet the occasional fox. :)
We only had one traffic light, no buses, and everyone knows everyone--and their business. Since then I've lived in Toronto, then B.C. for a few years, and then back to Toronto. My dad was born in Calgary, and my mum was born in England.
Q: You said in the Q&A at the back of the ARC for Ink that your experience as a high school exchange student inspired Katie's trip to Japan. What first brought on your decision to go to Japan as an exchange student?
A: I started a fascination with Japan early on, thanks to a Hello Kitty doll I had. My interest in Japan really took off, though, when I saw my first anime, Sailor Moon. I started teaching myself Japanese writing, carefully comparing Sailor Moon character names with their Japanese counterparts. The more I learned of the language and culture, the more I wanted the chance to try it out. I think part of being a reader and writer is wanting to experience living a completely different life. All I did was take it off the page and into real life :D
There's an obscure New Zealand movie called Bonjour Timothy, about a girl from Montreal who goes to NZ on exchange. When I watched that, I knew for sure that I had to live on exchange. I wanted that to be me. I needed it to be me! That's when I looked seriously into exchange programs and ended up living in Osaka with a wonderful host family.
Q: With Katie, she's very much a stranger in a strange world, going from New York to Shizuoka. There's a lot she has to overcome in terms of change, such as the different foods, social customs, and the language. How much of Katie's 'first time' experiences were based off your own?
A: Quite a lot, actually, but only in the subtle details. I kept a daily journal of my time in Japan, which I referred to while writing INK. Most of Katie's cultural blunders are her own, but her reactions to Japanese sights, sounds, and smells are often borrowed from my own experiences. Katie forgetting to switch her school slippers with her outdoor shoes is her mistake, but walking through Sunpu Park as the cherry petals brush against her skin and tangle in her hair is from my experience walking through the park myself. Or, take the fact that Katie joins Tea Ceremony Club at school. My host grandmother was a Tea Ceremony teacher, and taught me the basics. So many parts of INK are real, but distorted in a way to fit to Katie's own life there.
Q: How much research did you have to do for the Kami and their abilities? Was it always your intention to write a book with this mysterious paranormal/mythological element?
A: INK actually started out as a contemporary YA. Can you believe it? :D I wanted to write about Tomohiro, this Japanese teen who wanted more out of life. I pictured him sketching in his notebook, surrounded by trees and wagtail birds. I kept seeing it over and over in my head, as he hunched over his drawings. He wanted to be an artist, but his dad wanted him to be a doctor or banker. I thought through meeting Katie, the two of them could find themselves in life. And then one day, while I was daydreaming about Tomo sketching, I saw his drawing move on the page. I was as shocked as Katie was, and I started to pursue him in my mind. He slowly revealed everything to me about himself.
When I was little, I had a beautiful children's encyclopedia of myths, including the story of the kami Izanagi and Izanami, and of Amaterasu. The idea of non-western mythologies was also fresh in my mind after books like Cindy Pon's SILVER PHOENIX. And in university I'd taken Asian History, and knew a bit about the kami and the story of how they saved Japan from the invasion of Mongols by sending a divine storm. So I started to research more, and everything fit with what Tomo was telling me about himself.
And kami means both "spirit/god" and "paper," which is how The Paper Gods came about, and provided the final connection between the moving ink and the mythology. ^_^
Q: The prequel novella, Shadow, comes out on June 1st. Where did the idea of the novella come from? Was it your idea, your agent's, your editor's or publisher's? Do you like the growing trend of prequel novellas?
A: The novella was my editor's idea, but I was so glad he approached me with it because I'd be hoping to write one too. I was surprised when he suggested a prequel, though--I'd been thinking a bridge novella. INK starts with Katie very newly in Japan--what could happen in the prequel? But the more I thought about it, the more I saw there was an opportunity to dig deeper into what Katie and Tomohiro were dealing with before INK. What did Katie do in those months leading up to Japan? How did she cope with her mom's death and the news of being sent across the world to live with an aunt she barely knows? And for Tomo, the precarious life his abilities force him into--what happened to him before INK that shaped him into the person he is now? I wanted to write SHADOW from two POVs, and I'm glad my editor agreed! It was really exciting for me to delve into Tomohiro's mind and see what he's really thinking, and what kinds of nightmares are haunting him every night.
I've really enjoyed some of the novellas out there. Not only are they a helpful series fix in between release dates (sometimes it's too long to wait for the next book!), but I always feel like I'm in on some kind of secret information, that I have a more intimate friendship with the characters because I've seen past what's provided in the books. And I hope that's what SHADOW will be for readers. A lot of the novella refers back to subtle comments in INK, and vice versa. I think readers will get a lot more out of INK from reading SHADOW, and will enjoy the secret nods and handshakes hidden in both of them to provide a wider view of The Paper Gods world. ^_^
Q: You're a debut author, Ink is your first published book. Are you feeling any kind of pressure as a debut author, or has it been fairly easy going so far with Ink's release date near the end of June? Is there anything specific on or after Ink's release that you're looking forward to, like being referred to as a 'published author' or seeing your book in a bookstore and racing over to take pictures?
A: Haha, yes, you could say there's a lot of pressure! I really hope everyone enjoys INK. I don't want to let readers down. But my agent, editor, and Harlequin TEEN have been FANTASTIC about the whole experience. TS Ferguson, my editor, is a total genius, and Harlequin TEEN has put so much care into the details of my book, from the flip animations in the corner to the beautiful covers that made me flail. I'm just so grateful for the experience and attention, watching everything come together with people who really care about INK the way I care about it.
I'm really mostly concerned about one thing--connecting. I so badly want to connect with the reader, to share that quiet moment where we both feel understood and validated as human beings. I love that moment when I'm lost in a book and I read something that I thought only I felt, and realize that I'm not alone in the world. So it's that connection that I'm really hoping for, and already I've found it happening with the ARCs of INK circulating. I'm finding and connecting with wonderful people--yourself included!--and I'm so grateful for that.
And yes, I can't wait until I see INK in bookstores. I already grab my author friends' books and flail them at everyone in the stores, so I can't wait until it's my own book I'm flailing wildly with! Haha :D
Q: Is there anything you can share about the next book, or is everything (apart from the sneak peek in the back of the ARC) being kept a secret until after Ink comes out?
A: Hmm...well, most of that is still top secret. ^_~ But I can tell you that we'll find out more about why the ink plagues Tomo and Katie the way it does. There will be more out-of-control ink and more kissing. And LOTS more Japanese food. ^_^
Q: And finally, what could be the hardest question. What is your favourite Japanese food that you miss the most, be it a meal or snack food?
A: Ooh, great question! First and foremost, okonomiyaki. Oh my gosh, that stuff tastes like magic. You start with pancake-type batter and add all the ingredients you like--for example cabbage, bacon, eggs, noodles, onions, or anything else. And then you fry it up into a giant tasty pancake/pizza thing. I miss it so much! I miss curry rice too, but I can make it easily at home.
The other thing I really miss is all the drinks in the vending machines and convenience stores. They have so many delightful combinations of iced coffee, iced tea, fruit drinks, etc. Every time I visit Japan, the first question I ask the locals is "Where is the closest convenience store?" Haha!
Thank you so much for having me on Me on Books. I really appreciate it! Yay Canadian authors! :D
Thanks so much to Amanda for taking part. Go check out Ink when it comes out next month! :) (Also, the weird thing? The movie Amanda mentions near the beginning of the Q&A... I totally know what movie that is. O_o Spooky.)