A myth more real than history. A false past obscuring the truth. As Yui Akiko crisscrosses Japan, watching for signs of the gods' return, she recalls the days before the Great Spirits' ancient imprisonment and the war that almost destroyed the world.
Feedback like THIS makes it all worthwhile. Here's what she had to say: "I finished it and felt bad for wanting so much more. But there again, that's the sign of a good book, and well developed characters you feel like you know personally and want to share in their story and what happens to them down the line. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and felt my heart break when Botua died... the feeling of horror from Vissyus in his child-like state, replete with unheard of power, yet too broken to wield it properly and ending up hurting those he loves... Lon-Shan risking all for the job of a hero, all of it... and the entire thing wrapping up being this big massive thing that went totally awry that the big man didn't want his people to find out about through history, so instead... made up something more palatable and noble, so they wouldn't fear what lurked in the future. Oh, and the formation of the barrier by his own guardian, the entire thing was so epic... I truly can't say anything that will encompass how it makes me feel to be put back into a world that delights me this much. You didn't disappoint, but I didn't figure you would."
One of the questions readers asked me the most about Kojiki was a variation on: "what does Kojiki mean?" To avoid such questions with Torii, I open the book with the text you see beside this 'author insight'. Doing so gave me the opportunity to let the reader understand what a torii gate is and how it fits into the overall story. Mix in a little urgency and mystery, and you have the hook that will hopefully pull the reader in.
When eighteen-year-old Keiko Yamada’s father dies unexpectedly, he leaves behind a one way ticket to Japan, an unintelligible death poem about powerful Japanese spirits and their gigantic, beast-like Guardians, and the cryptic words: “Go to Japan in my place. Find the Gate. My camera will show you the way.” Alone and afraid, Keiko travels to Tokyo, determined to fulfill her father’s dying wish. There, beneath glittering neon signs, her father’s death poem comes to life. Ancient spirits spring from the shadows. Chaos envelops the city, and as Keiko flees its burning streets, her guide, the beautiful Yui Akiko, makes a stunning confession--that she, Yui, is one of a handful of spirits left behind to defend the world against the most powerful among them: a once noble spirit now insane. Keiko must decide if she will honor her father’s heritage and take her rightful place among the gods.
This is it. The very first scene my head conjured. The one that got me to sit down an write a full story. At the time, I didn't know what the final permutation would be. Book? Short? Fan fiction? Why fan fiction, you ask? Well because at the time, I'd been reading Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, and my mind was conjuring all kinds of ways the series might end. Those are seriously great books. I met Mr. Jordan at a book signing and shared some of my ideas with him. He was kind and enthusiastic, and encouraged me to go full speed ahead! When this particular scene came together, I thought, well, heck, why not see what happens. What happened was Kojiki. As much as I love fantasy fiction, my imagination and love of anime imagery pushed me in a different direction. That and my own Japanese heritage. I threw it all into the blender in my head and this is what came out! Hence, the anime-styled bubble shields, samurai, setting, etc.
This except is Kojiki's anime moment, well, one of them anyway. I've been an anime fan for a very long time with varying degrees of intensity. While in college, I watched whatever anime I could get my hands on, most of it raw--as in unsubtitled. Kojiki's really a tribute to all those titles I loved. You'll find Ghibli here, Giant Robo, the little-known movie, Arion, Tenchi Muyo, and many others. This particular scene is an homage to a familiar anime staple: the hot springs scene. It also serves as a nice character moment between Yui and Keiko and gives the reader insights into both of the girl's differences and insecurities. Mostly Keiko's. It's also a new way to frame a partial data dump and make it interesting.
This book bubble isn't exactly long or exciting, but it IS important. This is about names, most notably, the book's title. Originally, I titled my book, "The Shields of the Righteous'. My independent editor, the incredible Lorin Oberweger of Free-Expression.com, thought it was to fantasy generic. She asked me to dig deep and find something more interesting. I stumbled on Kojiki by accident. Years ago, I went to a concert by Japanese new-age artist Kitaro. It was part of his Kojiki tour. One day, while looking for music, I came across it, read the liner notes about the Kojiki, and voila. Side note: people have confused my novel with the actual myth. In the future, I need to better distinguish between the two for marketing purposes.
Ah, the dreaded data dump, like in Scooby Doo when the show finally recounts the crime and all that went into it. This is so much harder than you'd think, and many writers struggle with it. This bubble is from a chapter that's essentially Keiko learning about her past and how she ended up in her current predicament. To make the scene more interesting than just having three people tell her what happened, I set the scene in her subconscious. The two major characters talk to her from inside her head in a part of her consciousness she pictures as a library. Her memories are in various books. To add more atmosphere, I have her world alter according to her mood. When she's angry, the library rumbles. When she's cold, ice forms inside it. At one point, she so angry at her father, she breaks the room apart and put a chasm between them. I had to build it a sentence at a time, think through her emotions, and then render them. It was work, but the end result is SO much better than the original drafts. I hope you'll agree.
So--I'm sitting in the theater, watching The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. Way back when, The Hobbit was THE book that broke the 'reading ice' so to speak and turned me into a reader. Seeing the movie was a must. Now, I'll bet you all think I'm going to go into the changes Peter Jackson made, but that's not what this is about. When I saw Smaug in all his dragon glory, I couldn't help but think, "Damn, what Weta Digital could do with MY dragons." Mind you, I'm not comparing my book to one of the greatest books in literary history--let me make that plain from the get go. I was just allowing a moment of reflection and authorial pride. Not to mention wondering what Kojiki would look like on the screen. Many of the reviews it's received say it would make a good movie. If you're an author, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.
I'm sure every writer leaves a good deal of the story on the cutting room floor--so to speak. This excerpt is only part of a much larger flashback that my editors though took too much away from the main plot. Not that they didn't like what I'd written, more that it just didn't fit. Last May at Book Expo America, I sat in on a session about book marketing. The panelists all suggested using free short story downloads as a way to build an audience. The idea excited me, and I went to my publisher and proposed taking Kojiki's flashback and turning it into a novella. I changed the POV character to differentiate the details and to make it more interesting. Since the scenes are front and center, I had to add detail--detail that differs slightly from what's in Kojiki. I attributed that to the POV differences and...viola! The novella, Torii, is due out in December as a free ebook. Look for it :)
Early on, Kojiki suffered from an abundance of backstory. The problem persisted right up until the final drafts. My editor and I wend over and over the many chapters I'd written about the past and critical events that happened well before Kojiki's story starts. In the end, I kept the most crucial and summarized the rest. It provided a great foundation for the book, but I still wanted to do more with it. The solution came after I attended a marketing panel at BEA last May. Panelists from Kobo and InScribe said one of the best ways for an author to increase his/her visibility with e-store algorithms is to write a free short story. Viola! Kojiki's backstory will be available soon as a three part short story. For free!
During my early edits, indie editor--the awesome Lorin Oberweger--told me I needed to work on making my characters physical reaction more visceral. I didn't fully grasp what she meant until this scene. I added this fall, but to make it visceral? Well one trip on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney was all I needed to know how it felt to fall from a great height. Those experiences are invaluable in making a scene come alive.
I needed a way to let the reader know when the story changed from the present to the past. It had to be different, something other than just writing the date. So, in KOJIKI, whenever the reader comes across a haiku, he should know the ensuing scene is a flashback.
Sometimes it's impossible to write about foreign destinations--who can go everywhere, right? Kamakura is one place I was lucky enough to visit, albeit over thirty years ago now. I was on tour with the U.S. World Jr. Figure Skating Team. We'd been in Sapporo for the World Jr. Championships and moved on for a post-competition performance in Tokyo along with some sight-seeing. Some of those spots landed in KOJIKI, but none are as accurate--memory willing--as what I wrote about Kamakura. The Buddha is breathtaking, and it was perfect for this scene.
A while ago, National Geographic ran a special about mythology. In it, scientists theorized ancient civilizations discovered dinosaur fossils, and, without a scientific explanation, crafted myths to explain the creatures the bones belonged to. It's a fascinating idea. When I heard about it, I thought, hmmm. What if the ancient civilizations were right and scientists were wrong? What if the bones really came from incredible creatures? Dragons, thunderbirds, golems, sea monsters. What if those creatures really existed and died in a cataclysmic war, and the war's survivors conspired to keep the truth hidden? What if those survivors created dinosaurs to hide that truth? What if the dinosaurs were the myth? This idea became Kojiki's foundation.
My grandparents lived in the US during WWII but were never sent to internment camps. They weren't even investigated or interviewed. I always wondered why. Recently, my cousin came across a picture of my grandfather with Admiral Nagano of the Japanese Imperial Navy, and family stories claim that Admiral Yamamoto babysat my father. Given how important these two men were to the Japanese navy, it's incredible the US government didn't at least look into him. I've always been curious about that, and that curiosity led to this scene in which we see Keiko's father do something otherworldly to a pair of agent who come to take Keiko's family to an internment camp.
In Jurassic Part II, a T-Rex rampages through a city. We get a quick shot of Japanese tourists running in terror. It was there for laughs, and it made me really angry. With KOJIKI, I consciously switched the stereotype. Here we have a coastal city in Romania in which the people flee mindlessly in terror. Contrast that to the stoic response the Japanese show later in the book when the gods start leveling Tokyo and beyond. I think this is more in line with the samurai tradition we see in Kurasawa's movies, in books, and in anime. Godzilla and Toho created the panic meme and made it famous. I see no reason to perpetuate it.
Fiyorok, Guardian of Flame, is the book's most powerful mythic beast. Unlike western dragons, Fiyorok is based purely on the wingless asian dragon. If you look closely enough, you'll find a touch of Smaug from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, particularly in the red-golden scales. You'll also find touches from Tolkien's greater dragon, Glaurung, from the Silmarillion. A dash of Godzilla, specifically its monstrous size, and you get a fearsome creature. Unlike Daenerys Targaryen's dragons in A Game of Thrones, Fiyorok is essentially a demi-god--highly intelligent and a wielder of devastating elemental power.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish