I am so excited and pleased to introduce my friend, Kelly Garcia, and her new, independently released children’s book, Takako and the Great Typhoon. Kelly has lived in Okinawa, Japan with her husband for three and a half years. One year ago they welcomed their adorable baby boy into the world and with motherhood, Kelly set out on a literary adventure. The outcome is Takako and the Great Typhoon.
Kelly has joined us here at Planet Books for a Q&A session and has also donated a signed copy of Takako and the Great Typhoon for a giveaway. Due to the length of our interview, I am breaking up the Q&A into two posts. They will publish simultaneously.
First of all, Karen, since I know your passion for music I should share w/ you my play list as I sit responding to your interview questions:
Single Ladies, Freedom (George Michael), Smells Like Teen Spirit, Papa Loved Mama, Nuthin’ But a G Thang, Thank You (Dido), Praying for Time, Womanizer, Sabotage, What is Love? (Haddoway…remember that?!), Say It Loud, I Like (Montell Jordan), Say It Ain’t So (Weezer), Kenny Chesney.
Should give you an idea of what generation I’m coming from anyway. Okay, and onto the interview!
PB ~ I am so excited for you and your independent release of Takako and the Great Typhoon! Would you please tell us what the story is about?
Kelly ~ It’s the story of these two shisas (shisas being the lion-dog statues you find absolutely everywhere in Okinawa) that are brother and sister. Their names are Takako (Tah-kah-koe), the little girl shisa, and Nobu(No-boo) the little boy shisa. They live on a rooftop and it is their job as shisas is to stand guard at all times protecting their house from danger. But who the heck wants to sit on a boring ‘ole roof all the time? Not Takako. She sees all of these wonderful things going on in the village below and wants to jump in and join the fun. Nobu warns her that she would be breaking the Shisa Rule of working together and guarding the home if she left. (Boo! What a party pooper!) But Takako can’t resist temptation, follows a butterfly into the village and has a fabulous day…until, of course, something bad happens. The typhoon! That’s when the adventure really begins!
PB ~ How did this idea first develop and what made you think you could really make this happen?
Kelly ~ To be honest, I can’t remember how the genesis for the storyline originated, of the brother-sister shisas and Takako’s day in the village and the great typhoon. (Although I should mention my friend Kay gave me the idea of how to have Takako save the day in the end. Thank you Kay!) My real focus was to create a story showcasing the little moments that are representative of everyday life in Okinawa, Japan. In a way, the book is really selfish ‘cause it captures a very personal experience of Okinawa. For example, the tree on the back cover is a tree down the street from my house. The barbershop is around the corner. And the scene where Takako chases the pickup truck is the view from the back of my house.
It might sound silly, but I LOVE these little things. After I had my son, making the book a reality became more important to me because I knew that he would have no memory of any of this. We are living in Okinawa as a result of my husband’s work and our time here is limited to a few years. In fact, we are leaving this summer. I really wanted to be able to capture the feeling of love that this place has shown my son and my family, so that’s what this book is about. But, it’s an exciting adventure story too, not all mushy-mushy sentimentality, so I hope that even folks who’ve never heard of Okinawa can enjoy it!
I’m digressing from the question! –
Okay, when I began sharing the book idea with people and was met with such a sincere, enthusiastic response, I felt this project could happen. (Especially from my awesomely supportive husband!) When Carmen, the illustrator, signed onto the project I KNEW it would happen.
PB ~ For those readers out there who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Okinawa and may not be familiar with its culture, what is a “Shisa Dog?”
Kelly ~ It’s a statue that you see pretty much everywhere here. I can’t exaggerate the popularity of this figure to Okinawa. More popular than Starbucks in an American suburb, if that’s possible! In my neighborhood you can find them at every turn: on rooftops, on gateposts, by doorways, etc. They look like a mixture of a lion and a dog and often they come in pairs. When they are paired, one has a closed mouth (keeping in the good luck) and one has an open mouth (scaring off evil.) One is a male and one is a female. www.wonderokinawa.com has excellent information about shisa lore and history. It’s actually pretty interesting stuff. Also on my website, www.shisastory.com I’ll be posting a VERY amateur walking tour video of my neighborhood with tons of examples of shisas in it if you care to have a look.
(For the rest of our interview and the chance to win a signed copy of Takako and the Great Typhoon, check out the next post on Planet Books.)