Book Review & Q&A with Cathy Marie Buchanan, Author of The Day THE FALLS Stood Still

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What a fresh and interesting title to add to the many historical fiction books out there.  The Day THE FALLS Stood Still is a must read for those looking to dive into a new book this fall.  Author Cathy Marie Buchanan has created a cast of characters led by Bess and Tom.  Bess is a wonderful heroine whose desires, dreams and fears helped to keep me enthralled as I read.  After reading a few books set during WWII this year, it was interesting reading this book which is set during WWI.  The mood was much different but still set a stress in the story and for its character.  Set between 1915 and 1923 in Niagara Falls, Canada, Ms. Buchanan also presents focuses on a new way of getting energy to the masses is making its way into everyday life.  It’s called hydroelectric power and it will change the way lives are lived and will change the lives of residents in Niagara Falls forever.  Bess is also on the cusp of womanhood and finding love and will never be the same again.  The Day THE FALLS Stood Still will keep you enraptured from beginning to end. 

I’m not the only reader singing Ms. Buchanan’s praises these days.  The Day THE FALLS Stood Still debut on the New York Times bestseller list at #31 two weeks ago and Barnes & Noble selected the book as a “Recommended Pick.” 

Ms. Buchanan started touring for her debut book last week but has taken a moment to answer a few questions for us here at Planet Books.  I would love to welcome The Day The Falls Stood Still author Cathy Marie Buchanan to Planet Books. 

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PB Having written a book that I consider historical fiction, what other era in history is your favorite?  What is your favorite historical fiction title?

CMB ~ My formal education in history ended in grade nine, and so I hardly feel qualified to have a favourite era.  That said, I did fall in love with the WWI period as I researched The Day the Falls Stood Still.  The way communities pulled together, the way everyone was doing their bit really struck me.  People gave up driving and meat and started war gardens and, if they had a free moment, rolled bandages and wrote letters to buoy the spirits of soldiers they’d never met.  It seemed the crisis brought out the best in people, that sacrifice was widespread.  It made me feel hopeful that at some point, hopefully not too far off, all of mankind will take up the fight against our own looming crisis–climate change.

PB ~  What has been your favorite part of the process you went through to get to this finished product?  The research?  The writing?  The press junket?

CMB ~ I was fascinated on a daily basis as I researched The Day the Falls Stood Still.  Born and bred in Niagara Falls, the lore I’d grown up came to life as I read old newspaper accounts of the stunts and rescues on the river or as I came upon gorgeous old photographs of the river before the massive diversion of water away from the falls for the production of hydroelectricity or as I gazed out over the Niagara River from Loretto Academy, the boarding school the book’s protagonist attends.  A now I have the great pleasure of meeting readers online and in the flesh, and I love being told their stories of Niagara Falls or hearing how The Day the Falls Stood Still has touched them in some way.  Still, I am a writer at heart, and it’s what I love most.  I write everyday, sitting down at the computer as soon as my boys leave the house for school.  The objective is always the same, to lose myself in the words I am setting on the page.  And I have had moments when I look up from the computer, dazed.  It takes a second to grasp that I am sitting at my desk, a further second to decide:  Is it morning or afternoon?  Have I had lunch?  Have I forgotten to pick up my boys from school?  My head was a hundred years away in Niagara Falls.  It’s when the best writing has come, and I overflow with happiness.

PB ~  Being an author, do you feel that book blogs are a great way to get the word out?  Have you enjoyed your blog tour?  Do you find it an effective way of communicating with readers?

CMB~ I was a marketer (among other things) before I was a writer.  In marketing lingo, the groups of consumers who seek out new product information and then go about spreading the word are called chat leaders.  These chat leaders are respected authorities in their areas of expertise, and companies jump through hoops to get newly launched products into their hands.  For a new line of lipstick, the chat leaders might include the beauty editors at magazines, the cosmeticians in stores, that neighbour you’d know to turn to for a recommendation for a lipstick that stays on for more than five minutes.  Book bloggers and their followers fit the bill when it comes to books.  You are the chat leaders–the people who know books, who talk about books, who can’t wait to find that next great read, the people whose opinions on what to read next are regularly sought.  So, yes, absolutely, book bloggers are a great way to get the word out.  And the book blogs do provide a wonderful platform for giving readers further insight into a book.  Through reviews and guest posts and Q&As, the bloggers enrich the experience of reading a particular book for their followers.  I have loved my tour, not only because the chat leaders are chatting but also because having someone thoughtfully consider the work that I’ve poured my heart into for the last umpteen years has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  Thank you, bloggers and followers, for that. 

For more information about Cathy Marie Buchanan and THE DAY THE FALLS STOOD STILL, be sure to check out her website HERE.

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Guest Post ~ Pope Joan Author, Donna Cross

Pope JoanI recently received a lovely e-mail from Pope Joan author, Donna Cross.  I was very excited to find her e-mail in my in box and even more excited to learn that she was asking me to consider promoting a contest being held on her web site.  The winner of the contest will get to walk the red carpet at the film premier of Pope Joan.  I have a copy of Pope Joan and am thrilled to host Donna Cross here at Planet Books by way of her guest post.  Pope Joan is a great historical fiction novel about the legendary female Pope who, legend has it, held the position of Pope around 850 A.D. 

I hope you will go check out the contest rules and enter to win HERE.  Without further adieu, here is Donna Cross!  

 

DOnna Cross

The Heart of the Matter

When I asked Karen what she would like me to write for my guest blog, she replied, “About the initial intrigue you felt for Pope Joan and your reaction to the novel being picked up by Hollywood.”

Though separated greatly by time–it was over ten years between my “initial intrigue” for Joan and the novel’s optioning by Hollywood–these questions are deeply interconnected, for they speak directly to how I feel about my heroine.

I first came across Joan’s story in a piece of chance reading–a passing reference in a French book to “Le Pape Jeanne”–Pope Joan.  At first I thought this was an amusing typo, a “slip of the pen” that accidentally substituted “Jeanne” for “Jean”.  But a few weeks later, my daughter Emily had an assignment for school that required her to go to the library.  She was then too young to drive herself, so I had to take her. (She’s now an accomplished veterinarian, so you see how long it took me to write this freakin’ book!)

While Emily was off doing her research, I had time to kill.  So I wandered over to the New Catholic Encyclopedia to check out that odd passing reference.  Truth to tell, I didn’t expect to find anything.  But when there was an entry in the NCE for “Pope Joan”, I stood in that library with my jaw dropped open.  I couldn’t believe it–could not believe that such a remarkable story had existed for centuries–and I hadn’t even heard of it! 

I knew on the spot that it’s what I wanted to write about.  I thought then–hey, I still think–that it’s a “drop-dead” story, as they say in the book business.  I was astonished at my good fortune in having stumbled across it.

So what first intrigued me about Joan’s story was its secrecy, for it is one of the great lost mystery-legends of history.  What kept me interested was the woman herself.  She’s an inspiring example of female empowerment through learning.  In a time when it was widely believed that women could not reason and should not be educated, she was renowned for the brilliance of her mind and the superiority of her learning (some chroniclers describe her as a “prodigy of learning”, just like Mozart was a “prodigy of music”).   What a stirring story for our daughters, and all the daughters of the world (many of whom are still struggling for the right to education just as Joan did over a thousand years ago). 

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Over the long course of over seven years of researching and writing this novel, I came to admire my heroine Joan very much. So of course I was worried about what the movie would be like.  I took to heart the words of one fellow-writer who said, “Optioning your book to a movie company is like handing your child over to the Charles Manson day-care center!”  

I didn’t write the screenplay for the upcoming Constantin Film, but I helped with it (the screenwriter/director were very generous about including me).  And here’s what I learned:  each page of a screenplay equals one minute of screen time, so 140 pages equals a 2 hour, 20 minute film.  My novel is 400 pages long.  140 pages to tell a 400 page story–of course it’s impossible to fully realize any novel in movie form–unless you’re willing to sit through a 6 hour film!

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All a novelist can hope for, when her book is turned into film, is that the movie stay true to the “deep heart” of the story.  The upcoming release by Constantin has certainly accomplished this, for the theme of female empowerment through learning remains intact–enhanced by the dramatic imagery of the silver screen.  Johanna Wokalek is brilliant as Joan, as is David Wenham (voted Sexiest Australian of 2007) as Gerold.  When he asks Joan to come away with him, sacrificing all that she has accomplished and  become, you REALLY feel her temptation!  John Goodman was born to play the part of Pope Sergius;  those who have only seen him as a comedy actor do not yet know how powerful he can be in a dramatic role. 

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 I think that Joan herself, if she was anything like the woman I imagined in my novel, would be pleased at this re-telling of her story.  If it inspires even one young girl to stay in school, to work her absolute hardest in full exercise of her qualities of mind, heart, and spirit, then the movie will have done its job.  And so will I.

Guest Post ~ Belong to Me Author, Marisa de los Santos

I am so thrilled to welcome Marisa de los Santos to Planet Books!!  Marisa is the author of Love Walked In and Belong To Me.  She has written a wonderful guest post that I really relate to and I hope you will enjoy reading as well.  Without any further ado, Marisa de los Santos!

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   Lately, I’ve been thinking about happy endings.

   Not so long ago, I was on a panel at a book festival, and in response to an audience member’s question, one of my fellow panelists said something like, “I don’t write ‘feel good’ books.  It’s not my job to make people happy; it’s my job to put my characters in challenging situations and then see how they respond.”  This struck me as a completely fair and lucid remark, but what followed was a discussion about serious books versus fluffy books, literature vs. “beach reads,” and while I noticed that most of the audience was silent, those that spoke up seemed to share the assumption that happy books are, by definition, fun but trivial:  shallow, intellectually empty, even soulless.  “’Feel good’ books don’t make you smarter,” one woman said, “They just make you happy.”

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   I’ve written two books.  Neither Love Walked In nor Belong to Me ends with all of the characters, or really any of them, getting exactly what they want, but both have what I think of as “upswing” endings; in both books, hope gets the last word.  Judging from the emails I get from readers, a lot of them (the ones who like my books, anyway) find that, after reading my books, they feel, well, . . . good.

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   And what I’ve decided is that this is OK with me.  I like to be taken seriously; it’s painful to think of people dismissing my books as “fluff” because of their happy endings, but if readers walk away from my books feeling more joyful than when they opened them, so be it.  More than “so be it”.  Very few writers can be everything to all readers; everyone, if they’re lucky, has a place to fill; if my role is writing books that make people happy, I am humbled and honored.

   But the truth is that I don’t really have a choice.  I could write at length about happiness, how I don’t think it’s dumb or trivial or less complicated than sadness or anger or unrelenting grimness, how a character’s journey toward her or his happy ending can be just as difficult and interesting as any other kind of journey.  I could list works of literature generally acknowledged as “great” that end happily.  But this might imply that I write happy books on purpose, and that just isn’t the case.

   Like my fellow panelist, I don’t think it’s my job to make people happy.  It’s a good thing, too, because if faced with such an enormous responsibility as that, I would probably freeze up and write nothing at all.   I think it’s my job to create characters that feel multi-dimensional and alive to me, to set them in motion, and then to try to be true to them, to get their actions and reactions right, to find language that serves them and their stories.  I can’t think about anything else, like making readers happy, like being taken seriously by critics, like pleasing my editor, like selling lots of books, like fulfilling a higher moral purpose, because then I might get distracted and fail at my one job:  being true to the demands of my story.

   If both of my books end on an upswing, and if this third one does, too, as it might (I have no idea what will happen in the end, but if it ends on a hopeful note, I will not be shocked), it’s not because I write with that goal in mind.  My guess is that it has to do with the thing that all three books have in common:  me.

   I write out of who I am, what I know, what I intuit, and what I’ve observed and experienced.  While I have an imagination, I am singular and limited, and, while I’ve sorrowed and lost and encountered meanness, while I know that monsters exist, my life so far has led me to two beliefs out of which, inevitably, I live and write:  most people are fundamentally decent, and love is what saves us.  I hope this doesn’t change, but if it does, I’m sure my books will change, too.

   For now, though, I’m happy with happiness.

To learn more about Marisa check out her website HERE.

Guest Post & Giveaway ~ Best Intentions by Emily Listfield

I would love to welcome Emily Listfield to Planet Books and congratulate her on the release of her brand new novel, Best Intentions, available in stores Tuesday, May 5th.  Emily has written a guest post for Planet Books’ readers and shares some insight into what is happening in Best Intentions.  She also asks a pretty interesting question so read on to find out and enter to win a copy of Best Intentions

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What would you do if you if these clues began to pile up?
 

Emily ListfieldIn Best Intentions, the narrator, Lisa, has been married to Sam for fifteen years. They  met in a college and now, both 39, they have two daughters they love dearly.  But their marriage is going through a down period. “Sam has seemed restive for reasons I can’t quite place,” Lisa says.  “It has grown  contagious, a malaise that has metastasized between us into a desultory low-level dissatisfaction, nothing I can touch, nothing worthy of accusation or argument, and yet.”  Slowly she begins so suspect he is having affair.  Here are the clues:
 
1.  Sam tells Lisa he will be working late but she when she listens to a message on his cell phone, she hears a woman’s voice, soft and intimate, saying, “I’m going to be a little late tonight.  Can we make it six-thirty? Same place.”
 
2.  Later that same night, she hears him whispering into the phone:  “I just couldn’t do it.  Not tonight.”
 
3. Sam, a business journalist, tells Lisa he is going to Chicago to interview a source for a story.  But when Lisa calls his office, she finds out the story was killed weeks ago.
 
4.  When Lisa confronts Sam and asks if he is having an affair, he denies it.  In fact, he has a perfectly reasonable explanation for everything. 
 
5.  But then Lisa discovers photographs of Sam with another woman (you’ll have to read the book to find out who) and suddenly it seems like a game change.

So here’s the question:  Lisa loves Sam and they have two young children she wants to protect. She’s known him most of her life – and he’s never lied to her before.   She doesn’t have absolute proof and she’s worried that if she confronts him she will lose everything. And yet….   What would you do?  Weigh in.  But while you’re thinking up your answer, ask yourself this, too:  How well do you really know the people you love?

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Emily Listfield and her publisher, Atria, is providing a copy of Best Intentions for a giveaway here at Planet Books.  To enter to win, weigh in on Emily’s question, “Lisa loves Sam and they have two young children she wants to protect. She’s known him most of her life – and he’s never lied to her before.   She doesn’t have absolute proof and she’s worried that if she confronts him she will lose everything. And yet….   What would you do?  Weigh in.  But while you’re thinking up your answer, ask yourself this, too:  How well do you really know the people you love?”  The giveaway will commence on Sunday, May 10th at Midnight EST.

Book Review, Author Q&A and Book Giveaway ~ Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland

Summary : Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland ~ In spirit, there was nothing diminutive about Louise de la Valliere, known to her family as “Petite.” A rambunctious girl who could tame the wildest stallion, the impoverished and unmarriageable Petite was also able to tame the heart of the legendary Sun King, Louis XIV. Once she had captured his eye, Petite was quickly ensconced in his court, where, as his mistress, she was elevated to a titled position. Such a meteoric rise was bound to attract attention of the wrong sort, and Petite’s life was filled with the terrors and tragedies that accompany all internecine tales of palace intrigue. Amid rumors of black magic and sorcery, loved ones would die, and Petite herself would ultimately arrive at a crossroads where she would be forced to choose between her loyalty to the king and her own personal salvation. Teeming with the rich period details that make historical fiction so rewarding, Gulland’s dynamic and nuanced portrait of Louis’ notorious reign thrums with page-turning expediency and deliciously seductive machinations. –Carol Haggas  

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Mistress of the Sun is a lush, engulfing and entirely entertaining example of historical fiction in it’s finest form.  From the very first page I was drawn in and have enjoyed my visits (reading time) to seventeenth century France.  Sandra Gulland has done it again.   Having read her Josephine Bonaparte series years ago, I was extremely excited to receive a review request form Gulland’s “virtual assistant” for her newest novel, Mistress of the Sun.  I was not disappointed in the least. 

Gulland introduces us to “Mademoiselle Louise-Francoise La Baume Le Blanc de la Valliere” but known as Petite for short.  She is the daughter of a nurturing, book loving father and a realistic mother who worries about the future and looks down upon dreaming and stories.  When Petite is a young girl, she goes with her father on an errand trip when she stumbles across the a beautiful but wild and dangerous white stallion named “Diablo.”  When Petite’s father brings this horse home for the family, and especially Petite, life is never the same again.  After a few years of not speaking and studying at a convent, Petite recovers from her silence and is soon thrust into the world of the French royal family and discovers a love greater than any she has ever had and ever will as the mistress to King Louis XIV, the Sun King.  Petite’s friendships and experiences at Court ensure great reading.

I really enjoyed this book.  There is plenty of drama, character detail and wonderful descriptions in Mistress of the Sun.  Reading three pages felt like I had read twenty because there is just so much detail and story in every line.  If you are looking for a book to take you away this summer, Mistress of the Sun is the perfect book. 

{Rating ~ 4 out of 5 stars}

gulland021Q&A with Sandra Gulland

PB Being familiar with your Josephine Bonaparte series and now Mistress of the Sun, I am curious about what draws you to these historical French figures?

Sandra – I was drawn to Josephine because her extraordinary life had been foretold. This still astonishes me. As for Louise, of Mistress of the Sun, I was intrigued by her extraordinary horsemanship. She was described as timid, a wall-flower, and yet she became a devil on horseback. This fascinated me.

PB – When researching for your books do you start with a plot idea?

Sandra – I begin with an interest in the character, and then, in closely examining the facts of that person’s life, I begin to get an idea of a plot.

PB – Have you ever come across something you didn’t know about that caused your story to change completely?

Sandra – With every research trip I make, I have to revise completely!

When I started the Josephine B. Trilogy, I assumed that everything I read about her was true. (Novice that I was about historical research.) I struggled writing the second book (Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe). How could a good mother, a good person, do the things historians claimed? (And how, as a novelist, was I going to get the readers to believe it? A novel, unlike life, has to be credible.) Consulting with the French experts at Malmaison, I learned that “the facts” were incorrect. This caused me to change my story, but it also made the story begin to make more sense.

The most pleasant surprises are ones that make a story better. (Warning: spoiler!) Well into writing Mistress of the Sun, I read in a footnote in the Bastille Archives that Louise’s good friend Nicole ended up at the same convent as Louise. 

I’m now working on a detailed scene-by-scene plot (a blueprint, I like to think of it) of my next novel. It’s forcing me to do deep research at the start and I’ve already run into a number of surprises! Fortunately, a “blueprint” is easier to revise than a full draft.

gulland091PB–  In the beginning of Mistress of the Sun, Louise comes upon a dangerous and stunningly great horse named “Diablo.”  The relationship between girl and horse has a mystical sense about it.  Do you believe in magic and miracles yourself?

Sandra – I don’t, as a rule (but I don’t count them out, either). Louise would have believed in them, however.

PB–  Besides Louise de la Vallière, which character in Mistress of the Sun was the most fun and exciting to write?  What kind of connections do you feel when writing life into your characters?

Sandra– I really love Clorine, Louise’s maid. (Whose name, in real life, really was Clorine.) I love that she’s so tough, and no-nonsense, and yet often fainting.

PB – With The Tudors mini-series, and historical fiction genre films like The Duchess, Marie Antoinette and numerous others, do you wish to see either the Mistress of the Sun or the Bonaparte series go the same route?

Sandra– Yes! The Josephine B. Trilogy is now under option; the producers are looking into developing a mini-series like The Tudors. As for Mistress of the Sun, a producer is looking into making it into a movie. I’d love to see these come about. I think the Trilogy would make a wonderful mini-series, and Mistress a fantastic movie. I just hope it comes about in my lifetime. Movie-making is extremely complex: I think it’s a miracle (note: miracle) that any are ever made.

PB –  So far have you enjoyed your book blog tour for Mistress of the Sun?  Do you think that this way of reaching readers is beneficial for you as an author and for the publishing industry?

Sandra– A Blog Tour is excellent, given how difficult travel has become. I’ve been enjoying it. The response has been overwhelming. Thank you for having me on Planet Books!

To learn more about Sandra Gulland and her novels, be sure to check out her website HERE.  Sandra is in the middle of her blog tour for Mistress of the Sun.  To find out where she has been and will be in coming weeks and months, check out her schedule HERE.  Sandra and her publisher, Simon & Schuster, are generously providing a copy of Mistress of the Sun, which was recently released in paperback.  To enter to win Mistress of the Sun leave a comment including the title of your favorite historical novel on this post by Wednesday, May 6th at Midnight EST.  Good Luck!

Part 1 ~ Q&A and Giveaway with Kelly Garcia and Takako and the Great Typhoon

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.

  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. 

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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.  

Karen @ Planet Books made this Shisa pair when she moved to Okinawa in '05 and took a pottery class.

Karen @ Planet Books made this Shisa pair when she moved to Okinawa in '05 and took a pottery class.

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.)

 

Part 2 ~ Q&A and Giveaway with Kelly Garcia & Takako and the Great Typhoon

(Here is the second part of my Q&A with children’s book author and friend, Kelly Garcia.)

PB ~ Have you always wanted to write a children’s book or was this a surprise to you?

Well, I suppose it was a surprise; although, I never rule out anything!  I find that I enjoy writing about foreign countries, travel adventures and interesting intercultural experiences.  I write about my culinary adventures in Okinawa on a blog called www.okinawahai.com, but other than that have never really written seriously.  I guess though that this story is kind of a travel adventure in its own way…a “travel adventure fantasy folktale”!

PB ~ Takako does a lot of things while on her adventure. You use some terms that non-Japanese readers may have trouble understanding. Would you please explain some of the more foreign things that Takako does with her fellow islanders?

Kelly ~ Let’s see.  Takako plays gateball with the “obaasans (grandmas) and ojiisans (grandpas)”.  Gateball is kind of a croquette game that is very popular with the older folks here.  I can think of three gateball fields within about a five-minute walk of my house.  A “typhoon” is basically a hurricane that forms over the Pacific Ocean.  “Banyan trees” are these gorgeous twisty, gnarly trees that are found in Okinawa.  I’ve got some beautiful examples in my neighborhood.

In a few of the illustrations you’ll see these round things on sticks.  These are actually mirrors.  They are on almost every corner to help drivers navigate through the narrow streets without getting hit by an unseen car.  Very typical Okinawa.  Also, you’ll see a vending machine in one scene.  It may seem strange, but that too is something I would consider to be the quintessential Okinawa.

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PB ~ Living in Okinawa myself, I know that your descriptions of the typhoon are pretty dead on. Thank goodness my Shisa dogs do there job well. What are some of the things your family does during one of these powerful storms?

Kelly ~ Not much, to tell the truth.  We have a huge water cooler, so we are set there.  I try and get some DVDs and books from the library for entertainment in case the satellite goes out!  We bring everything in the house from outside, but that’s pretty much it.  I don’t do a ton of extra shopping.  I guess I’m pretty laid back.  When I see the local Okinawans taking a storm seriously, that’s when I know it’s time to be careful!  But usually for them it’s business as usual.

PB ~ What was your favorite part in the development of your book?

Kelly ~ This is really hard to say.  Practically the whole process, apart from dealing with the folks in the shipping department at the printer’s, was interesting for me.  Writing the story itself was enjoyable because it was a creative challenge that shook the cobwebs out of my brain.  Also, my meetings with Carmen the illustrator, were fantastic.  I especially loved our first meeting after she finished her initial sketches for the book scenes.  Seeing how she brought the story to life with her pictures was pretty darn thrilling.  We talked through each scene and discussed the things we liked about them and ideas for changes to make them better.  I loved that collaborative aspect of it.  Being able to bounce around ideas with another person who was also enthusiastic about the project has been invaluable.  It was fun working with Erin, the graphic designer, too.  She brought me different ideas about page layout, fonts, book cover options and things like that.  So many things to decide!  But totally fun.

If I hadn’t gone the self-publishing route, I doubt I’d have a hand in any of that kind of stuff.  I’m sure it would have been a slicker/cleaner book if I’d gone through a traditional publisher, but I am learning SO much doing it this way.  Heck, I just built a website for the first time and right now I’m learning all the multitudes of things that go into book promotion.  Figuring everything out is actually causing me to lose sleep.  I have a to-do list about a mile long.  But I just love it!

PB ~ Do you think you may write a book that represents all the places you will live in the future?

Kelly ~ I don’t know.  I foresee myself having lived in a lot of places, so that might be tough.  This book, though, was written for my son, Gabriel.  So, if I have any more kids, I guess I owe each of them a book too!  Hopefully it’ll get easier each time I do it.

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PB ~ How can people get their own copies of Takako and the Great Typhoon?

Kelly ~ They can click on www.shisastory.comand order a copy there via Paypal. If they live in Okinawa, they can stop by the AAFES Bazaar at the Foster Field House April 17th-19th.  Or they can email me at kelly@shisastory.com and we can work something out.

Also, you can get a sneak peak of the book on the website in a video my fabulous hubby put together (the image quality is MUCH better in person!  Carmen’s color is awesome!) Even if you don’t get the book, I’d be just as thrilled if you became a fan on Facebook (search Takako and the Great Typhoon) or mention it to some friends or rate the video preview!  Or e-mail me some nifty marketing ideas!  I’m really, really excited about the book and just trying to share any way I can.  Okay, enough shameless promotion from me.  If you’ve read down this far you deserve a medal!  Karen, thank you for your questions and your post!  xxoo — Kelly

You can learn more about Takako and the Great Typhoon, Kelly and life on Okinawa by checking out the website HERE.  To enter to win a signed copy of Takako and the Great Typhoon leave a comment and on this post and tell us your favorite children’s book when you were little.  The drawing will run until Sunday at Midnight, EST.  Good Luck!