Our Friday Fox asked, “How have moves or other locales affected your writing?”
As you might expect, any life experience is going to color an author’s writing. But when I sat down to write this post, my first thought was that I’ve never really moved anywhere, except when I went to college. My present home is less than ten miles away from the house in which I grew up. But then I realized that I DID make one major move.
When I was less than a year old, my family moved from Japan to the United States. After the Korean War, Dad stayed in Japan and worked at the Exchange Office in Yokohama, and Mom was a clerk. They married, and I was born in the army base hospital at Camp Zama. When Dad’s visa ran out, he brought his family to his home in Michigan. I don’t remember much of the trip, since I was only eleven months old when we traveled (by boat, since there were no trans-Pacific flights at the time). But Mom has often told me stories about the adjustments we had to make, learning a new language and fitting into a new culture. How did that move affect my writing? I believe it made me aware of how one’s culture affects the way we interact with the world and other people. When I was young, there was still some distrust of Asian people, even though World War II ended ten years before I was born. We were taught that our behavior reflected not only our own character, but that of our family and all Japanese-Americans. Honor was of utmost importance, and that credo was the theme of my first full-length novel The Samurai’s Garden.
I guess all that time seeing pictures and hearing about how things on the other side of the world were done differently made me more curious and understanding of other cultures, which in turn led me to loving to travel and experience all that I can. While I was in high school, I earned a spot in the American Youth Symphony. We traveled to seven different countries in Europe. Many years later I re-visited some of those places as well as some new ones with my daughters, who both love to travel. Once I retired from full-time teaching, I indulged myself even more. I was also fortunate enough to travel back to Japan twice to visit my many relatives there. Those experiences and the people (along with their beliefs and customs) tend to show up in some of my stories such as Aegean Intrigue (set in Greece) as well as my regency romances.
After high school, I attended a university two states away, in the middle of the Illinois corn fields. Having grown up in a suburb of the second largest city in Michigan, it was a bit of culture shock to look out my dorm window (I lived on the 23rd floor – dorms were built tall to take up less of the valuable farmland) and see miles and miles of cornfields. (Note: A recent visit to Normal, IL showed me that the city has grown larger and the fields are probably no longer visible from the dorm!) And it was quite an experience to wake up to sounds and smells that I’d only heard about in my suburban home. But I made lots of good friends who taught me about farm life, and that helped me create the rural setting in The Road to Escape.
So even though my address hasn’t altered much during my time on earth, I think the experiences I’ve gained through travel have helped to give my writing more depth, and hopefully more compassion.