Our Wednesday Fox asked, “Tell us about the publication of your first book.”
In the spring of 2012, I was working on a historical novel set in 1870, about a former samurai who needed to find a new direction. The new emperor Meiji had abolished the samurai class, and he was at a loss as to what his life would entail. This was the book of my heart. I wanted to pay tribute to my Japanese heritage, especially my father, who’d passed away three years earlier. But even though I love to research history, I struggled to put my thoughts into words, and nearly seven years had passed since I’d started the project.
I’d nearly finished my manuscript when the terrible nuclear plant disaster, followed by the tsunami, took place near my grandfather’s hometown of Sendai. Since my family has been in America for over a hundred years, we have no connection with distant relatives in that area, but we still grieved for the lives lost and worried about the effect of that disaster on my relatives farther south. Suddenly, my good friend Joselyn Vaughn, a fellow member of my local writing group and a former Fox on this blog, emailed me about a special call-out issued by her publisher. Astraea Press (now Clean Reads), proposed a series of novellas for which all proceeds would go to relief efforts in Japan. Authors would give up royalties for six months, but after that we would receive 50% of the publisher’s take.
I was immediately interested, but now I had a new problem: My samurai manuscript was at 60,000 words, much too long for a novella. And I didn’t feel I could do the story justice if I cut it down. So I thought: what if I were to write a related story? I brainstormed ideas. Perhaps I could write one about my samurai’s ancestor – but then I’d need to do a lot more research. I settled on a story about the samurai’s descendant, living in current-day America. I still had to do research about the areas in California where many Japanese families settled, but I happen to have a cousin in Los Angeles who was happy to help me. In less than two months, I managed to churn out a manuscript for what is now The Legacy, and after a quick edit done by a few author friends, I submitted the story, which was accepted as part of the fundraising effort. About a year after that, I was able to submit the samurai story, entitled The Samurai’s Garden.
I’d planned to fill in the gaps between the samurai’s adventures in 1870 and the current day Andy, but… it didn’t happen. I became sidetracked by other projects, and now I’m not sure I’ll be able to get back into that mindset. But I’m so thankful that the short story was the impetus for my publishing journey.