What is Kami about?
Kami is a fantasy adventure story set in Japan. It’s all about the story of a young lad called Hayato Takei who lives in this backwards town called Namerikawa. He’s tired of all the boring traditions, so when the local festival comes along he sees an opportunity to shake things up a bit. The trouble is, he shakes things up FAR too much and ends up being sent on a quest by the town mayor to right his wrongs. But this quest is more than just a simple hike into the wilderness…and that’s all I can say without giving too much away!
Where did you get the idea for Kami?
When I was younger one of my favourite book series was The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. If you have never had a chance to read those books, please do so IMMEDIATELY, they are truly fantastic books. Anyway, I was especially enamoured by the ‘frenemy’ dynamic between two of the main characters: Nathaniel and Bartimaeus. Since I started writing, I have always wanted to write a story with a similar dynamic.
Mixed in with that was, of course, my life in Japan. I’ve called Japan home since 2010, and since then I’ve had incredible experiences almost daily, many of them tied directly to the complexities and quirks of the Japanese culture. There’s just so many rich veins I could draw upon for stories, and Kami dips into but a fraction of that.
You live in Japan now, as you mentioned. How much of your life in Japan inspired Kami?
Very much! Kami wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t moved to Japan! For one thing, the part of Japan in which Kami is set is a riff on the rural area I lived in for my first two years in Japan. Kasayama, for example, is a real mountain that loomed over the town I used to live in. And, just like Kami describes it, it really is shaped like a pyramid! And Namerikawa is another way to read the kanji of the town I used to live in, as is another location in the novel. Can you find them?
In fact, a lot of the little nuggets of Japanese culture mentioned in Kami aren’t dryly researched from secondhand sources, but from my own experiences. Hayato’s feeling of delight at sinking into a hot spring after a long day of walking? That’s me!
At first, I did consider writing a book that was set very much in the modern-day Japan. You know the imagery: neon lights, towering skyscrapers, crowds…an endless urban sprawl. But, living out in the countryside, I found I wasn’t really connected to that side of Japan in the same way I was falling in love with the Japanese ‘inaka’. And that is where Kami is set. Those who have seen Studio Ghibli’s sublime My neighbour Totoro will know what I’m talking about. And yet, it’s not really an old-time story set in Japan’s past. Though modern technology isn’t explicitly mentioned in Kami, neither do I deny it exists. I’ve tried to give Kami a timeless quality that doesn’t pin it to an age, so it will feel as timeless as the myths and legends of Japanese folklore that inspired it.
Give us an insight into the main character. What is he like?
Hayato Takei is an elementary school student. He’s not a bad kid, but he is very cynical for a boy his age – something that comes from me! Hayato’s main foil in the novel is his distaste for blindly following traditions. He’s not especially smart – he leaves a lot of the thinking to his close friend Nozomi – but he is very loyal to his family, and ultimately all he wants is for something new in his life, something that is very difficult for a boy of his age to find in a small town.
So the book is called Kami. So there must be a supernatural element to this book. How much can you reveal about this?
Not a lot, I’m afraid! But it’s not really spoiling it to say that yes, there is something going on in Kami that suggests there is more going on than meets the eye – this is evident right from the prologue which has been available on the PJL Books website for quite some time – but if you want to know what is going on for sure, you’re just going to have to read the book!
What was the hardest part about writing Kami?
When it comes to writing about the supernatural, you really have to cover your bases so you leave no plot holes. If someone or something has a certain special ability, the sharp reader will be constantly asking “well, why doesn’t he/she just do that and win easily?” You have to be very consistent with the rules of your world and make sure that you think through all scenarios so the protagonist isn’t missing any easy ways out of trouble, and if they are it should be explained why – again, remaining within the rules.
You’ve published Kami as an ebook so far. Any plans on the horizon for a paperback or hardback version?
Absolutely! I’m still confirming the order, but either the paperback or hardback edition will be available to buy before Christmas 2015.
You’re a self published author. What are the advantages and disadvantages of that?
The biggest advantage is total creative freedom. Absolutely nobody else holds sway over my creative output, and barring any outside help, what you read is completely me.
The downside is that you really have to do everything yourself. The website, maintaining the online presence, advertising and promotion…you either do it all on yourself, without the support or financial clout of a publisher or agent. Pros and cons to both, I suppose.
What’s next for you?
Kami is my focus for the foreseeable future, but as for my next project, I have a couple of things on the horizon. There will be one thing that may also be Japan-related, and another that isn’t. Busy times are ahead!