NEW FROM THE GIRLFRIENDS CYBER CIRCUIT
Want to travel to Japan and get immersed in the culture without leaving home? Pick up the delightful new novel, LOVE IN TRANSLATION by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga (St. Martins Griffin/$13.99). This is Wendy’s second book, after her debut, MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT, which was recommended as a terrific first novel by the “San Francisco Chronicle”, her hometown paper.
Here is the story:
For anyone who’s ever dreamed of finding love and family in an unexpected place…
After receiving a puzzling phone call and a box full of mysterious family heirlooms, 33-year-old fledgling singer Celeste Duncan is off to Japan to search for a long, lost relative who could hold the key to the identity of the father she never knew. Once there she stumbles head first into a weird, wonderful world where nothing is quite as it seems—a land with an inexplicable fascination with foreigners, karaoke boxes, and unbearably perky TV stars.
With little knowledge of Japanese, Celeste finds a friend in her English-speaking homestay brother, Takuya, and comes to depend on him for all variety of translation, travel and investigatory needs. As they cross the country following a trail after Celeste’s relatives, she discovers she’s developing “more-than-sisterly” feelings for him, although his mother seems to have other plans for her son. But it is when Celeste learns a Japanese song called “The Wishing Star” that things begin to change for her in ways she never expected, leading her to ask, what is the true meaning of family? And what does it mean to discover your own voice?
Praise for LOVE IN TRANSLATION
“A delightful novel about love, identity, and what it means to be adrift in a strange land. This story of a search has an Alice in Wonderland vibe; when Celeste climbs down the rabbit hole, one can’t help but follow along.”
—Michelle Richmond, New York Times bestselling author of The Year of Fog
“An amusing story of one woman’s quest for her father and the improbable path of love.”
—Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters
“Tokunaga… describe[s] Japanese culture in absorbing detail.”
“Witty, lighthearted and charming story of finding love in an unexpected place.”—Fresh Fiction
“A delightful plot with wonderful characterizations.”—Affair de Coeur Magazine
“Four stars!” —RT Book Reviews Magazine
I asked Wendy to stop by for a chat and here was what she said:
Q. What inspired Love in Translation?
A. Many things. LOVE IN TRANSLATION is my cockeyed valentine to Japan, which is a place I’ve both loved and loathed, a place that has fueled both fascination and frustration. And it is also a place that has had a huge impact on my life and writing. I also wanted to explore what it means to be a gaijin (foreigner) in Japan and the benefits and downsides of that status and what happens when a gaijin sings in Japanese. I also am fascinated by the concept of the homestay, (something I never experienced), and how that would impact someone as an adult who grew up in foster homes and who never experienced a real family.
Q. What do you consider the heart of your story?
A. In LOVE IN TRANSLATION it’s how Celeste Duncan, a woman without a family, finds one in a foreign culture. It’s also about the power of music on the soul and heart and the meaning of finding your own voice, both in the singing sense and the identity sense.
Q. What do you love about being an author?
A. There’s so much that I enjoy. First, it’s great to be paid for something you love to do. But I also find it inspiring to help other writers. I enjoy telling my story of woe on my road to publication and let others know that they don’t need any special connections to the publishing world in order to get published. I like to promote the message that you should never give up. And if you work hard, keep at it and be flexible, your publishing dream may come true. I also like helping other writers make their work the best it can be.
Q. Writing a letter can be daunting. How do you even begin the process of writing a novel? Does it start with a title? A character?A plot? All or none of the above?
A. Actually, I love writing letters! When I was a kid I was always the one who answered my pen pals the moment I received their missives and then fumed each day when I found my mailbox empty. But, yes, novels are daunting. I usually start out with a character who has a particular conflict or issue, and with themes I want to explore. Then I devise a plot around them. Reading that last bit over, I make it sound so simple. But it isn’t!
Q. I have to print off every draft page, which means that by the time I’m done, I’ve gone through two trees in Oregon. What is your process of getting out a first whole draft? How long might it take?
A. With me it’s probably more like ten trees. I do like to print pages out and read them and make notes during the revision process. On the computer screen I’m writing with double spacing, but when I print pages out I reduce the spacing in order to save paper. I don’t usually change to single space because that’s a bit hard to read, but close to it. And I think it’s great that nowadays you can deliver your ms electronically to agents and publishers. That’s a lot of paper saved and much less wear and tear on printers and cartridges!
Q.Do you have show and tell with your first draft? Who do you trust for honest reaction, or is so fragile you show it to one you love who you know will be kind?
A. I’ve used writer’s groups in the past and trusted readers. But to tell you the truth, I don’t want someone to be kind. Of course I want to hear the positive aspects, but I really want to know when something doesn’t work in a manuscript. And if there’s a consensus on anything, then I need to do something about it. It’s never fun to hear what’s wrong, and the truth can hurt sometimes, but it’s a necessary evil in being a writer.
Q. What is one of the nicest compliments that you have ever received about your book(s)?
A. I’m always pleased when someone who knows Japanese culture well says that I’ve captured its essence particularly spot on.
Q. My author fantasy is to have one of my novels optioned by Clint Eastwood and he insists that I write the screenplay adaptation. What is your author fantasy?
A. Mine is similar to yours, though I think it would be too daunting to write a screenplay of one of my novels. But I do have the author fantasy of having one of my novels being turned into a film. An independent filmmaker who specializes in Japan-themed films recently read “Midori by Moonlight” and liked it a lot. But he may be moving on from Japanese-related movies so I’m not sure that my fantasy will come to fruition in this particular case.
Wendy Nelson Tokunaga is the author of the novels, MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT (St. Martin’s, Available Now) and the forthcoming LOVE IN TRANSLATION (St. Martin’s, November 2009). Her novel, NO KIDDING, won the Literary/Mainstream Fiction category in Writer’s Digest’s Best Self-Published Book Awards in 2002. She is also the author of two children’s non-fiction books, and has had short stories published in various literary journals. Wendy signed her two-book deal with St. Martin’s just as she was beginning the MFA in Writing program at the University of San Francisco in 2006. Along with her MFA, she also holds a BA in Psychology from San Francisco State University. In her spare time Wendy sings bossa nova, cool pop, jazz standards and Japanese songs accompanied by her surfer dude husband Manabu on electronic keyboards. They live with their cat Meow in the San Francisco Bay Area, a short walk from the Pacific Ocean
Web Site: www.WendyNelsonTokunaga.com