“The Next Big Thing” Interview Series
My dear friend, colleague and mentor Joanna Hershon, who is easily one of the most talented and gracious writers I know, recently tagged me for The Next Big Thing self-interview series. The scoop: writers answer the same nine questions about their forthcoming books or works-in-progress. I thought it would be a great way to introduce new readers to my new novel The Gods of Heavenly Punishment. It’s also a way to peek into the worlds and words of lots of fantastic writers whom I admire, so be sure to check in again on this page as I tag my favorite fellow authors and post their responses!
1. What is the working title of the book?
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
From my husband, who is a filmmaker who was interviewing a military lawyer about how one defines “war crime” and was given “Tokyo Firebombing” as almost a direct answer. Having lived in Tokyo for three years, and realizing I knew nothing at all about the event, I went to research it—and off I went.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
Oh, wow. Tough one—there are so many characters and we see them all at different points in their lives. But I’d say Rinko Kakuchi as Hana Kobayashi, and some unknown first-timer as Yoshi Kobayashi (both would need to speak impeccable English with British accents, which could be challenging). I adore Ken Watanabe, so think he’d be a good Kenji; Cam Richards would have to be someone handsome, young, earnest…Tom Welling? Open to ideas there. Anton Reynolds would be Daniel Day Lewis, simply because he’s Daniel Day Lewis. And Billy….I keep coming back to Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Fergurson….a departure for him I know, but he just kind of feels right to me.
5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Very hard to do in one sentence. I’ll go with the jacket header we ended up with: The Gods of Heavenly Punishment tells the story of several families, American and Japanese, their loves and infidelities, their dreams and losses, and how they are all connected by one of the most devastating acts of war in human history.
6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Three years. Though at times it felt much, much longer.
7. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My husband actually came up with the idea after the interview mentioned in Question Number One. (Embarrassingly, he also came up with the idea of The Painter from Shanghai—he’s much more of a “big-picture” guy than am I.) But I was also inspired by the five years I spent in Japan, the amazing people I met there, and my consistent inability throughout that time to understand how we had descended to such levels of enmity and brutality with one another before becoming such close allies.
8. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Two of the characters are inspired by real-life historical figures or events who are truly fascinating—the Doolittle Raids (which comprised our first heroic—and breathtakingly daring–response to Pearl Harbor), Antonin Raymond (a Czech-born architect who helped to create many of prewar Tokyo’s modern buildings before returning to America and helping the U.S. military perfect the bombs it would use to destroy the city). They fall into the “almost too fantastic to be fiction” category for me.
9. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It is being published by W.W. Norton.