A little departure from the usual this week on the blog, with another author interview! Today I'm pleased to welcome fellow author Sienna North, whose debut novel Red Sun Blue Earth was released this week. Isn't that cover art striking? Here's the book description:
Sayaka Sato is an ordinary fifteen-year-old—until 3:46 pm
on March 11, when an earthquake and tsunami strike Japan and rip her life into
shreds. Sayaka is frantic to find her family, but first, she must survive cold,
hunger, and worse. Will Sayaka be able to reunite with her family, earn their
forgiveness, and forge a new life for herself, or will she be too
Click here to buy Red Sun Blue Earth for Kindle. A print version will be available soon.
Welcome to the Second Sentence, Sienna! Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm a writer, poet, and photographer (really, I love anything artistic!) currently living in Asia. One of my greatest joys is reading—with preference for fantasy and really good historical fiction like Eloise Jarvis McGraw. I also love to play the guitar and eat Japanese food, as long as it's vegetarian.
What inspired you to choose this setting and event for the basis of your novel?
Hmm…tough question. Since I was born in Japan and grew up there, and since I was visiting during Japan's 2011 tsunami (which is the setting for my novel), it was an event that struck very close to home for me. I remember when the earthquake struck and the feeling of being so terrified that I felt frozen. I wasn't in a danger zone, but the day before, on March 10, I had actually been just a few hours away from where the tsunami struck hardest. So while I felt that God had really protected me, I wanted to explore what it was like for someone who was not so fortunate and who had to really endure the worst sorts of hardships.
How much did you initially know about life and culture in Japan? Did you have to do much research?
As mentioned above, I did grow up in Japan, and I've visited regularly since I moved away. In addition to my trip while the earthquake and tsunami struck, I also visited northern Japan last summer to help out in an area affected by the tsunami. Those visits and my childhood experiences really helped me to formulate my novel. However, I also did a ton of research online, including digging up the school website for my main character's junior high and painstakingly translating the Japanese info to find out facts about the school. I researched a lot about the town of Minamisanriku, including looking up as many pictures and videos as I could find. (Almost all of the descriptions in the novel are based on what I saw in videos, as well as my own experience of being in earthquakes.) So, yes, I did quite a bit of research!
Are any of your protagonist’s experiences based on real people or incidents, or are they fictional?
The story as a whole is definitely based on what really happened in Japan two years ago. As for the characters, I don't think any one of them are based on a particular person, although some of them are named for people that I knew in Japan. A few incidents are based on things I did when I was younger: climbing cherry trees and jumping off of swing sets, for example.
What was your favorite part of the writing process for this book? Least favorite?
My favorite part? Probably finishing my second draft (my first draft was a 40-page novella, which I then expanded into a 200-page novel!). I also loved editing and seeing each draft improve based on the feedback I received. My least favorite was at about the 50% or 60% point in my second draft, where I was writing a thousand words a day and feeling utterly uninspired but determined to plow through the story. (I'm not a huge fan of drafting, myself—I prefer to edit.)
This is your debut novel. Can you share a little bit about what went into your decision to self-publish?
The most important reason for me to self-publish was because of the urgency of the story. It's been two years now (almost to the day) since the tsunami, and while people are recovering, there is still so much pain and suffering in Japan. I don't want people to forget what happened. So I decided to self-publish so that I could get the story to others while it was still recent. Also, I wanted a bit more control over the process: making sure I liked the cover design, getting to decide how and when to market, and more. Finally, I researched the traditional publishing market and got advice from editors and others who advised me that self-publishing was the way to go in our current digital age.
Do you have any plans for future writing projects?
Yes, quite a few! I've got two fantasy stories in-the-works (one currently clocking in at 20,000 words at the other at 60,000) and one science fiction story with only a few pages written. But I'm not sure whether I'll finish any of these stories—it really depends on how important they feel to me. You see, the only thing that kept me going through this first book was how truly heartfelt and crucial the story was to me. I'd definitely want that same sort of impact in any other book I write.
Thank you very much for visiting, Sienna, and best wishes for your book's success!