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Author Interview: Amanda Sun

Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Today, I'm delighted to be interviewing with Amanda Sun, whose debut novel Ink comes out June 25th!




Ink

(The Paper Gods #1)
by Amanda Sun

Genre: Paranormal
Paperback: 384 Pages
Publication: June 25, 2013 by HarlequinTEEN




Synopsis

On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn’t know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks, and she can’t seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building.

Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they'll both be targets.

Katie never wanted to move to Japan—now she may not make it out of the country alive.


Interview with Amanda Sun

Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into writing.
I grew up in a small town where I used to sneak into the surrounding forests to read. I always dreamed of being a writer--I'd even bring fan fiction and original stories to school and pass them around at recess! I graduated university with a degree in Archaeology, taking courses in every subject I could think of, from English to Linguistics to 17th Century Art History. But I never completely intended to be an archaeologist--I hoped to apply what I'd learned to world-building and character creation for my novels. Thank goodness the writing thing worked out, because I'm terrified of spiders, so I'm not sure I'd do so well at archaeological digs. :)

In my spare time, I enjoy cosplaying at various cons. I also knit nerdy things (think Triforce mitts and Companion Cubes) and spend time gaming.

Wow, it sounds like you got a well-rounded education! I'm glad that the writing thing worked out too, for other reasons--like being able to read your book! (I'm also terrified of spiders, so I understand not wanting to get close to them.) I love Japanese culture and was thrilled to see that Ink is set in Japan. What inspired you to set the story in Japan and with Katie as someone new to the culture?
Oh, thank you! I'm glad you're interested in the Japanese setting. I lived in Osaka in high school as an exchange student, and have since hosted students from Shizuoka and visited Japan many times. My time there, as well as my love of J-Dramas, and my background in Archaeology all influenced INK. A lot of the culture shock Katie experiences are things that I went through as well, things like trying to read signs, getting used to the different foods, and trying to understand those neon kanji scrolling across the bottom of the TV variety shows! To me, having Katie as the protagonist makes the experience accessible to readers who may not have had the chance to visit Japan. It also allowed me to integrate the culture in a way that I hope is natural and subtle.

I also think Japanese mythology is so rich and different from what we might be used to reading. One thing I really like about the old myths is that the sense of judgement and morality from those stories is so different than our social opinions now. It was exciting to draw on some very different rules, and at the same time, I think that a lot of fans of anime and manga will find the setting a comfortable and recognizable kind of place. :)


It's really cool how Katie through your own experiences. All I've read about Japanese in fiction comes from manga, so I'm excited to see that as well. What kind of research did you do for Ink?
My time in Osaka helped a lot as a starting place for my research. I also watched every J-Drama I could get my hands on. I wanted to not only get a feel for life in Japan, but also the different way of thinking Japanese teens would have from North American--the subtle things that make it real. I then traveled back to Shizuoka, where I'd been to visit a past host student, and studied the area in more depth. I took tons of photos, traveled to all the locations in my book, and toured a local high school. I even made sure to visit during the peak of cherry blossom season, and it was breathtaking. I wanted to know how Katie would feel walking to school under those falling petals.

After I wrote INK, I checked with my friend from Shizuoka to make sure that both the slang used in INK and the school life were as accurate as possible. So I hope you'll find INK to be a realistic Japanese experience! ^_^

I can see that you put a lot of time and thought into the writing process. I'm sure readers will appreciate the chance to delve into Japanese culture with Katie! Katie is a teenage girl in a foreign country who suddenly finds herself drawn into a conflict that could mean life or death. How did you balance her vulnerabilities with the pressing need to adapt on multiple fronts?
That's a great question! I think, like any protagonist, Katie needs to be able to grow throughout the book in a way that's natural without being hopeless. So, in terms of her Japanese language skill, she still struggles in realistic ways, but you also need her to be able to interact with the other characters in the book. She's dealing with losing her mother, fitting in at a new school, a culture gap, and then you throw the paranormal her way. Katie has a great support system in her aunt, who makes sure she takes Japanese classes before she arrives in Japan and attends a cram school while she's there. Katie's friends at school, Yuki and Tanaka, also look out for her and help her adapt to life in Japan. But a lot of the time, her vulnerability lands her in trouble--and you'll see that right to the end of INK, that's she still having those issues. It's the characters around her that help support her, and she pushes herself as well. When I lived in Japan, even when others spoke English to me, I would only speak Japanese back. Struggling, broken Japanese, sure, but I wouldn't use English. And I think that kind of determination will take Katie a long way.

It's admirable how you would only speak Japanese back to people. Having visited relatives in foreign countries before, I know how difficult it can be to try to converse in a language you're not familiar with. I agree that this kind of determination is important when going through all the challenges that Katie encounters. The ability to bring ink to life is awesome. How did you come up with the idea?
Thank you. ^_^ The idea came from a couple different places, the strangest being ancient Egypt. I learned in my Archaeology classes that the scribes would often paint or chisel lines through the snake hieroglyphs on tomb walls because they feared the snakes would become real in the Afterlife. I liked the idea that not only would what they drew become real, but sinister and deadly. In ancient China, as well, the kanji writing symbols were originally used to communicate with the gods. So these ideas combined with my love of Japan, and INK was born. :)

It's interesting how the idea of bringing ink to life draws from different cultures. Nevertheless, I'm glad that you chose Japan for the setting! There are many gods in Japan. Is there one in particular that interests you? If you could ask the god a question, what would it be?
There are tons of interesting figures! I think the most frightening thing about them is their sense of judgement is so different than ours. For example, Tsukiyomi went to a dinner party, and was so offended by the method of food prep that he killed the hostess. In his defense it was pretty gross, but still, it's that ancient god morality at work.

I love the story of Tanabata, the Japanese Star Festival. Altair and Vega are in love, but aren't allowed to be together except a single day every year. In order to reach her husband, Vega walks on a bridge made of magpies who were moved by her tears at the separation. So that's another story that I love, and one that appears in INK.

I guess if I could ask a Japanese god a question, I'd probably ask Amaterasu, the sun goddess, to give me some kind of special powers. :D She seems like the one of the most gentle of the old gods and goddesses, so I'd probably stand the best chance with her!

I agree that there are many interesting figures in Japanese mythology. Let me know when you get special powers. I'd love to see a demonstration! (Or would you be sworn to secrecy?) What are you currently working on?
I'm currently working on the next Paper Gods novel! :) And my lovely editor and I are just putting the final touches on SHADOW, the prequel to INK. It will be out June 1st so will give you a taste of the Paper Gods world. I also have a couple secret projects on the go, with healthy doses of angst and Asian love interests. I hope you look forward to them!

I'm excited to hear about the prequel. It's a rare opportunity for readers excited about the series to get to know the world a little before reading Ink. Thanks for interviewing!
Thanks so much for having me on the blog! ^_^



About the Author


Amanda's Website | Facebook | Twitter
Amanda Sun is a YA author and proud Nerdfighter. In university, she studied Archaeology, because she loved learning about the cultures and stories of ancient people. She currently lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter. When she's not writing, she is devouring YA books, knitting nerdy things like Companion Cubes and Triforce mitts, and making elaborate cosplays for anime cons.
1 comment on "Author Interview: Amanda Sun"
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