Q&A with Keita Nagano, The Sea of Japan
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? Or what first inspired you to write?
Like I mentioned, I got an award for my first novel at my junior high school. This was about a unique friendship between an underachieving teenager and a toddler with misfortune. In the following year, I received another award for the baseball drama. Having received awards for two years consecutively, my dream blew up and wanted to write more and professionally someday. I have continued writing since then.
What inspired your story?
I read a photo book about Japanese scenery. I saw the picture of firefly squids dive in Toyama bay. It is absolutely the most beautiful scene I have ever seen in my life. Mass of Firefly squids grow blue and dive to die, after they gave birth to new life. One can say that The Sea of Japan’s underlining story is life and death. If so, the beautiful mysterious billions of blue lights in the dark sea, on their final moment of the lives, is what inspired me most.
How does a new story idea come to you? Is it an event that sparks the plot or a character speaking to you?
Let me ask you this. What part of the story is the most important one for you? To me, the ending, is. Always. Thus, I always have a clear image of the ending. I write towards such ending. Yet, if I come up with a better alternative as I write, I do not hesitate.
Is there a message/theme in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
As the principle, “don’t tell, show it,” I would rather not to tell my message even though it has been here in my heart.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Every time I write book, I get surprised at how great novel is as a form of entertainment. Sure enough, we all love movies, it takes only two hours or so. But this entertainment, a book, either 5 hours or 10 hours, the enjoyment of the story gets amplified by the readers’ own sense of achievement. In any form of arts or entertainment, only books can convey this sense of joy. The readers truly put themselves in the shoes of the protagonists. It’s awesome!
What was your greatest challenge in writing this book?
Deep dive into the nuts and volts of the detail of the society I am writing. For example, when I write about fishery story, I really wanted to know their fishery methodology, how much they make, even how to date with women.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I love Michael Connelly, not so much on Harry Bosh series, but The Lincoln Lawyer series. Also, I love Ernest Hemingway. I even transcribed “The old man and the sea,” every line. For my novel, I got often praised in my very simple writing style. One can find the influence from “The old man and the sea” easily. I went to pay respect to his Key West home and Idaho Ketchum grave yard. Lastly, I love “Love Story” by Erich Segal. The book was quoted in my novel. I also love all works of Yasunari Kawabata (a novel prized author, whose famous work is “Snow Country”).
What’s the best writing advice you have ever received?
If you start it, you finish it. The first draft seems the worst story you have ever read, but I can guarantee that the second one is better. By the seventh draft, you will feel good, and by the tenth, you feel your work is precious.
If your book was turned into a movie, who would you like to play the main characters?
Anna Kendrick for Lindsey. She is almost same age as Lindsey, and her mixture of defiance and inner smartness, and easy to be furious for unfairness is the right cast. More so, it is my dream that Clint Eastwood, my hero, plays Lindsey’s grandpa who is the best fisherman in America and sailed out to the Sea of Japan with Lindsey for his final fishing.
About the Author
Keita Nagano is an award-winning Japanese author who has lived almost equally in Nevada and Tokyo—more than twenty years in each place—and reflects the difference of the two cultures in his novels. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Keio University in Japan, as well as an MBA in global business and Ph.D. in management from Walden University in Minnesota. The pursuit of the authentic American experience is his hobby: he has been to all fifty states, all thirty major league ballparks, and the top sixty big cities in America. He has published seventeen business nonfiction and eight fiction books in Japan. In 2013, he received a Nikkei (Japanese Wall Street Journal) Award for Contemporary Novel for his missing-child thriller, Kamikakushi. He is also an official weekly columnist for Forbes Japan. Nagano lives in Henderson, Nevada, with his wife and Welsh corgi, and their teenage daughter is currently studying in Tennessee.