Digging Deep: Four Books on Japan's Nightlife that Informed My Novel

The first draft of my novel, Gina in the Floating World, reflected my own experiences as a foreign bar hostess in a Tokyo suburb in the mid-1970s. As an experience that for me was both challenging and fascinating, it was a story I wanted to tell. But my own tale wasn’t substantive enough to be a memoir, nor sufficiently engaging in terms of plot to be a good novel. Encouraged by an editor to ramp up the drama and the sex, I took my assignment seriously, but that meant going beyond my own limited knowledge to make my narrative credible. I know how annoying it can be when an author fails to get the details right. Even with a naïve, unreliable narrator, whose confusion over the culture sometim

Truth or Fiction in Gina in the Floating World

I’m always intrigued by those films that are “inspired by” or “based on” true events. As a writer who likes to use my own life as a jumping off point for my stories, I recognize that these re-workings of real life are not without their pitfalls and challenges. For one, viewers/readers may accept the fictionalized version as reality. (“Did you really do that?”). But if we wanted to tell what actually happened, we would create a documentary or write a memoir. I would dare to say that most authors draw from their own lives when they write fiction—some novels are thinly-disguised autobiographies, with just the names and few other details changed. More often, authors pull from their experience

Publishing a Book: Not for the Faint of Heart

The start of the new year is a good time for a reckoning. For me 2018 was all about the BOOK—the book being my novel, Gina in the Floating World, that was published in September 2018. It felt like it consumed me, and as I look back over my diary notes from the year, that feeling is verified. It was a lot of work: interesting, challenging, mystifying, frustrating, tedious and rewarding work, all in service of the BOOK, the BOOK that took a lot of years and its own kind of sweat to write. But as I look back on this past year, I marvel at what I didn’t know beforehand and what I managed to accomplish at this stage of my life. I tested myself and have been stretched in new ways. I don’t know wha

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