Friday Feature: Guest Interview Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

Joining us today is author Wendy Nelson Tokunaga. Ms. Tokunaga has stopped by to chat with us today about her current novel, Falling Uphill, and her brand new release, His Wife and Daughters.

Kathy: Ms. Tokunaga, thank you for taking the time to stop by to visit with us today. Can you tell us why you decided to become an author? How long did it take for you to become a published author?

Ms. Tokunaga: When I worked as a technical writer in Silicon Valley in the early 1990s I was at a company that seemed to employ a number of frustrated fiction writers. We had a little writer’s group that met at lunchtime where we critiqued each other’s short stories. That led me to take a series of creative writing courses at a local community college. The requirement was to produce three pieces of short fiction per semester so I ended up with about nine stories. I was lucky enough to get a few of these published in some small literary journals and that led me to believe that the next step would be to write a novel. How difficult could it be? Ha! It turned out to be extremely difficult. It took me about a dozen years to finally get an agent and a two-book deal from St. Martin’s Press, which published my novels Midori by Moonlight and Love in Translation. I’d written four manuscripts before getting my fifth published, my “debut” novel.

Kathy: You also offer a manuscript service for authors. How did you come to offer this service to other authors?

Ms. Tokunaga: It took me a lot of trial and error to find out what was missing from my manuscripts and why I couldn’t get any significant agent interest. My writing was always considered good but I had problems particularly with structure, characterization and pacing. I really wanted to share what I learned with other writers so they wouldn’t make the same mistakes I did. Once I got published and when I went back to school to get my MFA in Creative Writing, I felt confident to offer these services. Now I have several years of experience under my belt and I find this type of work so rewarding, especially when I can help my clients reach their goals such as getting an agent and getting published. I also work as a teacher and am currently teaching (for the third time) an online course through Stanford University Continuing Studies’ Online Writer’s Studio called So Not Chick Lit: Writing Novels About Women’s Lives.

Kathy: What is the typical day as author Ms. Tokunaga? Do you write every day?

Ms. Tokunaga: I try and write every day, but am not always successful! I do a lot of online promotion via mainly Twitter and Facebook and, even though I really enjoy it, it does take up a significant chunk of time. I also do research on my novels and that is time consuming as well. And I’m often busy working on my manuscript consulting projects. I try to do business type stuff, social media and email in the morning and save the afternoon for writing and researching. I’ve just started trying to better organize myself (and not sit on my butt for so long!) by doing a 45/15 schedule throughout the day. This is where I set the timer on my iPhone and work for 45 minutes and then stop for 15 minutes and take a break—exercise, do chores or whatever and then return to the next 45-minute block. So far it’s working pretty well!

Kathy: Are your plots strictly imagination or are you sometimes influenced by real life events?

Ms. Tokunaga: It’s a combination of both. Some novels have more of my experience than others, but some of my own life can’t help but sneak into my novels.

Kathy: Do you see any of yourself in your characters? Would any of your friends or family members see any of their personalities or characteristics in characters from your novels?

Ms. Tokunaga: Oh, yes. Again, it depends on the characters and the particular novel, but friends and family, as well as my own life, can be significant influences. That’s just how it goes.

Kathy: What types of books do you read? Do your choices as a reader influence the books you write?

Ms. Tokunaga: I have eclectic tastes and read both fiction and non-fiction. But one thing I do find is that it’s hard not to wear my “author hat” when I’m reading. I’m hyper-aware of what the writer is doing (or attempting to do) and sometimes this can be distracting. Unfortunately, since becoming a writer I no longer find myself getting completely lost in a novel.

Kathy: Can you tell us a little about Falling Uphill?

Ms. Tokunaga: Falling Uphill is a fun, romantic mystery with a little bit of old Hollywood thrown in the mix. Here’s the blurb:

Ruth Fenton is dead, but what does that have to do with me?” That’s what Candace Grey, 29, wants to know after receiving a puzzling phone message from San Francisco. A bright, but slightly absent-minded anthropology teacher at a small Michigan college, Candace is all set to leave for Los Angeles to conduct research on 1960s TV star Pamela Parrish—America’s Sitcom Sweetheart—for her Master’s thesis on television and female gender roles. But after discovering that Ruth Fenton is a long lost relative, she’s first off to San Francisco for her memorial service where she meets a crazy(?) old lady who claims Pamela Parrish didn’t commit suicide like everybody says—she was murdered. Now Candace has to get to the bottom of it, all while fighting the nagging feeling that her long-time professor boyfriend back home is getting a little too close to one of his students, and at the same time wondering if new-found friend Brandon, a newspaper reporter and budding painter who lives on a hidden stairway street in the hills of San Francisco, is really the guy for her. It’s a funny, but moving, uphill climb for Candace who finds that things are rarely what they seem in the ups and downs of love or in discovering a surprising secret about her not-so-perfect mother, or unearthing the truth behind the death of America’s Sitcom Sweetheart.

Kathy: What projects are you currently working on? What can readers look forward to from you in the upcoming year?

Ms. Tokunaga: My women’s fiction original ebook, His Wife and Daughters has just come out. Here’s what Kirkus Reviews has to say about it: “A fictional politician’s indiscretion with an intern changes his family’s life, as told by his family. Congressman Dan Brath has a lovely wife, two beautiful daughters and affairs. When Lesley, one of his interns, disappears, suspicion falls on Dan. The political fallout from the scandal—no doubt taking inspiration from countless real life extramarital escapades—affects not only his career but also his family. In a refreshing narrative device, chapters fluctuate between narration by his wife Trina, older daughter Jill and younger daughter Phoebe. We meet them before, during and after the fiasco, which helps put the troubling event into perspective. Jill embarks on a new relationship after her parents’ marriage deteriorates, while Phoebe, after leaving home, becomes an exotic hostess in Japan and later a rich man’s mistress. Trina goes hippie—healthy diet, yoga, etc.—which apparently helps her cope. Understandably, the women struggle with trust issues, particularly with the older men inevitably drawn to them. The family dynamic strains further when Trina opts to stay with Dan, despite his infidelities, and Phoebe plans to make a documentary film about the debacle. As the narrative winds through the family’s various coping mechanisms, Lesley remains an enigma, whom Jill plots to confront 20 years after the scandal to discover the truth behind her mysterious disappearance and resurfacing. The women’s perspectives are distinctly presented with a strong sense of place, especially in San Francisco, as they discover and develop their own anxieties in lives shattered by their father’s selfishness. Political scandal with an interesting twist that hits the mark.”

Kathy: I have thoroughly enjoyed our visit today. Is there anything else you would like to share with us before you go?

Ms. Tokunaga: Yes, I’m excited to be featured in two recent anthologies. My essay, Burning Up appears in Madonna and Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop published by Soft Skull Press, and my short story, Love Right on the Yesterday is part of Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction—An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories put out by Stone Bridge Press. Both are available now. And thank you for having me on your blog! I appreciate it.

Kathy: Ms. Tokunaga, thank you again for stopping by to chat with us. Feel free to drop by anytime you happen to be in the neighborhood.

Ms. Tokunaga on the web: WEBSITE * TWITTER * FACEBOOK


Title: Falling Uphill
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Romance, Mystery
Length: Novel

Summary:

Ruth Fenton is dead, but what does that have to do with me?” That’s what Candace Grey, 29, wants to know after receiving a puzzling phone message from San Francisco. A bright, but slightly absent-minded anthropology teacher at a small Michigan college, Candace is all set to leave for Los Angeles to conduct research on 1960s TV star Pamela Parrish—America’s Sitcom Sweetheart—for her Master’s thesis on television and female gender roles. But after discovering that Ruth Fenton is a long lost relative, she’s first off to San Francisco for her memorial service where she meets a crazy(?) old lady who claims Pamela Parrish didn’t commit suicide like everybody says—she was murdered. Now Candace has to get to the bottom of it, all while fighting the nagging feeling that her long-time professor boyfriend back home is getting a little too close to one of his students, and at the same time wondering if new-found friend Brandon, a newspaper reporter and budding painter who lives on a hidden stairway street in the hills of San Francisco, is really the guy for her. It’s a funny, but moving, uphill climb for Candace who finds that things are rarely what they seem in the ups and downs of love or in discovering a surprising secret about her not-so-perfect mother, or unearthing the truth behind the death of America’s Sitcom Sweetheart.


Title: His Wife and Daughters
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: Novel

Summary:

“A fictional politician’s indiscretion with an intern changes his family’s life, as told by his family.

Congressman Dan Brath has a lovely wife, two beautiful daughters and affairs. When Lesley, one of his interns, disappears, suspicion falls on Dan. The political fallout from the scandal—no doubt taking inspiration from countless real life extramarital escapades—affects not only his career but also his family. In a refreshing narrative device, chapters fluctuate between narration by his wife Trina, older daughter Jill and younger daughter Phoebe. We meet them before, during and after the fiasco, which helps put the troubling event into perspective. Jill embarks on a new relationship after her parents’ marriage deteriorates, while Phoebe, after leaving home, becomes an exotic hostess in Japan and later a rich man’s mistress. Trina goes hippie—healthy diet, yoga, etc.—which apparently helps her cope. Understandably, the women struggle with trust issues, particularly with the older men inevitably drawn to them. The family dynamic strains further when Trina opts to stay with Dan, despite his infidelities, and Phoebe plans to make a documentary film about the debacle. As the narrative winds through the family’s various coping mechanisms, Lesley remains an enigma, whom Jill plots to confront 20 years after the scandal to discover the truth behind her mysterious disappearance and resurfacing. The women’s perspectives are distinctly presented with a strong sense of place, especially in San Francisco, as they discover and develop their own anxieties in lives shattered by their father’s selfishness. Political scandal with an interesting twist that hits the mark.” — Kirkus Reviews


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

1 Comment

Filed under Friday Feature, Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

One Response to Friday Feature: Guest Interview Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

  1. Timitra

    That’s a really great and cool thing you’re doing Wendy by helping up and coming authors!