Writing from Yaizu, Japan — Fiction Writer Thersa Matsuura

How much of Yaizu — where you currently reside, and which you described as “a smallish fishing town near Shizuoka” — finds its way into shaping your narratives and/or literary imagination?

I don’t think you can separate the town from the stories. All the ideas were born here, the settings or the people. The first house we lived in (the one from “Sand Walls, Paper Doors,” that story is quite autobiographical) was right by the fishing docks, all these old fishermen and their wives. And they did come over and try to help me learn the proper way of doing things. And I really did get scolded because I embarrassed them by hanging out my jeans with the holes in the knees to dry.

Yaizu has a flavor about it that I love. Lafcadio Hearn used to live here as well. As a matter of fact, his old house was a block from our first home. It must be something about Yaizu.

Do you have any favorite characters from A Robe of Feathers? (Who are they, and could you tell us why?)

A Robe of Feathers
BY Thersa Matsuura
(Counterpoint, 2009)

Oh, I love the near shut-in boy who builds the fancy bicycle and goes to profess his love to the girl and the boy with the bad leg who carries his grandmother up the mountain. Also, the blind man and woman who’s afraid people can read her thoughts in “Tip of the Nose.”

I think I’m drawn to people who have a bum rap in life — either born into a bad situation or they suffer some downturn in luck — and despite that they keep going on, trying to make the best of it.

How is it working on your first novel after your collection of short stories? Would you mind sharing with us a little about your new novel-to-be?

After the publication of A Robe of Feathers, the first question my agent asked me was “What are your plans for your second book?” We discussed it and it was decided my next project should be a novel. While I had a lot of ideas scribbled down, going from a 5,000-word short story to a 90,000-word novel was a bit overwhelming.

I actually took the middle path and wrote a 40,000-word middle grade book just to get the feel for writing a longer story.

After a few false starts I tackled my novel. Right now I’m almost finished with agent revisions. I hope to be done by the end of the year. So hopefully 2013 will bring some good news. The book is called Seven Secrets. And here is the “back-of-book” blurb or elevator pitch:

Kay wakes up one day and realizes her luck has vanished. No matter what she does, horrible things keep happening to her. And then it gets worse.

When her ex-lover, Danny, reappears wanting to pick up where they left off, Kay can’t remember what she had promised the man. As a matter of fact, there are more than a few memories from her past that she can’t bring herself to revisit.

Danny’s threats escalate, causing Kay to flee her home, her job, and her family to the valley town of Mukoumachi — a throwback to old Japan. Here, staying at a bed and breakfast run by her aunt and uncle, Kay believes she’ll be safe. But she is very, very wrong.

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