Writer Wednesday – K. Bird Lincoln

It’s been a while since I last posted an interview. Yesterday, I reviewed Tiger Lily, a book by K. Bird Lincoln. Today, I have an interview with the author.

    For somebody unfamiliar with the work of K. Bird Lincoln, how would you describe your fiction and which story do you think is the best introduction to your work?

What an interesting question. I don’t think I’ve ever tried to characterize my fiction before. I think maybe my stories tend to be about people who fit into society one way but get a chance to be someone else. A sister who resorts to magic to stop her twin from using her like in Recipe for Broke-Heart Bread. Or a refugee with a second chance to make a meaningful life. Either of these stories shows my fascination with how a touch of magic lets a character redefine themselves. Of course the best introduction to my work would be Tiger Lily. The main character is a girl who can hear kami (Japanese spirit-gods) sing. This gives her a chance to totally redefine herself.

    You’ve lived as an American expat in Japan. How difficult was it to adapt to that culture, and what lasting effects has it had on you as a person?

Really hard. Really easy. Terrible. Fantastic. Sigh. Words fail me. As a single, white female it was easy NOT to adapt to the culture. Nobody really wanted me to. I was more fun as an English Teacher if I was the “pet foreigner.” It was only after marrying a Tokyo Boy that things got hard. Then I couldn’t always get away with just doing things my own way anymore. I had to toe the line. But I wouldn’t give up that experience for anything in the world. Seeing that people can live in small spaces, sit on the floor, sleep in modular, reconfigurable futons, eat veggies with every meal, and have a vast, richly developed culture that has NOTHING to do with Europe helped me be much less of a clueless dunderhead in general.

    Your Japan experiences have colored you fiction, no doubt about it. Your novel “Tiger Lily” (reviewed yesterday) is set in a culture similar to traditional Japan. what drives your interest in this culture?

Embarassingly, it all started with a crush 🙂 I was going to study psychology in college. I had to take a foreign language and was sick of Spanish and French. I could choose between Russian and Japanese and Japanese fit better in my schedule. Then I met this Japanese studies major in my Japanese class, got a huge crush, started taking more classes in Japanese history, etc, etc. This story ended up with 6 and half years spent living in various parts of Japan’s main island and marriage to a Tokyo boy.

    Do any other cultures influence your writing?

Mostly Japan and Cleveland East Side (where I grew up.)

    What sorts of work have you done that does not involve Japanese culture in some way?

Yikes. Not much. If you mean “work” as in writing, there’s a few stories out there like “Recipe for Broke-heart Bread.” But even my most non-Japanese stories tend to feature at least a token Japanese character somewhere. It’s kind of my thing. You know, with the Japanese husband and two biracial daughters, its on my mind a lot.

    Like many authors in today’s changing environment, you decided to publish “Tiger Lily” under the indie model. What motivated that decision, and what have been the biggest difficulties you have faced?

I am lucky to have Codex Writers as an online resource. Some authors like Ruth Nestvold who writes great historical Arthurian fiction and Maya Lassiter who writes contemporary/urban fantasy self-published through Amazon and posted their experiences on Codex. I had the benefit of their wisdom to see, so when I finally decided historical Japanese fantasy just wasn’t going to tempt any agents out there, I decided to publish it myself. The biggest difficulty I had to face was coming to grips with my own expectations. I had been so focused on the traditional path towards getting my writing out in front of audiences that I was blind to all the indie publishers gems out there. Once I took stock of my own goals (they are somewhat modest) I realized going the indie route on the coat tails of excellent writers like Ruth and Maya was totally the right decision for me.

    Do you intend to continue publishing long fiction independently, traditionally, or a little of both?

I intend to continue publishing novels through Amazon, yes. I am also sending out some projects to agents. I think its wise to not confine yourself to one path.

    What projects do you have in the works or in the planning stages that get you excited?

I’m excited about Kabuto Beetles. (Goliath Beetles.) They’re a big thing in Japan as pets. There’s all these trading card games and robotic lego sets and video games associated with Kabuto Beetles. I’m writing a Young Adult science fiction novel now about a boy and his giant Goliath Beetle trekking through scary jungle.

But I am also thinking about taking my two published short stories that involve the characters from Tiger Lily and working them into a second novel. One of those stories “Exposure at Dejima” is currently available in the Japanese Earthquake Charity Anthology, Healing Waves. And then there’s this idea I have about Urban Explorer teenagers each looking for something they’ve lost in abandoned hospitals and asylums.

I don’t know, which do you think I should work on next?

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