Friday, June 7, 2013

Feature Friday: Amanda Sun

Amanda Sun was born in Deep River, a small town where she could escape into the surrounding forest to read. An archaeologist by training, she speaks several languages and will write your name in Egyptian Hieroglyphics if you ask. Her debut novel, INK, is the first in the Paper Gods series and is inspired by her time in Japan, with a paranormal twist. She loves knitting, gaming, and cosplay, and lives in Toronto with her family. Find her on Twitter @Amanda_Sun or on Goodreads.

Interview:
A.L.:
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

Amanda:
Finish what you write! This held me back for a long time. You learn so much by finishing a novel—how to wrap up all the ends and how to scale down from the excitement. Once I hit the middle of a novel, sometimes it’s all I can do to crawl forward sentence by sentence. It can be a painful time in the book’s life, and mine. But you have to keep going or you'll never reach the end. You just can’t stop in the middle, no matter how tempting it is, or you’ll never be at the point where you can share you work with others. :)

A.L.:
What's your favorite book and why?

Amanda:
I have a couple favorite books. One is Mort by Terry Pratchett. I love how Pratchett keeps you laughing, and yet invites you to contemplate deeper questions in his novels. Mort is about an awkward boy becoming Death's apprentice, and what happens when he doesn't want to carry out his duties...but of course, on a deeper level it's about mortality, and choices we make in life. I love the balance of authentic and entertaining.

My other favorite book is The Knife of Never Letting Go. That novel wasn't afraid to go into the dark places or to push the limits of fiction. I found myself constantly amazed that the story went where it did, always taking me to the edge of cliffs and then dropping me off them! As the Chaos Walking series progressed, it showed, too, how circumstances can push us as humans to make decisions we never thought we would. So I love the insight into the human character in this book.

A.L.:
Where did you get the idea for Paper Gods?

Amanda:
Well, I lived in Japan on exchange in high school, and I knew I wanted to combine my love of YA with my love of Japan and my experiences there. On top of that, I was really interested in Japanese mythology and bringing those elements into a YA. I watch a lot of J-dramas, and I like how you're not guaranteed a happy ending, or an always-positive outcome, so that played into it as well. But believe it or not, a huge influence for INK was Egyptian history! I studied Middle Egyptian in university, and I learned that the scribes used to chisel lines through the snake hieroglyphs because they were worried that the drawings would come alive and bite those entombed in the After Life. Japanese characters, as well, have their roots in communicating with the spirit world, so it all seemed to fit. And on top of that, as a kid I loved the children's cartoon Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings. Haha! So I guess you could say the idea's been building my whole life. ;D

A.L.:
Did you hit any snags while writing Paper Gods?  What were they and how did you fix them?

Amanda:
So originally INK started as a contemporary YA! I pictured this boy who wanted to be an artist but couldn't because of his family's wishes, and this girl who had suffered a loss in her life. I saw them connecting and helping each other. But one day, while I was watching Tomohiro sketch, his drawing moved across the page. I was really shocked! Slowly, Tomohiro started to tell me who he really was, and then I realized that my novel was about something else entirely. So it was a snag, but an exciting one. The plot changed dramatically as I saw the limited choices Tomohiro had to survive.

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in Paper Gods is your favorite and why?

Amanda:
I'd have to say Tomohiro. I really love dark characters who have demons to overcome, and Tomohiro has those in spades. Between the nightmares and the strange skills he's been cursed with, it takes a lot of strength for him to fight against his own fate. But despite all the darkness that surrounds him, he has a good heart, and wants to do good in the world. So I really admire him and appreciate the struggle he has--that we all have.

A.L.:
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?

Amanda: 
Sure! I always wanted to be a writer, as long as I can remember. :) I actually majored in Archaeology in university, and took every course under the sun, so I would have a broad background for developing realistic worlds, histories, and characters. Good thing the writing thing worked out! *laughs* I sold my first short story in 2007--actually, I won a fiction contest and publication. That story was set in Kyoto, but was literary fiction. After that I sold two more stories, a YA Dystopian and a YA Urban Fantasy. My first novel, an epic fantasy, couldn't find an agent, however, so I put it in the drawer and spent a year reading all the YA I could get my hands on. It really helped to know what was current in YA! Not that you should write to the market, but it's a good idea to know what's out there and what's going on. With my new knowledge and my love for YA reignited, I wrote INK in 2009-2010, polished it for a while, and then signed with my agent in 2011. INK sold later that year--hurray! ^_^

A.L.:
What are you working on now?  Sequel?  Something new?

Amanda:
I'm currently working on edits for Book 2 in The Paper Gods. Lots more strange ink happenings, more Japanese culture, and more Japanese food! *laughs* I also have a couple Shiny New Ideas(TM) floating around that I'm starting to plot out.

A.L.:
How did you go about writing a book set in Japan?  How did you go about making it relatable to American readers?

Amanda:
When I lived in Osaka, I kept a daily journal, which I looked back on before writing INK. I also traveled back to Japan and really studied Shizuoka City, taking a ton of photos of Sunpu Park and all the locations where INK is set. I checked in with my Japanese friends to make sure as many details as possible were accurate, like how Japanese boys talk, school life, and so on. I wanted as authentic an experience as possible.

The decision to make Katie an outsider was largely to make the novel accessible to readers who aren't familiar with life in Japan. I didn't want to hit readers over the head with the culture, but integrate it slowly in the background. Hopefully that comes across as you read :) Also, Japanese teens grow up in a different society than American or Canadian or Australian, and I wanted to make sure the world was accessible while still being understandable. There are times that the Japanese characters react in a way that might not feel familiar to outside readers, and I'm hoping that Katie will help bridge that gap by asking the questions readers might have about those situations. But I really hope that what comes across most clearly is not the differences, but the similarities, the way we are the same. :)

A.L.:
What's the most epic cos-play outfit you've ever made?

Amanda:
Oh! Well, there are two. One is Fran from Final Fantasy XII, aka Warrior Bunny. I spent four months cutting out teeeeeny strips of craft foam and layering them to create her intricate-looking armor. It was an awesome experience wearing the finished product, though. The other I just finished--Vanille from Final Fantasy XIII. I used over 1600 beads on the costume, 500 of which were handpainted one by one. Often I didn't have the right beads, so I made them out of clay. I performed on stage and won a Workmanship ribbon for my beading, which was so rewarding after all those months of work! It's a time-consuming hobby, but I just love cosplay. I learn something different about myself from recreating each of those characters, and I love learning from the painting, sewing, and crafting that goes into each costume.

If you want to see my cosplays, I keep some photos on my pinterest page: http://pinterest.com/amandasunbooks/my-cosplay/

A.L.:
During your travels in Japan, what was the most memorable thing that you did?

Amanda: 
I think my trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima Island really stayed with me. Seeing the buildings frozen in time by the bomb that dropped there...it was such an eerie reminder of the darkness humans are capable of. And Itsukushima Shrine plays an important role in INK, just as it moved me the first time I saw it. The endless hallways of orange and white beams are almost dream-like to walk through, and the giant O-Torii gate is so beautiful as the tide laps against its base.

Another memorable thing was climbing Mount Fuji. Unfortunately I didn't make it all the way to the top--maybe someday! We were very close to the summit when an Australian girl I'd met that morning fell on the loose red rocks and hurt her leg. I remember walking alongside her as we descended, sharing wonderful conversation as she hobbled down the mountainside. I'll never forget that feeling of friendship, and how quickly we grew together through that experience. Later that night we went to the beach of Kamakura and lit small fireworks and sparklers, laughing as the tide lapped the shore around us. That was a moment of togetherness I can't forget. We were a mix of exchange students and Japanese teens, and despite all our different backgrounds, we came together through what we had in common. That is the spirit of INK that I hope comes across, that we're really not that different from one another after all. :)

Thank you so much for having me on the blog! ^_^

The Giveaway:
Amanda is giving away a signed ARC of INK.

Ink:  I looked down at the paper, still touching the tip of my shoe. I reached for it, flipping the page over to look.

Scrawls of ink outlined a drawing of a girl lying on a bench.

A sick feeling started to twist in my stomach, like motion sickness.

And then the girl in the drawing turned her head, and her inky eyes glared straight into mine.


On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn’t know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks, and she can’t seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building.

Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they'll both be targets.

Katie never wanted to move to Japan—now she may not make it out of the country alive.


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How to Enter:
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