Tuesday, 4 November 2014

In Conversation with Suzanne Kamata

Today we welcome fellow Uncommon YA author Suzanne Kamata. She has published in a wide and varied range of publications and loves to travel!
Tell us a little about your writing journey.
I loved writing stories as a kid, and I never stopped. I wrote for my friends and family, then later for my high school newspaper, then I started submitting to magazines like SEVENTEEN before I discovered literary journals. My first published story appeared in a literary journal published at a college in Florida.
After I graduated from college (with a degree in English literature – what else?!), I came to Japan. Because there’s a high turnover of expats, it was pretty easy to break into writing for English-language magazines and newspapers here. Now I’ve published stories, essays, and books all over the world.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?
I like being able to live vicariously through my characters and the people I interview. Also, I like learning about new things through the research that I do for various projects, and of course, I love hearing from readers who have been moved somehow by my writing.
What is the hardest aspect of being a writer?
Rejection is a constant thing, and also writers tend to not make a lot of money. In general, money is equated with success, so if a writer doesn’t sell a lot of copies of her book or make a lot of money, she is seen as a failure (not only by people outside the writing business, but also by the people who publish books). However, we all know stories about "failed" writers, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose The Great Gatsby was panned by reviewers, and who died thinking he was a loser.

Writers are sometimes influenced by things that happen in their own lives. Are you?
Yes, definitely. I have my idea radar on all the time. Even if my day is relatively normal, I might be inspired by a news headline, or a story that someone else tells me. Even after living in Japan for 26 years, there is still a lot that surprises me about this country. I’m always finding new things to write about.

Tell us about your publications?
Well, I’ve published over 100 short pieces in newspapers and magazines and journals and websites and anthologies. I’ve written a novel and a short story collection mostly for adults, a picture book, and edited three anthologies. I’ve written and published two novels for young adults – Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible, which is about a biracial girl with cerebral palsy who aspires to become a manga artist, and Screaming Divas, which is sort of a punk Little Women.

What is the most surprising thing about writing/publishing you have learnt?
Before I became a published writer, I imagined editors and publishers as grumpy gatekeepers, but people in the business are, by and large, very kind and generous and helpful. I didn’t expect editors to be so nice!

Top tip/s for writers.

  1. Read a lot. Occasionally read something outside your field of interest/genre.

  2. Use prompts if you get stuck.
  3. Be persistent and patient.

  4. Be nice. The publishing world is more like a village.

  5. Create a community and help other writers when you can. I believe in writerly karma. J
Other than writing what else do you love?
I love to travel! One of my dreams is to visit Africa.

What would your dream location for writing be?
Right now, I’m fantasizing about a writer’s retreat in Bellagio, Italy. An extended stay in Paris would be nice, too.
Five words that sum you up.
Quiet, curious, open-minded, loves chocolate.

How can we learn more?

Twitter: @shikokusue

Such a pleasure to read about your journey Suzanne. I can highly recommend Africa as a country to visit. Kenya and Tanzania were amazing! All the best with your writing.


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