Copyright Choc Lit
Thank you so much to Oapschat for inviting me to talk about my new book The Jade Lioness which is out tomorrow, October 7th!
This novel is the third in a Japanese-themed trilogy. When I started to write the first one, I had been told to “write what you know” and as I’d spent some time living in Japan, that was what appealed to me. It is a fascinating country and I have to admit I fell in love with everything about it. Being something of a history buff as well, I had read a lot about what happened when foreigners first came to Japan’s shores, so I used this as inspiration for my story.
This turned into book one – The Scarlet Kimono, about an English girl who travels to Japan on a merchant ship in 1611. There, she is abducted by a samurai warlord, but she ends up falling in love with him and wanting to stay. It was, of course, pure fantasy (or shall we call it artistic licence?) as no female Europeans were allowed into Japan at that time, but it was fun to speculate what would have happened if they had been.
Originally, I hadn’t envisaged writing more than one novel, but I then started to think about what would happen to any possible children born to such a mismatched couple – how would they be treated in Japan? Or in England, for that matter?
Mixed parentage of that kind was rather unusual in those days and he/she/they would not really have fit in anywhere. And so the second story, The Gilded Fan, was born – Midori, a half-English/half-Japanese girl, is forced to flee Japan in 1641 when the Shogun decided to evict all foreigners and children of foreigners. She travels to England in 1642 and has the misfortune to arrive just as the Civil War is starting. Coping with a culture shock and a war is bad enough, but she’s also met a stubborn sea captain along the way ...
That could have been the end of it, but sometimes when you’re writing a book some of the secondary characters stand out and almost force you to give them their own story. So it was in this case. Midori has a cousin called Temperance, who accompanies Midori and her husband to the exotic empire of Japan after the Civil War ends. But everything is not as she’s imagined it and she finds herself restricted to the small island of Dejima.
She longs for the freedom to explore the mainland, but that was not allowed by the Japanese – the foreigners had to stay on that tiny island and go no further. Temperance, however, takes matters into her own hands and sneaks off one day and then she happens to meet a man called Kazuo, a ronin (outlaw) who’s fascinated by her foreign looks. The Jade Lioness is all about what happens to them …
Although, as I mentioned, foreign women were not allowed, the setting to this story is based on the real Dutch trading post on the island of Dejima in the port of Nagasaki. It was a man-made island, built in the shape of the Shogun’s fan and surrounded by water.
It is now a national historic site and is being reconstructed – I was lucky enough to visit it some years ago
Signpost to the factory
Some of the houses have been rebuilt and you can wander around, seeing for yourself what it must have been like for the foreigners – it’s fantastic! Imagine sailing around the world (a journey that took at least nine months) only to end up on a small piece of land, connected to the mainland by a bridge they weren’t allowed to cross! They could look at the other side, but not explore.
It must have been hugely frustrating!
Not to mention claustrophobic. And yet, some of them stayed there for years. I don’t think I could have done – I would have tried to escape, just like my heroine in The Jade Lioness.
Editor: Christina is very kindly donating a signed copy of The Jade Lioness, details will appear on website soon. Many thanks Christina.