December 2, 2013

An Author a (Mon)day: Amanda Sun

This week's guest is one of my favorite debut authors this year, Amanda Sun. I had the privilege of meeting Amanda at BEA and getting to hear a little about her book in person. I read Ink shortly after, and really liked it! Amanda is one of the nicest, most interesting authors I've encountered, and it's great that I get the opportunity to have her on the blog today. 

Alexa: Who or what inspired your characters Katie Greene and Tomohiro Yuu? Did you draw inspiration from specific people or just come up with everything yourself?

Amanda: Katie actually popped into my head during my high school years. Believe it or not, she was originally an ensign on a starship from a fan fiction I wrote. Haha! She worked with a Lieutenant Jonathan Greene, but they didn't get along at all. When Tomo started to appear in my thoughts, I knew Katie would be the perfect match for him. They're both headstrong and like to one-up each other, but they're also broken through similar tragedies which lead them to support and protect each other.

When I need characters, I don't usually create them -- I piece together the facts with their help. Usually one or two characters will just appear in my head after I get a book idea. In Ink's case, it was an image of Tomohiro sketching in his notebook while surrounded by trees. Slowly I learn more about them as I watch them move around in my head. I'll ask them questions about their name, their interests, etc. and occasionally they'll answer me.

I know it sounds weird, but that's how the creative process works for me. ^_^

Fragments of people I know, including myself, make it into all my characters. For example, Yuki wants to be a fashion designer, and my host sister in Japan studied fashion at university. That's about all they have in common, but there are little shards like that of things I've experienced.

Alexa: I think it's pretty cool that bits of your characters are inspired by real life! And as for them talking in your head, I say -- to each his own. I wish my characters were as forthright about who they are! Anyway, moving on... Japanese culture is a big part of Ink. How did you decide what elements of Japanese culture to incorporate? How did you decide what city to set it in?

Amanda: I really wanted to tell a Japanese-style story with a diverse YA cast, all based on a different mythology. When I came back from living in Japan on exchange, I found that I couldn't really express what my experience had been like. Ink allowed me to share what it's like to move to Japan, so it's hopefully immersive in every way -- language, food, customs, and high school life. I didn't want to hit the reader over the head with the setting though, so I tried to bring up things as they related to the story. I wanted to show a variety of Asian characters with different personalities and interests to challenge any stereotypes about how Japanese people act or think.

I chose Shizuoka for a few reasons. Shizuoka is a beautiful Japanese city, but has very few foreigners and is a little more remote than Tokyo might be. It also has an amazing park in the center of the city complete with moat and castle. There are a lot of high schools around this park, and when I was visiting one of my previous host students here, I was inspired with images of Katie going to school here as well. Finally, Shizuoka has a great archeological site called Toro Iseki, and when I went it was closed off and under renovations. That gave me the perfect secluded and safe area for Tomohiro to sketch his drawings without fear of hurting others or revealing his secrets.

Alexa: I had the privilege of visiting Japan in 2009, and I've wanted to go back for ages! Your book really immersed me in the culture again, so I'd say that was a success in my case. Now, tell us a little about the drawings in the book and who did them for you. Are you artistically inclined in any way?

Amanda: I love the included illustrations and flip art in the book! How cool to have animations in a book about drawings coming to life. There's even an enhanced ebook version of Ink from the iBookstore with the illustrations and cover as animated sequences! Such a cool idea. Since Ink is told from Katie's POV, the drawings allow the reader to see Tomo's POV as well -- there's danger in the drawings, but hope, too.

The interior illustrations in Ink are drawn by Ross Siu, who lives in Osaka, and the cover is by Petra Dufkova. There are interviews with both of them at the back of Ink, so I encourage you to read more about the amazing artists that helped Ink come to life. ^_^

As for me, I love to sketch and draw, but I was never as good as I wanted to be. I'm really good at imitating -- if I have an example picture, I can create a fairly accurate copy, but free-styling? Nope. My creativity comes through my cosplay. I sew, paint and craft elaborate costumes for anime conventions and then compete on stage. My favorite cosplays to make are ones with detailed fabric painting or beadwork.

Alexa: I think it's awesome that you take the time to create cosplay costumes! I enjoy anime, and it fascinates me to see people cosplay. I also wish I could draw, but sadly... I'm not good at that at all. Time for a bonus question! If you could be in ANY fictional world (without dying or getting hurt), which would it be and who would you want to hang out with?

Amanda: I'd probably hang out in Middle Earth or Narnia. I'd love to explore the places on those maps that weren't featured in the books, those hidden corners where mysteries lie waiting. And I'd love to meet some elves or centaurs. Wouldn't that make life more exciting? :D

I wish I could meet the elves of Middle Earth too, particularly Arwen and Legolas! Plus, I wouldn't be averse to meeting Aragorn... But that's a topic for another day. Thank you Amanda, for dropping by the blog for this interview! You can find out Amanda online here: website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr.


Ink - Amanda Sun

Ink by Amanda Sun
Series: Paper Gods #1
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: June 25, 2013

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. (from Goodreads)

Why should you read this book?

Basically, I think that you should read Ink because: (1) Japanese culture & mythology, (2) drawings that come to life and (3) fascinating story. Here are some quotes from my Ink review that go into a bit more detail:
Ink promises the reader a taste of Japan, its mythology and a fresh romance, and delivers on all three. It’s a read that will appeal to fans of Japanese anime, with prose that provides a startlingly visual reading experience.
Ink, overall, is an enjoyable story. It accurately portrays Japan and Japanese culture, which is something readers will enjoy. It also tells the story well, packing in some action and sweetness and sorrow. Finishing the novel felt like ending the first season of an anime: you’re satisfied, but there are still unanswered questions. Clearly, it means that readers will need to pick up the second novel to find out more - and I definitely will.


  1. I know very little about Japanese culture, so this book would be educational and entertaining for me- a win/win! =) Great interview!

    1. Thanks, Leandra! Japanese culture is so fascinating -- I hope you get a chance to read Ink!


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