Summer is nearly over and I’m pleased to host an interview with author Paul Mark Tag on the release of his new historical fiction book – HOW MUCH DO YOU LOVE ME? And of course, the cover is stunning!
Here’s a bit about the book:
Lovers James and Keiko marry quickly before James goes to World War II and Keiko to an internment camp. Sixty years later their daughter Kazuko, born in the camps, uncovers a secret that could overwhelm the family. Discover the very definition of human love and self-sacrifice in this saga of war, mystery, and romance.
1) What inspired you to write this book, and in particular, about this time in American history?
First, thank you for the opportunity to participate in this interview. I really appreciate it.
I live in California and have been aware of the World War II Japanese internment for some time. Very often, in our local paper, the Monterey Herald, an obituary will reference a person who had been interned. In fact, every Japanese who lived along the west coast of the U.S. was interned. Recognizing how much of an injustice this internment was (2 out of every 3 internees was a U.S. citizen, having been born here), I wanted to shine a light on this tragedy, particularly for the younger generations in our country. By learning from our mistakes, perhaps we can prevent ourselves from falling into such a trap again.
2) Who is your favorite character in the book and why?
I love them all, of course, because I had to get inside the head of each of them. Probably my favorite, however, is Barbara Armstrong, the Caucasian mother of Keiko’s husband, James. With nary a prejudicial bone in her body, she is a modern, progressive woman for the times and accepts Keiko unequivocally as her daughter-in-law. Except for Keiko herself, Barbara’s character, through her interactions with her daughter-in-law, are laid bare and true.
3) Who is your least favorite character and why?
I had to think about this a little bit. There are no characters that I dislike because, overall, my characters are honest, and the reader understands the reasons for their actions. However, although it’s not deserved, Keiko’s Aunt Shizuka might bear the brunt of dislike. In Keiko’s words herself (as a teenager), “Keiko had read somewhere that it wasn’t unusual for the baby in the family to be the spoiled brat, and Keiko decided that whoever had written that definition must have known her sister.” However, in the camps, Shizuka grows up quickly. Over the years, she must guard the secret and, particularly in the year 2000, probably comes across as the “bad guy.” But, in reality, she has no choice but to support the decision of her sister. To say more would give away the story.
4) You diverted from your previous genres (thrillers) to write this historical fiction book – What prompted this decision?
I love writing thrillers, and I have written three. Nonetheless, all three start during some historical event. Category 5 begins during the Arab-Israeli War of 1973. The secret in Prophecy starts during the great Johnstown flood of 1889, one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history (2200 people died when a poorly-maintained dam gave way). And finally, White Thaw: The Helheim Conspiracy begins in Hitler’s bunker at the end of World War II.
For How Much Do You Love Me? the Japanese internment is the centerpiece for the story. And for this historical event, I thought that a love story would be most appropriate. This decision also made it possible for me to try another genre.
5) What are some of your favorite books of all time?
As an adult before I retired from my job to write fiction, I wouldn’t say that I was an avid reader of fiction. Once I started writing fiction (about fifteen years ago), I made a renewed effort (and still do) to read a variety of novels to learn how to write better (I just finished The Great Gatsby and now appreciate how it became a classic). Ironically, the heaviest reading period in my life occurred when I was in grade and middle school. I loved Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth and all books by Jim Kjelgaard: for example, Big Red, about an Irish Setter and a boy who grow up together. And so, what are my favorite books of all time? I know my answer will disappoint you. I read and loved all of the early Tom Clancy (the famous thriller writer) books (before he teamed up with other authors). I suppose that demonstrates why I enjoy writing thrillers now.
6) Where and when are places you prefer to write?
Although I am truly a morning person, I write in the afternoon. I guess that’s because I tend to catch up on chores in the morning. Where? We have a small guesthouse, and I’ve written my last three books sitting at a table by the window. I can write anywhere, however, as long as it’s quiet.
7) What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Frequently, I’m asked this question at book signings. Limiting conversation only to fiction, I recommend doing what I did. Start small by writing short stories; I did that for four years before I began my first novel. Your first goal is to learn story-telling skills, and there is no better way. Short stories are “bite-size” and can run from a page long on up; if the story isn’t going well, toss it in the trash and start over; not much time or effort is lost. Everything else being equal, truth be told, it is in many respects more difficult to write a short story than a novel. One of my early mentors gave me encouragement when she told me, “If you can write a short story like you’ve just sent me, you’re ready to tackle a novel.” I took her advice and did what she said.
And here: http://www.paulmarktag.com/#&panel1-1