Carrying on with our #NaNoWriMo theme this month, it’s time for an author interview! Earlier this week I reviewed ‘The Haiku Murder’, the second novel in the Josie Clark in Japan series by Fran Pickering, and now it’s time for an interview with the lovely lady herself.
It began because I wanted to write about Japan and share my experiences of it with people in a way that was entertaining and non-academic. That led me to writing fiction. Then, I’m an avid detective fiction reader, so writing a series of East-West fusion murder mysteries just seemed a natural thing to do. I’ve had a lot of fun with Josie as she’s developed from my first idea of her into a proper character: Josie Clark from Catford who misses her Mum and stands up for what’s right.
How much of Fran Pickering is in Josie Clark?
Josie doesn’t look like me. She’s tall and I’m not. She has long unruly hair and I don’t. But in character, like the way she sticks at things even when people tell her not to, and in the logical way she thinks through problems, she’s like me.
Her experiences are based on mine – for instance, being a fan of the spectacular all-female Takarazuka Revue in ‘The Cherry Blossom Murder’. I love Takarazuka and always see a show when I’m in Japan, either at the Takarazuka theatre in Hibiya in Tokyo or in Takarazuka itself, which is a small town in the mountains outside Osaka.
Josie’s friends are based on my Japanese friends. Josie’s best friend, Keiko, is actually a composite of my three closest friends, who are thrilled to be in the books.
I’m an indie publisher, which means I published the book myself. I used Kindle Direct Publishing to publish the ebook to Amazon, Createspace, which is an Amazon company, to print and publish the print book, and Smashwords to publish the ebook to online retailers other than Amazon, like iBook and Nook.
I did my own formatting and uploading (bit of a learning curve but worth it) but I used a professional cover designer, Design for Writers, as the cover is so important. I love my covers (Design for Writers have done three for me so far) and I’m sure they attract potential readers. I used a professional editor, Lucy Ridout, for ‘The Cherry Blossom Murder’ but did my own editing for ‘The Haiku Murder’.
To anyone who’s thinking of going the Indie publishing route, I would say go for it, but first get a copy of Catherine Ryan Howard’s Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing. It talks you through the process in a friendly and clear way. Her website is great for advice too.
Also, the Association of Independent Authors is full of other writers who have been through the self-publishing process and are hugely supportive.
Tell us briefly about your own Japan journey!
My Japan journey started in 1994, when the Takarazuka Revue came to London for a fortnight’s run at the London Coliseum. My husband and I liked it so much we decided to go to Japan for a holiday. Neither of us spoke any Japanese so we started to learn a bit, just to get by. It grew from there as we made Japanese friends and spent more time there. I studied at King’s College where my teacher made me sit all the Japanese Language Proficiency Test exams – so hard, but worth it in the end.
Then I was lucky enough to get sent to Japan on secondment to the Japanese Civil Service, which was the most amazing immersive experience and really boosted my speaking skills, plus I was able to travel around, to Tohoku before the earthquake, Hokkaido, Hiroshima and down south to Kyushu. I met so many fascinating people. For a while I was spending three months a year in Japan, but now I just go over once or twice a year to see friends, visit the hot springs and remind myself what real Japanese food tastes like.
In the next book, ‘The Bullet Train Murder’, Josie’s relationship with her English boyfriend Dave faces more problems as he moves to Tokyo to be with her but she gets sent to work in Osaka, travelling back to Tokyo on the bullet train at weekends. And running across a body on the train (of course).
What next for you?
I’ll be working on my two blogs. I post twice a week on Sequins and Cherry Blossom, which is about things going on in London with a Japanese aspect to them, like art exhibitions, new restaurants, and Japanese gardens. Plus I now run Cherry Blossom Mondays and Haiku Thursdays on my website, franpickering.com.