If you remember, a little while ago, I posted a book review of the book ‘Fox-Hat and Neko’ by August Li, where I was basically raving my praise of it. Well, not long after I posted the review, I got into contact with the author – a really awesome dude by the way – and he agreed to do this Q&A with me!
1) ‘Fox-Hat and Neko’ is quite a long book – in just one
sentence, how would you describe ‘Fox-Hat and Neko?’
If something’s wrong in the world, fight to fix it.
2) How did you formulate this story? What was the inspiration for it?
My friend had a fox hat she would wear pretty much all the time. She got the nickname Fox-Hat for a while. It all started there. The rest just kind of came.
3) The characters in the book are so well written, and fully
developed. Did you draw on anyone in real life for any of the
Not any one person, but all characters are pieced together from people the writer has met in some capacity. They’re bits of traits I have admired (or not) that stem from their experiences. Because of the lives they’ve lived up until this point, they all perceive the world and their situation in a slightly different way, and when it’s combined, it allows them something like the whole picture. I really don’t like perfect characters, and I don’t believe anyone, not even the most heroic person, is completely without selfishness, or fear, or some other flaw. I find it more inspiring when they can shine in spite of their shortcomings. I needed a group of people who, despite differences and occasionally passionate disagreement, could complement each other’s attitudes and skills, but without losing their individual goals and desires.
4) I know that whenever I’m writing, I always come back to it
after a while, and I always want to change at least half a dozen
things about the plot. If you could go back and change one thing about
the book, what would you change?
It probably wouldn’t be a change for the better, but I always want to dig deeper into the characters and dissect how their past experiences color their current motives and opinions. What forces combined to shape them into their current forms? It’s a fine balancing act to include enough to make them relatable without dragging down the action of the story. Some of the secondary characters—Kazu and Wish, especially—grew on me as I was working, and I found I’d like to explore them further. Maybe in a sequel some day.
5) Which character from the book do you feel you identify with the most?
As an artist, it’s easy to identify with Chou: artistic integrity versus commercial success. I also think the act of creation is as close as most people can get to magic (though I still hold out a little bit of hope that there are real mages and spirits around). But creative people in all fields can sort of shape things from their will. One thing about Chou that I really admire is her special brand of courage; she shows it can sometimes take more bravery to be kind than to be aggressive, that there’s more than one way to fight against injustice. Not that she won’t get her hands dirty if she has to!
Another thing I have felt is Ayumu’s desire to sort of remain invisible—to avoid the responsibility and work that come with drawing attention to yourself, but then reaching a point where it’s unbearable to hide away and let bad things continue to happen without speaking up.
6) If the characters from any of your books came to life, which
would you be most afraid of meeting, and which would you be dying to
Afraid? Kazuo *shudder* He’s an example of a person who’s survived because he’s earned it. Still, I would be morbidly curious, and, probably as Neko did, would pay for that curiosity. He’s awfully pretty, too, and I have a shallow streak.
The character I’d most like to meet might be surprising. Fox-Hat and Neko would both be fun to hang out with (also scary), but the character I would most like to sit down and have a conversation with would be Mrs. Chen. She has seen and experienced a great deal of life and would have a lot of wisdom to impart.
1) Morning, noon, or night?
Night all the way.
2) The last book you read?
Currently reading Blue On Black by Carole Cummings.
3) If you could go anywhere in the world for a holiday, where would you go?
I’m afflicted with chronic wanderlust, so anywhere I haven’t been yet. I’m gradually ticking countries off my list, but there’s still a lot more to see. But to answer honestly, Japan, always.
4) Pet peeves?
Closed-mindedness. Intolerance. Indifference to the struggles of others.
5) Most embarrassing childhood memory?
Not sure if this is embarrassing or just kind of gross, but it’s one of my most vivid memories. I think I was five or six, and I was at my grandparents’ house. Obviously I was too young to be allowed a knife, but I wanted to carve a boat to put in a small stream, so I took one from the kitchen. Predictably, I cut my hand very deeply. I was so afraid I was going to get in trouble that I hid in the bathroom and put my hand under warm water… which encouraged it to bleed even faster. Luckily I was found, because that would have been a heck of an embarrassing way to die.
6) How old were you when you were in love for the first time?
Well, I love my family and my pets, so I guess whenever I was old enough to realize I loved my parents?
7) Favourite author?
It depends on what I’m in the mood to read, but a few who have influenced me are Mercedes Lackey, Robert Jordan, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Kenneth Grahame, Peter S. Beagle, Richard Adams, Ursula K. Le Guin, Diana Wynne Jones… this could become a long list. I’ll stop.
8) Favourite book?
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
9) Favourite colour?
That’s a tough one as an artist, but I like fall colours like rust-red, orange, gold, and burgundy. Especially against a grey sky. It makes them so vibrant in comparison.
10) Favourite song of the moment?
I’ve been listening to gothy things like The Cure and Nick Cave while I work on Fox-Hat and Crow. “Beloved” by VNV Nation is probably my favourite ever song. Haha, I’m old.
11) Have you ever found that you don’t have enough bookshelf space?
Yes. I collect all kinds of books, graphic novels, and manga. I go to a lot of conventions and never come home empty-handed (even though I should). I have a three-bedroom house to myself, and it’s still a problem.
12) If you could meet any celebrity – dead or alive – who would you choose?
Lord Byron, an attractive and intelligent guy who liked to have a good time.
Again, thanks for doing this – my first author interview!
It’s been a pleasure. Thanks so much for having me!