Monday, December 10, 2012

Ancient Japan Comes to Modern-Day Pittsburgh: An Interview with UF Author Larry Ivkovich

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1) Please tell us about your book. 

The Sixth Precept is an urban fantasy with science fiction and horror elements, part of it taking place in contemporary Pittsburgh, PA, and part in ancient Japan. My two main characters and several supporting ones get caught up in a centuries-old conspiracy involving a 16th-century Japanese courtesan, a power mad warlord, a group of genetically bred animal-human hybrid hunter/trackers and time-travel. Kim Yoshima is a Pittsburgh police officer beginning to discover her latent psychic powers and Wayne Brewster (whose name is a take on Bruce Wayne aka Batman) is a mild-mannered IT analyst who dreams of a life as a real super-hero. Both characters undergo startling metamorphoses in order to combat an evil from the past that threatens the stability of the present. And everything is tied to a mysterious book written by an obscure ancient Japanese philosopher titled The Five Precepts to Enlightenment.

2) Please tell us a bit about your characters.

Kim Yoshima is a lieutenant in the Pittsburgh Police force who has maintained an interest and connection to her Asian heritage. She becomes a cop in order to help people and maintain the “harmony” of the world around her. Not particularly close to her parents or brother, the only family member she really has ties to is her paternal grandmother. Grandmother Mitsu’s advice over the years begins to take on whole new meanings as Kim tries to deal with her burgeoning esper powers and the very real danger out of Japan’s medieval past. It was Mitsu who gave Kim the book The Five Precepts to Enlightenment.

Wayne Brewster’s life has been fairly routine up until he begins to dream of the comic book icon, ArcNight. Nicknamed “Tame Wayne” by his coworkers, Wayne is anything but a super hero. But these dreams are different as Wayne feels he’s actually becoming this masked vigilante. Trying to make sense of the change coming over him, circumstances lead him to a person he’s been seeing in these nocturnal visions repeatedly--Kim Yoshima.

Omori Kadanamora is the Eminent Lord, the warlord of Odawara, having taken the 16th century Japanese city and the environs of the Kanto Plain by force. Using the combined might of his warrior monks, the sohei, and terrifying human/canine hybrids called shadow-trackers bred by the witch, Eela, he has staked his claim on the region through fear, force and intimidation. But his superstitious fear of the supernatural leaves him vulnerable to a prophecy by Eela--a child will usurp him, a child with a link to the future.

Shioko is that child. The attendant to the shirabyoshi (precursors to the geisha), Yoshima Mitsu (Kim Yoshima’s ancestor), Shioko is flung centuries into the future by means of the ‘Spirit Winds”--temporal displacement tremors. There, Mitsu believes Shioko will be safe from the purges of Omori. And for a while, she is, found and cared for by Kim herself. But the past catches up with Shioko, in a very literal and horrifying way.

3) What got you interested in writing an urban fantasy story with such an intimate connection to Japanese mythology and history? What sort of research did you do to add verisimilitude to these elements?

After reading James Clavell’s novel, Shogun, in the 1970s, I developed an interest in medieval Japan and have been wanting to write something with elements from that historical period for some time. I actually wrote four short stories featuring Kim Yoshima before I wrote The Sixth Precept, two of which were published--“Time Noir” in M-Brane SF and “A Concerned Citizen” by IFWG Publishing but these were pretty straight-forward genre tales with just small references to Kim’s interest in her heritage. When I decided to expand her adventures, the idea of including elements of ancient Japan just fit right in with the story I wanted to tell. I did a lot of mainly online research of the time period. The Muromachi or Warring States Era, with its almost constant warfare between the warlords and the samurai, seemed a good fit for the novel. I also read a lot about Japanese mythology and the city and castle of Odawara and the Kanto Plain region as well as the Ise Jingu complex in Ise, Japan. It was fun and enlightening. For instance, I originally made Kim’s ancestor, Yoshima Mitsu, a geisha, but then found out that geisha’s didn’t exist during that era but the shirabyoshis did, practicing the same type of entertainment and art. So, with a global search-and-replace on my PC, Mitsu became a shirabyoshi!

4) Related to that, the mythology and history of Japan isn't as readily known to Western readers. Did you have any concerns that your heavy basis in such elements would alienate any readers? Many popular urban fantasy books sometimes rely on people's general familiarity with certain concepts (such as vampires, werewolves, et cetera) to quickly bring people up to speed.

No, I wasn’t. I wanted to do something a little different although manga and anime are certainly popular and contain those elements. I tried to explain or translate any concepts or terms in the book not so much by info-dumps but by short phrases or more familiar words. It’s true that a couple of people who’ve read the book told me they were initially stumped by the Japanese terms but did get into the story very quickly regardless.

5) What was the most difficult aspect of writing this book?

Besides finding the time to write (which is a common problem among writers in general), I think it was tying all the disparate elements of the book together. I’ve got time travel, mental telepathy, Japanese myth, reincarnation and genetic experiments all in the mix. It was fun to include all of that but it took some work to bring it all together.

6) Do you have any sequels planned?

Yes, I’m writing the sequel to The Sixth Precept now. Working title: Warriors of the Light. I’m not done with these characters yet! Or, maybe I should say, they’re not done with me.

7) Please tell us a bit more about your writing background. The Sixth Precept is hardly your first trip to the writing rodeo. Indeed, you've even won a writing awards.

I’ve been writing genre fiction for thirty years and began selling some of my short stories about fifteen years ago to various print and online markets. I’ve always been a big reader and finally decided one day that I’d like to try my hand at writing. Haven’t looked back since. I belong to two writing/critique groups, the Pittsburgh Southwrites and the Pittsburgh Worldrights, in which the members meet every couple of weeks and go over any submitted work. This had helped my writing and critiquing skills immeasurably. I advise any new writers to try and find or start such a group. I’ve been fortunate to have been a finalist in the L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest and was the 2010 recipient of the CZP/Rannu Fund Award for fiction for my science fiction short story, “Finding Sanctuary.” The Sixth Precept is my first published novel.

8) Please tell us about your upcoming projects.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m writing the sequel to The Sixth Precept, which will delve deeper into the characters’ pasts as they battle a new threat. Part of it takes place in Venice, Italy. Next year, IFWG Publishing will be publishing my second novel, Magus Star Rising. This is a futuristic science fiction novel with noir elements taking place on a backwater rim world where superstition and science are a dangerous and deadly mix. I’ve also started several short stories that are in desperate need of finishing!

Thank you very much for hosting me on my virtual book tour.


Thanks, Larry.

If you'd like to see more from Larry, please check out him out at his Website and Facebook page.

The Sixth Precept can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and IFWG Publishing.

Here's giving away copies, please click here if you're interested a Rafflecopter giveaway.

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