Friday, 18 November 2011

Interview: Julia Suzuki

I'm thrilled to welcome Julia Suzuki to my blog today, author of the highly original and magical Yoshiko and the Gift of Charms. I just loved this special book and I'm so pleased Julia agreed to a grilling so I can dig a little deeper behind the scenes. Here's the blurb:

This epic novel, first in the Land of Dragor series, is aimed primarily at eight to twelve year-olds but with appeal for all ages transports the reader to the magical Land of Dragor, where seven dragon clans live hidden from man. Their great war is over and the dragons live peacefully among the smoking mud pools and around The Fire Which Must Never Go Out, but the terrible years when they were enslaved by humans have left a lasting scar and they are told they can never soar above the mountains and leave their safe haven to explore the outside world. There is unease in the air of their mist-filled valley, and the coming of a strange egg heralds a new era. Unlike the normal delicate lilac, this shell is multi-coloured like the contents of a treasure chest. The newborn hatchling is called Yoshiko, but he is immediately treated with suspicion by the elders, and is lucky to survive. The last time a coloured egg was laid, legendary warrior leader Surion was born from a red shell, and with his gift of fire the dragons went to battle with the humans. Will Yoshiko bring a blessing to the clans, or a curse? Could Dragor be about to meet its saviour, or its destroyer?

Chameleon-like Yoshiko is bullied and tormented as he grows up, taunted at fire school as he struggles to produce a jet of flame. Desperate to hide his colour changes, he flees from school one day and finds himself on the fabled mountain of Cattlewick Cave, home to the mysterious and reclusive elder Guya. This chance meeting changes Yoshiko’s life, and as he develops from hatchling to youngling, he is inspired to spread his wings and venture outside Dragor. He returns with magic gifts – but only time will tell if they heal or harm Dragor.

Hop over to my 5 star review of Yoshiko and the Gift of Charms.

How would you describe Yoshiko in a tweet (140 characters)?

Yoshiko is ambitious, determined and driven but sensitive with the desire to fit in and be loved!

I thought Yoshiko was such an original story, where did the idea for the book come from?

The idea came from personal challenges while growing up as a child who used to get rather embarrassed – his colour change reflects that blushing. I created the idea when the dragon became a logo for my business, which is all about health, wealth and beauty. Yoshiko strives for everything that a lot of us do - acceptance, love and to fulfil our purpose. My quest is to share the secrets as to how that may be obtained after years of personal development studies, conquering my own challenges and learning from others.

Yoshiko is a great hero character and I especially love the character of Guya. How do these characters come to you?

With regards to Guya, a lot of him is based on a wise man I know who mentors many people. I often refer to speaking to him as like 'having conversations with God' for he seems to have answers I can never find elsewhere. His father was a judge and an Indian Ambassador who taught him much of his knowledge which led to a hugely successful business career. He certainly has inspired me and when I am faced with a challenge, he is the first person I talk to. As for Yoshiko, to me he’s the kind of friend everyone wants, a real loyal, kind individual who you can rely on.

How did you go about creating the Land of Dragor with all its myths and legends?

I started with an initial idea and it just grew, it’s difficult to say exactly how but I’m a big dreamer and I read a lot about spiritual things so it seems to come easily to me.

Yoshiko has some wonderful messages for young children (and me!), were these messages important to you when you wrote the book?

Absolutely yes and yes again! I wanted to share the happiness and success principles I have learned in my life as I have been blessed with working and knowing some incredible people. I love to help others, to overcome any problems or just make them smile and take them on a journey of adventure. Spreading messages in an exciting storyline – that was my mission.

Being a successful business woman as well as a former professional dancer and model, what made you turn your hand to writing children’s books?

My career has been in licensing and branding and I always wanted to create an incredible brand. As soon as my thoughts for Dragor developed I had a burning desire – 'fire in my belly' – to write and build it. I felt it was my purpose above all other things. I just felt that it was meant to be.

What kind of writer are you? Do you have any rituals? Do you plan a story from start to finish or just see what happens?

I create the outline, the start and the end and a large mind map. Then I expand and fill it in. I write when I feel in the right frame of mind, it works for me that way.

When I received a copy of Yoshiko, I fell in love with it instantly as an object, it is just beautiful to hold – a proper book! What do you think of the book’s design and the artwork? What was it like to get your hands on a finished copy?

I had huge input in the design, and I would not stop until it was just as I wanted it (keeping the design team up late at night at deadline time until they had it spot on). From the gold writing to the rainbow and mist around Yoshiko, I was determined to create a beautiful looking book - to me, presentation is very important. The Dragor logo also took a lot of development. I am an absolute perfectionist and this first edition hardback is limited edition, so it had to be very special right down to the red ribbon. Hold on to it – there aren’t many first edition hardback books in print so, I advise people to buy it quickly :)

When I held the first copy I felt very proud of course, and more so when my ten-year-old son Elliot said he loved it.

If you had room on your shelf for only 3 books, what would they be?

Enid Blyton – The Enchanted Wood

CS Lewis – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Beatrix Potter – The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher

Do you have any hints for what we can expect from the next book?

Expect a stronger human element, a huge twist and a lot more fun, partying and action in Dragor. I cannot give away too much more :)

A huge thanks to Julia for answering my questions, I would definitely recommend Yoshiko and the Gift of Charms to anyone who wants to read a great, original story and maybe learn a few things about life!

Find out more about Julia Suzuki on her website, Facebook or follow her on Twitter at @TheLandofDragor. Also, check out the Land of Dragor website for some great fun!

1 comment:

  1. Great interview and great review - love the idea of your 100 follower giveaway too!