Notes from a novelist

Research, Seeds of Curiosity, and the Writing Process - Notes from a Novelist

Author Gail Tsukiyama connected with readers during an interactive interview hosted by Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative

In celebration of Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative hosted an online discussion and question-and-answer session with author Gail Tsukiyama. Though only an hour long, the conversation offered a detailed view into the writer's creative and technical processes. The accomplished author also generously shared valuable advice on how writers can overcome common challenges.

Gail Tsukiyama
Tsukiyama is an American author from San Francisco, California. Her mother was from Hong Kong and her father, who was Japanese, came from Hawaii. She has written numerous books, including "The Brightest Star," which will be released in June. The majority of her novels incorporate Asian history, culture, and art.

Indicative of Tsukiyama's natural inquisitiveness, the lively interview spanned a broad range of topics, while staying grounded in humor and her own self-awareness. Over the course of the conversation, the author enthusiastically reflected on the differences between creating relatable female characters verses "bad boy" characters, Chinese culture verses Japanese culture, and writing film scripts verses writing novels.

The latter subject was particularly interesting since Tsukiyama had originally majored in filmmaking as an undergraduate. She described how she grew frustrated with the emphasis on dialogue and scenes, and the lack of narrative focus. As a result, the author transferred to the English department at San Francisco State University. There she earned both her bachelor's and master's degrees in English.

"Seeds of curiosity"
The most enlightening portion of the interview focused on Tsukiyama's writing process. Key themes in her animated answers pertained to research and what she called "seeds of curiosity." Because so much of her writing is culturally dense and packed with historical context, Tsukiyama conducts thorough research before and while writing her books.

She pointed out that for this reason, she must be extremely interested in her subject to stick with it for the length of a novel. "You have to be curious enough to stay with it. I have to find some kind of energy that runs through it that keeps me going, and it has a lot to do with the research background that goes with it, you know, to keep me enticed with the subject matter," explained Tsukiyama.

Overcoming writer's block
Tsukiyama also offered advice on combatting writer's block. In addition to the usual recommendation to simply walk away from the screen and do something else, she shared that watching a movie often cures her creative jam. Tsukiyama said that observing how film scenes transition from one to the other and carry characters and storylines with them, helps her resolve her own pacing challenges.

Another common frustration that Tsukiyama touched on was the revision process. "You always have to rewrite," said the author. She admitted "That's all I do now. It's a constant process in order to end with a final book."

It goes without saying that this last bit of guidance was not news to any aspiring or experienced writers in the audience. However, just like Tsukiyama's insight on curiosity, research, and writer's block, the reminder carried extra value this time around, being that it came from a successful, yet down-to-earth, novelist.

A recording of Tsukiyama's full interview is available online.

Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month at the HCPLC
More information on Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month events and resources at the Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative are available online. Additionally, the public library will share books and other resources on social media to help you celebrate throughout May. You can follow the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube or visit the library websitefor access to all available resources.*

Photo Information: The Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative hosted an online interview with author Gail Tsukiyama in celebration of Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month.


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