Interview with Claire Youmans

Why folklore?
Who doesn't love a dragon? Seriously, the incorporation of folklore into the lives of Toki-Girl Azuki, Sparrow-Boy Shota, Crane-Woman Tsuruko, Dragon-Girl Renko and more allows a greater field for exploration and gives the material for great stories that showcase Japan's unique character while being a lot of fun.
Why the Meiji-era?
In a span of about 50 years, Japan leapt from a decaying feudalism to a first-world power. That's amazing! So much happened so quickly! How did Japan make this transition so fast? How did Japan manage to do this while keeping its own unique cultural identity? What is there about Japan that make this possible? How were ordinary people affected? How did they cope? How did their lives change? I try to answer these questions with careful research into history as told through the lives of normal -- well, mostly -- citizens.
Why Japan?
Japan has a unique and ancient culture that needs explication to be understood by others. As a first-world power that does business throughout the world, foreigners come into contact with Japan all the time, and yet it's often badly misunderstood. Lack of understanding stands in the way of profitable business relationships, pleasurable friendships and a lot of fun. It doesn't have to be that way.
I really like Japan! Japan is my quirky and interesting friend. I want to introduce this friend of mine to the English-speaking world, because once people know Japan, they'll like Japan, too.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
The Library, various review sources, several newsletters. It's become harder to follow authors because I generally get my books for my much-loved Kindle.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My cat! No, he doesn't inspire, he demands. I look forward to my days.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. I was 8. It was a cliche story, and not very good, but I had a grasp of story structure. Pretty good for a fourth-grader.
What is your writing process?
I think and research. I create a plot structure and story arc, then I work on character arcs. These are all in my head or in very cursory notes. Then I dive into my computer and write very quickly, except for stuck places, which require hard labor and swearing. From the draft, I go to another draft, then to a beta read, then to the editor, then to the copy editor and so on. Many times things change enormously based on the feedback I get.
How do you approach cover design?
Carefully.
Who are your favorite authors?
Personally, I like adult mystery-thrillers for fun. Jeffery Deaver, Anne Cleeves -- too many to list. And I ike to revisit the Classics: Christie, Conan Doyle, Roberts Rhinehart, Ruth Rendell, Dorothy Sayersand more. I read all the time! I also like SF/Fantasy when it's complex and original, and sometimes read Literary Fiction like my cousin Marly Youmans writes. I now read a great deal of history for the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series, and am currently working on Japanese literature from the Meiji and Taisho eras.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
No, I don't. I think I was born with my nose in a book. I didn't think I was allowed to read until I started kindergarden, so I snuck off and read whatever I could get my hands on.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I ski, I sail, I travel, I garden, I cook, I read. I am the most boring person in the world, I sometimes think, except on the page.
What do you read for pleasure?
Asked and answered. Thrillers and mysteries.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Not possible. Five THOUSAND, maybe. Every book is a universe.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Having people enjoy my stories.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I LOVE and ADORE my Kindle.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I don't know.
Describe your desk
A slate topped oak table up against a view window. There's a calendar under my keyboard, my mouse and cup of tea to my right. Big Momma Mac in front of me, the printer to her left. A short stack of memo pads rest on Big Momma's swivel, and stacks of files in process are to my left. Between my calendar and the computer swivel are my computer glasses and pens.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
Seattle. I like the boats, the ocean, water and clouds. I have an enduring hatred of rain lasting more than 12 hours, more than once a month.
What are you working on next?
I am presently researching Book 6, as yet untitled, in The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series and looking into a series of Japanese folklore stories for younger children.
When did you first start writing?
I wrote my first play at age 8, in fourth grade. I've been writing ever since.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The Meiji-era was a wonderfully -- for a writer with hindsight -- complicated time. This era of growth and change allows me to explore authentic Japanese characters in a real historical context. I elaborate on the era and on Japan through incorporating folklore. Noriko's Journey was a natural outgrowth of the characters. In fact, the characters dictated it. What was supposed to be Book 5 will now be Book 6!
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords makes it easy to market to a wide variety of retailers around the world in ebook format. I also produce print books because I think my tween through adult age range and my historical makes these books a natural for libraries and schools as well as individual readers.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
There are so few traditional publishers left and those are so heavily oriented towards strict genre and celebrity books that I felt that if I wanted to reach my audience with these delightful and interesting stories, I would have to form my own small press, which I did.
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans are everything! When I write, I constantly think of the ultimate reader and what will amuse and entertain that reader.
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans are everything! When I write, I constantly think of the ultimate reader and what will amuse and entertain that reader.
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans are everything! When I write, I constantly think of the ultimate reader and what will amuse and entertain that reader.
Published 2018-06-04.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy Book 5 Noriko's Journey
Series: The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 5. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 77,910. Language: English. Published: June 4, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Historical, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
Noriko's happy with new her husband and his dual-natured niece, Toki-Girl Azuki, and nephew, Sparrow-Boy Shota, in rural Meiji-era Japan, but something's wrong. Can the solution lie in her hidden past? With the help of the Dragon King, Noriko journeys to her childhood home and discovers a secret that shocks her. Will her past and her future finally align so she can be complete in her new
The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy Book 4 Uncle Yuta Has An Adventure
Series: The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 4. Price: $4.12 USD. Words: 77,520. Language: English. Published: April 16, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Historical
Fourth in the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series, this exciting historical/fantasy series is set in Meiji-era Japan. Following the adventures of Toki-Girl Azuki, Sparrow-Boy Shota and their friends, this book takes their uncle and guardian on a journey to the new capitol of Tokyo on a trip that will change his life -- and that of his family and friends.
The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-boy, Book 3, Together
Series: The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 3. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 48,480. Language: English. Published: July 5, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Historical / Asia
Azuki and Shota are finally home! Life in their corner of rural 19th Century Japan is nearly perfect – but Azuki’s sick. Shota defies his uncle to track down the legendary Crane-girl to help Azuki and impress the Dragon Princess. When Shota takes his beloved boat to deliver Azuki’s gorgeous work, he finds trouble – and not just among humans!
The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-boy, Book 2, Chasing Dreams
Series: The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 2. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 44,940. Language: English. Published: June 25, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Historical
Chasing Dreams is the sequel to The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, recounting the continuing adventures of Azuki, the girl who turns into a Toki, and her brother, Shota, who can become a sparrow.  Outcasts, Tengu, Dragons, Tanuki, and all the uncertainty and chaos of Meiji-era Japan provide help and challenges as they find a way to live as themselves and still chase their dreams.
The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy
Series: The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 1. Price: Free! Words: 31,310. Language: English. Published: June 16, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Historical / Asia
In the tumultuous world of Meiji-era Japan, Azuki becomes convinced that her ability to turn into a Toki bird caused her human family’s suffering at the hands of their feudal overlord. She flees to join her bird-kin and start a new life as a Toki, abandoning her human life. Her brother, Shota, a sparrow-boy, must find her and bring her home in time so they can live as humans as well as birds.