WiK is delighted to announce a breakthrough for one of our members, Marianne Kimura, whose piece from her first novel was featured in the first WiK Anthology. Here she tells how she managed to land her contract, thanks to the Japan Writers Conference.
The Hamlet Paradigm
My big news is that my second novel, The Hamlet Paradigm, will be published in print form by a small, independent, niche publisher based in Hong Kong called Custom Book Publishing. They spotted my manuscript on the middleman website called Publishersdesk.com (which I found out about when I attended the wonderful Japan Writer’s Conference in Kobe last fall) and contacted me about it and I signed a contract and so it looks like it is to be released this September. Needless to say, I’m very excited about it and I really never expected it. I had really totally given up on ever finding a publisher, but it is one of those things, I suppose, like watching the proverbial pot boil…..It won’t happen unless you have taken your attention off it for a while!
I am also working on my third novel and though I have just started it, I can already see which direction it’s going to go. What I am noticing is that with each novel, the ghostly, other-worldly elements become more and more central and take more and more space. So in the first novel (Juliet is the Sun), a ghost was merely visiting the heroine for light banter and dropping silly clues, but in the second one (The Hamlet Paradigm) part of the main action transpires in the other world (the spirit world, which I drew as a forest with a weird castle in its heart). But in the third one, which doesn’t have a title yet, by the way, the whole story occurs in this next-door world although part of the story will take place in a spirit-created facsimile of our real world (which will look a lot like 15th century Kyoto, incidentally).
I am not sure why I’m becoming pulled, artistically speaking, to the spirit world. I am not a medium (as far as I know) and I’m not particularly religious or gifted with special powers. I just find it a fascinating place to imagine and conjure up, and a writer has to go where her attention is directing her to go, so I feel like it’s not really up to my conscious self, but more like my subconscious self. Ultimately, I’m fascinated by the element of “non-materiality” that must define the spirit world. If you think about it, words, paper, books, etc. are essentially material, right? So how can we use what is material to describe the non-material? That is what draws me to the topic, plus the elements of fantasy, of course. Because since we (at least I) don’t know what the spirit world is like, well, it’s possible to make up anything, then, isn’t it? Have I confused you enough? (All I can say is, please wait for my third novel to explain it all).
Of course, I’m still fascinated by Shakespeare and the sun as well so I plan to use these elements, but in some sort of disguised way. I use my academic research in my fiction always, but now I want to do so in a more obscure way. It’s just more fun that way, of course, to go underground with it…
The Hamlet Paradigm is a thriller, by the way. An astronomer uncovers a horrible secret and soon, because of this knowledge, he is targeted by the bad guys. The astronomer and his wife, plus their small son, must flee into the remote mountains of Iga (where ninjas used to train) in order to escape from danger. I hope you enjoy this excerpt from The Hamlet Paradigm:
The old plastic bucket was full of water from the river. The water caught the light in an odd way. Something about the color of the water did not look right. A face wavered in the surface of the water, like a reflection, but it was not my reflection. I stared. It was fascinating. The face of the ghostly Orsino appeared. I had never had any contact with him before while I was awake. This was a triumphant moment! My heart filled with joy to see him. I looked at his face as intently as I could, and I tried to smile and catch his eye. Could he see me? But he looked only somber. He closed his eyes and put his ghostly wrist to his forehead. His mouth was a frown. This was a tragic pose.
Why? Was this a mischievous joke? He opened his eyes and his mouth formed a word. And again, and again, and again. The same word. It was easy enough– it was shocking enough – to read his lips.
The silence of the room only made the word echo louder in my mind. The word was as unmistakable as it was terrifying.
The water rippled slightly and the reflection quickly disappeared in the water, as if a switch had turned it off. The water in the bucket was now still and colorless again.
I can be slow and realizations can dawn on me only after time has passed. I’m not naturally quick. But the feeling of sudden nausea and rising panic in my stomach and throat was so overwhelming that I knew my cautious, fearful, brain was processing this message as fast as it could and, moreover, efficiently broadcasting the message to every cell in my body.
My ghost had found a way to warn me.
But my legs felt as if they had turned to lead; my hands were numb.
Fighting the sensations of nausea and paralysis, I focused on the small tasks at hand. I asked my brain simple, logical questions and the answers came back slowly but clearly, like obedient little doves returning from a long journey. The best way out? Through the back garden. What to bring? The flash disk with Vector’s files. What else? Something else? Yes. The fox mask! Now! Amazingly, my feet seemed to independently take these simple orders from my brain calmly. I walked over to Haruki’s backpack and retrieved the flash disk. I got my bag, with its long strap, and put the flash drive in it, then put the strap over my shoulder and diagonally around my body so I would be able to run.
I got the fox mask from the floor where Yuuki had been playing with it and shoved it into the bag. I picked up my shoes from in front of the front door and walked through the house to the back, where I slid open an old sliding glass door. The frame was made of wood which had warped a bit over the years of neglect, but I heaved it enough to slip through the opening, put my loafers on and ran through the tangled overgrown garden. Loafers weren’t the ideal running shoe at all, but that was all I had. I waited behind a bush for a second. I wanted to listen carefully to each sound I could hear. Especially, of course, I needed to listen for the sound of a car. I knew they would come in a car. One thing I had learned all these years was that only Haruki and I were crazy enough to walk everywhere.
Nothing. Not yet. Soon?
I would be gone by the time they got here. I would have to be. I decided to avoid the road as much as possible by going into the forest and finding the path to Muroji. I thought I knew vaguely where it was.