The research for the sort of novels I write (which for want of a better term I call historical fantasy) is rather a mysterious process, even to me. I read very widely, travel in Japan as much as I can, (preferably wandering around on foot on my own, absorbing landscape, seasons, light and shadows, trees, flowers, birds and other wildlife) and spend a lot of time looking at old buildings and art, museums and galleries. I make a lot of notes, but always what I am unconsciously looking for are those little nuggets of gold that will bring my story to life and make it shimmer. I steal these from many sources and often don’t have to write them down.
A novel comes from the vast spaces of the subconscious mind with its profound capacity to produce images of great significance and stories of mythic resonance, somehow controlled and shaped by reason. Writing is constantly balancing the two. I like to write very early in the morning, starting before dawn, when no one else is awake, including my rational mind. I write by hand: the effort and pace seem to honour the creative process. What I have read, seen, heard, reflected on, surfaces but often in a rather confused way, even to me. It’s usually only after many drafts that I realise the meaning of a particular scene or character or image and why it appeared when it did. It’s a time consuming, even wasteful, way to write, I suppose, – I had the first idea for The Tale of Shikanoko over five years ago – but I console myself by thinking about how nature creates in the same profligate way.
These are some of the books I have found inspiring.
Thomas Conlon :: State of War
Karl Friday :: Samurai, Warfare and the State in Early Modern Japan
Andrew Goble :: Confluences of Medicine in Medieval Japan
Janet Goodwin :: Selling Songs and Smiles
Elizabeth Oyler :: Swords, Oaths and Prophetic Visions
Mikael S Adolphson :: The Teeth and Claws of the Buddha
Pierre Francois Souyri :: The World Turned Upside Down
Rachel Poliquin :: The Breathless Zoo
Natsuo Kirino :: The Goddess Chronicle
The Tale of the Heike :: trans Royall Tyler
The Tale of the Soga Brothers :: trans Thomas J Cogan
The Demon’s Sermon on the Martial Arts :: Issai Chozanshi trans William Scott Wilson