Sorry it's taken me more than a week to follow up on the last blog. You'd think I would have more time to write than I do. Anyway, as the process of writing a novel begins, I have to do research. Fans of our books about Seikei and Judge Ooka often ask: "Have you ever been to Japan?" Some seem convinced that we must have visited there many times. But the answer is "No, but nobody alive today has ever been to the Japan that the characters of our books live in." That is, Japan around the year 1700.
We visit that Japan through books. So I've been reading and jotting down notes and ideas for the story. Here are the titles and authors of some books that are easy to get: Everyday Life in Traditional Japan, by Charles J. Dunn; Daily Life in Japan at the Time of the Samurai, by Louis Frederic; Daily Life in Early Modern Japan, by Louis G. Perez; Handbook to Life in Medieval and Early Modern Japan, by William E. Deal.
It's important to note that Dorothy and I have read several of these books many times, but you always learn more when you're thinking of writing a new story. I'm also lucky enough to have access to the libraries at Columbia University, and since we're going to deal with the Dutch traders in Japan in this book, I went to Columbia's East Asian Studies Library to find some more books. I had heard about a Japanese man named Shiba Kokan, who lived in the 18th century. He was very interested in what the Japanese of his day called "Dutch learning," which meant the science, medicine, and art of Europe at that time. Shiba was both an artist and a scientist, and for this reason some people call him the "Leonardo da Vinci of Japan." He made a long trip from Edo to Nagasaki and wrote about it. That gave me the idea of having Seikei take such a trip himself.
I think the lesson here--if you're looking for lessons--is that by learning more about a place and time, you develop ideas that you might use in a story set in that place and time. Now some people write about imaginary places. Think of Lord of the Rings. In that case, you're creating your own world, but that world will take shape as you think about it and write down what it's like. All worlds have rules. They have to be consistent. If you have a character who can fly in one scene, for example, you can't have him unable to fly in another. At least not unless you have a magic charm that takes away the power of flight...
I'll try to contribute to this blog more often. I always tell people you should make a habit of writing. Write every day, if possible. Good advice, if you can keep it. Usually, when I'm doing the writing part of writing a book, I do follow that advice. Right now, I'm building a world in my head.