Today Jennifer Griffith, author and one of the nicest people I know, is here to dish about her new amazing book, BIG IN JAPAN (click the link for my full review).
Big In Japan, the story of an obese, six-foot-six Texas man who goes to Japan, becomes an accidental, but amazing Sumo wrestler and finds the love he’s always dreamed of, is simply marvelous. The book is fresh, unique, full of humor and vivid scenes of Japan and Sumo.
TERI: Hi, Jennifer! Welcome to Book Matters. First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself – family, writing background, favorite books, etc?
JENNIFER: Hi, Teri! In college I studied technical writing, but I never really wrote fiction until my first son was born. My husband encouraged me (good guy!) and that’s when I wrote my first novel. My son is 14 and I’ve been writing ever since, with brief breaks for childbirth and chaos. There are five kids now, and chaos is generally an understatement, especially due to our dog who’s kind of my nemesis.
BIG IN JAPAN is my fourth published novel.
I wish I could say, “the classics!” on the favorite books part, but to be honest, I love to read breezy fiction. Young adult is fun, too. When I want to feel smarter, I love older British stuff like Anthony Trollope (there’s a never-ending supply of his novels)—those political soap operas are spellbinding. But I never pass them along to others, as I don’t know if anyone else loves all the detail the way I do.
TERI: The premise for your novel is so unique. Where did you get the idea and how did it evolve into a whole book?
JENNIFER: Thanks! But seriously, how many sumo wrestler novels with a love story have you read so far this year? I snort-laughed when I first thought of it, and then the idea wouldn’t go away.
Anyway, when I was in college I spent a year and a half in Japan as a missionary. One night we were riding in a car, and on the radio there was a sumo match, and the teenage girl with us started cheering for her favorite sumo wrestler. This caught me totally off guard. Teenage girls love sumo?
I was telling my husband about this one day at lunch, shooting the breeze, and he said, “That’d be fun—an American guy who goes to Japan and falls in love with a Japanese girl. Oh, and he’s trying to become a sumo wrestler.” From there it took on a life of its own. My husband is always good for off the wall ideas. The stories I could tell about just him!
TERI: You write about Japan and Sumo in vivid detail. What kind of research did you do? Have you visited Japan?
JENNIFER: Like I said, I lived there for over a year, slept on the floor with a futon (except when I had to sleep on a shelf in the closet with the door mostly closed to stay warm at night in the winter without central heating!), ate the food (including sea urchin and soy-fried crickets), learned the language, met the people. It was so beautiful there! I wish everyone could see it. The tiny details are beautiful, the care they take with the minutest things. Anyway, I loved it, loved the people, loved the language, everything, and I thought it would be so neat to take the reader on a virtual tour of Japan.
To learn about sumo, I had to DIG. There’s not a lot of info available. It was tricky, and I hope I do that sport justice, as it’s their national sport!
Big in Japan
Was it difficult to write from a man’s perspective
– especially an obese Texan
JENNIFER: Um, probably. But I was so in Buck’s head. I think we all struggle with some aspect of ourselves we don’t like. Buck is a stand-up guy, and I tried to put myself in his shoes. Lucky for me I had some good beta readers who were men who let me know when I didn’t get the voice right for a man!
TERI: What do you hope readers take away from BIG IN JAPAN?
JENNIFER: Oh, most of the time my goal is to write cotton candy for your soul. Just light, breezy, fun that gives you a sugar rush. I hope readers just devour it. However, there are some of the darker aspects of sumo that I had to touch on to keep it real—the hazing, the bout fixing, scandals, etc. And Buck does experience moments of anguish. He has serious choices he has to make. But in it all, I tried to have Buck keep his sense of humor and buoyancy that floats the story along. I hope readers get a nice escape, and maybe come away with a feeling they can do anything against all odds.
TERI: Tell us a little bit about your journey from inspiration to publication. Was it an easy road?
JENNIFER: From start to finish, meaning from writing the first word to holding the book in my hands was almost three years to the day! People sometimes think writing a book just pops out and you’ve got the finished product in no time. Not so. BIG IN JAPAN required many rewrites, like SEVEN. That’s a lot. I learned tons along the way. Once it was in its best form, I started querying agents. Not long into that, I was fortunate to find Jolly Fish Press. From the query to the contract with them it was three months. They’re lightning fast! And from then to the actual publication it was 7 ½ months. Again, super fast. I feel very fortunate in that.
TERI: What are you working on now? I know I’m excited for your next book.
JENNIFER: I’ve got a story that deals with art. I’ve always been an art gallery junkie. Love, love, love the Hudson River School of artists and dozens of other styles of art. I’ve never written contemporary fantasy before and I’m having a rollicking good time writing it, but it won’t be done with rewrites for a while yet. The process is just a good time. And there’s a romance between the characters, of course. Every good story should end with a kiss, right?
TERI: Right! One last question. Where can readers get the book and find you on-line?
JENNIFER: Thanks for asking! BIG IN JAPAN is available basically everywhere but specifically at Barnes & Noble and Amazon online as a hardcover, paperback, and e-book. It’s published by Jolly Fish Press.
Man, that’s a lot of places! I’d LOVE feedback from anyone who reads BIG IN JAPAN. Connecting with readers is great.
TERI: Thanks so much for being here today, Jennifer! And best of luck with BIG IN JAPAN; it deserves to be a huge success.
JENNIFER: Thanks so much, Teri, for interviewing me! You had great questions. Good times!