~ Synopsis ~
Growing up on Guam in 1972, fifteen-year-old Kiko is beset by worries: He’s never kissed a girl, the popular guys get all the attention at school–but the worst part is the serious problems at home. His older brother is missing in Vietnam, his grandfather is losing it to dementia, and he just learned that his mother was raped by a Japanese soldier during World War II. It all comes together when he discovers an old man, a Japanese soldier, hiding in the jungle behind his house. It’s not the same man who raped his mother, but, in his rage, Kiko cares only about protecting his family and avenging his mom–no matter what it takes. And so, a shy, peaceable boy begins to plan a murder. But how far will Kiko go to prove to himself that he’s a man? Based on a true incident in history, No Surrender Soldier is the story of a boy grappling with ancient questions of courage and manhood before he can move on.
~ Interview ~
I have noticed that many readers are aspiring authors. Do you have any tips or advice for them?
– Study the writing craft. Set reasonable goals–short term and long term. Yet dream big.
When did you start writing?
– I was aware of compulsively writing by age 9.
What made you decide to publish your first book?
– I have always written with the intent to publish.
What motivates you to write?
– I have an internal motivation to write that is as strong as any OCD, as strong as a starving man craves daily bread.
Do you ever feel frustrated with your work?
– Yes, I get frustrated with both my work and myself. Writing is a puzzle, a very difficult problem puzzle. So it’s natural to be frustrated while struggling to find the right pieces and then fit it together seamlessly.
What makes you keep writing when you get frustrated?
– I’m a problem solver and a puzzle worker so just because something is difficult is not a reason to give up.
How do you get over writer’s block?
– I don’t believe in writer’s block, not in the sense that most people talk about it. I was a journalist who would race back to the office by 5 p.m. and write 3 to 5 articles a day. There is no such thing as writer’s block on deadline. Write or you’re fired.
How do you handle negative reviews of your books?
– I have never gotten negative reviews. However, the worst review of my novel was one in which the reviewer could not have read the book because she said the solider didn’t come in until toward the ending. I do not respond to reviews, although often I wish I could thank reviewers. In public relations there is a saying the worst press is no press. So worse than a bad review is being ignored.
There are a lot of distractions around, especially with social media, how do you block it all out and write?
– Unfortunately, I have not been able to. I have found marketing for this YA novel to be very intense. Unlike my nonfiction books the first year for novel can be fly or die. However, when I get back from teaching a workshop at the SCBWI conference in LA then I am going to install http://macfreedom.com and get myself back on schedule.
What do you enjoy, outside of writing?
– I golf and swim. I live near the desert now so I miss the ocean and snorkeling. I also like to tile, although I haven’t had time the last couple of years.
What is something about you that most people don’t know?
– I have been to every state in the Union except four: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska.
If you ever had to rewrite portions of a book because the characters decided to be someone than you intended?
Where do you come up with the names of your characters?
– Usually when I select a name for a character I check with the baby book, find the meaning of the name, say the name for the sound when read aloud, and consider the time period. NO SURRENDER SOLDIER is the only book where I selected names of people I know to honor them.
Did you ever think you’d be a published author?
– There was never a doubt.
What are you working on currently?
– A near-futuristic techno YA novel, BABEL/ BABBLE, about how increased technological communication leads to a decrease of intimacy. I don’t have a publisher for it yet. It has awkward virtual sex, romance, whales, music, and foreign travel. This is the only novel that I’ve written where the theme came to me first and, because it was an abstract concept, it took me four years thinking about how this would work in a concrete plot and characters.
Do you ever write characters you hate?
– No. People are complex so even characters that are unlikable still can be pitied.
Who is your favorite character that you’ve written?
– Isamu Seto, the World War II Japanese soldier who hid in the jungles of Guam for 28 years in my YA novel NO SURRENDER SOLDIER. His voice and point of view chapters are poetic and haunting.
What was your first published book? How do you feel about it now?
– My first four children’s books were fiction, ages 5-9, in the Christian market, published by Concordia Publishing House. The first of this series was the second children’s book I had ever written and I sold it to the second publisher I sent it to, so it gave me confidence that I could make writing a profession.
Where did you get the ideas for your books?
– By listening to people and observing human behavior.
Do you have a favorite genre to write?
– Realism, social problem stories.
Is there a type of genre you refuse to write?
Do you prefer your books in print or e-book format?
– Definitely print.
What are you currently reading?
– A sci-fi YA novel SURVIVAL COLONY by Joshua David Bellin.
Who is your favorite author?
– This is difficult because there are so many author whose writing I love–Nick Lake, Markus Zucak, M.T. Andersen, Neil Gaiman, to name a few. But Katherine Paterson is the author who drew me into children’s literature so that’s why I call her my favorite. JACOB HAVE I LOVED is my all-time fav!
Do you have an excerpt of any books (published and WIPS) that you’d like to share with us?
CHAPTER 1 — CRAZY TATAN
GUAM, JANUARY 3, 1972
Before my grandfather, Tatan Bihu San Nicolas, lost his mind, he called me “Little Turtle.” Ancient Chamorros believed our island was bore on the back of a turtle that settled down in the Mariana Trench. I wanted to believe that “Little Turtle” was my grandfather’s way of saying I was steady, strong like the turtle. He would say the turtle that birthed Guam spit me out onto the beach. Then, in his tough-guy way, Tatan would say, “You no taste good,” and laugh his fool head off.
Come to think of it, maybe Tatan was crazy before old age robbed his memory.
~ Purchase Links ~
~ About the Author ~
Christine Kohler is the author of NO SURRENDER SOLDIER. She is a former journalist, teacher and writing instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature (ICL).