2017 Unpublished Book of the Year
On a Winter Shore
When a samurai and his ninja partner set off to find a missing man, they discover a shocking murder, festering injustice, and the high price demanded by honor.
At the 2017 Royal Palm Literary Award Banquet, author Karen Dillon won Unpublished Book of the Year and First Place in Historical Fiction for her book, On a Winter Shore. Each year at the RPLA Banquet, authors experience the joy of earning accolades for all the hard work that is often done in the privacy of the home with little to no recognition. We’re showcasing the best of the best with our First Place winners spotlight. Not only does RPLA recognize extraordinary talent, but we’re giving readers an opportunity to sample excerpts from the winning stories.
Click the link to read a sample: Excerpt from On a Winter Shore
Q: Where do you get your story ideas?
A: In this case, the whole story idea originated with an anime series called Samurai Champloo. The show featured an odd couple of Japanese swordsmen, a samurai and a commoner, and blended historical Japanese culture with modern hip-hop touches and references. In order to understand the references and in-jokes better, I began researching the period. Superficial research led me deeper and deeper into the life of historical Japan and its radical modernization in the late 1800s, and as I read, the characters that populate my book sprang to life and began demanding their own story.
Q: Anything in particular about your award-winning RPLA entry that you’d like to share?
A: My story deliberately breaks with the tradition of having Japanese characters express themselves in stilted, formal language. This was not some innovation I came up with on my own. Thomas Satchell’s marvelous, slangy English translation of the equally marvelous and slangy original novel Shank’s Mare, written by Ikku Jippensha in the early 1800s, set this precedent nearly a century ago. Removing the distancing effect of formal language made the roguish main characters endearing and human in a way I had never encountered in the stiff, reverent translations of more serious scholars, and as soon as I read the opening chapters, I knew this was the tone I wanted to set in my own writing.
Q: Who do you credit with inspiring your writing?
A: Lafcadio Hearn, an English-American journalist who traveled to Japan and “went native” by marrying a samurai’s daughter and becoming a permanent citizen in the 1890s, became my gateway drug into the veiled world of everyday Japan. As a foreigner, he noticed and commented upon many small, ordinary details that no native writer would have considered important enough to mention, and this wealth of detail helped crystallize my story’s setting from a vague idea to a physical place with flavor, texture, and dimension.
Q: Any tips for new writers?
A: I credit two things with vaulting On a Winter Shore from a babbling, fanfiction-ish mess pounded out during National Novel Writing Month to a polished, award-winning manuscript. First, know what you’re writing about. Whatever genre you write, the more you know, the more authentic, organic, and grounded the writing is going to sound. I had done almost ten years of intensive research before I ever started On a Winter Shore and the book that preceded it in the series, The Fox and the Shadow. I am still learning things about historical Japan even today, and hope to continue as the series progresses. The second tip is, check your ego at the door and get second opinions on your writing. Fresh eyes see things the author does not, and while critiques sting, they’re more valuable than diamonds to a serious author. Whether you pay a professional editing service, join a critique group, or just give your story to a friend or family member to beta read, be prepared to put your pride aside and listen to their comments. If nothing else, you will grow as a writer, and growth is always a good thing.
Thank you for sharing, Karen, and congratulations!