ideas take life in Words
A blog following the works (and shenanigans) of J.E. Klimov
Author Interview: Robert Kono
Author interviews are back, and I have a wonderful guest with several books under his belt already. Today I have the opportunity to speak with Mr. Robert Kono, author of a few thrillers such as Eye of the Star and Starburst Over China. However, I wanted to focus on an intriguing title, Westward Lies the Sun, featuring a protagonist who undergone significant trauma in his life and then undergoes a spiritual journey about the existence of a higher power. Before we begin, let's read the synopsis:
Greg Sonoda, a Japanese American attorney, embarks on a quest to determine what influence God has in his life. In the back of his mind is the question, first and foremost, of whether God exists at all. God is such an elusive concept to a humanist, who, from his earliest years, was made to question God's very existence""he suffered in the concentration camps for the duration of WWII""and he doubts his efforts will ever come to fruition.
In Westward Lies the Sun, Greg's search for truth is given voice during the frequent debates with his poker foursome, although the late-night discussions produce more questions than answers. But they do serve to articulate thoughts and feelings about sundry issues such as the search for Greg's family heirloom: a samurai sword stolen during Greg's incarceration in the camps. More significantly, Greg is forced to ponder God's hand in his family's survival after being shipwrecked on a small, uninhabited Micronesian island. Greg and his family make several discoveries on the island that lead to financial success and miraculous physical healing. But will the island also heal Greg spiritually?
The family sword""Onimaru""is ultimately used in a showdown on the island with Greg's quest for God, together with his mental and physical survival, hanging in the balance.
Welcome, Mr. Kono...
JE: In Westward Lies the Sun, your main character appears to undergo a spiritual journey and wrestling with God’s role in his and his family's life. What is your inspiration behind this theme?
RK: The theme of the novel follows my own general spiritual evolution. I converted to Christianity as a youth, drifted away from it, then after college began to search for God and an overall meaning in life, an endeavor that brought me to mysticism. I realized at that point that I had been a mystic all my life, that my love of nature and of God had deep mystical roots, and I began a lifelong journey to try to understand myself in what can only be described as an inner exploration, which goes on till this day and will likely never end.
I was inspired to write this novel for the sake of my grandchildren who are coming of age and provide them with some kind of sounding board against which to bounce off their thinking as they grow up–to become good human beings. I wanted the novel to be entertaining, informative and inspiring and lead to an acceptance of gratitude as the glue that holds all life together, for after all is said and done, after all the hardships, doubts and suffering, one still has life for which one must thank the Creator.
JE: Very inspiring! Now, how long did it take to write and publish this novel?
RK: It took me a little over a year to write it and about a year to publish it.
JE: That's a great pace. How was your experience authoring this novel compared to your other works such as Eye of the Star and The StarMind Alert?
RK: Compared to my other works described on my website, rhkohno.com, Westward Lies the Sun required an entirely different mindset. I needed to delve deeply within myself to develop the verities in a truthful fashion, bouncing off my experiences on the internal touchstone, and add the novelistic elements of adventure, suspense, terror to the ideational mix concerning the existence of God which the protagonist pursues but is assailed by questions and doubts throughout until his accident. It precipitates a psychotic break which he is forced to deal with. The heirloom samurai sword, once stolen but now recovered, figures into the climax at the end where he deals with the imaginary but real demon plaguing him because of his identity as a Japanese American.
In this novel, an attempt is made to dramatize the spiritual evolution of a seeker, from a waffling agnostic to a full fledged believer who discovers–and knows as a result of his ordeal–that gratitude is truly the gateway to heaven, for one can go through life achieving everything one puts his hand to and enjoying every kind of success, but who does one thank for his good fortune? If it is oneself, that amounts to blind self-adulation–and hubris. To thank God is to accept one’s status as a humble human being. And such an acceptance amounts to stature.
JE: That is amazing--I am wonder-struck to hear such passion. And that reminds me, your cover art is beautiful. Please describe your process in cover art selection/creation!
RK: I submitted a suggestion to the publisher as to how I wanted the cover to show the silhouette of a samurai with sword drawn and poised against the background of a setting sun, and the publisher came up with the chosen design the first time around.
JE: Who is the primary audience for your novel?
RK: The primary audience for Westward Lies the Sun would be anyone from eighteen to eighty who is seeking to understand their relationship to God, whether he exists or not to begin with and who wants to delve into the effects of plunging into faith–which always results in an overriding sense of gratitude.
JE: Would this novel appeal to both religious and non-religious people, alike?
RK: I believe my novel would certainly appeal to both religious and non-religious people alike because it explores the issue of a person’s spiritual evolution, from being a questioning agnostic to the acceptance of Christ as one’s savior, taking the analytic approach of a physicist examining the significance of a particle which had brought forth many disturbing questions in his life.
JE: What a great approach! I'm sure many people appreciate that! Now tell me, what was your largest challenge when writing Westward Lies the Sun?
RK: My biggest challenge in writing the novel lies in the attempt to make it an organic totality. So many disparate elements went into the making, but what held everything together, in my view, is my approach to making each happening an intrinsic part of the narration. The connection between the different parts may–or may not–be apparent, but the attempt was made to make them all part of the protagonist’s life experience.
JE: What do you enjoy most about writing?
RK: I enjoy most the conceptualization, portrayal and development of a character whom I put through the paces to flesh out the plot. The character and plot always go together in an organic relationship, but it’s the character that propels the narrative, in my view.
JE: Last but not least, what are your future plans for publication?
RK: I am seeking representation and publication of the novel East Falls the Sun which is the first book of a trilogy. It is a semi-autobiographical novel set in the concentration camps and postwar Japan, following much of my own experiences.
I can't tell you know thrilled I am to have interviewed Mr. Kono, as well as get to know his works. I will surely keep tabs on his incoming trilogy, and you should too! Please check out this author's website and Amazon page:
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