Friday, October 18, 2013

Review of 'Tokyo Dare' & a conversation with author Anne Van

Please welcome author Anne Van to Andi's Young Adult Books, as she lets us get to know her and her book 'Tokyo Dare' a bit better. Stay tuned for my thoughts, and be sure to add your questions and comments below!

What was the inspiration behind this book?
After getting back from living in Japan, I had so many stories to tell. My friends kept saying I should write them down. It wasn’t until I had been working for a several years that I realized I needed to finally sit down and put them to paper.
What was one of your favorite aspects of this book?
Even though I had my own experiences to draw on, the book took on a life of it’s own. It took me a while to make friends when I was living in Japan as I lived very far from central Tokyo. But when I began writing the book, I wanted my character to have a support system right up front. So I gave her two wonderful friends. It was a lot of fun to be able to make my characters experiences very different from my own.
What would you like readers to take away from reading your book?
I want readers to feel like they packed their bags and hopped the plane to Tokyo with my character Erin. I want them to experience seeing Japan for the first time through her eyes. To fall in love with Japan the way I did.
Will we see these characters again?
Yes, I’m working on book two of The Sushi Chronicles right now. It should come out in the summer of 2014.
On what other projects are you currently working?
I’m also working on a fantasy about a girl who inherits a vase after her grandmother dies and discovers a genie inside. I love the possibilities of having a genie come into your life. I’m plotting the story out at the moment. It’s going to be a fun book to write.
Please tell us about your other published works.
Besides writing novels, I also enjoy writing short stories. Last year I had a steampunk story, The Unseen Wonder, included in, Gaslight: A Golden Light Anthology. It was also published as its own stand-alone book in The Chimera Series. I also had a short story included in The Best Women’s Travel Writing of 2011. Going Underground won the gold Sola award for best cultural travel story.
You had the fortune of studying in Japan. What was one of your most memorable experiences?
I had so many it’s hard to pick just one. At the top of the list would be when I was riding the train to school and there was a major earthquake. I’ve lived in California for a long time and I could tell the quake was at least a six on the Richter scale. The train stopped and everyone picked up their feet and clutched their knees. A man kept shouting at me “Denki”. This happened when I was first in Japan and my language skills weren’t that great but I knew it meant, electricity. I quickly pulled my legs up off the floor. It turns out in an earthquake the eclectic cables that power the train automatically drop. Any residual electricity can be transferred to the train. When a buzzer rang we all got off the train and waited for inspectors to check the tracks and the lines before we could board again. After about an hour and half we got back on the train like nothing ever happened. I later found out that the earthquake was a seven on the rector scale yet the Japanese treated it like a three. That day I my respect grew for the way Japanese take living on very earthquake prone islands totally in stride.
What has been your favorite travel destination thus far?
Again, it’s hard to pick just one. I really love to travel and experience new places. Paris is amazing and I love the beauty of France. But in the end I choose the ancient beauty of the shrines of Ise, Japan. Even though the Shinto shrines, Naiku and Geku, are rebuilt every twenty years, they are constructed the same way it’s been done for centuries. The shrines are surrounded by an ancient forest that gives them an almost mystical quality. The place has an unforgettable haunting beauty.
Where do you dream of visiting?
I haven’t been to Eastern Europe yet. A friend just got back from living in Prague. She loved all the art nouveau architecture and design. As art nouveau is my favorite design style, I think Prague might be where I dream of going next.
What is your favorite sushi roll?
Hands down the Unagi roll. It’s filled with grilled eel. Sounds kind of gross but it’s really good. Here in the States they serve it with avocado. Many sushi bars have eel avocado rolls on their menus. If you never had one, try it!
What is the most unique kind you have tried?
A no-name roll a friend made me eat in Tokyo. He wouldn’t tell me what was in it, but I could taste fish roe, uni (sea urchin), and something else. When I asked what it was all my friends said was mystery meat. I had a feeling by how chewy it was the mystery meat was sea slug. Yuck.
You are an artist who has displayed in many places. Please tell us more about it.
I have a degree in fine art printmaking and started exhibiting as soon as I graduated. I entered a lot of competitions and had my work displayed in major cities in California, New York and internationally in Spain. It was fun to send my work off and get feedback from people and exhibitors. There’s nothing like walking into a galley on opening night and seeing your work hanging next to artists you admire. I really enjoy watching people’s reactions to my work. It’s very rewarding.
What is something readers may be surprised to learn about you?
I’m an historic preservationist. I live in a landmark district and I have individually landmarked two amazing homes. A Queen Anne Victorian from 1886, and a Neo-classical home from 1910. It takes a lot of research to prove the significance of a home. You also have to make a major presentation before the city council. It was a bit nerve wracking, but I love historic homes and want them to be persevered for the future.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Yes. I really appreciate you having me as a guest on Andi’s Young Adult Books. I’ve enjoyed being here!
Thank you so much for your time!

Tokyo Dare (The Sushi Chronicles)

by Anne Van



Sixteen-year-old artist, Erin Van Horn, doesn’t know an Unagi Roll from a Kaiser Roll. But on a dare from her best friend, Tori Mukigawa, she wins a spot as an exchange student at a prestigious Tokyo high school. Once in the land of the rising sun, Erin struggles to learn the culture and deal with a host family from hell. Otosan, the father, stops speaking to her after she “murders” his favorite bonsai tree. The mother, Okasan, believes Erin’s evil because she’s left-handed and their son is an Elvis impersonator who is convinced Erin’s the spitting image of Priscilla if only she’d dye her blonde hair black, and become his child bride.

But Erin has a bigger problem than her crazy host family when she faces the ultimate dare from Tori—a to-do list.Racked with guilt for winning the spot that should have gone to her best friend, Erin is determined to complete the list. All she has to do is find a rock star boyfriend, (sure, there’s one on every street corner), apprentice under a famous Japanese artist, (no problem, they’ll be listed in the Tokyo Yellow Pages) and visit Tori’s long lost relatives to find out what’s hidden in the family closet. So what if the only words she knows in Japanese are, “Excuse me eat pretty idiot.” How hard could it be?

Read an excerpt:
“What is wrong with me? I’m itching everywhere and I have small bumps all over my stomach. My throat is dry, my muscles ache and I think I have a fever. There’s more but I’m too tired to go on.”

Aki showed no sign of concern. “Can I see your stomach?”

I slowly pulled up my pajama top.

Aki’s eyes grew wide. “Oh.”

Hmm…that didn’t sound good. She ran past me and called for Mamasan. Next, she went to Hiroshi’s room and woke him. Within a minute they had a family meeting. I nervously fidgeted with my hands as their whispering took on a more urgent tone.

Aki stood some distance from me. “You have Kotsu. Hiroshi had it a few weeks before you came to live with us. Papasan and I have never had it so we must go.”

What great news. I had something so horrible Aki and Papasan had to leave the house.

Aki pointed towards my stomach. “Don’t scratch your bumps. They can get worse and you can get bad scars. Whatever you do, don’t touch your face.”

My knees were shaking. “How…long will I be sick?”

“You’ll run a high fever for the next few days. Don’t worry, only babies die from it…but I’m not sure about Americans.”

**My thoughts**

Erin's adventures in Japan as an exchange student are so unbelievable that many of them have to be rooted in truth. You know how truth is stranger than fiction? I had a few misadventures of my own when I was an exchange student in France at the same age, but nothing compared to hers! Maybe it's because I wasn't there as long?

From getting plastered on YouTube to routinely pissing off her Mamasan and getting into trouble at school, Erin's craziness will make you shake your head while also snickering out loud in some parts. Her descriptions of the culture and the scenery make me cautiously want to check it out for myself some day. Erin has a list from her best friend Tori that she needs to fulfill. She does manage to make do on much of it, but at some cost. It was like one of those situations in which you say to be careful what you wish for. She definitely seems to show some growth in this installment and should continue to do so.

This is the first book in a series, with the second installment due out next year. I need to read it!

Book links

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Anne Van is an artist, fashionista, turned writer. She has a Masters Degree in Fine Art and attended Waseda University in Tokyo Japan on a scholarship. She has exhibited her artwork all over the United States and one of her works was displayed in a museum in Picasso’s hometown of Malaga, Spain. After several years toiling as a fine artist, she switched gears to pursue another passion, fashion. Anne graduated from FIDM in Los Angeles and designed sportswear for major retailers. All the while she heard stories in her head. So one day she quit fashion and finally put her stories on paper. Since then Anne has published an article in a national magazine and an award winning travel story about her time living in Tokyo, Japan. She has also published short fiction. Anne continues to write the stories that fill her head. She lives in a Victorian home in a historic landmark district in Pasadena, California along with three rescue cats, including one that has six toes, and her TV composer husband who thankfully doesn’t.






Anne will be awarding a box filled with Japanese Chocolates (The main character in the book loves them.) to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour (US ONLY). Remember to also follow the tour!

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  1. Thanks for having me as a guest! Glad you enjoyed Erin's crazy adventures in Tokyo!

  2. Nice interview

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  3. Great interview!
    Thanks for the chance to win!
    Sounds like a great read!!
    natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com