Hello world and internet! I’m SA Stovall and I’m blog-touring my latest novella, The Dusk Parlor, a contemporary romance set in Japan as part of Dreamspinner Press’ ‘World of Love’ novella series. Feel free to follow along as I post articles, sneak peeks, and share a little bit of my love for Japan (April 27th to May 9th)! I hope you all enjoy!
A World of Love ~ Why Japan?
Out of all the countries in the world, why write a novella set in Japan?
It’s because I have a special connection with Japan.
For starters, my uncle lived there, found love there, and eventually died there during a tragic terror attack. He was a good man, and he’s buried in an Okinawa cemetery. It’s a shame he passed so young, but his love of the country burned bright enough that I still feel it to this day.
In part because of him, I studied Japanese for three years and eventually traveled there for the summer. What an experience. Nothing prepares you for a different culture like actually living day-to-day in that culture, let me tell you. That being said, I knew right away why my uncle loved Japan so much. The people are gracious, the food is great, and nothing quite compares to Japanese television.
Sure, being a foreigner was weird. There are very specific customs in Japan that are different from my home in the United States. No tipping, the unlucky number if ‘4’ and not ’13,’ and lots of cats have bobbed tails. That’s all minor, mind you, but when you act like a foreigner, people in Japan do tend to treat you differently.
Which is where the inspiration for my novella, The Dusk Parlor, comes into play. When I was in Japan, I would constantly wonder about people’s stares. Did they look down on me for not speaking correctly? Was I adhering to the customs properly? Sometimes they would laugh when I commit some social faux pas.
I would think, “Maybe I’d never fit in here.”
But the great thing about Japan—the thing I experienced and will remember till the day I die—was the willingness to lend a hand. When I expressed my concerns to my Japanese friends (or even just people I was interacting with out in the wild) they would immediately jump to help. They drew me into their culture and explained things step by step. It’s a great experience, and it’s one I hoped to replicate in my novella.
The main character, Hugh, is a “hāfu”—half-Japanese, half-American—and he travels to Japan in order to live there with his mother. At first he struggles with the customs, but after getting a job at The Dusk Parlor, he begins to warm to the country, and even find some romance.
Now, this is a work of fiction (and I love me some good adventure), so my novella isn’t complete without two of Hugh’s coworkers having run-ins with the yakuza (a Japanese mafia, if you will). They need Hugh’s military training and expertise to help them fulfill one last mission before they can go on with their lives.
To be honest, there was a lot of cultural stuff I wanted to include in the novella, but I just couldn’t. In Japan they have something called “food terrorists”—they’re your friends that text you images of super good looking food at times when you can’t eat (like work, or on the subway) just to make you hungry. Oh, and some hot springs smell like sulfur year around, to the point the locals call the hills “stinky egg hills.” They’re fun cultural things that I haven’t seen in the United States.
But stuff like that is hard to incorporate into a story without it feeling superfluous. To that end, I incorporated as much as I could, while keeping in mind that not everyone knows Japanese or Japanese customs. Hugh experiences bento lunches, learns that The Dusk Parlor is on a building that doesn’t have a fourth floor (because ‘4’ is bad luck, remember?) and even learns a great deal about proper Japanese speech etiquette.
Speaking of Japanese speech patterns, I cut things that didn’t have direct English equivalents. In Japanese, most names are followed by an honorific, such as –san, -sama, -chan, or (my favorite) –kun. The closest to an English translation would be ‘Mr.’ or ‘Mrs.’ but that doesn’t quite cut it. Because it would have taken me several paragraphs of language explanation to differentiate the honorifics, I opted to omit them entirely. I wanted the story of acceptance, help, and fusion to shine through, and I kept it at the core of me decisions at all times.
Overall, I love Japan. My experiences there, the people I met, and the country itself, are dear to my heart. I only hope that I managed to convert my feelings into a fun adventure story for all to enjoy.
~ SA Stovall
About the Book
Former soldier Hugh Harris is a “hāfu”—half-Japanese, half-American—and, after his father’s death, he returns to Kobe, Japan, in order to connect with his mother and her family. Confused and feeling out of place, Hugh finds work as a waiter at an upscale nightclub. The other employees, an odd and eclectic bunch, quickly make him feel at home, especially the bartender, Ren, and the club host, Kaito.
But the tranquility doesn’t last forever. As Hugh gets deeper into his relationships with both men, he finds they may have dubious connections with the yakuza in town… and when the local street leaders send their enforcers to the Dusk Parlor, Hugh, Ren, and Kaito may be in for a storm of trouble.
Buy the Book: Dreamspinner Press
About the Author
S.A. Stovall grew up in California’s central valley with a single mother and little brother. Despite no one in her family having a degree higher than a GED, she put herself through college (earning a BA in History), and then continued on to law school where she obtained her Juris Doctorate.
As a child, Stovall’s favorite novel was Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. The adventure on a deserted island opened her mind to ideas and realities she had never given thought before—and it was the moment Stovall realized that story telling (specifically fiction) became her passion. Anything that told a story, be it a movie, book, video game or comic, she had to experience. Now, as a professor and author, Stovall wants to add her voice to the myriad of stories in the world, and she hopes you enjoy.