[In mid-January, The Divinning Wand post, Picture the Book: Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, provided a sneak peek into Kristina McMorris’ (Letters From Home) second novel, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, releasing today to critical acclaim. Publishers Weekly declared [it] a “gripping story [that] hits all the right chords,” while Kirkus Reviews praises the book as a “sweeping yet intimate novel.”
Described in one sentence, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves tells this story: A young woman secretly elopes with her Japanese American boyfriend the night before Pearl Harbor is bombed, forever changing two families torn between sides.
A powerful, insightful read, Kristina has managed to authentically capture one of the most controversial episodes in recent American history and still entertain with a moving tale to love, forgiveness, and the endurance of the human spirit.
How was the author able to achieve such success? Hopefully the following interview will enlighten as well as pique your interest. Enjoy!]
TDW: Your journey to novelist feels serendipitous because what began as a family cookbook turned into Letters from Home. Now, having heard of another true story, you’ve written Bridge of Scarlet Leaves. Can you imagine life without these books?
K.McM.: There’s no question in my mind, as cliché as it might sound, that my life has been guided to where I am now. Just eight years ago, I was a PR Director and the owner of professional event-planning company, with no intention of ever becoming a creative writer. As you well know, I wasn’t even a reader at the time! And yet, because of inspiration from historical accounts that moved me, my life took an unexpected turn—one I wouldn’t trade for anything.
TDW: The research for BoSL is impressively detailed, how did you gain access to everything and everyone?
K.McM.: Thank you for saying that! I take a lot of pride in getting the facts “right.” To be perfectly honest, though, I’m probably one of the few historical authors who doesn’t relish the traditional research portion. Although I love having actually learned the information, highlighting info in textbooks sounds as appealing to me as a root canal. What I do enjoy is hands-on experience.
So, for BoSL, I was delighted when the Park Ranger at the Manzanar Relocation Center, who suffered through my endless list of internment questions, invited me to attend their annual pilgrimage. Similarly, when I contacted the Go For Broke Foundation, an organization devoted to educating people about Japanese American military service, they offered to arrange in-person interviews with seven WWII veterans who have since all received the Congressional Gold Medal. I’ve definitely been spoiled.
As for my Air Corps research, it’s hard to beat the thrill of flying on a restored B-17 bomber. For that one, I have my husband to thank. It was by far the best Mother’s Day gift I could imagine!
TDW: The “voice” in both novels sounds authentic for the time period, how did you manage that?
K.McM.: I often joke, given my strong draw to the era, that I must have lived through the ’40s in another life. I love the music, the fashion, and, of course, the slang. To get a good sense of dialogue, I watched many documentaries and WWII films that were touted for accuracy. Movies made in the 1940s, as it turned out, weren’t a great resource, since they often used dramatic Hollywood speak. Real letters from the war, however, including those written by my grandfather, were extremely helpful, as well as a pleasure to read.
TDW: Considering the research necessary for the storyline, I think you’re a detailed plotter…..or are you a ‘pantser’? Please describe your writing process.
K.McM.: Pantsters, in my mind, are advanced mythical creatures with an ability I can’t fathom. Needless to say, I’m a plotter. I find comfort in knowing the basics of what’s coming next. (I suppose it makes sense that I loved being an event coordinator.) When plotting a new book, I like to create an outline, roughly one sentence per chapter, before beginning. For me, this is essential for narrowing down my research load. Otherwise, with the enormity of the topic of WWII, I could end up spending six months reading intriguing yet story-irrelevant details.
TDW: What would you like readers to take away from reading BoSL?
K.McM.: Aside from being transported into another world, I hope readers gain a deep appreciation for real-life heroes they otherwise didn’t know existed, as well as newfound knowledge about history too often brushed over. On a more personal note, if the story causes them to reexamine their own values and perspectives on other cultures, I really couldn’t ask for anything more.
TDW: Since your first two novels are historical fiction, do you intend to continue writing in this genre?
K.McM.: Without question, historicals are my favorite to write. There’s something magical about stepping into an old time period, specifically when it’s based on a true account. Although the novella I just completed has a contemporary setting, a rarity for me, it links to a minor character from my debut, Letters from Home, giving the story strong ties to WWII.
TDW: What are you working on now? And when will be lucky enough to read it?
K.McM.: The novella I mentioned, titled The Christmas Collector, will be published this coming October in a holiday anthology headlined by #1 New York Times bestselling author Fern Michaels. After that, I’ll be working on my next two women’s fiction novels under contract with my publisher. So hopefully I’ll continue to share stories for a long time to come!
Although readers will have to wait for the novella, remember Bridge of Scarlet Leaves is available in bookstores and online retailers today.
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kritina McMorris — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EST tonight! The winner will be announced here on Thursday.