Interview with Jin Okubo

1. First, tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Mexico, still I know little about my life there having moved to California when I was four. My time in California was at a unique point in history. I can say that as the mild racism towards those of Hispanic decent was at one point tolerated. This was especially true for the families of migrant workers.
My mother wanted more from us and so she worked hard to build a home in a small town in the Santa Barbara Mountains, what made it unique was the image of myself where I was neither an insider nor an outsider. I was a paradox caught between two communities, the white community and the Hispanic one.
It was growing up in this community which inspired in me the love of stories. It was the hardships that I faced, that my mother endured, which led to my love of strong female role models and women. I find it funny as originally I wanted to be an engineer and make money that route. I found out later in life that working in a cubicle was not for me.
In that I moved to Japan where I started a very nice career in teaching. It is also in Japan where the women that I dated gave birth to the female lead in my novel. The heartache and pain that I endured and gave, as I must say I did give my fair share out, but this heartache lead me to my story. Though Love was not my first novel it is one that I consider the closest to me and my style of writing.

2. I find that, even though most people might disagree, men seem to be the ones who are more romantic. What do you think? And why?

I agree that men are the more romantic of the two sexes. Yet it is the media that casts men as those interested in only the physical. I find it funny that most women tend to dismiss the romantic part of men. Still if we were to look at an average relationship it is usually the male buying flowers, jewelry, making plans for dinner and such.
Now if it is as we say our lot in life to take a back seat and allow women the romantic crown, men are all too willing to bestow that crown on women if only to give them the romance they desire. Our sacrifice, our commitment, our ever enduring pain that we put up with only to bring a smile to the one we love. And yes while there are exceptions to the rule, there is not a man alive who has not done something in the name of love and romance.

3. I read love, your romance novel, and thought it to be great. Tell us more about it.

Love: it is such a simple word and such a simple story if only in the idea. There was the start of the story, the seed, the speck if you will of a story needing to be told. And while I have been told that love romances exist from a male perspective, I have yet to see one as raw, as intense, as pure in its intentions of love.
Robert is me, always has and always will. That is a common answer as all writers tend to put a bit of themselves into their characters. I put more. His angst, his dreams, his pains, and his love all of that is me. There are many stories in the novel between the couple that did in fact happen to me. And while the un-named female tends to tear and rip at Robert, she changes between women that have come in and out of my life. But there is one, the book, the love is written for one woman. No, it is not my wife. The woman in love is in fact the only one who could touch me deep in my soul, and it was that perfection which caused me to flee. And there lies the core of the book.
With the perfect love in hand men do everything they can for it, and in the end we lose to win.

4. What inspired you to write the novel?

One woman, to whom I added traits from other women in my life. But in the beginning it was just one woman. Tomoko, such a perfect woman and yet I was so afraid of our love and romance. There was so much perfection and pain. The story brewed in my soul for seven years. The ups and downs, the games and lies, the truth of it all was her and has always been her. And in the end my fear caused me to die in her eyes, symbolically I mean. Our love died because I was too afraid and no matter how romantic I could be there was the fear of perfection staring me strait in the face. So I did the only thing that would allow me to keep any semblance of my sanity. I wrote and wrote and wrote.
Still the style of writing was more to me. The story was there but when I chose the style I wanted a bit of Oscar Wilde. I wanted to tell the story in a completely new way, a way that would attract lovers of books. Though I must say that the learned reader may be gone. Writing for the higher level of reader may be a time that is passing. This has me contemplating doing a re-write to expand the story a bit more for a broader audience.
Speaking of style I wanted to put the reader right inside my head. I wanted them to feel Robert and walk the preverbal mile in his shoes. This would make the pain their pain, this would make the love their love, and when all is said and done they would not be able to let Robert out of their mind because he (I) would be a part of them. That is if they took the bull by the horns and read the book to completion.

5. In your novel, you offer an interesting perspective of what love is supposed to be. Do you believe soul mates can last forever?

I believe soul mates do last forever. Even though I do not have faith and or religion. For some reason the idea of love for me is eternal. And there is always hope. I do hope and one of my hopes is that soul mates last forever. It may be one of the threads holding my sanity to this world. It is also one of the keys to my story. That ever enduring love.
6. When did you decide to become a writer?
Even though there are minor works with my name on them. The deep part of me that wanted to become a writer did not manifest until 2004. A story that eventually grew into a fantasy series brewed and grew finally taking form and sits with a publisher at the moment. That is all I can say about that story at the moment.

7. What is the best piece of advice on writing anyone ever gave you?

Write. Even if it is incomprehensible letters on the keyboard, write. 100 monkeys and 100 typewriters. So write and your voice will make itself known.

8. What do you think is more important: hard work or talent?

Hard work is a bit overrated as is talent. You need both in equal amounts. I say this because you can work as hard as you want but if you have nothing to say then what ever you put on paper will be just that nothing. This is one of the reasons why I do not participate in the write a novel in a month things.
Talent by itself is also overrated. Talent only takes you so far before the need for hard work kicks in. And in fact I have seen many of my old classmates end up with small lives when in high school they were the ones destined for greatness. So talent and no work will only get you so far.

9. What do you think the most important factors to a writer’s level of success are?

The fire to write and keep writing. Standing by your work even when others may say it is shit. Decide who you are or want to be and stand by it. Though it took me a long time to see who I was. Be resourceful, you can pay for the knowledge but all that may do is leave you broke writing just like everyone else, or you can search for the writing resources and learn how to write and try them out until a style finds you. But then we get back to the beginning of the cycle: keep writing.

10. What piece of advice would you offer to an aspiring writer?

Listen to advice when you ask for it and when it is given freely, but in the end make up your own mind on the direction you want to go in.


If this interview made you curious, you can check Jin’s website here.


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