About the Book:
Miko Nishimura yearns for friends and love. But what hope is there when you’re so afraid?
Hikikomori are Japanese recluses. Right now in Japan over a million hikikomori are hiding in their bedrooms, hiding from their past and future. Hiding from the disappointment that having dreams can bring.
Miko is a hikikomori. As Miko’s dreams fade her Tokyo bedroom becomes her entire world. The city outside transforming into the realm of nightmares, a place where horrid memories and growing fears wait to pounce.
Playing car racing games on her laptop is all that distracts Miko from her situation. Then one day her parents are away, and her mouse batteries run out.
So Miko stands trembling next to the apartment door. Unable to live without her racing games, she must venture out into the world to buy batteries. But little does Miko know the consequences for herself, and for Japan, if she steps out that door.
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1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?
I’m a software architect, born and bred in New Zealand. I enjoy well acted movies, reading, classic cars, and good food. I also enjoy long walks on the beach where I contemplate world peace while helping to resuscitate orphaned beached dolphins.
I’m not sure exactly what got me into writing, perhaps it was the desire to bring to life the imaginations running around inside my head. It seemed a shame to waste them.
2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?
Not really a favourite time, but instead a favourite mode. Once I’m in the groove (the zone) then I can keep going and going no matter morning, afternoon or night.
As for favourite place, I only need somewhere where I won’t be disturbed. I wrote most of The Hikikomori in my Auckland city office. But when traveling hotel rooms, cafes and libraries are good. Once I bought a car with comfy seats and installed an extra battery to power my laptop for a day. New Zealand has a lot of coastline, and so many secluded beaches where I parked and wrote.
3: Where do your ideas come from?
From daydreaming, often triggered by some random information or feeling. They flash into prominence when an interesting connection forms between various ideas. I find that music is often good juice to enable those flashes of inspiration.
For example, there were numerous ideas that came together to form The Hikikomori. I wanted to write something to encourage isolated people. Also I wondered if I could create a protagonist who was very different from myself (most protagonists are just the author in a different skin). Could I write someone of a different gender? And to make it even harder, someone of a different culture? Then, Tokyo seemed like a magical place. Walking around I enjoyed the way people dressed, the neon signs and endless random alleyways filled with interesting shops or bars. Also, I wondered if I could help my readers understand how Japanese culture works. And, of course, I began to imagine the novel’s protagonist Miko, and she grew into someone that just had to be written. I knew I wouldn’t be able to rest until I held Miko’s completed story in my hand.
4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?
I imagine the entire arc of the story, then I plan out a sequence of scenes, building a rough outline for each. Afterwards, I read through the scenes moving them around and making changes, until the story starts making me want to read more. I figure that if I want to read more, then my readers will want to keep reading too.
I put a decent amount of time into “running” each scene in my head. I try to eliminate most issues and generate most new ideas in the planning stage. I don’t want to be carried along in the writing stage, rather I want to get as much of that “being carried along” done in the planning stage.
To my mind, seeing where the story goes as you write is outlining — just outlining done in the most inefficient way possible. Of course as you write your first draft new ideas and issues come up, but if you plan carefully then most of those ideas will have been triggered earlier, and so things will go more smoothly.
5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?
I don’t write with a genre in mind. I write the novel I want and then afterwards hope there are some genres it fits. This might seem counter intuitive from a marketing perspective, but I’m writing the stories that live in my head and they don’t like be put into boxes. I’d rather write a novel that fits no genres and it be the book I wanted to write, instead of a good genre book that my heart wasn’t into.
The Hikikomori, luckily, fits into a number of genres, including: mild urban fantasy, mild romance, coming of age, and since the story centers around Miko, squarely in the woman’s fiction genre. So far readers of those genres have enjoyed the novel, so that’s good/lucky. I’m getting a lot of, “I’ve never read anything like this before, but I like it” messages.
6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?
That’s a hard one, because to mention certain characters would give the plot away. So I’d just say Ken Watanabe for Uncle Ken. Ryo Nishikido for the character that can’t be named, and Hiroyuki Sanada as Chairman Ikari.
Miko would be hardest to cast because it is more than her look; it’s her sweet but stubborn personality, captivating smile, and brightness. In casting you’d know the right actress the instant she walked through the door.
7: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?
I read quite a bit. My house is overflowing with overflowing bookshelves.
I don’t know if I have favourite authors, I have favourite books that have authors attached to them. Some of those authors would be J. R. R. Tolkien, George Orwell, Cormac McCarthy, Ernest Hemingway, Ursula K. Le Guin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Neal Stephenson, Peter F. Hamilton, Robert A. Heinlein, and Enid Blyton.
8: What book/s are you reading at present?
Consider Phlebas by Ian Banks. A very exciting book called Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture by F. Martin. And Heir To The Empire by Timothy Zahn.
9: What is your favourite book and why?
Fiction wise it would have to be The Lord of the Rings. While I have enjoyed many fiction novels, nothing has had the constant re-readability of LOTR. It is so multilayered and well considered that it is a marvel. It’s like returning to a childhood in a cozy country cottage in a bright summer meadow next to a gentle river. I predict that as the years roll past the LOTR will become the prime myth of the English speaking peoples.
10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?
Ask yourself why you want to be a writer? If it’s to get recognition and make you feel more loved then I suggest you are better off seeing a counselor and figuring out how to build your self-confidence up. Deal with the real problem first, then see if you still want to be a writer.
If you want to be a writer because you find enjoyment in the process or you feel the urge to instantiate the stories jumping around in your head, then I think you’re on to something. Another reason to be a writer is if you are good at it, exercising your talent is a reward in itself.
11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?
About the Author:
Mark Vrankovich was born in Auckland, New Zealand. It is said that on the day he was born there was a cloud in the sky shaped like a Commodore 64.
Disguised as a software architect, he wanders the Earth searching for his lost hair. Legend has it that if enough people read his novels then his hair will return. And so he writes. In a hotel room, or in a cave. Hope furrowed across his brow.
He likes hot tea, cupcakes (chocolate, moist on the inside but with a bake hardened crust exterior, not too much icing), thunderstorms, cats, musty books, shiny things, and the pop sound jam jars make when you open them.
Some say he knows something, but nobody is sure what it is. He likely does not own that thing you think he owns. He can see in color. His walking speed is about six kilometers per hour, but he can manage twenty kilometers per hour when being chased by something with teeth.
The brief author biographies he writes about himself, often in the third person, have been rated as some of the worst in the world. The World Health Organization classifies them as a mental hazard. Interpol has warned it is ready to issue a global “Red Notice”, requesting his arrest, if he writes another one. A small, but vigorously up and coming galactic empire at the eastern end of the Milky Way has threatened to irradiate the Earth with gamma rays if…