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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Interview & Giveaway with Leza Lowitz & Shogo Oketani, authors of Jet Black and the Ninja Wind

Today we have the enormous pleasure of welcoming authors Leza Lowitz and Shogo Oketani to the blog for a fun and quirky interview! Leza and Shogo are here with us today to talk about their recently released and totally fan-freaking-tastic action fantasy novel, Jet Black and The Ninja Wind

I have reviewed Jet Black on the blog today, so be sure to check out my review! Be warned, though, it is a rave fest, as I absolutely LOVED this book! The rich and flavorful historical and cultural tapestry, the sweeping action sequences, the mysticism, magic, epic quest and dangerous love - this book has all that and more! You MUST read it, guys!! 

The best part?! You can enter to win a finished copy of JET BLACK on Bookish today! And the giveaway - thanks to our lovely authors - is INTERNATIONAL! So enjoy the interview and make sure to scroll all the way down to enter the giveaway! 

Bookish: We’re kind of embarrassed to admit that we’ve still got our Halloween ninja costumes on today, because we’re talking to Leza Lowitz, co-author of Jet Black and the Ninja Wind, a new Young Adult novel from Tuttle/Simon & Schuster.  Welcome, Leza!

Lowitz: Thank you. I love the cats claws...remind me not to get on your dark side.

Bookish: Good idea! Or me, yours.

Lowitz. It’s not me you should worry about. It’s Jet.

Bookish: Duly warned. Tell us more about her.

Lowitz: Jet Black is a half-Japanese, half-American teenager. She’s also the last living female ninja, and the last one to know it. In the novel, she finds out the hard way when she’s thrown into an international quest to save her ancient tribe.

Bookish: What was your inspiration?

Lowitz: As a teenager, I loved reading about strong girls. They made me feel powerful, like girls could do anything. When I moved to Japan, I looked for strong female warriors there. I only found stories of dainty girls in kimonos. Where were the female warriors? They were out there, but they were hidden.

Bookish: They were ninja.

Lowitz: Exactly.

Bookish: I have to say, though, that when I hear ninja  I think of turtles.

Lowitz: Right. Well, until now, that’s been our exposure.  People might imagine ninja as B-Grade Hollywood assassins, but many ninja were tribal people who developed secret arts to protect themselves. In Jet Black, the ninja are descendants of the indigenous Emishi tribes, who fought to save their land. 

Bookish: And you connected that with Native American history. How did that work?

I was interested in the Japanese tribal history; my co-author (and husband) Shogo loved Native American culture. So in our novel, we connected Japanese tribal lore with the story of some special modern warriors--the Navajo Code Talkers. The two tribes come together to help Jet fulfill her mission.

Bookish--but then she falls in love with the one man sent to kill her.

Lowitz: Right. Isn’t it always like that?

Bookish: Maybe in your world :) That brings me to my next question--why would a peace-loving yoga teacher write a trilogy about a female ninja?

Lowitz: Good question! This book was really Shogo’s doing. But to be honest, you can’t appreciate the light without the dark, can’t have the sun without the moon. Life is a balance of opposing forces, which ultimatly harmonize each other. Jet took hold of us and drew us in. Plus, I fell in love with Hiro, her twelve-year old ninja cousin. And her ninja dog, Aska.

Bookish: The ninja in your novel are not violent for violence’s sake. They’re peaceful warriors determined to preserve an ancient, secret culture. Did you have to do a lot of research?

Lowitz: Shogo read a lot of primary source material in Japanese about the Emishi, the indigenous people of northern Japan. He also researched Native American history, rumors about Jesus in Japan, and ninja lore. As a martial artist, he had a good time choreographing the fight scenes.

Bookish: Which Publisher’s Weekly called “cinematic.”

Lowitz: Yes. That was nice!

Bookish: So this book is about a female ninja and how she comes into her powers, but it’s about much more.

Lowitz: Right. It’s subversive. It’s really about a band of Eco-Warriors trying to carve out a place in a world of historical denial and modern consumption/waste.

Bookish: You mean the corporations who bombard us with unrealistic images and stoke the fires of desire?

Lowitz: Yes--the very same ones. And the victors who rewrote history to serve their own mythology....But back to the modern age--we think we want to belong to the hip groups of kids we see in designer clothes on billboard ads, but in reality we belong to a much cooler group of Eco-warrior superhero ninjas saving the world.

Bookish: So you weren’t just jumping on the Hunger Games bandwagon?

Lowitz: Please. We started this book fifteen years ago. Katniss Everdeen wasn’t even born! It just took us a while to get out the starting gate. When we first started writing this book, no one was interested in female action heroines. Then came Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the Hunger Games, and now City of Bones. So perhaps the fact that it took us so long wasn’t such a bad thing.

Bookish: It’s certainly a lesson in perseverance for all the writers out there.

Lowitz: Definitely. Keep on digging and the treasure will emerge.

Bookish: Back to the yoga, because I am intrigued by the many hats you wear--writer, mother, yoga teacher and studio owner. How does Jet’s quest tie into yoga?

Lowitz: Yoga, like indigenous teachings, teaches that we have an innate unity and conection to nature, to each other and to the planet. We’ve just forgotten it. In Jet Black, the young ninja take it upon themselves to repair the damage done to their tribal history and village. Being a true ninja is really a spiritual practice. That’s the common thread between yoga and ninjutsu.

Bookish: So one of your main themes is Resistance, on many levels.

Lowitz: Yes. We want to ask the question--who are the real heroes--Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. What is the true nature of magic?   The real superpower is not a weapon, but love and compassion.

Bookish:  Tell us about the word ninja.

Lowitz: In Japanese, ninja (shinobi) is written with the kanji characters for “blade over heart,” like this:

In the novel, a big question for Jet is whether she can put the blade over the heart to save her own life. To emerge triumphant, Jet must become the ninja wind.

Bookish: What about the word kunoichi?

Lowitz: Kunoichi means female ninja. It’s made with the kanji character for woman, like this:

Rumor has it that it also means “nine holes.”

Bookish: Meaning...?

Lowitz: You have to read the novel to find out!

Bookish: Sneaky. Okay, so if you could have one ninja power, what would it be?

Lowitz: Invisibility. Either that, or a magic pen.

Bookish: Which would come in handy for the next two volumes. I’ll check with our sources and see if they can arrange something.

Lowitz: That would be awesome.  And I’ll ask Jet to teach you how to pass through walls.

Jet Black and the Ninja Wind, Volume I in the Kuroi Clan Trilogy, was published on October 29.

To read more about Jet Black and the Ninja Wind, click here:

See the book trailer for Jet Black and the Ninja Wind on Youtube. Directed by Chris Mauch (storyboard artist for DIVERGENT).

Special bonus reel: Skydancing aerial artist, sword-slayer, dancer, yogini and kunoichi Angelica Kushi spins her ninja tricks in this behind-the-scenes footage.

ENDS: November 24th
OPEN TO: International readers
Enter via Rafflecopter below!

Please note: Bookish is not responsible for items damaged or lost in mail. The giveaway is sponsored by the lovely authors and they will be the ones sending the prize to you!
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About the authors:

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Award-winning multi-genre writer Leza Lowitz has published more than seventeen books, including the Amazon best-selling title, Yoga Poems. Her numerous awards include the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Poetry Award, a PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, grants from the NEA and NEH, and the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in the Huffington Post, Shambhala Sun, Harpers, Best Buddhist Writing,the New York Times online, and on NPR's "The Sound of Writing."

Shogo Oketani is a martial artist, editor, translator and author of the critically acclaimed middle grade novel J-Boys: Kazuo's World, Tokyo 1965. Together with Lowitz, he was honored with the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature from Columbia University. Lowitz and Oketani live in Japan with their young son.

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