BackStory: Five Questions with P Akasaka
Author of Haori
What inspired you to write ‘Haori’?
My grandmother was a seamstress and I always wanted to write something about that life. Wearing a haori was a great status symbol among young seamstresses and that always amused me. Nobody wears kimono for everyday living in Japan any more, but there was a time that those garments signified a lot for young people.
Who are your favourite historical fiction writers (flash or otherwise) and why?
Not a flash author and not a “historical fiction writer” but I think Virginia Woolf’s Orlando is a brilliant historical fiction. The ways in which she weaves together different time periods is phenomenal. I love the sense time being compressed in that story, too.
Were there any interesting facts, details, or turns of phrase that didn’t quite make the final piece?
The 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake is often said to be a turning point of Japanese history. Militarism rose from that date. I had an image in my head of a haori trampled on by military boots, just as many young women’s aspirations and dreams were.
The Second World War also killed kimono (and therefore haori). There were government led campaigns to discourage women from wearing kimono. That background informs the description of Shika dreaming about soldiers in charge.
What, if anything, do you have in common with your main character?
Daydreaming. I imagined Shika (a deer) as a young, vivacious girl with dreamy eyes. I find daydreamers easy to write about—perhaps because I do it a lot. And I mean A LOT. (My family complain about that!)
What do you think is the most challenging and/or rewarding aspect of writing historical flash?
We write about a period that our readers might not know very much about. Because there is such a tight word limit, there is not a lot of space for explanations, but connecting the images successfully can suggest the movement of history.
P Akasaka is a Japanese writer living in Yorkshire, writing in English and Japanese.
She is currently exploring language acquisition, the life of languages, long distance running and Tarte Tatin. When she’s not writing, she is spending most of her time imagining worst case scenarios.
Detail from photograph of a girl sewing by Kusakabe Kimbei (1841 – 1934), via Wikimedia Commons.