We’ve completed recording on the audiobook of Risuko!
Here’s an interview by author David Kudler with audiobook narrator Julia Kudler — who happens to be his daughter. They discuss kickass female characters, character voices, dialects, and the joys of recording a book she first read when she was twelve: Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale.
NOTE: CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS!
Samurai, Assassins, Warlords…
And A Girl Who Likes To Climb
Though Japan has been devastated by a century of civil war, Risuko just wants to climb trees. Growing up far from the battlefields and court intrigues, the fatherless girl finds herself pulled into a plot that may reunite Japan — or may destroy it. She is torn from her home and what is left of her family, but finds new friends at a school that may not be what it seems.
Magical but historical, Risuko follows her along the first dangerous steps to discovering who she truly is.
Historical adventure fiction appropriate for young adult and middle-grade readers
I went to see Ghostbusters last night with my wife and my daughter Julia. As we were driving home, we were talking about how funny the movie was, and Julia brought up how much grumbling there had been among her friends — particularly among her male friends — about the fact that the leads were cast as women.
That got me thinking about gender roles, and (not surprisingly) about Risuko.
Here’s how my thinking went: gender difference exists. Vive la difference, and all of that. (I’m not even going to get into issues of gender fluidity or sexuality here — it’s a complicated enough issue looked at through a binary lens. Sorry.) It exists, but in art and entertainment, does it matter?Continue reading Ghostbusters, Risuko, and when gender matters→
On writing historical fiction as if it were fantasy
When I first began working on my novel Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale, my daughters were both young, and they were both voracious readers. Which, not surprisingly, I am as well. And so we happily read a lot of books together — both pleasure books and books assigned by their teachers.
Now, most of the books Sasha and Julia brought home from school were wonderful. But I noticed pretty early on that a lot of the “historical fiction” was way heavier on the historical than the story.
Again, some of the books were great. The Witch of Blackbird Pond? Crispin: Cross of Lead? Number the Stars? Terrific.
But a lot of the others were… less so.
I found myself looking at the books that my daughters and I found compelling and realized that, first and foremost, they were great stories — that they had lot more in common with the magic in the fantasy books that we all enjoyed together (Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, Tamara Pierce’s Tortall books) than a history text.
And so, as I thought about what style I wanted to take on when I began writing Risuko, I decided that I was going to write my historical novel as if it were a fantasy.Continue reading The Magic of History→
The day after we butchered the cow, we began a new set of morning lessons. As we cleared up the kitchen, Mai, who never entered the kitchen if she could help it, poked her head through the door and informed us that, for the first time, we would be taught by Mieko-san.
As she withdrew, Kee Sun asked whether Mai had actually walked into the kitchen before delivering her message. When Toumi snarled that no, she hadn’t—making it clear that no one in their right mind would enter Kee Sun’s domain willingly—the cook gave a nod and a grunt, saying, “That’s good. ‘Cause I told her if she ever stepped a foot in here again, I’d cut it off.”
It was always a bit difficult to know whether he was joking or not. To be honest, I was never quite able to work that out.
Nonetheless, I was excited by Mai’s news; I had hoped that we would be able to study with Mieko, not only because she was kind and lovely but because the other women in Chiyome-sama’s service seemed to respect her so. Even the boisterous ones listened quietly when she spoke.
Here are two chapters that were cut from the original manuscript of Risuko. This out-take — Crossing the River and Meeting the Mountain — was originally placed between what are now chapters 7 (“The Wind“) and 8 (“The Mountain“—you may recognize one bit of dialogue between Risuko and Masugu from that chapter). I cut them because it was taking too long to get to the Full Moon — to the heart of the story. But there’s some fun stuff, including a meeting with a major historical figure I’ll be talking about soon! (There are a few characters that I’ve cut out as well.)
At the beginning, Masugu and his riders have just found Lady Chiyome’s party at the Mt. Fuji Inn. Masugu offered to let Mieko ride wide him, but she refused, and so Risuko is sitting in front of the Takeda warrior on his stallion as the chapter begins.
By the way, if you read through to the end, there’s a question; be the first to answer it and win a free Audible download code!
Chapter 10—Crossing the River
The whole world seemed to roll and rumble as the great beast leapt ahead, charging down the one street of the town toward a distant white triangle that peeked up over the horizon: Mount Fuji. More Imagawa soldiers lay scattered like deadwood along the street, and several of the tiny houses were burning.
Waste. Such waste.
The rest of the squadron had formed up behind us, and so I felt as if a flood of thunder was pushing me forward. The icy wind whipped the horse’s mane and my own hair across my face until cold tears flooded my eyes. I lowered my head and cleared my vision.
Lady Chiyome makes everything clear, except when she makes everything confusing (Mochizuki Chiyome)
My shaking arms suddenly went still, as if instantly turned to ice. Looking down, I saw that Fuyudori had disappeared. I was trapped and alone.
“Do hurry, Risuko-chan,” said Lady Chiyome in that quiet voice that still managed to sound quite piercing. “I don’t want to have to call Kee Sun to haul you in. He might slip and drop you, and that would be the most awful mess.” Continue reading Read Risuko—Chapter 19: In the Web→