Client Spotlight: Keith Yatsuhashi On the Merits of Persistence (and Big, Stompy Robots)

CLIENT SPOTLIGHT: KEITH YATSUHASHI

 
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Keith Yatsuhashi writes big stories. His novels are a melding of fantasy, science-fiction, and Japanese mythology. He also writes big characters (Often quite literally!) and the fantastical worlds that contain them. 

Keith’s debut novel, KOJIKI, (Angry Robot, 2016), is about a young woman trying to fulfill her father’s dying wish and finding herself caught in the middle of a battle between ancient spirits. His new novel, KOKORO, coming out in April of 2017, is the second in the series and includes massive sentient mechanized Guardians. 

What project are you currently working on?

I’m currently editing a follow-up to my debut, KOJIKI. This one's called KOKORO, Japanese for heart or feelings of the heart. I ran the title past a professional translator to make sure I had it right. :)

This is the story of young people facing their fears and learning courage in the face of interplanetary war.


What challenges or fears do you face in your writing routine and what steps have you taken--or do you take--to overcome them?

Finding time is the hardest. I ended up picking up dictation software and that really helps. I can dictate while driving etc. It also gives me a chance to get ideas out. That’s always the first step in getting started. From there it’s edit, edit, edit. 

As for fears: I’m always afraid my books won’t be good enough. Turning them in is so stressful. I want readers to like them. It’s not about me, it’s about them.


If you could go back ten years and give your future writing-self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Ooooh. That one’s easy. I’d have told myself to get in touch with Lorin Oberweger sooner. She’s the best. I wouldn’t have spun my wheels for a couple of years. She’d have set me straight right away and shown me the light. :) 

 

"I owe everything to Lorin.
She stood by me all the way through the process."

 

What were the highlights of your editorial work with Lorin? How would you describe the overall effect on your professional/creative trajectory?

 Wow! Where to start.

I owe everything to Lorin. My first book wouldn’t exist without her. I wonder how many authors just give up too early. I almost did. I didn’t understand why my submissions didn’t generate interest. She stood by me all the way through the process. This is a very important point. I knew nothing about the industry. My contract was for edits only. Lorin went WAY above that, teaching me how to write a query letter, walking me through my synopsis, and showing me how to critique my work. She also explained what editors and agents were looking for. Godsend!


What advice do you have for writers seeking out editorial services?

Start with Free-Expression! You won’t need to go anywhere else.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given that's helped you as a writer?

Lorin told me this is a long process. She said I needed to be patient and to work on my skills while I waited for answers.


Where do you hope to be as a writer in ten years?

Well, a spot on the bestseller list would be nice, LOL. Honestly, I’d like to be able to write faster. I’m not GRRM slow, but it takes me a while to write a MS. I’d need many NANOWRIMO’s to finish.


What outside hobbies or interests feed your writing?

Oddly enough, I LOVE golf. I know that doesn’t seem like it would help writing, but it does. Being out on the course frees my mind to work through issues in my MS. It gives me time to think. I’m also an anime fan. I love to work my love of that genre into my books.

 

"I LOVE golf. Being out on the course frees my mind to work through issues in my MS. It gives me time to think." 

 

What’s the most important thing you looked for in an editor?

Track record, quality, and the ability to give constructive criticism. New writers are fragile. I certainly was. Lorin was SO good about showing me weaknesses in my writing without criticizing them. She was careful when helping me improve. She NEVER said anything that shook my self-confidence. If anything, she made sure she kept my confidence up. She was my greatest cheerleader along the way. 

I hoped for the same from my agent and publisher. I am thrilled to say they have those qualities too. Laura Zats from Red Sofa Literary represents me – she is absolutely fantastic. My publisher, Angry Robot Books is equally amazing. I feel lucky to work with both.

FAST FACTS

  • Currently reading:
    LOCK & KEY by Ridley Pearson. I’m loving it. It’s a fascinating YA take on the Sherlock Holmes/Moriarty dynamic. I don’t usually like taking classics and readapting them, but this is really good. Pearson is a fantastic writer. 
     
  • If you could enter the world of any novel, which would it be?Who wouldn’t want to live in Tolkien’s Valinor, right? Yeah, I know, Morgoth kind of ruined it. Still, it sounds like paradise – as it’s supposed to. :)
     
  • Do you write to music, or do you prefer silence?
    I use music to build scenes in my head but not when I write. It just distracts me too much.
     
  • Are you a coffee, tea, or booze-fueled writer?
    No, I don’t’ have any specific food or drink for my writing, but I’m open to suggestions!

You can find Keith mostly on Twitter, @keithyatsuhashi, and also on Facebook, and Wordpress. His books are on Amazon.