Interview with author, Valynne Maetani

Happy Wednesday, yall!  Hope you all are having a great week. It has been super busy here at home   wearewordnerds headquarters, that’s for sure! Bought a new dining set and somehow rearranging that one room has destroyed my house! Imma be forever cleaning this mess up!  Also, I may have picked up about 300 books this week. *shrugs* It happens. #yardsaleseason #ThatsAllImSayin


On to the show! (I mean interview….)

Interview with author, Valynne Maetani



What inspired you to write your first book & what was it? Tell us about it.


Ink and Ashes is actually my first book. I wrote it for my sister’s 18th birthday because I never got to see myself in books other than those with settings involving war, an internment camps, or high fantasy. I wanted her to have a contemporary title with a Japanese American protagonist, and I was tired of reading about people like me who were hated just because of the way they look. I thought the greatest gift I could give her was a book I never got to read.


What genre do you usually write? Do you ever see yourself writing other genres?

I can’t say I write in a particular genre. My ideas are all over the place. Currently I’m working on a Young Adult Horror, but I’m also dabbling with a contemporary fiction piece and a fantasy story.



Tell us about INK AND ASHES. Whats it about, where’d the idea for INK AND ASHES come from?


Ink and Ashes is about a sixteen-year old girl who discovers her deceased father was once a member of the yakuza, the Japanese mafia. I have always loved mysteries because of the red herrings, so I knew that’s what I wanted to write. Weaving a story around the idea of the yakuza came from watching movies with my grandfather as a kid. The yakuza have always been fascinating to me because of the code of honor they live by although they are a crime syndicate; I’m drawn to the juxtaposed mystery there.

Is there a message in your novel that you hope your readers come away with?

It’s been very interesting to hear from readers and hear how what resonates with one person is very different from another. I love that. So I’m happy with anything meaningful that a reader walks away with.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The hardest part was trying to get the pacing right. I had to build the tension but also had to consider character development amid all the action. It definitely took several drafts before I felt like I had the balance I wanted.

The editing process is so hard! Do you end up cutting anything out of INK AND ASHES that you wish had stayed in?

There really isn’t anything I cut that I wish had stayed. My main concern was making the book better, so I was ready to do a complete overhaul of everything. When I started, the manuscript was about 65,000 words. After the first revision, I had about 76,000 words, but I cut about 50,000 so most of what I wrote originally is not in the final book. I don’t regret losing any of it!



Its got to be exciting seeing your book published! What was that journey like for you? Was there a lot of rejection, etc?

It’s exciting, but I still can’t believe I’m a published author. The journey was very hard in some ways and easy in other ways. It was hard because it took a lot of work and patience. But in some ways it was easy because I have a wonderful support system of writers. I think I was able to avoid a lot of rejection because I let other published writers tell me when I was ready.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

A lot of writers will tell you never to give up. But my advice would be to write because you love it. Write because you couldn’t quit even if you wanted to. Focus on craft rather than publication. Let others read your work, learn to take criticism, revise, revise again, and again and again. Rather than trying to convince the publishing industry your manuscript is ready, hone your writing skills, and the industry will let you know when it’s time.

What are you working on now / whats next for you?

My current project is a collaboration with Courtney Alameda , author of Shutter(Feiwel and Friends, 2015) on a young adult Japanese horror/thriller titled SEVEN DEAD GODS (working title), which is a retelling of Akira Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI. Our main characters will be plagued by Japanese monsters and ghosts and require the help of shinigami (death gods) for protection. And then after that, as I said, I hope to be working on the sequel to Ink and Ashes!

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Wow, this is hard. I can’t imagine I would be where I am without the mentors I’ve had, so with a lot of gratitude, I would say A.E. Cannon, Carol Lynch Williams, Sara Zarr, Mette Ivie Harrison, Ann Dee Ellis, Martine Leavitt, and too many to name!


Who is your favorite author & what do you think draws you to their work?

My favorite book of all time is How to Kill a Mockingbird, so I have to say Harper Lee. I love the characters. They are flawed and human yet absolutely loveable. I love their relationships with each other, especially the bond Atticus, a single father, shares with his children Scout and Jem.

And because our readers would LOVE to know: What book are YOU reading right now?

Right now I’m reading Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave by Jen White. I absolutely adore it so far!

Ink and Ashes byValynne Maetani |

Ink and Ashes by Valynne Maetani

Release Date: June 1, 2015

Claire Takata has never known much about her father, who passed away when she was a little girl. But on the anniversary of his death, not long before her seventeenth birthday, she finds a mysterious letter from her deceased father, addressed to her stepfather. Claire never even knew that they had met.

Claire knows she should let it go, but she can’t shake the feeling that something’s been kept from her. In search of answers, Claire combs through anything that will give her information about her father . . . until she discovers he was a member of the yakuza, the Japanese mafia. The discovery opens a door that should have been left closed.

So begins the race to outrun his legacy as the secrets of her father’s past threaten Claire’s friends and family, newfound love, and ultimately her life. Ink and Ashes, winner of Tu Books’ New Visions Award, is a heart-stopping debut mystery that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very last page.


About Valynne E. Maetani:


Valynne E. Maetani grew up in Utah and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She the 2013 winner of the first ever New Visions Award from TU BOOKS, an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS. Her debut novel, Ink and Ashes will be out June 2015.In Ink and Ashes, personal vendettas and organized crime collide, sending Claire Tanaka on a race to outrun her father’s legacy. When a letter from her dead father reveals a family secret, Claire searches for information about her father’s past and discovers a dangerous family connection to the yakuza, the Japanese mafia.

Maetani wanted to write a story that was a mystery and reflected her Japanese roots. “Growing up, I had never seen a Japanese-American protagonist in a story that wasn’t historical fiction or fantasy,” she says. “The intrigue of the mafia made the yakuza a perfect fit. Like most countries, Japan is rich in history, and I wanted to share aspects of the culture, including the meaning and purpose behind other Japanese traditions.”

In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews says, “This fantastic debut packs a highly suspenseful blend of action, intrigue, and teen romance.”

Before she started writing, Maetani developed educational software for children with learning disabilities. She currently spends her time writing and as a part-time stage mom and soccer mom for her three daughters. She lives in Salt Lake City with her husband and their children. Ink and Ashes is her first novel. You can find out more about her on her website,

Connect with her:
Twitter  |   Facebook  | Website


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