Interview With Author Hailey Sawyer

Could You Tell Us About Yourself?

I sure can. Hello there! My name is Hailey Sawyer. I’m the author of Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale and the upcoming novel, I’m Pursuing a Monster. I was born and raised in Rhode Island and ever since I was about nine or ten years old, I’ve had a major interest in learning about Japanese culture. Some of my other interests include (but are not limited to): Reading, coding, and going to the beach.

What is the first book you remember reading?

Oh God. My memory on this is really fuzzy, but I genuinely believe that the first book I remember reading was Madeline. I must’ve liked it well enough because I watched the 1998 live action film and played one of the computer games when I was little. I still have the box set containing the unabridged hardcover versions of the first four books in the series. Speaking of the series, maybe I’ll revisit it one day.

How many hours a day do you write?

I’ll admit. This isn’t something that I strictly track, but on average, I would say about five to six hours a day, though sometimes I may have longer days for more intensive aspects.

If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose and why?

That’s an interesting question. I would pick Kiyohiko Azuma, the creator of the Azumanga Daioh manga series. From the interviews I’ve checked out (like this one), he seems like a really chill guy with a unique way of approaching how he draws and develops his characters (including Yotsuba). He also likes pizza, which is a plus.

How do you celebrate when you finish your book?

A day prior to the release of Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale, I had wisdom teeth surgery. I wasn’t completely out of commission when Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale was released, but I still took it kind of easy and posted a super big announcement about it, which you can read here, and invited people to ask me questions on my Goodreads profile. Not sure what I’m gonna do to celebrate when I’m Pursuing a Monster drops, but I’d like to be able to do a little more.

Did you listen to music while you wrote your book?

Yes. While writing, I typically listen to music and sound effects. Music is something that I feel can really allow me to capture or get into a specific mood. Sound effects assist me in gaining a clearer idea of how something sounds in order to describe it accurately.

Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale is no exception in this department. There were quite a few tearjerking songs I listened to while writing the more emotional scenes for this novel. These included (but weren’t limited to): Oogway Ascends from Kung Fu Panda, Neverland Orchestra’s version of a Mary Poppins song called Feed the Birds, and Baby Mine from Dumbo.

Where do you get your idea(s) for your book(s)?

With Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale, the idea for it just sort of popped into my head one day back in 2017. Yes, that’s right. No epic or emotional backstory as to why. It was but an idea that randomly came to me. Initially, I didn’t even know if it was something that I wanted to turn into a novel. But, after thinking it over, I made my decision. I am going to make this into a novel.

Do you try more to be original or rather give readers what they want?

Typically, I myself choose which ideas I want to develop into a story. Some become short stories and others (Like Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale) become full-fledged novels.

However, there are exceptions. When I decided I wanted to write a second novel, I had two really good ideas (one being I’m Pursuing a Monster and the other being Kevin’s Journey), but wasn’t entirely sure which one to go with. Thus, I decided to put them to a poll. I’m Pursuing a Monster won by a landslide and when I say “landslide”, I mean I’m Pursuing a Monster got all the votes.

What part of the book was the most fun to write?

Honestly, I really had a ball writing all the parts where Kenji and Yuki are hanging out and getting to know one another. But if I have to narrow it down to just a single part, that would be the part in chapter eight where Kenji and Yuki are making fun of this film called Reefer Madness. The scene is simple, but one aspect that makes it special is that it’s the first time that you really get to see them having a blast with one another. It’s also the starting point for a cute little in-joke they share with each other. What is that in-joke? Well, you’ll just have to read the novel to find out! Sorry. It’s just too adorable for me to spoil.

What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft?

In my interview with The Bookshelf Cafe News, I stated that one big way Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale had changed was with the characterization of Yuki. Another big way that it has changed is with how the story was told. Originally, it was told in first person past tense and used a framing device where Yuki talked directly to the reader about a previous period in her life, similar to The Catcher in The Rye, one of the novel’s many inspirations/influences. However, at some point, I didn’t feel that it was as suitable for this story as I thought. So, I ended up scraping the framing device and switching to first person present tense. Boy what a difference it made. 

How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?

If you love character driven stories, Japanese culture, slow-burn romances, or even all three, you’re gonna love Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale.

What do you hope your readers take away from your book(s)?

One of the major messages of Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale is that the bravest aren’t always the most fearless.

How did you feel when you first published your book(s)? Scared? Excited? Nervous?

All three easily. So Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale was my debut novel. I had no idea if people we’re gonna like it despite all the polishing I did or if formatting glitches were gonna occur when publishing or what have you. But at the same time, I was so happy to have actually finished and published it, especially when I looked back into its development and remembered how there were times where I just wanted to stop and cancel the project.

Now while I will fully admit that I don’t consider Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale to be a perfect novel, on the whole, I’m really proud of the way it came out. It’s also been getting generally positive reception, so I must’ve done something right.

Where can people who are interested in your book, buy your book?

For a complete list of places where Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale is available, those interested can go here.

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?

As a matter of fact, I am. Like I’ve hinted at earlier, I’m currently working on my second novel called I’m Pursuing a Monster. In short, it’s basically Animorphs Meets Dexter. In comparison to my last novel, it’s an extremely different beast on almost every level. For example, instead of Japan, the setting is a coastal town in the United States of America. Instead of a sixteen-year-old girl as the main character, it’s a fifteen-year-old boy. Instead of a coming-of-age romance story, it’s a supernatural thriller that’s also a mystery. Instead of… well… you get the idea. Honestly, I think the only thing they have in common is that they’re both for Young Adults.

Is it something more you want to tell us which I forgot to ask about?

Three things actually.

One, my favorite season is summer. To make a long story short, the weather is so much warmer, I can go to the beach more often, and I don’t have to wear a billion layers of clothes just to go somewhere.

Two, if you’re an aspiring author looking for some great tools or a seasoned author who’s looking to save a little cash, there are quite a few fantastic ones that I feel are not only essential, but free as well. These include:

Google Docs (If you’re familiar with Microsoft Word, it’s very similar and just as user friendly. It also allows you to edit documents on the go and get add-ons for it.)

Adobe Digital Editions and Thorium Reader (These programs allow you to easily view ePub and PDF files, which is great if you want to get an idea as to how your manuscript will look in eBook format. If you’re a Dark Mode fan like me, I’m happy to say that Thorium Reader also includes a Dark Mode setting.)

Hemingway Editor (This is a great tool if you want to gain insight into your writing beyond basic grammar quality [though it does detect grammatical issues.] For example, Hemingway Editor can tell you the minimum education level required to understand your writing, which sentences within your writing are difficult to read, whether or not there’s passive voice being used, and so on.)

Novellla Web App (I think this is one of the best text editors I’ve seen. While it is a stripped-down version of Word and Docs, it still has quite a bit to offer. There’s a Dark Mode setting, a “Focus!” mode that removes everything but the text body, word count, and reading time count [though you can escape it by clicking “Exit” at the bottom left corner of the screen], a notes feature that allows you to add your own notes and/or different story structures such as the Three Act structure and so on, several different ambience options to listen to, and much more. Oh and it automatically saves your work, even when you close it.)

Last but not least, if you decide to read Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale and have some opinions on it (whether good, bad, or meh), don’t be afraid to post a review to Goodreads, Amazon, or wherever else you prefer. I love hearing what people have to say about it.

Hailey Sawyer Media Links


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