Having really enjoyed both Hattori Hachi books so far - reviews of book 1, Revenge of Praying Mantis here and book 2, Stalking the Enemy here - I was thrilled when Unbound were able to set up an interview with author Jane Prowse!
1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?
I have a very loyal band of followers from books one and two, and they're the people I imagine reading the next book as I write. One of them even made a promo and put it on you tube, telling people to support Hattori Hachi: Curse of the Diamond Daggers and to pledge for it on Unbound! Another told me someone needed to die in book 3, which was a thought I was already toying with so their input was very timely. I really value feedback from these Hattori Hachi fans, and also all the readers who have taken the time to write reviews for the website and to choose what thier animus would be. You can see the results at www.hattorihachi.com. My readers range in age from about 8 to over 90, so when I imagine them they are quite an unusual bunch!
2. After having your first two Hattori Hachi books published by Piccadilly Press, what made you look at going to Unbound to publish the trilogy?
It was a very amicable decision between me and both sets of publishers. Hattie Jackson, my heroine, is growing up and in Curse of the Diamond Daggers she sets off for Japan with her friends and family to resolve a bitter family feud. Piccadilly felt that Japan would be too alien for many of their younger readers and that if I wanted, I should take the book to a publisher with more of a crossover readership. By conincidence, Unbound were launching that weekend and were all over the press. I am really taken with their philsophy of putting readers in touch with authors, and of making beautiful hardback editions of book that will last for a very long time and make great gifts. They were keen to take the Hattori Hachi books and we decided very quickly to pubish all three in one volume for the price of one book, so that no new readers to the series won't miss out on what's happened so far. I do hope people will take a look at their website, as they're a really innovative and refreshingly contemporary company:
3. How much research did you have to do into ninjutsu to get it right for the Hattori Hachi trilogy?
A lot! I knew nothing of ninjutsu when I started out with this idea, except for a very slim book called "Everything you need to know about ninjutsu". It was really inspirational, explaining how ninjutsu predates all our contemporary spies and assassins, such as James Bond. It's based on hard training, both mental and physical, and gives its students some great skills. They become masters of disguise, invisibility, armed and unarmed fighting and can fight in trees, appear to fly and even walk on water. My imagination ran riot! But then I did some very careful reading about ninjutsu to be sure I had all facts right. That was when I discovered this particular martial art is based on a very spiritual Zen philosophy and it evolved to keep the peace, not to start wars. Having said that, I also love all the fun stories of ninjas infiltrating enemy camps, hiding in cesspits to kill someone by sticking a poisoned arrow up their bottom, or giving an Emperor a kitten whose claws were soaked in poison.! It seems there was always a lot of fighting, deceit and deception involved in keeping the peace in Feudal Japan...
I have to be honest - from reading the books I was expecting you to say that you'd been an expert for years! Fantastic research to go from knowing virtually nothing to being able to write so wonderfully about it.
4. I love Hattori's website! She's also quite active on Twitter when she's not taking on deadly adversaries. How important do you think an online presence is for YA authors and/or characters today?
Thanks for the compliment on the website - I'm delighted it's coming across well. Online presence is such a relatively new concept, and yet to teen readers it's the norm. So I think it's really important to have an online presence and to be honest, I love it! It provides direct access to readers - and for them to have access to me. I really enjoy hearing from people who have read the books and have something to ask or suggest. And it also means fans can help spread the word, and that's really valuable help. I also love all the reviews that spring up, unsolicited. I think it's great when anyone can write a review and have people read it, as that encourages people to feel their opinion counts, which every single one does, as it's readers who buy the books.
5. Are there any other books you'd recommend to fans of the Hattori Hachi series?
For other action adventure young fiction, I really enjoyed the Robert Muchamore CHERUB series. For the adult Hattori fans I'd reccomend Stephen King.
Great recommendations - I'm a big fan of CHERUB, especially the earlier books.
6. I really like the friendship between Hattori, Mad Dog, and Neena! Who's your favourite group of friends in fiction?
Great question! You'll laugh, but the most important early group of friends to me was the Famous Five by Enid Blyton! Those books taught me to read. I couldn't get through them fast enough, joining those five on thier perilous adventures! My all time favourite group of kids are Scout, Jem and Dill in To Kill A Mockingbird.
No laughing here - like you, I was brought up on the Five! And Scout, Jem and Dill would definitely be in the running for my favourite group of friends.
7. Have you ever thought about collaborating with another author on a novel? If so, who would be your dream writing partner? (Alive or dead, I'm feeling generous!)
Because To Kill A Mockingbird in my all time favourite book, it would have to be Harper Lee. She has written just one book and it has sold over 30 million copies. I think it's a brilliant piece of work on all levels - engaging, funny, frightening, sad and moral. I would LOVE to get together with Harper Lee and see what we could come up with that did the same in today's world.
Great pick - TKAM is one of my all time favourites as well.
8. If you could ask any other author any question, what would you ask and who would you ask it to?
I would ask Shakespeare how he wrote so many plays! I'm always impressed by people who are prolific and there would be such a lot of interest in his answer, after centures of speculation about whether he really wrote every word himself.
9. What do you enjoy most about writing? What would you rather not do at all?
I love getting lost in a fictitious word where people can do anything I want them to. It's such a great feeling when the right idea springs into my mind and my fingers just can't type fast enough to get it down. I'd rather not have to give up the rest of my life to get a book finished, but so far I haven't found an alternative...
10. What's next for Jane Prowse?
Promoting Hattori Hachi as I've just delivered book 3 to Unbound and I desperately want it to get enough pledges to get published! I've also had an idea for book 4, so I'll start making some notes on that. I've had interest in a couple of my TV ideas, so I'll be developing those. I'll also be very happy to have some time to go exploring in the New Forest as I've been so busy writing since I moved here, I've hardly been outside my office. The foals and baby donkeys should start being born soon. Ahhhh...
Best of luck, I hope you get tons of pledges! Am definitely looking forward to reading book 3.