I have the lovely and talented Carla Croft back at my blog today to talk about her latest release, Miyuki, The Silence of Deep Snow. I feel a special connection to this book because Carla mentioned the submissive Japanese character Miyuki to me way back at the inception of her new novella. Carla was also kind enough to include me in the book's acknowledgements. So it was great fun to be able to see her work come to fruition... and ask her a few questions about it!
KC: Carla, one thing that definitely shines through your book is your interest in Japanese culture. Can you tell me how and where that interest began and why the culture has struck a chord with you?
CC: My first introduction to Japanese culture was through Martial Arts when I was young. I've studied them deeply ever since and fell in love with the whole feel of the culture: the ethic, the link with nature, through Shinto and focus through Zen. This holding on to now, living each moment each feeling, it's very precious.
I was taught to learn Martial Arts the traditional way. You are not taught, you watch. You 'steal' what the teacher is showing you. As an author I now steal moments. Snatches of conversation, a look, a glance, a gesture.
You might laugh but I saw a very old documentary once about Oliver Hardy from Laurel and Hardy. He described how he wanted to be an actor from a very young age. He was very lonely as a child because of his size and so he studied people. He snatched gestures and mannerisms. If you watch the old black and white movies, before the talkies, you get a sense of the over dramatic use of acting. With no sound you have to exaggerate.
It was the best description I have ever heard of what actors and martial artists do to learn and how I myself work as an author. I can't watch a film or people without noticing something and trying to work it into a book. Once you get the exaggerated effect, you then have to tone it back down.
It's the same with Martial Arts you have to learn big then refine. My life and my writing is a constant refinement. If you don't have the discipline to rewrite the same passage over and over again you will never be a writer. Small changes can make a huge difference in the shift and balance of a sentence, of a phrase. A wrong sentence or word can throw a story. I took out a lot of expletive language from Miyuki because it just didn't fit the story. They weren't words that I associated with Dom, Miyuki or Carla. I still think I could have refined it more.
I get the feeling that my whole life to date has been a preparation of my life as an author. It's very exciting.
CC: I have seen Shogun too and read the book. I adored it.
Yes there is a link between Miyuki and Mariko. I think I had Mariko in mind in some of the descriptive elements of Miyuki, the way she knelt, mannerisms; her way of talking. I certainly felt like Blackthorne thrust into a world he didn't know but came to love. He too fell in love with the culture of Japan just like in the story I came to appreciate the D/S relationship.
I think there are parallels between the two stories with that sense of exploration and falling in love. The frightening unknown. Shogun was so well written. Being a Pilot, Blackthorne was used to the sense of exploration and danger. He very much existed in the moment, which enabled him to open up to the Japanese culture he found himself in. That life then opened him to the exploration of the culture but also opened him up to the ship wreck of losing Mariko at the end, just like he lost his ship at the beginning. He completed the circle. Such a satisfying book in so many respects. The echoes and undercurrents in Shogun are amazing. I could never hope to write anything like that. But I tried very hard in Miyuki to do so.
I haven't personally experienced a D/S relationship. That is why I had to research and craft the world of Miyuki very carefully. I had to do it justice. You are writing about how real people live and love. That deserves respect and you must get it right.
CC: As a writer, I was very keen to redress the stances adopted in some very bad D/S books that have been published recently. They have been written, as far as I can see, with no thought of what such relationships are like, why the exponents enter into such relationships, how they work or what they expect. That is why I did my research and had the enormous help of one particular lady, who I mention in the credits. These relationships are beautiful done well and ugly done badly, just like any other. They are not abuse, although some people may see them as that. I wanted to show people the beauty in them, the normality that exists for the people in them, but also to create a feeling that they are set apart slightly from the world; but being remote are something exciting, to be explored and wondered at.
It was also an exploration, for me, of the type of people. The Dom and the Sub play their roles, yet strike a balance. They cannot exist without each other. They are interdependent, like the mountain and the snow. The height of the mountain creates the snowfall, the snowfall softens the mountain and eats away at it, yet the mountain remains strong and supports the snow. I see such relationships like that: an energetic relationship constantly changing, beautiful. There is no ideal D/S relationship, just like there is no ideal in any other relationship. You have to open yourself up and listen to your partner and take responsibility.
The research for Shibari was done the same way, by talking to a practitioner and listening. I have not experienced it. Maybe one day I will. I can easily imagine things, so once I had the answers to questions like the smell, taste, texture of the rope and even to some extent the sound of it, I had all the imagery I needed to write it. I had it proof read by the lady in question who corrected the errors. If any errors remain they are solely mine. The thing that came over for me, was the love of the rope, an adoration. I tried very hard to get that feeling down on paper. It was a very Zen thing for me, to be bound but you surround the rope. It is a question of 'head space' as the lady put it.
CC: Carla's experiences continue in the next book. It very much follows on from Miyuki. Carla contacts Izzie and, well let's just say, Carla's education goes deeper. She explores darker themes, but in a good way.
This series of books is all about an exploration of one person into a sexual side of her that she does not know exists. It also gives her the chance to explore and come to terms with, other sides of herself she did not know, or had forgotten. It is very much a series about awakening, hence my references to Zen in this first book. It is also an exploration, hence the reference to mountains and wilderness. I wanted to be subtle about it, to show not to tell. Hopefully the readers will follow Carla's journey and think about such things in their own lives - how far would they go? I have the basic ideas for the next book down, but it is going to take some careful planning and the final book in the series (still only in my head) goes deeper still.
So, whereas the books are labelled erotica and I hope there is enough hot sex in them to get the reader's juices going, I also want Miyuki and the other books to be more than just about sex. I wanted to make a bridge between romance and erotica. Bridges go two ways. People who like romance can experience some language and imagery they had not before and people who simply like erotica can explore some romance. Like Miyuki, the book straddles two worlds, two extremes: duality. Hence the reference to the koan of one hand clapping.