The Song of the Wild Geese
The Geisha Who Ran Away Book 1
by India Millar Genre: Historical Romance
Terue. The girl who was plucked from obscurity to become the most sought after geisha in Edo’s Floating World. The geisha who was so beautiful and talented that one of the richest nobles in Japan desired her as his wife.
But Terue wanted more from life, and was willing to risk everything to get it. Pregnant with her lover’s child and knowing that the disgrace would mean certain death for both her and her unborn child, Terue makes the devastating choice to flee Japan on the day her daughter – Kazhua, The Geisha with the Green Eyes – was born and changes both their destinies forever.
It would not be truthful to say I do not remember my mother. My family. Of course I do. It is just that their memory is dull somehow. Perhaps the best way I can describe it is to say that they seem to me as if I am looking at them through a silken screen. They are there. I can see their features, but they are slightly blurred somehow. Not quite real.
Of course, many people would say that I am confused. That the life I led with my family was real, and each day since I left them has been the dream. But they do not know. They cannot be expected to understand.
I think my mother was a pretty woman. She always seemed so to me, at any rate. And my father never took a concubine, so he must also have found her pleasing. Of course, we were poor, so it may be that he simply could not afford a concubine rather than a matter of choice. But I don’t recollect Mother ever complaining that he spent money they didn’t have on courtesans—or even common whores—so perhaps he was a contented man, after all.
Not that I understood about concubines or courtesans in those days. I was a mere child, the only daughter in a family of five brothers. It may have been simple neglect. After all, what was the point of trying to teach a mere girl anything about life, or anything else for that matter? But I was soon to learn differently.
In fact, I began to learn the day that my new life began.
The Red Thread of Fate
The Geisha Who Ran Away Book 2
In Japan, it is widely believed that everyone’s life is bound by the red thread of their fate. The thread connects to all those we come in contact with throughout our lives. Thus, each path in life is predestined.
Terue knows this. Just as she knows that one day her red thread will guide her to Kazhua, the daughter she was forced to abandon on the day of her birth in Edo’s Floating World. But before she can find Kazhua, fate has much in store for Terue.
Following her new husband, Lord Kyle, from the Highlands of Scotland to fight in the Crimea, Terue serves as a nurse, witnessing the horrors of the battlefield.
Injured, kidnapped, and assumed dead, Terue must face the possibility that she might never see her beloved daughter or husband again…
The war in the Crimea is over. Delighted to be reunited with her husband, Lord Kyle, Terue thinks she will soon be home again in her beloved Scottish Highlands.
But fate is not finished with her yet.
Terue learns that her daughter is a geisha in Edo. Overjoyed at the chance to be reunited with her child again, she and her husband set out to find Kazhua, returning to where Terue’s life began in the Floating World.
But old dangers and new foes abound.
Forced to live in hiding, finding Kazhua without revealing Terue’s true identity proves more difficult than they expected. Terue is so close to finding her daughter, she can feel the red thread that binds them together pulling taught. But reaching out to Kazhua could put all their lives at risk.
I started my career in the heavy industry of British Gas and ended it in the rarefied atmosphere of the British Library. Now, I share a blissful early retirement on the wonderful Costa Blanca, living in a male dominated household with my long suffering husband, a cat and a dog.
Who designed your book covers?
My covers are designed by the wonderful Cherith Vaughan. Cherith is not only an immensely talented cover artist, but she has a real empathy with the writers she works with. Her covers are invariably not only beautiful, but thanks to an in-depth working relationship with the author, they are also a true reflection of the contents of the novel. Don’t judge a book by the cover? In Cherith’s case, you certainly can!
If you need a book cover designed, you can see her work and contact her through her website www.shreddedpotato.com.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
This question really made me think. My first reaction was to say “oh, of course they all come from my imagination.” But then I thought about that a little more, and I realised that it’s impossible not to be influenced by people you have known, or at least heard about. If that isn’t the case, then the characters will be, literally, inhuman. And of course, without actually thinking about it, one’s own reactions to situations are always there, lurking about in the subconscious.
Also, it’s important to be sure that the fictional characters are believable, and that readers can associate with them. Because of that, to a certain extent it’s essential that they are based on real people. My novels are not simply explorations of real-life situations, but I do want my characters to chime with readers. Perhaps the best comparison is to think it’s a little like when you see a movie, and the heroine steps bravely into a situation where in real life she would be running screaming in the other direction. I’m sure everybody has that moment where you’re sitting in the cinema, shouting silently…. “Don’t go in there! Don’t be so stupid! Can’t you see the shadow of the terrorist who’s lurking around the corner with a gun in his hand?” That’s how I feel when I’ve gotten my heroine in an impossible situation. Instead of letting her march cheerfully forward into danger, I put myself in the cinema seat and tell her to at least think about what she’s about to do. If I wouldn’t do it myself, then it’s not going to go in there!
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
I tend to start with a main character. Just as in life, nobody is alone. Other characters appear and develop alongside the main character, and interact with her/him. And in their turn, the minor characters cause changes in the main character. That’s life! And again just as in life, my supporting characters change and come and go as the action progresses. I tend to write straight through, both in terms of plot and characterizations. I find that makes the writing process easier initially, but it also means a very heavy edit at the end. I often find myself thinking during the editing process now why on earth did I decide that should have happened? Which, of course, means major changes.
Every writer is different. I’m sure many writers would hate to work the way that I do! But I feel that life happens, and things change. So I’m fluid with my characters as well.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
I read constantly. My Kindle is full to overflowing. And I also re-read books, as I find I discover things I missed the first (or second, or third …) time around. I love reading. It’s my favorite hobby. I greatly prefer reading to viewing. In fact, my husband complains I drive him mad when we watch a movie that I have “read”. Apparently, I ruin the movie for him by constantly complaining about the plot and criticising the characterization … Seriously, I feel a movie presents the viewer with a given. You don’t have to think about it, it’s fed to you. This character looks how you see him, speaks as he’s instructed by the director. You have no choice in the matter; what you see is what you get. Now in a book, you have the chance to put your own slant on things. You read the character as you see him/her. You join with the author in unravelling the plot and the characters. You have to do a little work, but it’s worth it!
I find it very difficult to say what my favorite genre is. It’s a bit like being asked what’s your favorite food? The answer to that is, it depends what I fancy eating at that moment. It could be cheese, or chocolate, or ice cream. Even something healthy, now and then! It’s the same with genres. I do read a lot of historical non-fiction, both because I need it for background and because I enjoy reading it. In that area, Victorian England, particularly everyday life, is a firm favorite. But I also love Terry Pratchett, and most of the Golden Age detective fiction writers (apart from Agatha Christie, who just does not do it for me), in particular Dorothy L. Sayers. If I could write and plot like Miss Sayers could, I would be very, very happy.
What made you want to become an author and do you feel it was the right decision?
I never wanted to do anything else but write. Even before I knew how to form characters on paper, I told stories for myself in my head. Not daydreaming, you understand, but stories. I would weave tales to myself that could go on for months sometimes. When I finally got tired of the characters or situations, I simply killed them off, and started again. I thought (come to think of it, I still do) that this was completely normal. I think I was in my early teens before I began to realise that not everybody lived for the words in their heads. That came as a shock!
But I am not alone. I remember reading a short story many years ago (and that’s another thing. I never entirely forget anything I’ve read. Odd? Of course not!) by one of the major science fiction writers. Possibly Ray Bradbury? Anyway, the main character was a novelist. But only in his own mind. He never actually put words onto paper or screen. The final scene was of the novelist on his death bed, reviewing his own life. And of course, he was mentally holding his autobiography in his hands, flicking over the pages. I seem to remember his closing thought was something like …. “80,000 words. Yes, a nice length.”
See? It’s not just me that’s strange!
And as for was it the right decision? Oh, yes! I am never as happy as I am when I’m writing. I was meant to do this, and I do it every day, without fail. Anything else I’ve achieved in other careers is just incidental to being an author. It’s not dedication. It’s something that I feel I have to do. And it’s fun!
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?
Before I answer the question, I must express my admiration for those authors who plan the whole book in detail before they begin writing. I find such a methodical approach to be – literally – awesome. From that, you may gather that I don’t work like that!
I start with an idea. Often a single scene. And I take it from there. I do not plan. Not at all. I sit in front of my trusty laptop (which has been so well used, many of the letters on the keys are invisible). I think, very carefully, about that first paragraph. Once it’s written, I just carry on from there. I have no notion where the ideas come from. They just unwind on the screen. And why not? Whoever heard of anybody planning their whole life in detail, and then following the plan? Life ain’t like that, and neither are my novels! They grow organically. One scene leads on to another. Of course, this approach causes me a huge amount of work when it gets to the editing stage. Once I’ve finished a book, I turn my back on it. I don’t look at it, or even think about it, for at least a month. Then I download it to my Kindle and read it as I had never seen it before. If I don’t leave a breathing space, I find I’m unable to look at it objectively. I’m still seeing what I thought I wrote, rather than what is actually there. I do a first read through, for grammar, spelling and general sense. I make notes on the Kindle as I go. I then do a first, detailed edit. Put it away again. Then another read through, which always leads to yet more changes. Then a final read through and any necessary tweaks. At that stage I stop. If I didn’t, I would carry on forever. I don’t believe any writer is ever completely satisfied with their work. If you don’t draw a line under the editing process, the book would never get published. Besides, I have a wonderful editor who is more than happy to tell me what works and what doesn’t, so I leave the final guidance to her.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Although it’s deeply unfashionable to say it, I think one of the biggest traps for aspiring writers is getting the basics wrong. Spelling. Punctuation. Grammar. Get them right! Of course, your characters may speak with a regional accent, or use slang. But for me, if apostrophes are persistently misused and a novel is peppered with split infinitives, it gets me so annoyed I don’t enjoy the work. Apart from that, I think the key to producing a readable book is patience. I know you want to get it out to the market now. But take the time to get it right, first. Check your spelling is consistent. Make sure the action is plausible and follows sequentially. If you have historical events or facts in there, check them carefully for accuracy. And try to avoid the use of the same words when you’re describing something. We all have key words, which we use too frequently without noticing it. I tend to overuse “realize” or “realized”. And I do it time and time again, so that when I come to edit I have the thesaurus constantly open to give me some variation. Apart from that, give yourself time to forget what you’ve written. That is vital. Edit too soon, and you see what you think you wanted to write, not what is there.
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