The Valiant Series Book 3 by Joanna White Genre: Epic Fantasy
Okada Akari and Sakamoto Megumi just may be two women in over their head.
Okada Akari is a samurai, the daughter of the Chief Advisor to the Emperor of the Sakamoto clan. One day on a mission, she is captured by a mysterious warrior and taken to an enemy camp—an enemy filled with strange, foreign powers the likes of which her world has never seen. What’s worse, a foreign stranger is supplying her enemy with weapons her people cannot hope to fight against. Yet that is only the beginning of her journey, one filled with war and love, sacrifice, and darkness.
Sakamoto Megumi has wanted to be a samurai her entire life. However, as the daughter of the Emperor, training is impossible. When the Emperor is assassinated, she is thrust onto a throne she never wanted. As Empress, she must find a way to become a leader her people will look up to, instead of a weak woman unfit for the throne. Her generals are waiting for her to make a grave mistake. Falling in love with her high general might very well be the mistake they were waiting for.
Corruption has touched worlds before, but this time, it will take more than a few Chosen to stop it before it fills the hearts of everyone around them - even the hearts of their closest friends and allies.
The land had never been more alive. Crystal rivers snaked through verdant forests and across lush prairies and peaceful hills, flowing with beauty and life. The grass constantly moved and shifted due to the wind, with no concern for time or space. The many different colored trees danced as the wind caressed their leaves. So many colors—purple vines hugged tall tree trunks, spidering down them like webs. A few trees held leaves as yellow as the dawn itself. Fruits—oh, the delicious fruits—grew in vast quantities; the sour and sweet ones, the ones with brown dots that were as dark as bruises, others bigger than a human head. Some were thick enough that only a sword could penetrate them. Several had seeds and others were seedless… All were unique in their own way.
Out of all the trees, the most elegant was the cherry blossom. It was the time of its blooming, which only came for a couple months every two years in our world. Pink and white petals cascaded off the branches. Their balletic movements were like falling snowflakes; so alluring, yet so fragile. Like a life that was blessed, but would too soon meet its end.
I, Okada Akari, stood below their shattering beauty, gazing at the rare and precious moments of their lives.
“Well, well. What is a girl from the Sakamoto Clan doing all the way out here?” The voice which had spoken was low, the voice of a man. His accent was vaguely familiar—that of the Iwashita clan to the East.
I turned, allowing my hand to rest within reach of the katana at my left hip.
The man wore a dark blue kimono which was made of light silk; fit for the season. I assumed he was of some importance; the quality of the silk suggested so. He wore his katana on his left hip, with a matching wakizashi just under it. There was no doubt that this man was a samurai. Though his lips upturned into a smirk, his eyes narrowed on mine, alert and fierce. His face was quite handsome, and he appeared no older than I. His colors—dark blue and white—were that of the Iwashita clan, as was the insignia on the end of the handle of his katana.
The colors on my kimono, as well as the insignia on my own weapon, had revealed to him what clan I was from. I would have to proceed cautiously if I was to avoid a fight. “I could say the same of you, Iwashita samurai.” I narrowed my eyes, but slightly shifted my right foot back in case I would be forced to draw my katana.
Half his mouth lifted into what was something in-between a grin and a smirk. “And here I thought today was going to be boring.” Though his eyes never left mine, his hand drifted toward his sword.
I rested my right hand on my own. “Do you realize you are outside your clan’s borders?”
He raised an eyebrow and looked around, feigning surprise. “Oh? I truly hadn’t noticed.”
I frowned at him. “What is your purpose here?”
He shrugged—his expression indifferent.
Whatever his intentions were, I could not allow him to remain in our borders. He did not seem to be the sort of man who would listen, nor honor any request I would make, but I knew I had to try.
“It would be wise if you would return to the Iwashita Clan’s borders.” I kept my voice calm, but firm.
“And if I don’t? I suppose you plan to make me?” His eyes slid over me lazily.
“Only if I am forced to.”
He used his thumb to unsheathe his katana just a bit. Before he could draw his weapon, I darted toward him. As I moved, I pulled out my katana to hit his ribs with the hilt as I ran passed him. Only when I did so, he was not there. The blow would have been strong enough to knock his breath out, especially at the speed I had been going.
Yet he had been faster.
I glanced over my right shoulder, moving my right arm in the same direction as I turned around. The movement was just in time to block a strike from him toward the right side of my neck.
He raised his eyebrows and clicked his tongue. “Not bad. Too slow, but not bad.” He grinned as his blade pressed against mine.
The force shoved me backwards.
I recovered quickly enough to block another attack at my left ribs. He attacked up higher and to the right, which I blocked, and then I lunged forward as he back stepped. Sidestepping, I parried another jab toward my chest.
His attacks continued and though I was able to block them in time, he was not using his full strength.
He was only toying with me.
I ducked underneath his next attack and slid passed him. With a quick turn, I swung toward him, and then continued the movement by slicing it all the way across, where his back should have been.
Once again, he was not there.
Though he dodged, I continued the flowing movement, turning around to face him. Tightening my grip on my weapon, I slid my feet to form a defensive stance.
He stepped toward me, in an aggressive stance.
I swung toward his stomach.
He blocked and lunged at me faster than my eyes could fully follow. I just barely managed to block him with the back of my katana, but he had the offensive once again. He twisted to the left and before I saw anything, he was behind me.
The cold steel of his blade bit at the right side of my throat.
He laughed. “Now what?”
I shifted my feet to try to get a better position so that I could kick him, but he shoved me forward. Grabbing my right wrist, he twisted, making me groan and drop my katana.
I moved my right leg to try to kick his knee, but he twisted me to the left and slammed my chest against a tree.
His legs pressed roughly against mine, keeping me from moving. Letting go of my wrist, which was no doubt sprained, he grabbed my hair. He roughly jerked my head back so that it was beside his.
I grunted and struggled, but to no avail; his grip was like iron.
He chuckled at my struggling. “What’s the matter? Can’t get away from me, woman?”
I clawed at him, digging my nails into his arm. Fighting back only seemed to entice him, however.
“This might hurt a little.” With those words he slammed my head against the tree. My vision darkened, and I fell unconscious.
When I finally awoke, my hands were tied to a tree behind me. My katana and wakizashi were both gone. I pulled, but whatever was holding me was too strong for me to break out of.
“Welcome back, woman,” the samurai said from where he sat against a tree. “Why don’t you tell me your name? Unless you’d rather I just keep calling you ‘woman.’”
“Okada Akari, but you may call me by my family name.”
“Hmm…. Okada... Where have I heard that name before?”
Instead of answering him, I focused on my surroundings.
We were in a small area surrounded by trees. He leaned against a tree to my right, and there was a fire directly in front of me. My katana and wakizashi lay just beside him on the ground. His katana was laid atop his knees, which were drawn up to his chest, and his hands rested atop his blade.
Because it was night, and our moon was far away and dim, I had only the light from the fire to see with. With that light, I could just barely make out his features.
His eyes were dark and his features were sharp. Despite the smirk that seemed permanently etched on his face, there was an air of seriousness around him. His eyes appeared lazy, but missed nothing. Yet there was something about him that showed that he was neither inexperienced or naive.
His dark hair was about shoulder-length, with part of it pinned back, leaving a few loose strands hanging down by his face. Cherry blossoms fell around him like a gentle rain. It was a picture of fierce serenity, like the calm before a storm destroyed everything you held dear… It was agonizingly beautiful and viciously peaceful.
“What are you staring at?” Though his expression was a mixture of boredom and irritation, his tone sounded merely curious.
“What should I call you?” I asked instead of answering.
“Shinji.” He closed his eyes.
“Just Shinji? Is that a family name?”
“No.” He answered without opening his eyes.
I sighed, and saw no reason for further conversation.
I had no idea what fate awaited me.
Everything inside the imperial palace was a riot of deep shades of violet, red, and white. Silks and velvets hung along the walls, as did vivid paintings of the Old World. Scrolls were also scattered about with famous poems etched upon them, which were written in masterful calligraphy. These poems spoke of beauty and life, and sometimes bushido—the way of the warrior.
Inside the council chamber, there was a large table that was low to the ground—as was customary of all the tables in our world. It was wide—fit for many people. Around it sat the leaders of the most prominent clans, the right-hand advisor to the Emperor, the Shogun who was the military advisor, the ten most important advisors to the Emperor, along with the Emperor himself, his wife, and I.
I sat at the end of the table, directly opposite from the Emperor. As his daughter, I was to sit quietly and listen in on the meeting. Everyone tucked their legs beneath them as they knelt on the floor. My mother and I kept our hands folded in our laps. I knew my face was perfectly composed, showing nothing of my anxiety to leave.
This particular discussion was about the clans and their alliances. Two of the biggest clans, beside ours, were on the brink of war: the Iwashita Clan and the Nishimura Clan. The rest of the clans’ loyalties were in question; none of the advisors knew exactly which side they supported in the conflict. My father wished to settle the disagreements without the use of the samurai.
Most of the politics were still slightly confusing to me. However, I was forced to listen in should the day come when I would take the throne. I knew that it never would. Once I was married, my husband would take the position of Emperor and he would rule, not me.
In addition, I knew that none of the clan leaders or members of the council would rest easily with me on the throne. Not one of them would accept me as their Empress, in any case.
No clan would accept an Empress who only had one arm.
As soon as the meeting was over, my father dismissed all the clan leaders. Only his personal advisors remained in order that they could discuss the matter further without the prying ears of the other clan leaders.
“The Iwashita Clan will not listen! If we receive the loyalty of the other clans, they will only feel threatened.” The man who had spoken was my father’s right-hand advisor, whose family name was Okada.
Another advisor spoke up. “Especially if the Nishimura ally themselves with us! What will the Iwashita do then?”
Though it was rhetorical, my father spoke up. “Either way, one clan will feel threatened over the other.”
“It would be in our best interests, and the interests of the people, if we were to stay neutral to this conflict,” the Shogun said.
My father’s eyes narrowed. He was a middle-aged man, bulky and brave. Although he was the emperor, and not expected to fight, he kept himself in good physical shape. His eyes were full of wisdom and experience. The only signs that the stress of leading our entire clan had taken its toll on him were the lines that had begun to age his face, ever so slightly. “And leave the people of both clans to suffer, due to their war?”
“Yet we would be placing our own people in harm’s way in the process,” the Shogun continued. “I think it would be best to let these two clans fight it out on their own.”
My father thought about this deeply. He was not one to want innocent people to suffer, but he always put the needs and interests of his people first. It was rare for anyone in a leadership position, and even more so for an Emperor. “I cannot deny assistance when it is asked for. The Iwashita may only fight the Nishimura, but should they overtake the Nishimura, how long before they turn against the other clans, or even our clan should they gain enough support? I have no choice but to involve myself in these affairs. All we can do is pray it does not result in all-out war.”
The somber faces around the room showed no disagreements. My father had made up his mind.
As the rest of the advisors filed out, Mother stood and left the chamber, leaving only Father and I. I rose and was almost out of the room, before he spoke. “Hurrying off so soon?”
I smiled at him sheepishly. “I was just…”
“Going to train with Ryosuke again?”
My eyes widened and I was not able to meet his gaze.
“Megumi, I know how much training means to you. I am glad Ryosuke helps you. Better hurry to him.”
I looked at him, shocked, unable to reply for a few seconds. Normally, I would have been scolded, or worse. I knew it was not my place to train with the samurai, but to focus on politics and policies, laws and elegance, formality and sophistication. Maybe it was the tension between the clans, or the fact that we were on the brink of war, but something had compelled my father to encourage my training, not rebuke it.
I nodded and started toward the shoji again. The moment I placed my hand on the side of it, I hesitated, turning back to my father. “If the Iwashita go to war with us, can we hope to beat them, Father?”
He met my gaze, and smiled, though it did not reach his eyes. “For now, do not worry on such things. Enjoy the present time, or you will miss out on the precious moments as they pass you by.”
I nodded and headed out the door.
As soon as I reached the dojo grounds, my stomach danced with butterflies and nerves. I was more excited than anything, but a part of me felt nervous whenever Ryosuke and I trained. He was wise well beyond his years. At only twenty-three years-old, he served directly underneath his father, the High General, and had earned every bit of his position. Despite the fact that I was only four years younger than him, his strategies and advanced techniques made me feel no more than a mere child.
“If I remember correctly, you have a council meeting to attend.” The moment Ryosuke’s eyes rested on mine, those were the words he spoke.
“I did and now I am here,” I replied simply.
“Does your father know you’re here?” He slightly narrowed his eyes, but his expression was pleased.
I shrugged, yet smiled.
“You need to pay closer attention to the meetings. Someday…”
I interrupted him. “Someday, someday, yes. Look at me, Ryosuke. You know as well as I do that I could never be the Empress. For now, I will do what I want to do.”
He looked as if he was about to protest, but changed his mind. “What is it you want to do then?”
“I wish to train here with you.” I smiled warmly.
The first time he had ever looked at me, his expression had been like everyone else’s when they saw me: full of doubt and disbelief. Some had even looked at me with disgust.
For a second, his expression mirrored what it had the first time we had sparred, but it quickly changed to understanding. He met my gaze, as if trusting the decision I had made, and placed his hand on the katana at his left hip.
I drew my shortened katana. It was a little longer than a wakazashi, yet shorter than a regular katana, forged especially for me. It enabled me to wield it with only one arm, so my strikes would still be effective. Many samurai used both hands to get the most power behind their attacks; a one-handed samurai was unable to fight to his or her full potential. It was why I was seen as, not only as a disabled girl, but one who would never learn the art of the sword. Someone who would never be able to strike with full power or win against an equal or better opponent.
The first time Ryosuke and I had sparred, he had been surprised at how well I had fought. Though I had lost to him that day, he knew from then on that I was not as weak as everyone assumed I was. It took some time, but eventually he had seen me as a warrior—an equal.
I slid into an aggressive stance, with my right foot back, right hand facing downward and behind me.
Ryosuke pulled out his katana, raising it above his head, stepping out with his left foot forward. I charged toward him, stepping with my right foot and moving my right arm forward as I did so. I lunged with the blade toward his chest, but he gracefully parried it away to the right.
I slipped around and behind him quickly. My technique focused on speed and smaller strikes, whereas his focused more on strong, single-attacks. I spun about, so that I faced his back, as I struck forward with my sword.
He had predicted what I would do, and dodged to the right, turning halfway to face me as he moved. He went into action then, striking toward my head from above with a powerful attack. I twisted to the side, stepping closer to him. While inside his guard, I thrust toward his neck. He swiped my sword aside, stepping backwards to create distance before he attacked again. I jumped back to avoid his blow before reengaging again.
We read each other perfectly. When one took a step, the other moved as well; when one attacked, the other blocked or dodged it. For the next several minutes, we danced back-and-forth. Neither one of us was able to gain the upper hand. What we could not say with words, we spoke with our swords. He understood me in a way no one else did. I was not weak in his eyes, nor disabled. He was more than just a mindless soldier to me; he was all the strength I did not have, and provided the confidence I needed. Though we were indeed two very different people, we complemented each other.
Our swords and techniques worked similarly to our personalities. What everyone saw as a less powerful technique, evasion and quickness, worked against his undeniable power and strength; opposite in every way, yet neither able to overcome the other.
He advanced toward me, jabbing his katana toward my heart. Though I blocked and deflected his blow, it was still strong enough to knock me backwards. Fortunately, I stayed on my feet and recovered as quickly as I could, just in time, as he stepped closer to me. I stepped forward just as he did. We were inside the other’s strike zones as we both lunged for a final attack.
I stopped at the last minute, my katana just an inch from his chest, while his just barely touched the skin on my neck. I smiled at him, breathing hard. He returned the smile and lowered his weapon, sheathing it. I took a step back, trying to control my breathing.
“You’re getting faster. Although, you need to work on your stamina. Moving as fast as you do is good, especially against a larger opponent, but if a fight lasts for a long period of time, your energy will be spent before it’s over.”
I nodded, taking in his words carefully, as I sheathed my own katana. “How do I preserve my energy then?”
“You may be fast, but you use too much energy too quickly. You must use your energy in short bursts. You need to learn to pace yourself, taking short periods of movement, with long periods of dodging. There are also ways to build up your energy, just as there are ways to improve techniques.”
I nodded, thinking back to the fight, and how often I moved quickly. His words explained why I was so tired. I decided to watch myself more closely next time; no more dashing around needlessly.
He grinned. “Enough practice. Come, there is something I want to show you.”
I briefly furrowed my eyebrows in curiosity, but stepped in to walk beside him as he led me away from the training grounds. As we exited the palace gates, the samurai posted there shot us both harsh glances, but said nothing. Ryosuke slowed his pace so that I stepped in front of him. To anyone else, now it would look as if I were heading into the city, and told him to follow as a protector. We followed the road for a few more yards before Ryosuke gestured to the right. I turned and headed in that direction. It wasn’t long before we were out of sight of the samurai patrols.
He picked up his pace so that he was in front of me. We followed a small creek until we reached a grove of cherry blossom trees. It was the time when they were in bloom, which in our world, came so rarely. We stared at the falling petals dancing around us gently as the wind blew. We watched them for a while, both of us silent and enjoying the peaceful moment together. After a while, he turned to face me. I met his narrow-shaped eyes, his gaze kind and loyal, yet fiercely protective. His dark hair was tied back, and came down to his waist. It blew in the wind with the falling petals and I could not take my eyes off him.
“Megumi.” He whispered my name, and it was as soft as the wind on our faces.
“Ryosuke.” My reply was just as soft. I was afraid to speak any louder, afraid to shatter the moment into a thousand tiny pieces. He believed in me when no one else did; he was the first to see me as a true warrior, and not as a disabled failure.
He reached his hand out and I allowed my fingertips to barely touch his. Neither of us moved or spoke for a long time. Though we stood there for several minutes, it felt like but a moment; a single moment where only the two of us existed. One heart, one soul… Both of us together. No soldier, no princess, no samurai, just he and I. It was the only moment we allowed ourselves to share.
By the time we started back toward the palace, the sun had already set. My mother was sure to scold me harshly for not returning sooner, and I was sure my father would as well.
When we reached the gates, they were closed. I glanced at Ryosuke. “What‘s going on?”
He grabbed my arm and pulled me against the walls, pushing me further away from the gates. When we were in the shadows, he put an arm around me protectively. “Something’s wrong.”
Shifter The Valiant Series Book 2
Beroan is a shapeshifter, part of the dragon clan. His clan’s Alpha, Sirath, wants to watch the world burn.
For ten long years Sirath has attacked villages, killing thousands of humans and burning towns to the ground. Beroan has had enough, but his resistance will only end in suffering.
Nsi is a human living in a small village with her grandmother and cousin. Her ignorance about the existence of shifters won’t protect her for long. Her family was killed in a dragon attack when she was younger, and now dragons have come again. Now she will stop at nothing until the dragon shifters are stopped, to save humans from suffering the same fate as her family.
Together, Nsi and Beroan will risk everything to save humanity from Sirath.
Darkness is spreading through the galaxy, Corrupting one world after another, and now it has come for theirs. Sirath already belongs to the Corruption of darkness.
He will not stop until he burns down the world and leaves it covered in fire and ash.
A reckless young woman named Averella does what no woman has ever done.
She disguises herself as a man and purposefully gets herself arrested and thrown into Zagerah. Her brother Gabriel was taken, and with his disease, he will not survive on his own. She has no idea what to expect inside the prison; all she knows is that once men get taken, they never come back.
The Hunters will find her.
Genetically altered to be faster and stronger than humans, the Hunters use their powers to find and kill every prisoner who enters Zagerah. The only ones who can defeat them, are in fact, themselves.
Jared is a Hunter. It’s all he’s known, all he remembers. He kills ruthlessly and without regret, one prisoner after another. When a new prisoner Dalex shows up, everything begins to change. Jared goes undercover to make Dalex and the other prisoners believe he is one of them, a prisoner himself.
Joanna White is a Christian Author and fangirl. Hunter and Shifter are the first two books in her debut series, called the Valiant Series. In December 2019, one of her short stories was featured in Once Upon A Yuletide, a Christmas fairy tale anthology by Divination Publishing. Dark Magi, Book One of the Republic Chronicles came out in November 2019. Glimpses of Time and Magic, a historical fantasy anthology, also featured one of her stories. The Crystal Heist is a standalone fantasy that came out in August of 2020. Princess of Beasts is Joanna's first Children of Chaos novel, released in January 2021. Volcano is Book One of the Calamity's Hope Series, released in March of 2021.
She graduated from Full Sail University with a BFA in Creative Writing For Entertainment. Ever since she was ten years old, she's been writing stories and has a deep passion for writing and creating stories, worlds, characters, and plots that readers can immerse themselves in. In 2020, she reached her personal goal of writing a million words in a year. Most of all, Joanna loves God, her family, staying at home, and being a total nerd.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
The first story I ever wrote was when I was ten years old. I remember it pretty clearly, even though that was sixteen years ago! Man, I feel old, haha. It was the summer before my sixth grade school year and I remember having read a book in fifth grade called My Heart is on the Ground: The Diary of Nanie Little Rose. It captivated me and I really felt for the main character and what she was going through. That was the first time I was endeared to a character and felt what she was feeling because of something someone wrote. I wanted to make other people feel that way.
It’s been too long now, so I don’t remember why, but I loved the idea of a man who was in prison and yet was innocent. Would anyone believe him? So, that’s how the story called Cell 91 came to be. It was the first story I ever wrote in that summer before my sixth grade year that started everything for me. My friends would come up with all these story ideas—anything from aliens invading earth to girls in high school with drama—and I was the writer friend, so I would write them and read them to my friends. It was just a hobby. I had no idea that it even could be a career.
When I came back home after college didn’t work out, I was lost and thinking okay, what am I suppose to do with my life now? It was a low point for me because I felt like a disappointment. I started looking for an online college with anything I would be interested in and I found Full Sail University with a Creative Writing degree. Most people are like, “you don’t have to go to college to be a writer” and while that’s true, I kind of needed it, to help me turn writing from a hobby into a career.
Long story short, I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing for Entertainment. I spent years after that trying to self-publish and submit my stories while using freelance writing online to help me in the meantime. My books got accepted by a traditional publisher, and even though that didn’t last and I am full time self-publishing, it taught me everything I know about publishing now.
I’m an author full time and there’s no going back on that. Ten year old me had no idea what was coming, haha!
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you!
This may sound like a tragic or sad story, but it isn’t, at least I don’t see it that way. So, after my parents divorced, when my mom worked, she would have my grandma watch my little sister. We dropped her off at Grandma’s house and were driving back into town to drop me off at school. I remember sitting in the front passenger seat; I must have been eleven or twelve, so not quite “technically” old enough to sit in front. It was cold and chilly, so I had on my mom’s chief’s hoodie that we both loved so much—and it irritated her that I wore it all the time so she couldn’t, haha. Anyway, this older man had just gotten out of the nursing home and he couldn’t really see, especially early when he was driving against the sun. He pulled into our lane and we had a head-on collision.
I passed out after the accident; I actually don’t remember the moments leading up to it. One minute, I remember going over a hill pretty far away from where the accident happened, and the next, I’m half-waking up off and on in the ambulance. But my mom filled me in on what happened. The airbag went off so half of my face had been burned and my right eye was swelled shut. She couldn’t pull me out—we didn’t know it at the time, but her knee had been broken and she was also in shock, so my full body weight was too heavy for her to pull open. The car was smoking, so she panicked and ran around to my side to try to get the door open. By this time, cars had lined up behind us and one man actually yelled at her to stop screaming.
Then, some random stranger came and pulled my door open. He got me out and waited with us until the ambulance came. After that, the guy disappeared. No one in town knew who he was, so it was almost like he was an angel—whether he was or not, he saved me that day.
Then, things got worse. The hospital we went to was a pretty bad one. They didn’t even clean up my face for hours. So, when they let me up to use the restroom… here I am a pre-teen girl going in to the bathroom and seeing my burned face in the mirror. It was like a horror movie and it totally freaked me out. If it says anything about this hospital, my mom didn’t even know her knee had broken until years later when she fell and hurt that same knee during an ice storm.
It was a horrible circumstance, but I look back on it now and feel like that incidence, among others in my life, has really made me appreciate life and the time we have here. Countless other people haven’t been able to come out of an accident like that alive, so we were blessed.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I grew up in a small town in the middle of Missouri. By small town, I’m not talking about Hollywood’s version of a small town with like forty thousand people. Population two thousand. That’s it. By the way, some of the stereotypes about small towns is that everyone knows everyone. I would say most everyone knows everyone. A lot of people know names and faces, but two thousand people is still a lot, so you won’t know literally everyone. Just thought I’d clear that up.
But this was the kind of small town where we would hang out at Wal-Mart on the weekends in high school. That and Mcdonalds. For the longest time, it was the only restaurant we had, other than a Subway and one Sonic. There’s one stoplight in town, which is why I’m terrified to drive in cities with two or more stoplights because it stresses me out! When you learned to drive with only one light and no lanes… yeah, changing that can be freaky.
The biggest excitement of the year was always Apple Festival every year in October. People from all over the state would come and we’d see the parade and shop around at stands and eat the yummiest curly fries every year. It was canceled last year, so I hope it isn’t this year because I miss it—it’s a tradition.
One last thing about the small town where I grew up—you can leave things sitting in the backseat without locking your car; no one will steal them. You could walk in the middle of the streets at night and not worry about getting hit by a car because the town is dead by like 8 pm. Lastly, don’t ever worry about getting lost in my hometown; the reigning joke is that all the roads connect so just keep driving and you’ll find your way eventually.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Since I wrote my first book at ten years old! I was always that friend who’s the writer, especially when it came to people wanting help in English class!
Do you have a favorite movie?
Star Wars – any except the sequels! But my ultimate favorite is Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith.
I also love a few old classics like Dances With Wolves and The Patriot with Mel Gibson.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
My entire Valiant Series. I actually prefer they become a TV Show because a movie wouldn’t do them justice and my stories would need more time. Because I went to college for Creative Writing for Entertainment, I learned how to write scripts, so I have started writing scripts for my own spin-off show. Yes, spin-off! I haven’t started writing the main books of my series into a TV show yet, but I took one of the larger novels in the series and created a spin-off TV series and I have six scripts written for it!
What inspired you to write this book?
That would be an anime and a love for history, haha. There’s an anime called Hakouki Shinsengumi Katan which is a historical fantasy. It’s about the Boshin War of Japan in the late 1860s—the same war that led to the fall of the samurai. It’s filled with historical information about the war, but added in fantasy elements to it. That led me to research the actual Boshin War and I loved it. I wanted write a book like that and at the time, I was writing the Valiant Series. Because each book in the series is about a different world and how each world and the characters are affected by Corruption as it spreads through the galaxy, this gave me the perfect chance to do a samurai world. I wanted to mirror the Boshin War, but at the time, I felt that I didn’t understand the technicalities and details of it enough to write it and do it justice, so I just made up my own war and political situation. Game of Thrones, while a show with a lot of bad and unclean things, was the inspiration behind the high-intense political situation in Samurai. I wanted to create a duality. You have the war and the action from Akari’s perspective, then you have the intense political situation/drama from Megumi’s. And then romances woven with both!
What can we expect from you in the future?
Assassin was originally a prequel in the Valiant Series, but I changed it to become Valiant Book Four. It’ll be coming out next spring, and sometime after that, Book Six, Rogue will be out. My nine-book vampire series called The Mystics Series, is also in the process of being launched by my publishers as well. You can find everything on my website: authorjoannawhite.com.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
Yes, but I’m just like any other writer who procrastinates and I haven’t written them yet *sobs*
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Samurai?
Megumi is the daughter of Emperor Sakamoto. She only has one arm, so not only is she a woman, but she’s disabled. That all combined means that after her parents are assassinated, the generals and council don’t want to see her as Empress. She constantly has to try to prove herself to them. Her dream is to be trained as a Samurai, but now that she’s Empress, she can’t. She also just so happens to fall in love with her High General, which is strictly forbidden and if they’re caught, they’ll both be executed.
Akari’s father served Megumi’s father loyally, so does she. She’s one of the best samurai in t he Sakamoto clan. She’s kidnapped by an enemy samurai which begins a course of events that doesn’t end where she’s expecting. She believes in God and hides it since that’s frowned upon in their culture, but she also believes in Bushido—the way of the warrior. Those beliefs seem to contradict one another, but her father taught her to balance the two. She’s brave, skilled, and strategic.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
In college, I had to write a short story and I loved the idea of a samurai that only had one arm. Historically, samurai used two hands to fight and the style wasn’t really meant for one arm. So I really liked the idea of a samurai that had no choice. Then, what if that samurai was going to become king of the entire country? Worse, what if it was a woman in a society that, while they allowed women to fight, not to rule? Combine all that together and you get Megumi.
Shinji, the enemy samurai who kidnaps Akari, I can’t really spoil. But he’s my favorite character from the book, so believe me, he had inspiration. If I tell you the character who inspired him, it may spoil his story… I’ll give you a hint. He’s inspired from a particular character in a TV show about people who can control elements and the inspiration behind his character has a nasty scar and one heck of a character arc. So, sorry it’s so vague, but that’s Shinji without spoilers, haha.
Akari was just the ideal samurai while also being the ideal Christian. A Christian would never be a samurai and vice-versa, so I really loved the idea of someone who has to balance these two beliefs; one that says do not kill and the other who kills for a living. Akari only kills those when she has to, but she takes no joy in it. She believes in honor and loyalty just like any samurai who follows Bushido and knows that because she lives by the sword, she will die by it, just like a Christian would.
Then, you have Ryosuke, the strategic High General who runs things and helps Megumi as they’re fighting this war. He’s a born and bred leader, highly skilled samurai, and trained for war and leading his men.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
I googled Samurai names from Japan! I picked out the ones I liked best for everyone, especially the four main characters—Akari, Megumi, Shinji, Ryosuke.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Everything—the culture, the plot, the action, the characters. The whole book! It’s my favorite out of all the earlier books in the Valiant Series.
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
Megumi is filled with a determination and desire to rule her people just as good as her parents did. She doesn’t want to see them lose the war and doesn’t want any lives to be lost because of her. She wants to save her people and also prove herself and show everyone her strength. Inside her heart, she wants to be a samurai and marry Ryosuke, but both of those things are forbidden.
Akari is loyal to her clan, the Sakamoto clan, and will do what is asked of her. As the story continues, without spoilers, it’s hard to say, but her desires change and it becomes a conflict inside her—desire versus duty to her clan—love or loyalty.
Shinji is driven by honor and loyalty to his own clan. He fights because he longs to prove himself to his clan’s leader and that’s pretty much all I can say without spoilers.
Ryosuke feels like he won’t fill the void left behind by his father. His father was a good High General, and he wants to be a good leader for the army of samurai, but it’s a huge shadow—his father’s reputation.
How did you come up with the title of the book?
Little bit of context here; The Valiant Series is about how Corruption is spreading across the galaxy, turning people evil and creating chaos in whatever world it lands on. Radon has been sent to find the Chosen—a group of people sent to help him fight Corruption and stop it. Knowing that, every book in the Valiant Series is titled after what the Chosen in that book really is in their heart. That can spoil the books for you if you look at the titles and try to guess who the Chosen is going to be from that particular story. In Samurai, the Chosen is a samurai, so that’s where the title comes from. In the case of Samurai, it doesn’t really help the readers narrow down who the Chosen may be, since all the characters in the book are samurai, so it could be anyone, from Megumi, to Ryosuke, to Shinji, to Akari, to any other samurai in the story.
Who designed your book covers?
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I haven’t found a good one for Megumi yet—maybe Brenda Song.
Zhang Zhi (from movies like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and Memiors of a Geisha) as Akari.
Lee Byung-hun (who plays Storm Shadow in the earlier GI Joe movies) as Shinji.
Takeshi Kaneshiro (from movies like House of the Flying Daggers) as Ryosuke.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
Because the Valiant Series goes from one world to the other, the other Chosen don’t come together until the last four books when the war against Corruption really starts. But until then, some Chosen from the previous books make an appearance in other stories when they join Radon to help find the other Chosen they’re looking for. At the end of Samurai, two previous Chosen make an appearance and the moment that all my main characters from both Samurai and the previous Chosen come together for the final boss fight—yep, that’s my favorite part.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Shinji and he would train me to fight with a katana—probably a wooden one first!
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
Megumi, Ryosuke, and Akari usually listen. Shinji hijacks the whole thing.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
Because it has some of the longest and most intense action scenes and medieval sieges I’ve ever written. But it also has some of the most tragic, tear-jerking, beautiful romances, and twists and turns and political intrigue, so it has something in it for every type of reader to enjoy.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
Yes. Way too many. I wrote a million words (20 full novels) just in 2020 alone. Too many!
Do you see writing as a career?
Yes and it’s a tough one and one a lot of people don’t “count” as a “real job.” It definitely doesn’t pay well, I will admit that. But what other job would you work months and years for hours and hours on end on something only to get paid like thirty-three cents for it?
By the way, authors like me do this job because we love it. It’s a passion for me, not just a career.
What do you think about the current publishing market?
I think it’s always growing in changing. Not to sound bitter here, though, but I believe that authors like me and countless other’s I’ve seen struggling should get paid more for our books. A lot of readers I’ve encountered just want everything free—that’s kind of a society thing these days, though, and I admit, I’m very guilty of it too. But I just wish there was a better market for our books and getting our stories in front of readers who are willing to buy them.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
Silence! Absolute silence! Even water dripping or anything other than the air conditioner will hinder my creativity and drive me insane.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
I’ve tried to juggle multiple ones and fail. My brain gets narrow focused and I literally can’t write in anything else other than the story I’m working on. If I do, I completely change and the first book will remain unfinished.
If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?
The Mortal Instruments, just with less Christianity twisted into it!
Pen or type writer or computer?
Type! One, my wrists ache too much to write, and two, my brain needs my fingers to type faster than my brain works to keep up. Hand writing, I literally can’t keep up with my thoughts. Literally, my writing is less descriptive, less, well, everything, if I hand write it.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Male characters with a tragic backstory is what I’m a sucker for. My personal writing Kryptonite though is sentence structure. I took German from sixth grade all the way through high school and then did Spanish in high school, so for some reason, my sentence structure gets mixed around and I put words in the wrong order sometimes.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I may sound so rude or mean when I say this, but I write the books I want to read, so my desires always come first when I write, haha!
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from other genders?
Nothing. I don’t like writing female characters; I hate most of them and have to throw pieces of myself into them or I hate them. I prefer writing male characters and love them. I honestly don’t know why.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I’ve written a novel in two weeks or in a year. It depends on whether God wants me to write the book and how fast, how close I am to the book and if I love it, and how much I wanna read the book. The more I want to read something, the faster I write it (only because I want to read it and can’t until I get it written, haha).
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Yes, and it sucks but the only way to overcome it is to sit down and start writing nonsense. Talking ideas with friends and family help, as well as getting busy doing something tedious. Your brain will start working if you’re doing something tedious, like washing the dishes.
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