Thursday 18 July 2013

Secret Serendipity Seven with Amanda Sun

As part of the INK blog tour, I’m pleased to welcome Amanda Sun who has kindly agreed to share some secrets with us about Ink in the author feature, Secret Serendipity Seven.
1) INK as a Contemporary
Here’s a little-known fact—INK actually started out as a contemporary. The first time I saw Tomo in my head, he was hunched over his sketchbook in a field, drawing the birds as they chirped in the nearby trees. I knew I’d wanted to write a novel involving my time spent on exchange in Japan, and Tomo was the first character who revealed himself in my mind. Katie and I started watching him sketch—we knew so little about him, only that he wanted to be an artist, but his father insisted he go into the sciences or something “practical.”
And then a strange thing happened. Katie and I were watching Tomo draw one day, and suddenly, his sketch moved across the page. I was shocked. Slowly Tomo revealed who he really was, and what was really going on, and I knew I had some other book entirely on my hands.
2) INK and Egyptian Mythology
Japanese mythology is definitely at the heart of INK, but there’s another surprising influence in there—ancient Egyptian myths. I majored in Archaeology at university, and one of the courses I really enjoyed was Middle Egyptian Hieroglyphic. I learned that the scribes who painted the hieroglyphs on the tomb walls would often paint or chisel jagged lines through the middle of any glyphs that had snakes in them. Why? So the snakes wouldn’t come alive and bite the entombed Pharoah in the After Life.
I loved the idea that drawings could come alive in such a dangerous way. I combined this idea with the origins of Japanese kanji (characters) as a way to communicate with the spirit world and the ink was born. I like the idea that the more ancient myths and writings hold a kind of power that isn’t safe. Safe stories aren’t nearly as fun, are they?
3) Katie’s Space Ventures
So you know how characters pop into your head one day, and slowly grow and change until you discover where they fit in? Well, that’s what happens for me at least. And the truth is Katie showed up in my mind long before INK.
Katie was originally a starship ensign in a Star Trek fan fiction of mine. I can’t remember now if I actually wrote it down or it was just a recurring daydream, but Katie first got her literary legs on Voyager, working in the Astrometrics lab with Harry Kim and another invented character of mine, Lt. Jonathan Greene. Despite his best efforts, Jonathan couldn’t win Katie over—she was too headstrong and not interested. I realise now they were the wrong match. When Tomo started sketching in my head, I knew Katie was the right one to set in his path to push him out of his comfort zone.  She changed and grew to fit her new role. The Greene name made the leap with her, though Jonathan himself is still lurking in my head waiting for his new story home.
4) Katie’s Run-in with the Law
There’s an outtake from INK, and that is when Katie follows Tomohiro to Toro Iseki.  In the deleted version of the early chapters, it’s after many of Tomo’s strange disappearances that Katie finally decides to follow him. If you’ve read the book, you know that she has to duck under a chain-link fence into the off-limits area. But in a deleted scene from INK, Katie actually got caught by the security guard patrolling the fence. What happened? Well, the guard got flustered when he realized she was a foreigner, and let her off, telling her just to go home.
My exchange student friends and I found that authoritative figures in Japan are often very reluctant to correct foreigners if you make mistakes—for example, if you buy the wrong train ticket or end up in an area that’s off-limits. So when this event happened in INK, Katie again felt isolated and out of place because of the special treatment.
5) Jun’s Musical Talent
In INK, Jun asks Katie who her favourite classical composer is—his is Beethoven. But there’s more to Jun’s love of classical music than merely listening to it—Jun plays an instrument. Which one? You’ll have to read Book 2 to find out!
Music is only one of Jun’s hobbies. He also loves police dramas on TV, kendo, and Italian food. He enjoys Korean food and cafĂ© au lait too, when he’s not busy getting into trouble.
6) Secret Messages
If you follow my Facebook page (, you may have noticed the feature Chibi Thursdays, when I post stats on each of the characters in INK—things like favourite foods, birthdays etc. These details, while fun, also have hidden secrets about the characters in them.
For example, Tomo’s birthday is December 23, which is a special holiday in Japan because it’s also the emperor’s birthday. In the same way, Katie’s birthday is placed around the time of year called Seijin no Hi, or Coming of Age day. This is to note how Katie is growing and finding her place in the world after losing her mother and moving to Japan.
There are also character traits in the kanji I’ve chosen for each of the characters names. I tried to choose very carefully, and some of the characters discuss their names in more detail in Book 2.
7) Deep River Cameo
In SHADOW and INK, Katie talks about a little town in Canada where Nan and Gramps live—Deep River. The truth? That little town is where I grew up! It’s on the Ottawa River, which separates the provinces of English-speaking Ontario and French-speaking Quebec. It’s so tiny that there are no buses and only a single traffic light. There are lots of forests, though, and at times I had close encounters with bears, foxes, and skunks on my way to school. I used to take books into the forest to read, picking wild raspberries as I went. Other times I pretended I was in another world and wandered the forest as a knight or lost hero.
Katie talked in a little more detail about her summers with her friends in Deep River, but they didn’t make the final book. Those are secrets for another day, I suppose!
Hope you enjoyed all these behind-the-scenes secrets, and I hope you look forward to reading INK! :)
Amanda Sun was born in Deep River, a small town where she could escape into the surrounding forest to read. Ink is her first novel and The Paper Gods series is inspired by her time living in Osaka and travelling throughout Japan.
Visit her at and on Twitter at @Amanda_Sun.
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  1. This has just reminded me of a picture book I had when I was little. It was set in Japan and was about a boy whose paintings came to life the moment he finished them. Great post!

  2. nice post,..i'm reading the book presently...


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