More from Mary Yukari Waters
Published: June 30, 2006
|Here are some additional remarks by Mary Yukari Waters. Sarah Anne Johnson's interview with her appears in the August 2006 issue of The Writer.|
How do you know when a story is done?
Again, I think it's a highly intuitive process. I know when I've hit "it" because a shot of pure joy will come on suddenly, out of nowhere. The feeling can be so strong that in the past, I've shut down my computer right on the spot and just walked around outdoors till I calmed down. Unfortunately, those moments are pretty rare. I get them maybe once, twice a year. It's a paltry return for all that drudgery, but at the time it feels like there's no greater joy in the world.
Once you've finished your stories and you're ready to put the book together, how do you go about deciding the order for the stories?
In the case of The Laws of Evening, my stories took place during different time periods--from wartime all the way up to the present. So I thought it made sense to arrange them chronologically. That gave the entire book a sense of forward movement, as well as a novelistic feel.
Who are some of the writers who've influenced you and who are you reading now?
I don't particularly feel my writing has been "influenced" by any specific writer. I think that regardless of what other authors I read before, I would still have ended up writing essentially the same kinds of things I do now, because my writing is such a direct outgrowth of my personality and my own life experiences. I suppose saying this is sacrilegious, because authors always seem to be ready with their list of influences. Even sports figures have their childhood heroes. But as a child, I can't remember seeing past a book to the human being who wrote it, so authors weren't heroes to me in that sense. And when I turned to writing as an adult, I did so not because of something I'd read, but because I had an overwhelming need to explore what was in myself. As long as I could do that, I didn't care if it was through fiction or art or music (fiction made the most sense because I already knew how to write English).
That said, of course I love to read, and there are so many writers I admire: They run a wide gamut from Virginia Woolf to Betty Smith. But for me, reading--like dancing or cooking--is something fun to do that has little direct influence on how I write. I cringe when I hear authors say they're reading a certain book to "get ideas." I've never been comfortable with the popular MFA idea of reading with the conscious aim of sculpting your own writing style; to me, that seems a bit artificial.
The separation between the generations is a recurring theme through these stories. There's a palpable sadness in this disconnect, as if the older generations are the keepers of a past and a Japan the younger generations will never know.
Yes, you got it perfectly. I don't have a whole lot to add except that this sadness, this disconnect, is something that's affected me ever since I can remember. My grandparents felt it, my mother felt it, and their feelings and comments seeped into me and somehow become part of me as well. Given Japan's startling changes since the war years, this chasm between generations is far larger than it would have been at any other time, far larger than it should be