Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Suzanne Kamata

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author answers three questions about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.

I’ve been itching to learn about Suzanne Kamata’s writerhead ever since I read her first novel Losing Kei.  She’s a beautiful writer who often explores two of my favorite topics: multicultural mamahood and the challenges and triumphs of trying to fit into a culture other than your own. Suzanne is an American expat who has been living in Japan for twenty years. Yowza! Twenty years! She is also the author of the new collection of short stories The Beautiful One Has Come. Enjoy.

The Scoop About The Beautiful One Has Come

These stories cross countries and cultures while exploring universal matters of the heart. “The Beautiful One Has Come” is about a young Japanese woman who nurtures an obsession with Nefertiti—with tragic results. In “Polishing the Halo,” an American mother in Japan grapples with news of her daughter’s disability while in “Mandala,” an eccentric Japanese doctor provides an unlikely haven for a newly divorced expat.

The Buzz

The Beautiful One Has Come poignantly shows the pains and the pleasures of living in a culture that is not your own. Kamata also illuminates the modern struggles of everyday people, showing us that perhaps foreigners are not the only ones searching for belonging in this traditional society. An insightful exploration of what it means to straddle two worlds, of embracing the old ways while being open to new.” ~ Margaret Dilloway. author of How to Be An American Housewife

“Kamata’s stories reverberate like a Japanese Noh opera: They portray the ‘agony of love’ in all its forms, acted out by sympathetic characters in various stages of external flight and internal change. The stories are artfully plotted, and tiny details—spots on photos, bean-filled cakes, sewing stitches, insects—take on the heavier weight of symbolism under her observant, empathic eye. Kamata will make you look at the world, and the culture you take for granted, in enhanced and profound ways.” ~ Tara L. Masih, author of Where the Dog Star Never Glows

“Kamata provides a refreshing alternative, one that focuses on female protagonists, but which also looks at daily lives, both the mundane and spectacular.” ~ The Asian Review of Books

First Sentence

“On Hemingway’s walls, there are heads of animals—deer, elk, impala and other horned beasts that Alicia cannot identify.” (from “Havana”)


And now, Suzanne’s writerhead

1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).

Sometimes I go into writerhead when I’m not writing. Maybe I’m walking, or driving, or cooking dinner, and I start thinking about a scene in the novel I’m working on, or how to describe a certain slant of light. When this happens, I’m only half listening to my children. I miss exits while driving. I become irritated by distractions. I want to be fully present when I am with others, so I try to stay out of writerhead until I have a stretch of time alone, such as mid-morning when the house is empty except for me—kids are at school, husband is at work.

To truly immerse myself, I usually need fuel (lots o’ coffee) and a certain amount of putzing around (checking Facebook updates, my Twitter feed, and Amazon rankings) before I can settle down to writing. If I’m stuck, especially in a piece of fiction, I start with a prompt—“opening a door,” or “celebrating a birthday” or another writer’s first line. And then once my fingers start tap-tap-tapping, and I’m in the flow, everything else falls away. I no longer notice my messy desk or the rooster next door that’s always crowing. My stomach may grumble, but I don’t feel compelled to run downstairs and grab a cookie. I don’t even glance at the word count at the lower corner of my screen. I don’t worry about style or structure. I just go. When I finally look at the clock—oh, no!—I sometimes discover that I’m late to pick up my kids from school.

2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)

What usually happens is someone comes to the door selling tofu or handing out flyers for that new funeral home down the street. Or maybe it’s one of my farmer neighbors bringing a giant bag of spinach. If I hear the doorbell, however, I have to answer because it might be the postman delivering…books! But to come out of writerhead is like being rudely woken from a dream where I’m about to meet George Clooney.

3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.

At the best times, it’s like entering a parallel universe, or hurtling through years and miles in a time machine. And that’s about as sci-fi as I will ever get.


Originally from Michigan, Suzanne Kamata has lived in Japan for over 20 years. She is the author of a two books of fiction featuring expatriates—The Beautiful One Has Come: Stories and Losing Kei; a picture book, Playing for Papa; and editor of three anthologies including The Broken Bridge: Fiction from Expatriates in Literary Japan and Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering.

You can visit Suzanne at her web site (www.suzannekamata.com), read her blog, or follow her on Twitter (@shikokusue).


Q4U: Readers / Writers / Looky-Loos / Expats / Multicultural Mamas & Dads: I love that when Suzanne needs a bit of a boost into writerhead, she sometimes starts with another writer’s first line. Brilliant! Ever try that? What other tricks do you have for getting into writerhead? Share, share!



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