Thursday, December 03, 2009


By Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

Wendy Nelson Tokunaga has done it again, delivering a wonderful novel exploring issues of love while examining what it means to be a stranger in strange land. Her latest is the critically-acclaimed LOVE IN TRANSLATION.

Here's the press release summary of the intriguing story:

For anyone who’s ever dreamt of finding love and family in an unexpected place...

After receiving a puzzling phone call and a box full of mysterious family heirlooms, 33-year-old fledgling singer Celeste Duncan is off to Japan to search for a long, lost relative who could hold the key to the identity of the father she never knew. Once there she stumbles head first into a weird, wonderful world where nothing is quite as it seems—a land with an inexplicable fascination with foreigners, karaoke boxes, and unbearably perky TV stars.

With little knowledge of Japanese, Celeste finds a friend in her English-speaking homestay brother, Takuya, and comes to depend on him for all variety of translation, travel and investigatory needs. As they cross the country following a trail after Celeste's relatives, she discovers she's developing "more-than-sisterly" feelings for him, although his mother seems to have other plans for her son. But it is when Celeste learns a Japanese song called “The Wishing Star” that things begin to change for her in ways she never expected, leading her to ask, what is the true meaning of family? And what does it mean to discover your own voice?

Sounds great doesn't it? No wonder bestselling author Michelle Richmond said, “A delightful novel about love, identity, and what it means to be adrift in a strange land. This story of a search has an Alice in Wonderland vibe; when Celeste climbs down the rabbit hole, one can't help but follow along.”

Wendy was good enough to answer my interview questions. Check it out:

Please tell us about the genesis of the idea for Love in Translation.

Love in Translation is my cockeyed valentine to Japan, which is a place I’ve both loved and loathed, a place that has fueled both fascination and frustration. And it is also a place that has had a huge impact on my life and writing. I also wanted to explore what it means to be a gaijin (foreigner) in Japan and the benefits and downsides of that status and what happens when a gaijin sings in Japanese. I also am fascinated by the concept of the homestay, (something I never experienced), and how that would impact someone as an adult who grew up in foster homes and who never experienced a real family.

Is there a story behind the title of this book?

The original title I was using was “Wishing on a Kira-Kira Star.” Kira-kira means “shining” or “twinkling” in Japanese. I knew my editor probably wouldn’t want to stick with this title and she didn’t. And that was fine with me as I wasn’t too attached to it, but I couldn’t think of an alternative. Then she came up with “Love in Translation,” which I really like. Obviously it’s a play on the title of that great movie “Lost in Translation,” but it also evokes several other meanings that I think tie in nicely with the book. I’m very pleased with the way things turned out.

You have such a beautiful cover. Did you have any input it, and are you happy with the finished product?

I had no input on the cover, but I couldn’t be more pleased with it. And it’s so different from the cover of my first book, “Midori by Moonlight,” which had a cartoon character and a glossy finish. “Love in Translation” has a matte cover and an illustration that looks more like a photograph. And I just love the scenery of Tokyo in the backdrop. My hat is off to the designer, Olga Grlic.

What do you think readers might be surprised to know about you?

That when I was growing up my ambition was to be a rock star, not a writer.

What are you reading now?

“Juliet, Naked” by Nick Hornby. Other books on my TBR list are: “The Tricking of Freya” by Christina Sunley, “Americans in Space” by Mary E. Mitchell and “How to Buy a Love of Reading” by Tanya Egan Gibson.

Thanks, Wendy!

To buy LOVE IN TRANSLATION, visit your favorite chain or independent bookstore. To buy online, visit,, or any cyber retailer. For more information, visit Wendy's website at

No comments: