Bay Area-native Gail Tsukiyama is this year’s Writers Week featured writer. Tsukiyama, the author of “Women of the Silk” and “Samarai’s Garden,” and will be discussing her newest novel, “The Street of a Thousand Blossoms,” in the Eagle Theatre this Thursday, February 10 at 7 p.m.
Talon: How has your background influenced your writing?
GT: I’m half-Chinese and half-Japanese and I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. My mother was from Hong Kong and my father was from Hawaii, so my cultural influence growing up was primarily in the Chinese culture. My mother’s father also had an import/export business out of Japan, so the connections were always there.
Having grown up in the Chinese culture, it seemed a natural progression to want to learn more about my Japanese heritage as I continued to write. I’ve always felt a mixture of both. The subject of “A Thousand Blossoms” was something I’d been thinking about for a while, but I wasn’t quite sure how to execute it. And while there aren’t any sumotori or Noh mask makers in my family, the sense of cultural tradition and how the world is viewed remains very similar.
Talon: What got you into writing? Have you always enjoyed writing?
GT: It began with reading and quickly morphed to my writing down stories ever since I was in my early teens. Growing up, I loved movies and thought I wanted to be a filmmaker. It was actually the story aspect I loved, and I quickly moved over to the writing department when I was in college. Poetry became a passion, which taught me how to use language in the most concise way.
Talon: What type of writing do you enjoy the most?
GT: I love the distilled way of using words in poetry, but I’d have to say I love the bigger canvas of fiction and telling novel-length stories best.
Talon: What’s your favorite piece of writing that you’ve done?
GT: I always say that the books are like children, it’s hard to pick a favorite. Each book was written at a time in my life when they needed to be written, so they all hold a special place for different reasons.
Talon: What does it mean for you to come to LAHS to share your writing?
GT: Writing is such a solitary act. When a book is finished, it’s a lovely feeling to know that you’ve written a story that people want to read and hear about. It’s a great honor to be able to share my writing process with the readers, students and teachers of Los Altos.
Talon: What are your other interests and hobbies?
GT: I like to be outside when I’m not writing, hiking or working in the garden. I also like to cook and watch movies. And travel has always been a big passion of mine.
Talon: What advice do you have to give to aspiring writers?
GT: To always tell the truth. To be true to the story and your characters.