Q&A With Iris Yamashita

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Q&A With Iris Yamashita 

Today I have the pleasure of doing a Q&A with author Iris Yamashita. Iris has written the books City Under One Roof, which is her debut mystery novel & coming out on February 13th is Village In The Dark.  On top of being an author Iris is a screenwriter. She wrote the script for Letters From Iwo Jima for Clint Eastwood. 

Q: So Iris, would you like to tell the readers of the blog and I about your books City Under One Roof & Village In The Dark and about how you came up with the concepts for both novels?

A: City Under One Roof is a locked city mystery which begins when a local teenager discovers a severed hand and foot washed up on the shore. Detective Cara Kennedy arrives to investigate the case and finds herself stranded due to a winter blizzard which closes the only road access to the city. She finds the odd residents to be as icy as the weather, but the truth is, she herself has something to hide.

The real town of Whittier, Alaska was the inspiration for the fictional city of Point Mettier in City Under One Roof. I wondered what it would be like to be trapped in a city like that and the story evolved from there. I stayed inside the building in Whittier for research and the drive through the narrow tunnel somehow reminded me of Alice falling down the rabbit hole and ending up in a strange Wonderland full of offbeat characters. That helped me formulate some ideas.

Village in the Dark is a sequel to the first book and revisits settings and characters in the first book, but it also explores some new territory and focuses on Cara’s personal story. It begins with her having her family’s bodies exhumed from their graves after clues have emerged that foul play may have been involved, potentially connecting their deaths to a string of other deaths and disappearances.

I had already known when I was writing the first book that there was an opportunity to explore Cara’s personal backstory. Also, while researching the first book, I discovered that there is a high incidence of violence against women in Alaska, particularly among the Alaska Native population, so I addressed this a bit in the second book and was able to consult with someone from the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center for further information.

Q: How do you juggle being an author and working for Hollywood? It’s all so impressive! 

A: As a screenwriter, it’s typical to be juggling numerous projects at one time. You are always looking for your next project and often need to be pitching or outlining one project while writing another. But there are lull periods when you’re waiting for a contract to be finalized, or waiting for notes on a step, and that’s when you can be working on something else. Writing a book takes a greater time commitment and more discipline to finish, so it wasn’t really until I had a deadline that I kept on a steady track with it. It took me a number of years to write the first book because it was a side project, but for the second book, I was much better about working on it every day because I had a contract from the outset. 

Q: Since you wrote the script for Letters From Iwo Jima, have you written the scripts to your own books yet? What other scripts for shows and movies have you written for?  

A: I have not written scripts for my books yet, but I was in the midst of talking to a producer for an adaptation of City Under One Roof before the Writers Guild strike shut everything down. Fingers crossed that we’ll be able to resume talks after the strike. I’ve written a number of original and adapted scripts that haven’t been produced yet, mostly in the Asian historical drama category since that is the niche I’m known for. Unfortunately, it’s also an extremely difficult niche to get greenlit due to the cost of historicals and a perceived narrow market. I did write a fantasy-based musical show for Tokyo DisneySea that had a run at the Disneyland theme park, and I am currently writing an audio series for BBC Radio.

Q: Having been raised in Hawaii and living in Guam, California and Japan you’ve seen a lot of the world, and someday I would love to travel. Where were your favorite spots in Hawaii, Guam, California & Japan? 

A: There are so many favorite spots; it’s hard to narrow it down. Leonard’s Malasadas, Hanauma Bay and Ala Moana Shopping Center were places I remember visiting often in Hawaii. Guam had beautiful crystal clear beaches, especially along Tumon Bay where all the hotels were lined up. California and Japan, in comparison, are such vast places that the lists would be never ending. I’ll mention the city of Pasadena where I lived in or close to for most of my life, the city of San Diego where I went to college, Yosemite National Park and In-N-Out Burger as some favorites. In Japan it would be the city of Kyoto, the city of Kamakura, Shibuya, Shirakawa-go and Tokyo DisneySea. 

Q: Since Village InThe Dark is coming out on February 13th, is it too early to ask if you are currently writing another book? 

A: I do have an outline and have started another mystery, this time set in the country of Portugal, but since I now have a contract for an audio series, it may be some time before I’m able to get back to writing it.