There are not many Friend Friday guests with whom I have wrestled a scorpion, but Sara Fujimura is among that select group. I met Sara in the Arizona desert some years back, when I was on the faculty of an SCBWI retreat. I was so impressed by her work ethic and and her positive demeanor and her apparent calm in the face of danger. It is such a joy to celebrate Sara and her latest novel, Every Reason We Shouldn’t (Tor Teen).
Where do you get the ideas for your books?
The short answer: EVERYWHERE!
The long answer: I started my writing career as a journalist. I wrote about infectious diseases, parts of history mostly forgotten, traveling through Japan, and parenting biracial/bicultural kids, among other things. With a few exceptions, every magazine article I wrote had a direct connection to both my family’s life and a YA book project. Though my first book, TANABATA WISH (2017), is not an autobiography, my friends can pick out the true parts thanks to all of my past Summer in Japan Facebook posts from our annual visits with my in-laws. My second book, BREATHE (2018), is set in 1918 Philadelphia against the Spanish Flu pandemic and came out of the research I did for a retrospective article for the Pan-American Health Organization (part of WHO). The biggest compliment I receive for my newest book EVERY REASON WE SHOULDN’T (Tor Teen, 3/3/20) is that I must have been a figure skater. Well, I do have an Olympic Gold medal hanging in my office. I bought it from the Sapporo Olympic Museum* gift shop in Japan last summer. All kidding aside, I am not a former figure skater. I am, however, a researcher with a lot of interesting friends. Because my brain loves to give me story ideas about things I know absolutely nothing about, I end up doing a LOT of research. Good thing I have some experience in that. Though I haven’t met Apolo Ohno (yet!), the character of Jonah Choi was very much influenced by him. I found Ohno’s autobiography ZERO REGRETS a fascinating look into the mind of an elite athlete. The part of his book that inspired ERWS was about when Ohno was a teenager and at the crossroads of his career. Though he had some success before, when Ohno moved up to Olympic-level skating, he amassed defeat after painful defeat. Teenaged Apolo had to decide if he wanted to push on—with no guarantees of success for all the pain and sacrifices—or walk away with what he’d already accomplished. Spoiler alert: Ohno has eight Olympic medals in short track speed skating. I think he made the right choice. Though Jonah Choi is the Ohno-inspired character in ERWS, I gave the crossroads story to Olivia, who wonders if she’s a washed-up pairs figure skater at sixteen. I am fortunate to have two friends with one-in-a-million kids (one a dancer and the other a singer) who have been honest with me about the unique challenges that come with parenting super-talented kids, including the toll it can sometimes take on the rest of the family. So, there you go. If you are looking for a cool read this summer with a lot of facts behind the fiction, I hope you’ll step into Skatelandia with Olivia, Jonah, and aspiring roller derby queen Mack in EVERY REASON WE SHOULDN’T.
Sara Fujimura writes for teens and the young at heart. She is the American half of her Japanese-American family and spends about a month each summer in rural Japan with her children. So it’s no surprise she’s written about Japanese culture and raising bicultural kids for such magazines as LEARNING THROUGH HISTORY and MOTHERING, as well as, writing travel-related articles for the book TO JAPAN WITH LOVE. Her award-winning YA contemporary novel TANABATA WISH is set in Nagoya, Japan. Her second book BREATHE is YA historical fiction set in 1918 Philadelphia against the Spanish Flu pandemic. EVERY REASON WE SHOULDN’T, also YA contemporary, launched in March 2020 with Tor Teen and is for fans of THE CUTTING EDGE and YURI ON ICE. Sara is a creative writing teacher, a literacy advocate, and is excited to support the next generation of authors.www.sarafujimura.com