Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune is the true story of one of Japan’s greatest samurai warriors and a finalist for YALSA’s 2017 Nonfiction Award. Today I’m thrilled to have the book’s author Pamela S. Turner and illustrator Gareth Hinds here to answer some questions about the book.
Congratulations on Samurai Rising‘s selection as a 2017 Nonfiction Award finalist! Where were each of you when you heard the news? Who was the first person you told about the big news?
Pamela S. Turner (PST): The big news (yay!) arrived one morning via an email from Donna Spurlock, the marketing director at Charlesbridge Publishing. I told my dogs right away but they were notably unimpressed.
Gareth Hinds (GH): I was at a school visit in Vermont when I got the news. They let us know a couple of days before the public announcement, so I was only allowed to tell my wife.
Pamela, what was the inspiration for Samurai Rising? In some ways this story could have focused on numerous samurai, including several of Yoshitsune’s relatives, how did you know you had found your next protagonist in Yoshitsune?
PST: I lived in Japan for six years during the 1990s and during that time read The Tale of the Heike. Yoshitsune impressed me because his tale is so much like King Arthur’s or Luke Skywalker’s: all are heirs to a great tradition, yet raised in obscurity; all become a hero, yet discover that their greatest enemy is a member of their own family. But Yoshitsune’s story is true.
I never considered writing about anyone else from that time period. Despite Yoshitsune’s faults I find him a deeply sympathetic character. According to the standards of his time and culture Yoshitsune did everything he was supposed to do and yet was betrayed in the most cynical fashion. His military accomplishments had a deep and lasting impact on Japanese history; his personal tragedy had a deep and lasting impact on Japanese art and literature. If you go to my website at http://www.pamelasturner.com/resources/yoshitsune_world.html, you can see some examples of how Yoshitsune’s life has inspired generation after generation of writers and artists.