As an American man of the 1990s writing about a Japanese woman of the 1930s, I needed to cross three cultural divides - man to woman, American to Japanese, and present to past.
What I really wanted to know, though, was what it was like to be a geisha? Where do you sleep? What do you eat? How do you have your hair done?
What I had to do was keep the story within certain limits of what was, of course, plausible.
I studied Japanese language and culture in college and graduate school, and afterward went to work in Tokyo, where I met a young man whose father was a famous businessman and whose mother was a geisha. He and I never discussed his parentage, which was an open secret, but it fascinated me.
I don't think any of us can speak frankly about pain until we are no longer enduring it.
This time all the historical details and things were right. But I'd written it again in third person, and people found it dry. I decided to throw that one away.
Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.
I worried she might spend an afternoon chatting with me about the sights and then wish me best of luck.
It is confusing, because in this culture we really don't have anything that corresponds to geisha.
This character's entirely invented, and the woman that I interviewed wouldn't recognize herself, or really anything about herself, in this book, which she hasn't read, because she doesn't read English.
I studied Japanese language and culture in college and graduate school, and afterward went to work in Tokyo, where I met a young man whose father was a famous businessman and whose mother was a geisha.
Geisha because when I was living in Japan, I met a fellow whose mother was a geisha, and I thought that was kind of fascinating and ended up reading about the subject just about the same time I was getting interested in writing fiction.
You know, the men go to tea houses with the expectation that they will have a nice quiet evening and not read about it the next morning in the newspaper.
A mind troubled by doubt cannot focus on the course to victory.
Hopes are like hair ornaments. Girls want to wear too many of them. When they become old women they look silly wearing even one.