We love discovering debut authors — new worlds and stories to behold! So today we’re super excited to introduce you to Valynne E. Maetani, whose YA, Ink and Ashes, is getting lots of buzz. It’s the story of Claire Takata, who discovers a mysterious connection between her deceased father and stepfather, two men she thought had never met. What she learns about her family, and their connection to the Japanese mafia, makes for a thrilling page turner. Today, Valynne tells us about her book and winning the New Visions Award, which earned her a publishing contract with Tu books.
Name: Valynne E. Maetani
Book: Ink and Ashes
Genre: YA Mystery/Thriller
Current Home: Salt Lake City, UT
Author Icon: Harper Lee
Favorite Word: flagnog
Was this the first full-length novel you ever wrote? Yes, it is! I’d never wanted to be a writer before then, so I don’t know what made me think I had a story waiting to be told. But I sat at my laptop and started typing with no clue where the story would take me. Somehow, Ink and Ashes materialized on the screen.
Tell us about your day job (current or former). I used to be a project manager for a non-profit company and managed a team of designers, artists, programmers and audio/video engineers. We created reading software for children with learning disabilities, and I couldn’t imagine a better job until I was introduced to writing, which is now my day job.
How did you start writing? I wrote Ink and Ashes for my sister’s 18th birthday because I never got to see myself in books other than those with settings involving war, an internment camps or high fantasy. I wanted her to have a contemporary title with a Japanese American protagonist, and I was tired of reading about people like me who were hated just because of the way they look. I thought the greatest gift I could give her was a book I never got to read.
What was it like when you got “The Call”? I almost didn’t answer “The Call.” When I saw the number, I knew it was someone from New York, but I didn’t recognize it. Generally if it’s important enough, I figure the person will leave a message. And then it occurred to me that it could be my credit card company. I’d had some unauthorized charges for a hotel room in Columbia, so I was mentally gearing up to fight the expenses if they weren’t going to take them off my statement.
If there’s a moment I could do over, it would definitely be that one. At no time, not even once, did I think winning the New Visions Award was a possibility. When I answered the phone, and learned I was the award winner and my book was going to be published, I’m pretty sure I sounded like a complete idiot.
What’s your favorite paragraph in Ink and Ashes?
It’s more than a paragraph, but my favorite part of Ink and Ashes is the prologue. This is probably one of the only pages from the original draft sent to my editor that didn’t change. This piece was added after several complete re-drafts of the manuscript. When I wrote the prologue, I remember feeling, for the first time, that maybe my writing was starting to improve. And that was exciting.
Ink and Ashes is out now, in stores and online! And if you’d like to meet more debut authors, check out our other debut author spotlights here.