Sunday, 23 March 2014

In The Spotlight - Julia Suzuki

This is a classic in the making - a mythical magical fable in the tradition of Tolkien and JK Rowling.’-
PHIL DAMPIER, ROYAL COMMENTATOR & SUNDAY EXPRESS JOURNALIST
A beautifully presented, wonderfully unique debut.’ - THE SUN
'Fantasy fans will warm to this tale of how being different can be a strength rather than something to be feared.'
- DAILY MAIL
'Action packed. This book is on fire.”- 
DAVID LLOYD, SPORTS ENTREPRENEUR

I love to get an insight in to an author's mind and this week we get to know Julia Suzuki, author of the popular Land of Dragor series.



The series excited me before I had read the first words, as the reviews above show comparisons with one of my favourite writers JRR Tolkien and also the one thing that had me sold was the map of the Land of Dragor!  I fell in love with the worlds of Tolkien and George RR Martin because of such things!  I expect great things from this lady, so lets get to know her better!

Julia was born in Tamworth, Staffordshire. Growing up she listened to the magical sounds of animals and fairground rides from a theme park near her home.  Her love of reading, nature and the outdoors fed her imagination and inspired her to become a storyteller,

She worked for a division of Disney licensing, and with a famous leisure entrepreneur before becoming an author. 
"I learned a lot in those formative years which I feel has benefited my work and business vision"
She goes on to say- 
 "It was during the time that my son was at junior school that I was inspired to write the first novel.  Ideas came flooding to me. I had been thinking back to the wonderful vintage books I had read and wishing there were more like this - yet with unique edge and an interactive web presence. I knew first hand what parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles were looking for when purchasing a book for their children, but more than that, I knew also what they sought themselves. Readers want gripping action, loads of adventure - all the classic aspects of  heroes and villains, quests and hangars and the hope of happy endings. 
 I wanted to write books with universal appeal, that were fantastical and yet in many ways real to today; to fulfill the expectations of book lovers and hook a non-reader back into reading.  For me this had to be in the form of a series, set in and a place we would all like to visit  - and so the Land of Dragor came to be"

She had received a British Arts Council award this year and is a Patron of Reading.  Her hobbies and interests include dance, fashion, movies and reading.  

Julia, When did you first start writing, and is this the only book you have written?
I have always written, often just personal diaries that I found pleasurable - but it was five years ago that I first felt the urge to write a book and yes this is my first.

How did you come up with the idea/story line for this book?  Is there any personal story behind it (did you used to like dragon stories when you were a kid)?
Yoshiko (the lead character) came to me in a sort of vision one day. I felt strongly inspired, at that exact moment, to write the first novel - the plot and idea formed relatively quickly. I have always liked dragons because they are so majestic and powerful. I often feel I have 'fire in my belly' but in my own way - being  a determined person.

How much of the book is realistic?
Although it is a fantasy novel I have been told it still seems very real. The dragons are very human like. They do many of the same things that children do such as going to school. 

What was the hardest part about writing the “Land of Dragor”?
I believe an author’s first book will always be the most difficult because you are in unknown territory, learning, and hoping for the best. For me the most difficult part wasn’t the first chapters, but keeping momentum after that. With perseverance it became easier.

In this book, Igorr bullies Yoshiko a lot, but Yoshiko doesn't really ever fights back, or argue, or even resorts to violence, which is a good thing, but was there any specific reason behind making him act this way? 
Igorr is the classic bully. He is selfish, self-serving, manipulative and uncaring. Yoshiko is the opposite. You have a scenario playing out in 'Dragor' that is repeated in children's play grounds throughout the world - and even in the workplace. I believe once anyone becomes angry at a bully they are losing their own 'now' moments and giving their power away to them; showing what they do is having affect. Yoshiko took the 'higher' stance. It was not that he did not feel angry, far from it, he felt injustice hugely and it boiled and boiled inside him. He constantly asked himself 'why me' and it often bought him to floods of tears.
The hurt Igorr inflicted was really absolutely huge. However, Yoshiko used the hurt inflicted to drive him and that was the positive outcome.  I believe anyone who is victimized by others can win through by putting their energy into being a better person themself rather than lowering themselves to the level of the bully. Igorr-types must be suffering really badly to have all those issues, always looking to the worst in people, being impatient, easily angered, saying cruel, personal and mean things to Yoshiko-types and always gossiping about them. The injustice is even greater as Yoshiko did not ever do a thing wrong to Igorr and yet Igorr dismissed that. Yoshiko sought to understand Igorr, even help him - but in the end it was so draining that he realised he must focus on himself. Who knows what the future will bring though - I don't think Yoshiko will stay so patient in the future if Igorr continues to do things to hurt him so selfishly! WATCH THIS SPACE

I  would like to ask as a Disney fan, you worked for Disney licensing, did you get any inspiration from the world of Disney?
Yes, I learned a lot about the Disney retail industry and the cogs within that global entity that make a children's brand take off. The most important thing is the brand guardianship which involves maintaining/protecting the image and developing it forward. I worked for the UK licensing division where they launched film merchandise into the retailers. The volume and diversity of products was incredible, especially from their key characters. The characters that worked best were those people could really engage with which is also so important when writing a novel.

Are you planning to adapt the series to screen?
I would love to. 

Where do your ideas come from?
By coincidence I was asked this exact question by a student today! (I have been at a local secondary school with it being ‘World Book Day’). I responded that the ideas seem to, ‘just appear to me out of the blue’, and he replied ‘like magic Miss.’ I thought that very accurate.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
There are a lot of personality traits, in the main characters, that are based on people I have known in my life. Yoshiko, the lead character, goes through a lot that I did at school in terms of meanness from other pupils and shyness. And I have definitely known a few Igorrs (his nemesis) in terms of people who tried to trip me or others up or betrayed me or did the meanest things whilst pretending to be friends or indeed family. I think a lot of people can relate to this and they stick together and enjoy the book because they can relate to it. 
There is a huge amount of character strength and fortitude shown during the experiences of Yoshiko and his friends. It was great to be able to take his lifes’ negatives and what was thrown at him and turn it into a positive outcome– I believe there is no greater feeling than this for anyone in life.

I notice that you have a fantastic map at the start of the book, can you tell me a little about how you came up with this? (I love maps, being a fan of Tolkien and George RR Martin and their maps I very much appreciate yours!)                                                     Thank you. I am glad you like it. I visualised it and designed it like a theme park. I imagined the entrance, where the rides would be, the gardens and many more aspects. If you look close you can probably see it yourself now I have mentioned it. 
I wanted to create a land everyone would want to go to, one with a bit more edge than has ever been designed before - real adventure - more than just a fairy tale - somewhere that felt incredibly real!
Having worked in the resorts industry very closely with the leisure entrepreneur David Lloyd for six years the concept came to me because of that business understanding. I used to live right next to a theme park in Staffordshire from birth until age 10; I have always had a huge love of zoo animals and fairgrounds.

Any writing rituals?
I like to work through the night, just with the screenlight. I feel more creative at this time.

You said you kept personal diaries, my eldest daughter is 7 and has just started keeping a diary, when did you start?
About 7, the same age as your daughter actually. To young girls diaries are a private matter - very secret, not something they wish to share :). Mine helped me to express myself freely which I think is very important in a child's development.

In your opinion which is more important; characters or plot?
I would say characters! If a reader falls in love with a character I believe they are more likely to stay loyal – even with an ‘iffy’ plot. I would think less so the other way around.

How do you deal with writers block if or when you experience it?
I haven’t so far. But I think I would be kind to myself rather than worry too much. I may go and do something to distract myself, like a good night out with my friends. I am sure it would clear my mind.

What authors do you enjoy to read? What book or books have had the most influence on you and/or your writing?
CS Lewis and Enid Blyton were my childhood favourites. Many fantasy movies have influenced me too, probably even more so than books -my favourite is Avatar.

If you could have one superpower- strength, ability to fly, breath fire, what would you choose? 
I would love to fly as Tinkerbell does!

What do you consider to be your best accomplishment to date?
I love my home and consider it my sanctuary – it took a lot of work to get it just so. It is a girlie thing to think of home as our palace and I like to keep it well looked after, clean and tidy.

Where can you see yourself and your writing in the future?
Completing the series is going to be quite the journey itself. My heart is in ‘Dragor’ and continuing to write the most compelling work for my fans is a must for them. I feel thrilled with how well received my series is and the reviews.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, that we all have a special gift. That we can overcome obstacles no matter how difficult they seem if we don’t give up, but persist and communicate and work hard. That kindness, above all things, is the most commendable characteristic.

Is there anything you would like to leave with the readers today?
Pursue the things that make you feel in your element – that create that certain fire in your belly ,where you feel alive and seem to lose sense of time.

Some quick questions!

Last Book - Fire by Kirsten Cashore
Last Film - Lawless
Last Cd - Hed Kandi - I love dance music to work out to!

Thank you Julia for taking the time out to share with us!


The Gift of Charms Book #1 is NOW available in paperback to PRE-ORDER at AMAZON HERE http://tinyurl.com/o95ufw9


Connect with Julia at



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