"I am ready to meet my maker. Whether my maker is prepared to meet me is another matter."
-Winston Churchill

Friday, June 4, 2010

Stepping into the future with Lloyd Kaneko

Please give a warm welcome to my guest today, Lloyd Kaneko, author of Kami Jin. I had the pleasure of reading this book, and let me tell you it will get you thinking. Sometimes we go through life and just don't think of the possibilities that could be out there, such as time travel.

Thank you so much for being with us today.

Please tell us a little about yourself.....

I was born on the east side of Los Angeles in the Latino/Jewish dominant district of Boyle Heights.  As I grew a little older, my family moved to the suburbs in a city called Monterey Park.  There I went to middle school and graduated high school in neighboring Montebello.  I graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and eventually received a graduate degree in Training and Human Resources Development from UCLA.

I was always artistically inclined either in writing, art and music.  I never was a genius in mathematics and science.  That’s probably why I never became the lawyer, doctor, engineer, or scientist that was expected of a typical Asian male.

Throughout most of my professional experiences, writing has had a predominant influence on everything I did.  While in college, I learned the art of screenwriting through the Writers Guild of America, West.  Just after I graduated from college, I spent a few years as a journalist writing columns for trade newspapers.  Then for the next thirty years, most of my writing was concentrated on technical matters pertaining to computer systems training, maintenance, management development, and human resources.

Occasionally, I would write and publish white papers for trade conferences and appear as guest clinician during workshops and seminars.  During these times, I would try to work on my creative works, but would always be interrupted by other matters.  Only until after I was laid off and unemployed for over four years did my creative writing life come into full fruition.

What do you see as your influences on your writing?

Practically everything.  As I said before, I am very interested in art.  I took art classes in high school and I loved molding things with clay or carving things out of wood.  I like to take any subject and try to mold it into words.  Not like a poet, who probably does it more skillfully than I do.  I’m more of the “painter” or “illustrator” that likes to create pictures from and idea or subject.

I would probably say, things that influence me the most are politics and social issues.  I do like the mystery and fantasies of science fiction.  When you blend the elements together, you get science fiction with social commentary.  Once in a while, I find myself getting very opinionated even though I consider myself to be rather shy and reserved.  But as the slogan says on one of our historical flags, “Don’t tread on me.”
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Sometimes I’ll write about something or work with an idea and it would go absolutely no where – a dead end.  Yet, there would be other ideas where there would be no ending.  One of my greatest challenges as a writer is wearing two hats – one as a novelist, the other as a screenwriter.  The challenge is adapting the novel to the screen where I would frequently wear the wrong hat and have difficulties determining only what elements of the novel would be necessary for the script.  As a novelist, you’d love to see the entire work in the screenplay.  As a screenwriter,  only some parts of the novel would provide good dramatics for the movie – not the entire book!  So as a novelist, I would use a paintbrush.  As a screenwriter, I would use an chisel and an X-acto knife.

Another challenge in my writing is when I get a terrific brainstorm during the night causing me to lose sleep.  Yet, not reacting to the event by not writing down or recording my ideas for the book, then losing the entire thought over some dream or nightmare.

Where do you hope to take your writing in the future?

I’ve always been fascinated with live theatre.  Now that the screenplay is almost completed, I would like to see that produced as a movie eventually.  Then, adapt Kami Jin for the stage.  If not this story; then its prequel, Legend of the Crescent Eagle.  This story traces the protagonist’s ancestors’ migration to the United States through Mexico from their native homeland of Napajan.

How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?

Really, no set formula here – they just come into my head.  I would have a character in mind, a visual image, not really modeled after anyone in particular, then just run with it.  Mainly, just for the fun of it.  If I see that the character is not going anywhere, then I would backtrack and remodel the character, and/or just eliminate the character all together.  Or, shelve the character for another story.

I do have a methodological way of selecting my characters, however.  I “interview” each character and create a “character profile” including likes, dislikes, race, color, nationality, height, weight, personal data, relationships – in short, a complete background check on the character.  It is good to know the behavioral patterns of your characters.

Then, audition your characters as if you were casting for a movie or live event.  Are the characters well suited for your story?

What drew you to write about science fiction?

The Star Trek android character “Data” always fascinated me as being so life-like, yet the character was built on the premise that he was a highly intelligent robot capable of doing everything humans could do.  In Star Wars, C-3PO wasn’t quite as sophisticated, but walked and talked, and behaved like a human.

In reality, Honda developed a robot called “Asimo.”  A crude robot that could talk and walk like a human.  Is this just the beginning of what is yet to come?  Will there, in reality, be androids like Data among us?

Presently, millions of people are out of work in America through corporate downsizing and globalization.  Many jobs that were once plentiful here in the United States have been exported overseas in favor of cheap labor.  As a result, many have been displaced from their dwellings, forced to live out of their cars or on the streets.

Look a Detroit, for example.  In the automobile factories, many jobs that were once manned by humans were replaced by robots.

Why in the future?

Magnify the desire to maximize profits and take this lust for greed to the extreme.  What if human labor became too expensive all over the world?  Enter, androids like Data into the workforce.  Things that can operate 24/7 without a break.  You don’t have to pay them salaries or benefits.  If they break down, you just replace them with another unit.  And, they can do everything that humans used to do, far less than the cheapest laborer in the world.  Not only would this be very appealing for the money hungry executive, but many more people are going to be disadvantaged.  And, if trends continue, the government will continue to serve corporate executives more than they will its own people.

Isn’t it time we think about our future now?  Not only do we need to look at the path that we are headed on, we need to seriously question our government or the lack of it.

How do you keep your writing different from the vast variety of stories (in your genre) out there today?

I belong to a excellent writer’s group and I am very receptive to comments and suggestions.  However, I try not to let my mind become convoluted with ideas and suggestions that may be acquired from writing conferences and guest speakers who have “prescribed” or “fixed” ways of being successful.  I think this is good for them, but as for the individual author should assert his or her own unique voice into the work and not mold the work based on a prescription or guidelines.  A work of art should be the artist’s identity.  Otherwise, the product becomes the same as everything else – as if, it came off an assembly line or out of a fabricated kit.

A work of art, whether it be a painting, novel or screenplay, should be fluent and flowing – not created by a fixed formula as if you are “painting by the numbers.”  The problem in this world is that we condition ourselves to do things in a certain way, that we cannot breakout of our habits, nor consider alternate ways of doing things.  The alternatives may be better ways of doing things.  But we’ve become so fixated on our habits, that we often close our minds to other possibilities.

Take the world’s financial crisis, for example.  We are so fixated on the current world’s monetary system, that everyone in authority refuses to consider alternative currency models – some which may be more equitable and fairer to the whole world.  Some models may actually solve the world’s problem of poverty and homelessness.

How did your title come into play?

My family uses a lot of paper disposable plates at dinner time.  We have been doing this for a very long time.  One day, I was at a park and the wind blew some paper plates out of a full trash can.  The disposables went flying all over the lawn.  It reminded me about the mass amounts of litter that fill some of our streets in downtown Los Angeles.

Then, as I was reading the news about massive layoffs and people losing their homes, it was almost like they were being “discarded” onto the streets.  Workers in these companies were no longer an asset to the company – they were literally valueless, paid a paltry severance, losing their pensions, and expected to survive on their own.  Like people cut out from society.

“Kami” in Japanese translates one way into “paper.”  “Jin” means “people.”  Hence, the first interpretation, “paper people.”  However, “kami” could also mean “godly” while “jin” could also translate into “person.”  So the second interpretation “godly person” also holds true in this book as the protagonist, Gordon Sakata, is looked upon as a savior when he rescues the homeless from planet Earth and takes them to a land of paradise on a distant planet.

Can you tell us a little bit about the main characters and/or the plot in your book?

The main characters:
A. Gordon Sakata II – Protagonist
Kami Jin is based on Gordon’s life as recorded in his diary mounted on a memory chip in his bionic arm.  Gordon’s nationality is Napajanese-American who becomes victimized by massive layoffs in the workplace as droids takeover practically everything that humans once performed – including teaching college courses.  Gordon wears a mystical ring, a family heirloom which has a crescent eagle.  According to legend, the ring is supposed to have magical powers.  Gordon thinks these magical powers are all folklore until he marries his wife, Wendy (aka Princess Katherine Kusumatsu of Xycrhon

Wendy (aka Princess Katherine “Kathy” Kusumatsu)
Wendy is introduced a little way from the beginning of the story as Gordon’s fiancée.  As the couple elope to Las Vegas to get married, we find that Wendy has some special gifts of being able to communicate with droids.  Initially, we’re not really too sure of Wendy’s family other than her family resides in a “distant land.”  Why is she in the country?  To find a husband.

The Plot
Kami Jin is a tale of two worlds.  Gordon describes a difficult life on Earth as he tries to survive homeless; how society treats those who are out of a job; the miserable living conditions of displaced people in Los Angeles in the 23rd Century.  To add to his frustrations, the country enters into a war against his home country of Napajan, a tiny Pacific island country, that sits on top of the only remaining large pocket of oil.

Gordon is separated from his family, detained, declared as an enemy combatant and sent to a concentration camp in Manzanar.  After camp officials discover that he is wearing a bionic arm that is capable of recording camp details of the secret facility, he is removed from the camp and taken to the freezing cold Sierra Nevada Mountains nearby to die.

Left alone near a secluded lake in the mountains, he uses the skills he learned as a Boy Scout to survive for several months.  During this time, he gains valuable insights to solving the problem of world poverty and homelessness and making wars obsolete.

Eventually, he is rescued by his wife, Wendy, who now becomes known as Princess Kathy, an alien visitor to Earth from the planet Xycrhon.  As they prepare to depart Earth’s orbit, the planet commits self-nuclear destruction and is demolished.  Through time travel, Earth magically is put back together as Gordon travels back to the 21st Century to deliver his story to writer Jason Shohara, hoping that his story will be able to divert the course of history and avert ultimate disaster in the 23rd Century.

On Xychron, Gordon discovers that he is true heir to the Emperor’s throne by possession of the crescent eagle ring.  He learns that he is a direct descendant of the Monarch of Napajan who established the civilization on Xychron.  When he inherits the throne, he returns to Earth to rescue the people in despair and take them to a land of paradise on another planet in a distant galaxy.  Earth is left in ruins after the rescue expedition leaves their “calling card.”

What were your feelings when your first novel was accepted for publication?

Since this is my first novel, my feelings were mixed because it was published in two stages.  The first stage was published in September 2009 through Smashwords as an e-book.  I was a little excited then, but didn’t know what to expect – especially in the format of an electronic book.  After all, I also did not actively market the book.  So, as expected, sales were very low.  It was almost as if the book didn’t exist on the market.

Then the second phase was came in March 2010 when the book was published through Wordclay as a trade paperback,  Then, I realized that I really had published something.  Somehow, the virual book didn’t really seem like a real publication – although it may have been saving trees initially.  But when I received my copies of the book, I discovered that it contained the wrong edition of the novel – it contained an edition that included uncorrected typographical errors which I thought were uploaded to the publisher in March.  However, an earlier September version was used instead.  So, you might say, it was like having a baby with multiple birth defects?

I finally got the editorial matters straightened out with the publisher and a new release of the book will be coming out at the end of the week of May 10, I’m happy to say.  This edition has all the editorial corrections.  At least, the ones that really stood out in the September issue.

Who is your favorite author? What genre of books do you read?
Are you working on any projects right now?

My favorite author is Edgar Allan Poe.  Mr. Poe, perhaps noted more for his poetry, wrote a wonderful novel entitled, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.  It was required reading in a college English class, but it was the first novel that held my attention from cover to cover.  I never was an avid reader until then.  Then, the world of literature really opened up since then.

As for the genre of books I read.  It depends on my mood.  Sometimes I’ll be in the mood for a good thriller.  Then, other occasions, I would look for something spiritual such as the Conversations with God series by Neale Donald Walsh.  On other occasions, I would be motivated to read political commentary.  I love cookbooks, however, and I have quite a collection of them.  I love to cook.  There is a chef whom I absolutely admire:  Ferran Adria.  He has taken the culinary arts to new heights and practically tossed out all the rules of cooking and has created his own unique creations.  I think this is what writers should aspire to.

If you could leave readers with one legacy, what would you want it to be?

Throughout history, there has always been a divide among peoples, not only of the world, but also within nations.  In the world, there is poverty, homelessness and hunger.  We share the same problems here in the United States.  Historically, the divide has caused misery to a lot of groups of people.  While some live in lavish luxuries, the majority struggle to make ends meet – yet, many cannot even do just that.  It’s like asking the question, “Why does there need to be a hierarchy of people?  Who gave special entitlements to certain people while the majority is left to survive on scraps – bits and pieces?”

The whole world is currently in an economic turmoil.  Is Greece the flashpoint of what is yet to come?  Will this be the start of a domino effect that will ultimately consume all nations?  Is there a way out?

The legacy I hope to leave with my readers is, yes, there is a way out.  I hope that through my book and with the insights that I have learned while writing the book, that peace in the world can ultimately be attained and wars be made obsolete.  And, we can find a solution to poverty and homelessness.  But, the solutions start here at home first.  It starts in each one of our homes.  Mother Teresa once said:

“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”

In essence, the way out of this worldly mess is to change our focus and priorities on profit, money, and corporations to people and love.  Not only in the United States, but the entire world.  It is my hope that the world will come together as one.  This is also why I have joined efforts with the Humanity’s Team to encourage the United Nations to create a Oneness Day.  For more information, visit their website at http://www.humanitysteam.org/ and join this effort.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out in this genre?

Practice the art of writing.  Refine your skills and don’t hesitate to join a local writers group in your local area.  Working amongst your peers can be very invaluable – especially for networking and feedback.  But also, expand your interest in other genres and other forms of arts.  By being exposed to other art forms, you just might run across a bolt of lightning that will strike out of unexpected places and give you an idea for a really good story.

Develop business skills, especially in project planning, budgeting and marketing.  This knowledge will come in useful should you decide to set out on your own by self-publishing.  But more importantly, develop relationships.  Especially, develop a long term relationship with a good mentor that will help and guide you through your career.

Develop entrepreneurial skills.  Don’t quit your current job now.  But learn to develop multiple streams of income – especially those that require very little or no start up costs.

Any last comments you would like to add? (upcoming events, titles, etc. )

If you are in the San Francisco area on Saturday, June 12, and Sunday, June 13, stop by Bastet’s Kindle at 1501 Irving Street (located between 16th Ave. and 17th Ave), San Francisco, CA 94122.  I will be spraking and signing books at this unique, eclectic shop.  Store hours on the weekend are from 12:00 Noon to 5:00 p.m.  For more information, call (415) 731-2723.

Is there a website that readers may find you at?

People may find me at my website at www.lloydkaneko.com
I am also hosting an art contest there where participants can win prizes based on voter popularity.  The contest runs through July 31.

Artists can join me on my networking site at www.creativeartistskettle.ning.com.  I invite artists of all types (illustrators, singers, performing artists, screenwriters, etc.) to join us there.  I also have a sister blog to that where people can follow my showcase at www.creativeartists.blogspot.com.

Facebook,  Twitter,  or Myspace?

I guess you might say, I’m all over the internet:

I invite people to join my fan page on Facebook:
or become my friend at:

I’m also on Twitter as:

And, I cannot forget MySpace at:

Also, I’m also at the following other places:
LinkedIn:  http://www.linkedin.com/in/lkaneko
Plaxo:  http://www.plaxo.com
Digg:  http://www.digg.com/users/kamijin1951
Bebo:  http://www.bebo.com/LloydK161
Flickr:  http://www.flickr.com/people/46050752@N08/
Book Marketing Network:  http://www.bookmarket.ning.com/profile/Lloydkaneko
Authors Supporting Authors:  http://www.authorsnetworking.ning.com/profile/LloydKaneko
Storylink:  http://www.storylink.com/9445

And finally, not to forget about where to find my book:
The paperback edition may be purchased through Wordclay at:

The e-book edition may be purchased through Smashwords at:

The book is also available through:

and other international online outlets.

Thank you again for visiting with us today Lloyd.  It has been a wonderful pleasure chatting with you.  Don't forget to leave Lloyd a comment here today for your chance to win a copy of Kami Jin.

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