Christine Kohler is a graduate of the University of Hawaii. The characters and premise for NO SURRENDER SOLDIER grew out of her experiences living in Japan and Guam. Kohler was a political reporter and foreign correspondent for the Pacific Daily News, a Gannett paper covering the West Pacific.
Tell us about your latest book.
NO SURRENDER SOLDIER is a historic YA-crossover novel published by Merit Press (Adams Media/F+W Media). It takes place during the Vietnam War, 1972, on Guam. A 15-year-old Chamorro boy, Kiko, discovers that his mother was raped by a Japanese soldier during WWII. What he doesn’t know is that a WWII Japanese soldier is hiding in the jungle behind his house. The story is told in two points of views between the Chamorro teen and the WWII soldier. NO SURRENDER SOLDIER is based on a true event and soldier in history who hid on Guam for 28 years rather than surrender or commit suicide.
What aspect of world-building do you find most challenging?
The biggest challenge is in revision, deciding what to cut and where to weave, so the descriptions, settings, and historical and cultural background don’t overwhelm or get in the way of the story. There’s nothing worse for a reader than background or info drops stopping the action and plot from moving forward.
What memorable experience would you have not had if you hadn’t been a writer?
Flying into Johnston Atoll with a gas mask and hypodermic needle and antidote to tour the first incineration of WWII chemical weapons brought out of East Germany when the wall was torn down. Flying in a hot air balloon. Interviewing politicians, sheiks, human shields, negotiators, and refugees, plus a lot of regular folks with interesting life stories.
Henry: Ah, but have you ever interviewed a sheik in a hot air balloon? You know they frown on hypodermic needles near hot air balloons. ☺
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Study your craft. Write the story and don’t worry about whether it will sell. Revise deeply. Submit. Shrug off rejections. Persevere.
Henry: So true. Improve, be resolute, be indefatigable.
Do you have a favorite quote?
This is one I often quote: “Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” – Gene Fowler
However, this one best applies to how I wrote my novel NO SURRENDER SOLDIER:
“For me, a page of good prose is where one hears the rain [and] the noise of battle.” – John Cheever
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
I’d invite Herman Melville, Chaim Potok, and Graham Greene to dinner and listen to them discuss writing. I love how they layer their plots with history, politics, religion, and even sexual connotations.
Henry: I still have a children’s version of Moby Dick from when I was a young kid. I drew a sperm whale on the title page. I no longer draw in my books, which is just a little bid sad.
Per Wikipedia, “Chaim Potok (1929 – 2002) was an American Jewish author and rabbi. Potok is most famous for his first book The Chosen, a 1967 novel which was listed on The New York Times’ best seller list for 39 weeks and sold more than 3,400,000 copies.”
“Henry Graham Greene (1904 – 1991) was an English writer, playwright and literary critic. His works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world. Greene was noted for his ability to combine serious literary acclaim with widespread popularity. Catholic religious themes are at the root of much of his writing, especially the four major Catholic novels: Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair. Several works such as The Confidential Agent, The Third Man, The Quiet American, Our Man in Havana and The Human Factor also show an avid interest in the workings of international politics and espionage.”
What would you like the epitaph to read on your tombstone?
She never missed a deadline.
Henry: Well, I hope you’re late for that deadline. ☺
Where can readers find your work?
Any bookstore or library. If not in stock, ask them to order my books.
This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.