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Interview with Steve Bein, author of The Fated Blades series- April 7, 2015


Please welcome Steve Bein to The Qwillery. Disciple of the Wind, the 3rd Fated Blades novel, is published today by Roc. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Steve a Happy Publication Day!



Interview with Steve Bein, author of The Fated Blades series- April 7, 2015




TQ:  Welcome back to The Qwillery. Tell us something about Disciple of the Wind, the 3rd Fated Blades novel, that is not in the book description.

Steve:  This is the darkest of the books, but also the one that takes you through the bleakest hours and into the light of dawn. Even as I was writing it, I wasn’t sure who was going to survive this one. One death in particular took me completely by surprise. (Of course I won’t tell you whose.)

I also think it’s the best book of the three. The stakes are highest, the characters are at their most resourceful, and the moral problems are the sharpest. At this point the readers and I know the world and the culture really well, which allows me the freedom to lead us deeper into it.



TQ:  You teach philosophy and ethics. In your opinion, should novels be simply entertaining or should they make us think too?

Steve:  I don’t think every novel has to be thought provoking, but all of the best ones are. As for myself, I’m out to write the thoughtful thriller. I call my overall project “philosofiction” because I think the best fiction transcends mere entertainment and the best philosophy transcends mere scholarship. Philosophy is bigger than that. It’s for everyone, every day, and fiction can make it accessible. A good story can take you deep into a thought experiment and leave you there for a while. You can steep in it, mull it over, think about it long after you’ve put the book down.

That makes fiction a powerful vehicle for doing the real work of philosophy. I can ask you a bunch of abstract moral questions, or I can make those questions concrete by confronting a protagonist with an agonizing choice. Fiction takes it out of the abstract and makes it visceral.



TQ:  How does your experience in philosophy and ethics affect (or not) character development in your novels?

Steve:  The books are constructed around moral problems. Given those problems, the characters have to develop in response. So, for example, Daughter of the Sword is really a book about duty. The most important characters, Mariko and Daigoro, are a police detective and a fledgling samurai. Their occupations are quintessentially defined by duty. That’s true of the other POV characters too: two more samurai, an army officer, and a yakuza enforcer. All of these characters are defined by duty, and they’re at their best when I confront them with conflicting duties (family vs. profession, the letter of the law vs. its spirit, etc.).

The second book, Year of the Demon, is about sacrifice. Would you kill one family member to spare the rest? Should a cop suspend the constitution to make an important arrest? Should a daughter abandon her entire family in order to save it? There again, the principal characters transform in response to the moral quandaries I’ve mire them in.

In Disciple of the Wind, what’s at issue is the uncrossable line. Mariko might be able to stop a terrorist, but only if she betrays her badge. Daigoro can fight dishonor with dishonor, or he can hold firm to bushidō and lose everything. The same moral problems about duty arise, but this time with sharper teeth. The opportunities for sacrifice reappear, but this time at a greater cost.



TQ:  Does your experience in philosophy also affect your world-building?

Steve:  Yes, but in a more subtle way. I’ve set these books in Japan because Japan is fascinating to me, and I specialized in Japanese philosophy for the same reason. Some of the most fascinating aspects of the culture are summed up in aesthetic principles like mono no aware (the sad beauty to be found in fragility and mortality) and wabi sabi (the austere beauty to be found in the imperfect and the impermanent). Both of those concepts are far more complex than the rude translations I’ve just offered, but the novels provide the opportunity to express them in greater depth. They inform the world-building through and through, even though I never mention mono no aware or wabi sabi anywhere in the books. I think they’re a big part of how I create a world that’s distinctly Japanese.



TQ:  Would you say that the Fated Blades series is character or plot driven? Explain.

Steve:  The series is plot driven but the plots are character driven. By that I mean the story arcs couldn’t have developed the same way with any other characters. It matters that Mariko is an alien in her own land, and that she’s a woman in a male-dominated profession, and that she’s a skeptic, and that her moral compass leads her to be headstrong. If any of those things were to change, her entire storyline would change.

Similarly, it matters that Daigoro isn’t the swordsman he wants to be, isn’t the samurai he wants to be, isn’t the man he wants to be. I can’t tell his story if he’s not stuck in his father’s shadow. In Streaming Dawn, Kaida lives in a similar shadow: she’s a phenomenal talent but she’s occluded by her sensei’s legacy. She’s always deriding herself, never as strong or as quick as she feels she needs to be. If Daigoro and Kaida were capable of seeing their own strengths, their stories would have veered off in entirely new directions.



TQ:  How much of your martial arts training shows up in your novels?

Steve:  All and none. (Sorry to keep giving you Yoda answers!) There’s a delicate balance to strike. The fights aren’t just there for the action; they’re part of the world-building, a way of understanding this particular aspect of the world through this particular character. They have to feel real, and sometimes that means naming a technique or a weapon or a stance—that is, using the terms that character would use. But lean too far in that direction and you end up drowning readers in jargon.

The same is true of the training sequences. In these books martial practice is an essential part of character development. Sometimes that means naming techniques and styles and so on—but again, not too much. Mariko, Daigoro, and Kaida approach swordsmanship completely differently. Mariko is new to the art, Daigoro was born into it, and Kaida’s skills have become so sublime that she’s almost contemptuous of it. Mariko gets more jargon, the other two very little, because Mariko is closest to the reader’s perspective. The words are strange to her too.

That’s what I mean by all and none. Martial art pervades these books, but the purpose is to give insight into the world and the characters. (And yes, also to entertain. I like a kick-ass fight scene as much as the next guy.) I can talk martial trivia and martial philosophy all day long, but I keep all of that out of the novels.



TQ:  In a prior interview, I asked you “What is the most challenging thing about writing your female main character, Mariko Oshiro?” You wrote, in part, that “Everything about Mariko is hard.” Is she still difficult to write? How has she changed over the course of the 3 novels? How have you changed from writing her?

Steve:  Wow. That’s a tough question. Yes, she’s still difficult, but either I’ve tamed her a bit or else she’s tamed me. The interviews and research I’ve conducted in these books seem to have seeped in deeper than I’d expected, because now when I consult my police resources for dialogue coaching, they tell me the dialogue already sounds like copspeak. I’ve also gotten better at asking them the right questions, and better at seeing which follow-up questions I need to ask. I think internalizing that mindset has helped me get to know Mariko in a much more intimate way.

It’s a little disconcerting, discovering that you suddenly know how to think like a cop. When everything went down in Ferguson last year, the first thing I did was call my cop buddy to ask him what isn’t making the news. That’s a pretty weird response to that kind of tragedy. But one of the important relationships in Disciple of the Wind is the uneasy partnership between law enforcement and the news media, so it’s been front and center in my mind for a while—including, it seems, my subconscious mind, because otherwise my thoughts wouldn’t have followed that strange path.



TQ:  What’s uneasy about the relationship between the police and the news media in Japan? Is that relationship different there than in the US?

Steve:  Yes, quite different. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department has a media liaison, and that person gets to tell reporters what to write. So, for example, yakuza groups in Japan refer to themselves ninkyō dantai (“chivalrous organizations”) but reporters are instructed by the police to refer to them as bōryokudan (“violent crime organizations”). What’s bizarre to me is that the reporters actually do as they’re told. It’s understood as part of the quid pro quo. “You want us to give you something to write? Then write it the way we tell you to.”



TQ:  Which question about Disciple of the Wind do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Steve:  The most pressing question is probably, “Where’s Kaida?” She was a fan favorite of Year of the Demon, and a favorite of mine too. Like Demon, Disciple of the Wind was originally three storylines: Mariko the cop, Daigoro the samurai, Kaida the pearl diver. But Disciple came in overweight, and rather than cut a lot of good stuff from all three storylines, my editor and I made the hard decision to remove one of the characters entirely. Kaida was the natural choice, because her story was the most independent.

So now you can catch up with her in Streaming Dawn. Extricating her from the novel turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because now I’ve been able to flesh out her story and her character in greater detail. We also get to know Daigoro’s father in that story, as well as his future nemesis, which is pretty cool.



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Disciple of the Wind.

Steve:  This book includes the longest sentence I’ve ever put in print, and I had a lot of fun writing it. The only background information you need to know is that Mariko is heading out for a covert assignment, she anticipates being searched, and the Cheetah and the Pikachu are both weapons of hers.
The order of events was eat; shower; change; find favorite purse for undercover work; find cigarette case used for undercover work; hide Pikachu in cigarette case; hide Cheetah in purse’s concealed pocket; toss cigarette case, cigarette lighter, tampons, gum, wallet, phone, keys, pepper spray, peppermints, compact, pack of tissues, second pack of tissues, little detective’s notebook, pen, lipstick, lip balm, hand towel, hand lotion, hand sanitizer, and boot knife in the purse, all in plain sight; and go downstairs.


TQ:  What’s next?

Steve:  My elevator pitch for the next project is “samurai cowboys versus space invaders.” It’s steampunk versus cyberpunk, with Neo-Bushido on one side and high-tech Arthurian legend on the other.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Steve:  Thank you so much! And many mahalos to your readers too.





Disciple of the Wind
The Fated Blades 3
Roc Trade, April 7, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 528 pages

Interview with Steve Bein, author of The Fated Blades series- April 7, 2015
LETHAL JUSTICE

When Tokyo falls victim to a deadly terrorist attack, Detective Sergeant Mariko Oshiro knows who is responsible, even if she doesn’t have proof. She urges her commanding officers to arrest the perpetrator—an insane zealot who was just released from police custody. When her pleas fall on deaf ears, she loses her temper and then her badge, as well as her best chance of fighting back.

Left on her own, and armed with only her cunning and her famed Inazuma blade, Mariko must work outside the system to stop a terrorist mastermind. But going rogue draws the attention of an underground syndicate known as the Wind. For centuries, they have controlled Japanese politics from the shadows, using mystical relics to achieve their nefarious ends—relics like Mariko’s own sword and the iron demon mask whose evil curse is bound to the blade. Now the Wind is set on acquiring Mariko.

Mariko is left with a perilous choice: Join an illicit insurgency to thwart a deadly villain, or remain true to the law. Either way, she cannot escape her sword’s curse. As sure as the blade will bring her to victory, it also promises to destroy her….


The companion to Disciple of the Wind

Streaming Dawn: A Story of the Fated Blades
Steve Bein, March 7, 2015
eBook, 89 pages

Interview with Steve Bein, author of The Fated Blades series- April 7, 2015
The riveting story of a legendary magic sword, two rivals for a seat in a warlord's court, and a ninja who must use her own magic blade to complete her mission and keep herself alive. Brimming with rich historical details, Streaming Dawn places the reader deep into ancient Japan, when warriors fought with deadly sharp weapons - and even sharper wits - in their quests for power.

Lord Itsumi Akiyama is in trouble. He was a conspirator in the murder of Oda Nobunaga, Japan's most powerful warlord in 1582. Worse, he is responsible for the death of a disciple of the Wind, Japan’s deadliest ninja clan. Enter Kaida, the Wind’s most dangerous agent. She seeks to avenge her fallen protégé, but there is a complication: once she kills Akiyama, the Wind must figure out how to replace him. He occupies a key position in the inner circle of Oda’s successor, Hashiba Hideyoshi, who is set to conquer all of Japan. The Wind wants a puppet next to Hideyoshi, and Kaida is tasked with putting that puppet in place.

Kaida resents her assignment. The chosen puppet is Itsumi Kyusaku, brother and successor to Akiyama. Kyusaku took part in the murder of Kaida’s protégé, and so Kaida wants him dead. But his only rival for the position in Hideyoshi’s council is Okuma Tetsurō, a samurai with a bounty on his head—a bounty placed by the Wind. Kaida respects Okuma and has no desire to kill him. Moreover, she’s not even sure she can. His sword, Glorious Victory Unsought, is a legendary Inazuma blade. With it, Okuma is undefeatable.

But Kaida has a blade of her own. Streaming Dawn can fend off death itself, though at a bitter cost. It might even defend her from Glorious Victory Unsought, if she and Okuma should cross swords. So armed, she takes on the most difficult mission of her career. She cannot allow Kyusaku to come to power, but if she allows Okuma to rise in his stead, it will be Kaida’s head on the chopping block.

Since she cannot choose Kyusaku and she cannot choose Okuma, Kaida has no choice but to do what she does best: achieve the impossible, proving herself once again to be the Wind’s canniest, deadliest ninja.

This companion novella to the Fated Blades series finds beloved characters from those novels in a new and dangerous adventure set in medieval Japan. Bein's talent for combining rich historic detail with powerful action and magic is yet again on display in this intriguing historical fantasy read. Fans of the Fated Blades series will enjoy revisiting their favorite characters, and for those new to the series, it's the perfect place to dive into centuries of intrigue, magic, honor, and swordplay.





Previously

Only a Shadow
The Fated Blades eNovella
Roc, September 4, 2012
eBook, 59 pages

Interview with Steve Bein, author of The Fated Blades series- April 7, 2015
The author of Daughter of the Sword takes readers to feudal Japan, where men and empires rise and fall by the sword…

The Tiger on the Mountain is a legendary blade, crafted by the master sword smith Inazuma, and reputed to possess magical powers. In 1442 Japan, the sword dwells inside the impregnable fortress of Hirata Nobushige, the enemy of the Iga clan.

Venerable shinobi Jujiro has recruited the brave young ninja Tada to steal the sword and restore power to the Iga clan. If Tada is successful, he’ll go from being the clan’s orphaned ward to a legend for the ages—and he’ll be able to ask for Old Jujiro’s granddaughter’s hand in marriage. If he fails, the clan will be annihilated.

Getting inside the castle is next to impossible—getting out is inconceivable. But as Tada prepares himself for one of the boldest thefts in history, the greatest obstacle he faces may just prove to be himself…

Don’t miss Daughter of the Sword, the first Novel of the Fated Blades!


Daughter of the Sword
The Fated Blades 1
Roc, October 2, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 480 pages
Mass Market Paperback (September 3, 2013), 464 pages

Interview with Steve Bein, author of The Fated Blades series- April 7, 2015
ANCIENT POWER

As the only female detective in Tokyo’s most elite police unit, Mariko Oshiro has to fight for every ounce of respect, especially from her new boss. But when he gives her the least promising case possible—the attempted theft of an old samurai sword—it proves more dangerous than anyone on the force could have imagined.

The owner of the sword, Professor Yasuo Yamada, says it was crafted by the legendary Master Inazuma, a sword smith whose blades are rumored to have magical qualities. The man trying to steal it already owns another Inazuma—one whose deadly power eventually comes to control all who wield it.

Mariko’s investigation has put her on a collision course with a curse centuries old and as bloodthirsty as ever. She is only the latest in a long line of warriors and soldiers to confront this power, and even the sword she learns to wield could turn against her.


Year of the Demon
The Fated Blades 2
Roc Trade, October 1, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 480 pages
Mass Market Paperback (September 2, 2014), 528 pages

Interview with Steve Bein, author of The Fated Blades series- April 7, 2015
A MASK OF DESTRUCTION

Detective Sergeant Mariko Oshiro has been promoted to Japan’s elite Narcotics unit—and with this promotion comes a new partner, a new case, and new danger. The underboss of a powerful yakuza crime syndicate has put a price on her head, and he’ll lift the bounty only if she retrieves an ancient iron demon mask that was stolen from him in a daring raid. However, Mariko has no idea of the tumultuous past carried within the mask—or of its deadly link with the famed Inazuma blade she wields.

The secret of this mask originated hundreds of years before Mariko was born, and over time the mask’s power has evolved to bend its owner toward destruction, stopping at nothing to obtain Inazuma steel. Mariko’s fallen sensei knew much of the mask’s hypnotic power and of its mysterious link to a murderous cult. Now Mariko must use his notes to find the mask before the cult can bring Tokyo to its knees—and before the underboss decides her time is up....





About Steve

Interview with Steve Bein, author of The Fated Blades series- April 7, 2015
Steve Bein (pronounced "Bine") is a philosopher, photographer, traveler, translator, martial artist, and award-winning author of science fiction and fantasy. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov's, Interzone, Writers of the Future, and in international translation. His first novel, Daughter of the Sword, was met with critical acclaim, and his second novel, Year of the Demon, was named one of the top five fantasy novels of 2013 by Library Journal. His newest book, Disciple of the Wind is in stores now, and his new novella, Streaming Dawn, is available now for your e-reader. You can find his work at Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Audible.

Steve lives in Austin, Texas. Keep up with him on Facebook at facebook/philosofiction and on Twitter @AllBeinMyself. Appearances, news, photos, links, and more can all be found at http://www.philosofiction.com.

Steve Bein's Daughter of the Sword Blog Tour - Japanese Police Work 101



Steve Bein's Daughter of the Sword Blog Tour - Japanese Police Work 101



Japanese Police Work 101

Not all cops are created equal. Neither are all cop stories. We certainly have no shortage of cop stories these days; I think the Law & Order: Podunk pilot is coming any day now.

Because the market is so saturated with cop stories, everyone has suddenly become a police expert—or at least they think so. (Prosecuting attorneys now have to explain to juries that only the FBI’s crime lab can solve the cases they see on CSI, and even then it takes weeks, not hours.)

My novel Daughter of the Sword features a Tokyo police detective, and her jurisdiction is radically different from anything you’ve seen on CSI or Law & Order. I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you a little about police work in Japan, and how different it is from anything you’ll see in the States.

The first difference for Mariko, my detective, is kind of a biggie: in Japan women aren’t usually allowed to be detectives! It’s not that women can’t be cops. They can, but paradoxically enough, they’re typically restricted to very low-level and very high-level positions. Meter maids and upper management, but not much in-your-face street work. (In that sense Mariko’s police department is comparable to the US Army of a generation ago: women could advance in the ranks even to the point of advising the president, but they weren’t allowed to fight on the front lines.)

I had to go out of my way to make Mariko a real standout, or else she’d be working a much more typical beat: the koban. This is the most visible difference you’d see if CSI were set in Japan. The koban is kind of a hybrid between a miniature police station and an information booth, and you’ll find one in every neighborhood of Tokyo. One or two cops are stationed there around the clock, and their primary job seems to be to give people directions when they’re lost. They provide other public services too, of course, and if there were an emergency in the area they’d be the first to respond, but mostly it’s, “Go down to that stoplight, hang a left, then turn right at the McDonald’s.”

Another major difference is that patrol cars are almost an endangered species in Japanese cities. This is in part because of the ubiquitous koban, in part because traffic is hellacious, and in larger part, I think, because the streets are so safe it’s almost absurd. Tokyo has as many burglaries in a year as New York has in a day. Even in seedy neighborhoods of major cities, street crime is so rare that you can pass out drunk on the sidewalk and wake up with your wallet and your passport still in your pocket. I can attest to this from personal experience.

That means Japanese cops typically don’t wear body armor, they almost never draw their sidearms—to say nothing of actually drawing down on a human being—and they exercise a degree of restraint we would find unthinkable in the US. When I lived in Japan a guy got a screw loose and took a whole bus full of passengers hostage. A Special Assault Team (Japan’s equivalent of SWAT) surrounded the bus, and I’m told that if they’d been trained in American SWAT tactics, a sniper would have killed the hostage taker at the first safe opportunity. This particular perp wasn’t all that careful in his movements, and gave many such opportunities.

However, the SAT cops managed to enter the bus, detonate a flash-bang grenade, and tackle the perp to the ground with no loss of life. When I tell American cops this story, many of them shake their heads and wonder why they didn’t just shoot the guy.

You’d like to think it literally didn’t occur to them, that Japan is such a peaceful Eden that violence simply doesn’t enter into their thinking. Given the fact that the homicide rate in Japan is just 6.8% of what it is in the States, that would be an easy conclusion to draw. But the reality isn’t that simple. Thousands of Japanese vanish every year, and cops don’t know where they go. Reporters can’t find them either. They just disappear.

Your friendly neighborhood yakuza probably knows where lots of them are buried. But another huge difference between Japanese and American cops is their strange relationship with organized crime. It’s hard to even call it crime. Yakuzas conduct most of their business openly—so openly, in fact, that they have business cards that plainly identify them as criminals. I can’t tell you how much I want to get my hands on one of those cards.

I suppose I could make my own. Steve Bein, Criminal Mastermind. It has kind of a nice ring to it.




The Fated Blades

Daughter of the Sword
The Fated Blades 1
Roc, October 2. 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 480 pages

Steve Bein's Daughter of the Sword Blog Tour - Japanese Police Work 101
Mariko Oshiro is not your average Tokyo cop. As the only female detective in the city’s most elite police unit, she has to fight for every ounce of respect, especially from her new boss. While she wants to track down a rumored cocaine shipment, he gives her the least promising case possible. But the case—the attempted theft of an old samurai sword—proves more dangerous than anyone on the force could have imagined.
The owner of the sword, Professor Yasuo Yamada, says it was crafted by the legendary Master Inazuma, a sword smith whose blades are rumored to have magical qualities. The man trying to steal it already owns another Inazuma—one whose deadly power eventually comes to control all who wield it. Or so says Yamada, and though he has studied swords and swordsmanship all his life, Mariko isn’t convinced.
But Mariko’s skepticism hardly matters. Her investigation has put her on a collision course with a curse centuries old and as bloodthirsty as ever. She is only the latest in a long line of warriors and soldiers to confront this power, and even the sword she learns to wield could turn against her.


Only a Shadow
Fated Blades eNovella
Roc, September 4, 2012
eBook, 59 pages

Steve Bein's Daughter of the Sword Blog Tour - Japanese Police Work 101
The author of Daughter of the Sword takes readers to feudal Japan, where men and empires rise and fall by the sword…

The Tiger on the Mountain is a legendary blade, crafted by the master sword smith Inazuma, and reputed to possess magical powers. In 1442 Japan, the sword dwells inside the impregnable fortress of Hirata Nobushige, the enemy of the Iga clan.

Venerable shinobi Jujiro has recruited the brave young ninja Tada to steal the sword and restore power to the Iga clan. If Tada is successful, he’ll go from being the clan’s orphaned ward to a legend for the ages—and he’ll be able to ask for Old Jujiro’s granddaughter’s hand in marriage. If he fails, the clan will be annihilated.

Getting inside the castle is next to impossible—getting out is inconceivable. But as Tada prepares himself for one of the boldest thefts in history, the greatest obstacle he faces may just prove to be himself…

Don’t miss Daughter of the Sword, the first Novel of the Fated Blades!




About Steve

Steve Bein's Daughter of the Sword Blog Tour - Japanese Police Work 101
Steve Bein is a philosopher, martial artist, climber, photographer, diver, world traveler, and award-winning sci fi and fantasy author. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Interzone, as a winner in the Writers of the Future contest, and in international translation. Daughter of the Sword, his first novel, has already received critical acclaim.

Steve divides his time between Rochester, Minnesota, and Rochester, New York, where is a visiting professor of Asian philosophy and Asian history at SUNY-Geneseo. His other academic interests include bioethics, which led him to a brief stint as a visiting researcher at the Mayo Clinic, environmental philosophy, which led him to see polar bears in Canada and penguins in Antarctica, and philosophy and science fiction, which leads him everywhere else in the universe.

Please visit Steve at www.philosofiction.com. If you like Steve on Facebook, you can receive an autographed sampler from Ace and Roc featuring the first two chapters of Daughter of the Sword. You can also find a preview of Daughter of the Sword in the companion novella, Only a Shadow, which will bring lots of ninja action to your e-reader.



Steve Bein's Daughter of the Sword Blog Tour - Japanese Police Work 101

Steve Bein's Daughter of the Sword Blog Tour
October 2 - Under The Covers
October 3 - Grasping For The Wind
October 4 - Graeme's Fantasy Book Review
October 5 - Fantasy Book Critic
October 8 - A Book Obsession
October 9 - The Qwillery
October 10 - Night Owl Reviews
October 11 - All Things Urban Fantasy
October 12 - Goldilox And The Three Weres

Interview with Steve Bein, author of Daughter of the Sword - October 2, 2012

Please welcome Steve Bein to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Daughter of the Sword (The Fated Blades 1) is published today, October 2, 2012. Happy Publication Day to Steve!

You may read Steve's Guest Blog - Why Swords - here.


Interview with Steve Bein, author of Daughter of the Sword - October 2, 2012


TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery.

Steve:  Thanks so much for having me. And thanks so much for including me in your Debut Author Challenge. That was a big honor for me.


TQ:  Writing quirks! What are some of yours?

Steve:  Does swinging swords around in my house count as quirky? I choreograph fight scenes the same way you’d do it in a movie, physically acting it out, and with Daughter of the Sword that involved a bit of swordplay in my office, my bedroom, my kitchen, my basement….

What else? M&Ms are a must for writing. So are pen and paper; I’m still old tech. I used to stay up until 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning to write, but I’m trying to cut back on that little quirk these days.


TQ:  Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?

Steve:  Most recently, China Mieville and Neal Stephenson. Larry David too, oddly enough; I don’t write comedy but he has a gift for weaving multiple plotlines together. I have unending admiration for Philip K. Dick and Ted Chiang, the philosopher-kings of SF. The day I can write like them is going to be a pretty great day.

Going to the favorites list, it’s got to start with Tolkien, Herbert, Vonnegut, Palahniuk. Add to that William Gibson, Dan Simmons, George Martin, Jeff Carlson, James Clavell. If I’m feeling a little more serious, I go to Nick Hornby, Richard Russo, Hemingway, guys like that.

This list is sounding a little macho, isn’t it? As much as I love all those guys, Helen Dewitt’s The Last Samurai still remains the best novel I’ve ever read.


TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Steve:  Plotter all the way.


TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Steve:  Plotting, actually. I’ve tried writing by the seat of my pants, but it doesn’t go anywhere, so the hardest road is the only one I can take.

The most difficult thing for me is turning story ideas into stories. I’ve been making a study of this, actually, trying to uncover some kind of trick that will make it easier. I read a lot of philosophy every week, and being a fan of Ted Chiang and Philip K. Dick, I’m always on the lookout for philosophically engaging story ideas. And I find them all the time, but then comes the alchemy: turning leaden ideas into golden stories.


TQ:  Describe Daughter of the Sword (The Fated Blades 1) in 140 characters or less.

Steve:  Three masterwork swords change history; cops, yakuzas, soldiers, and samurai do their best to change it back. Can they succeed? Read on.

Let me do one for Only a Shadow too, if you would:

An aging ninja master must enlist the man who wants to supplant him to infiltrate an impregnable castle and save their clan from extinction.


TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Daughter of the Sword?

Steve:  Loads! Most of Daughter of the Sword takes place in 21st century Tokyo, which I know pretty well, but I still had to do a lot of research on police work, especially on how different it is in Japan as compared to the States. Then there are the historical sections of the book: one with samurai in the 11th century, one with samurai in the 16th century, and another chunk set in WWII. Originally there was another storyline set in the 1400s, but that’s taken on a life of its own, and now it’s the stand-alone novella Only a Shadow. So that makes four different eras, all of them unique, all of them difficult to research because this is Japan and not, say, Germany or England. Studying up on medieval Europe is easy. Finding similar resources on Japan can be a real pain in the neck.


TQ:  What inspired you to write Daughter of the Sword?

Steve:  Lots of things. It started with a dream, actually, of a katana that leaves this haunting sound in the air whenever it cuts. Samurai movies were a big influence too. There’s a classic series of Lone Wolf and Cub films, which are hilarious and horrifying and badass all at once. The little boy in those movies is called Daigoro, and so is the boy samurai in Daughter of the Sword. There’s also a series starring Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman. He’s sort of Zorro-meets-Robin-Hood-meets-Beatrix-Kiddo. I don’t have the same Tarantinoesque bloodfest going on, but I do have a blind swordsman, thanks to Zatoichi.

That explains the samurai stuff, but not the parts set in 1942 and 2010. I chose WWII because it was such an enormous event in Japanese history, so I felt it just had to get into the book somehow. The modern story, Mariko’s story, had to be invented ex nihilo. “Inspiration” isn’t the right word for how she came to be; the book just demanded her to be there.


TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?

Steve:  The easiest is Daigoro, a samurai boy struggling to live up to his father’s image. I just love picking on him. I don’t know why he’s so much fun, but I love making his life worse and worse. He’s constantly overshadowed by his brother, and his father’s shoes are just too big to fill, and then I make him and his brother butt heads over the possession of a sacred sword—the very symbol of their house. He’s got a really strong moral code, and I give him lots of opportunities to make his life easier by breaking it, but he just can’t do it. Poor guy.

The hardest is Mariko, without a doubt. She’s the only woman to make detective and sergeant in Tokyo’s most elite police unit, and so in some ways she’s like Daigoro: constantly under pressure, and the pressure just keeps mounting as the book goes on. But she’s the only female POV character, which is tough, and I’ve never been a cop, so I had to do ride-alongs and a lot of interviews to get into her head. Besides all that, her story is what holds the rest of the book together. All of the historical segments are self-contained and self-coherent. Mariko’s story has to do all of that and unite all the other stories too. Everyone else can be a brick, but she has to be both brick and mortar. For a guy who finds plotting to be a challenge, writing Mariko is as tough as it gets.


TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Daughter of the Sword?

Steve:  Daigoro and Mariko both have terrific showdowns. Mariko ends up with a sensei who’s very much like my grandfather in many respects, and very much like my mentor when I lived in Japan. I don’t know how much of that will come across to people who don’t know my grandpa or Yuasa-sensei, but writing those scenes allowed me to reflect a lot on moments I spent with them, and that’s what I think of whenever I revisit those scenes.


TQ:  What's next?

Steve:  Drugs and ninjas. I just turned in the manuscript for Year of the Demon, the second book in the series. Daigoro gets a lot more attention in this one, and once again it’s Mariko who holds the whole book together. I’ve got some new protagonists coming in too, including Mariko’s new partner in the Narcotics division, plus a whole bunch of ninjas.


TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Steve:  It’s been such a pleasure. Thanks so much for inviting me here.




The Fated Blades

Daughter of the Sword
The Fated Blades 1
Roc, October 2. 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 480 pages

Interview with Steve Bein, author of Daughter of the Sword - October 2, 2012
Mariko Oshiro is not your average Tokyo cop. As the only female detective in the city’s most elite police unit, she has to fight for every ounce of respect, especially from her new boss. While she wants to track down a rumored cocaine shipment, he gives her the least promising case possible. But the case—the attempted theft of an old samurai sword—proves more dangerous than anyone on the force could have imagined.

The owner of the sword, Professor Yasuo Yamada, says it was crafted by the legendary Master Inazuma, a sword smith whose blades are rumored to have magical qualities. The man trying to steal it already owns another Inazuma—one whose deadly power eventually comes to control all who wield it. Or so says Yamada, and though he has studied swords and swordsmanship all his life, Mariko isn’t convinced.

But Mariko’s skepticism hardly matters. Her investigation has put her on a collision course with a curse centuries old and as bloodthirsty as ever. She is only the latest in a long line of warriors and soldiers to confront this power, and even the sword she learns to wield could turn against her.


Only a Shadow
Fated Blades eNovella
Roc, September 4, 2012
ebook, 59 pages

Interview with Steve Bein, author of Daughter of the Sword - October 2, 2012
The author of Daughter of the Sword takes readers to feudal Japan, where men and empires rise and fall by the sword…

The Tiger on the Mountain is a legendary blade, crafted by the master sword smith Inazuma, and reputed to possess magical powers. In 1442 Japan, the sword dwells inside the impregnable fortress of Hirata Nobushige, the enemy of the Iga clan.

Venerable shinobi Jujiro has recruited the brave young ninja Tada to steal the sword and restore power to the Iga clan. If Tada is successful, he’ll go from being the clan’s orphaned ward to a legend for the ages—and he’ll be able to ask for Old Jujiro’s granddaughter’s hand in marriage. If he fails, the clan will be annihilated.

Getting inside the castle is next to impossible—getting out is inconceivable. But as Tada prepares himself for one of the boldest thefts in history, the greatest obstacle he faces may just prove to be himself…

Don’t miss Daughter of the Sword, the first Novel of the Fated Blades!



About Steve

Interview with Steve Bein, author of Daughter of the Sword - October 2, 2012
Steve Bein is a philosopher, martial artist, climber, photographer, diver, world traveler, and award-winning sci fi and fantasy author. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Interzone, as a winner in the Writers of the Future contest, and in international translation. Daughter of the Sword, his first novel, has already received critical acclaim.

Steve divides his time between Rochester, Minnesota, and Rochester, New York, where is a visiting professor of Asian philosophy and Asian history at SUNY-Geneseo. His other academic interests include bioethics, which led him to a brief stint as a visiting researcher at the Mayo Clinic, environmental philosophy, which led him to see polar bears in Canada and penguins in Antarctica, and philosophy and science fiction, which leads him everywhere else in the universe.

Please visit Steve at www.philosofiction.com. If you like Steve on Facebook, you can receive an autographed sampler from Ace and Roc featuring the first two chapters of Daughter of the Sword. You can also find a preview of Daughter of the Sword in the companion novella, Only a Shadow, which will bring lots of ninja action to your e-reader.

Guest Blog by Steve Bein - Why swords?

Please welcome Steve Bein to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Daughter of the Sword (The Fated Blades 1) will be published on October 2, 2012. Only a Shadow, a Fated Blades e-novella will be published tomorrow.


Guest Blog by Steve Bein - Why swords?


Why swords?

About ten years ago I published my first short story, “Beautiful Singer,” about a samurai who refused to believe his katana was possessed. (It turns out he was woefully mistaken about that, and the slain geisha that inhabited his sword made short work of him.) It was only after publication that I realized I’d written a story in which an inanimate object acted as a character. I didn’t do it intentionally, but it’s an homage to Tolkien: the One Ring also has a will of its own. As soon as I saw it, I decided I’d take a crack at writing a whole novel in which swords were characters, driving the narrative every bit as much as the warriors who wielded them.

The result was Daughter of the Sword and Only a Shadow, though I’d hardly imagined at the outset that one of the “warriors” would be a Tokyo police detective. That left me in a pretty sticky spot. It was clear that Mariko, my detective, was going to have to fight with one of the swords, and there just aren’t many good reasons for a cop in the 21st century to involve herself in a samurai showdown.

How much easier my life would have been if only I’d chosen to start with something simple—a ring, say—instead of a sword. Barring that, I could have set the entire novel in medieval Japan, and indeed I thought that’s what I’d set out to do. I wanted to follow the exploits of three fated blades throughout Japanese history, and I started with stories of samurai and ninja. Then the swords crossed paths again in WWII, and I realized the only way to bind all the stories together was to have one character discover the whole truth. Thus Mariko was born, and she was a major pain in the neck.

Of all the things I could have picked, the sword might be the hardest one to put in Mariko’s hands. So why swords?

It’s a question that applies to many areas of my life, not just my book. The first martial art I got involved in was Florentine swordfighting. Since then I’ve studied kenjutsu, kendo, and iaido, none of which have the slightest applicability in street self defense, unless you happen to have a sword with you (which, one would think, is probably sufficient self defense by itself: regardless of whether or not you know how to use it, carrying a three-foot razor blade is reason enough for most muggers to choose another target).

It’s weird that anyone still teaches swordsmanship, really, and weirder still that anyone trains in it. Even by the Revolutionary War the sword had already lost most of its usefulness as a weapon, which means the sword has been more or less obsolete for the whole of US history.

And yet something keeps drawing me back. I think part of the sword’s allure is that it shaped the world for so much of human history. Your empire was as large and as stable and as powerful as your swords would allow it to be. When it fell, it usually fell to the sword, and the next power to rise rose by the sword. One could say the same of the bow, but it was the sword that lingered as a symbol of martial power. Even those commercials for the Marine Corps still have swords.

The machete attacks during the genocide in Rwanda horrified all who saw them, as did the acts of butchery during the Bataan Death March, and a big reason those attacks were so horrifying is that the sword awakens ancient fears. Bows and guns kill from afar. You can accidentally kill someone with them, and you don’t have to feel it even when you aim to kill on purpose. Not so with swords.

They’re viscerally personal weapons. A swordfight is not only the ultimate test of skill, but also one of mettle, of guts. I knew a Vietnam vet whose job in the war was to fire huge shipboard cannons. These things could propel a thousand-pound shell two or three miles inland, and he honestly couldn’t tell the difference between target practice and combat. He was the first to tell you the war never tested his courage. He’d also be the first to tell you he much preferred it that way.

The samurai would have had no taste for that. When firearms were introduced to Japanese shores, samurai debated whether or not they could use them. These were elite soldiers, the deadliest of their day, many of them more accomplished archers than swordsmen. But at least with an arrow you can tell which of the enemy you’ve shot, even in line combat. That isn’t true of musket balls. Better, many samurai said, to stay true to the old ways, so you could know you and your enemy both fought with honor.

Of course, those were the samurai who got mowed down by lines of musketeers.

But the honor code is still a noble idea, even for a guy like me, who got in swordfights throughout high school but only with 20-sided dice. I also understand the nobility of testing one’s skill. It’s what keeps me going back to the dojo after twenty years in the martial arts, even though I think it’s safe to say I can defend myself pretty well by now.

I think it’s the imagery of the sword, and its history, and the sheer no-guts-no-glory audacity it takes to fight with one, that keeps me fascinated. None of that made it any easier to find a good way to get a 21st century cop into a swordfight, but it was good enough reason for me to try to make that scene happen. I have to say I’m pretty pleased with the result. I can’t say more without giving things away, but I think you’re going to like what you find.



The Fated Blades

Daughter of the Sword
The Fated Blades 1
Roc, October 2. 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 480 pages

Guest Blog by Steve Bein - Why swords?
Mariko Oshiro is not your average Tokyo cop. As the only female detective in the city’s most elite police unit, she has to fight for every ounce of respect, especially from her new boss. While she wants to track down a rumored cocaine shipment, he gives her the least promising case possible. But the case—the attempted theft of an old samurai sword—proves more dangerous than anyone on the force could have imagined.

The owner of the sword, Professor Yasuo Yamada, says it was crafted by the legendary Master Inazuma, a sword smith whose blades are rumored to have magical qualities. The man trying to steal it already owns another Inazuma—one whose deadly power eventually comes to control all who wield it. Or so says Yamada, and though he has studied swords and swordsmanship all his life, Mariko isn’t convinced.

But Mariko’s skepticism hardly matters. Her investigation has put her on a collision course with a curse centuries old and as bloodthirsty as ever. She is only the latest in a long line of warriors and soldiers to confront this power, and even the sword she learns to wield could turn against her.
PreOrder


Only a Shadow
Fated Blades eNovella
Roc, September 4, 2012
ebook, 59 pages

Guest Blog by Steve Bein - Why swords?
The author of Daughter of the Sword takes readers to feudal Japan, where men and empires rise and fall by the sword…

The Tiger on the Mountain is a legendary blade, crafted by the master sword smith Inazuma, and reputed to possess magical powers. In 1442 Japan, the sword dwells inside the impregnable fortress of Hirata Nobushige, the enemy of the Iga clan.

Venerable shinobi Jujiro has recruited the brave young ninja Tada to steal the sword and restore power to the Iga clan. If Tada is successful, he’ll go from being the clan’s orphaned ward to a legend for the ages—and he’ll be able to ask for Old Jujiro’s granddaughter’s hand in marriage. If he fails, the clan will be annihilated.

Getting inside the castle is next to impossible—getting out is inconceivable. But as Tada prepares himself for one of the boldest thefts in history, the greatest obstacle he faces may just prove to be himself…

Don’t miss Daughter of the Sword, the first Novel of the Fated Blades!
PreOrder




About Steve

Guest Blog by Steve Bein - Why swords?
Steve Bein is a philosopher, martial artist, climber, photographer, diver, world traveler, and award-winning sci fi and fantasy author. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Interzone, as a winner in the Writers of the Future contest, and in international translation. Daughter of the Sword, his first novel, has already received critical acclaim, including (most recently) a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

Steve divides his time between Rochester, Minnesota, and Rochester, New York, where he is a visiting professor of Asian philosophy and Asian history at SUNY-Geneseo. His other academic interests include bioethics, which led him to a brief stint as a visiting researcher at the Mayo Clinic, environmental philosophy, which led him to see polar bears in Canada and penguins in Antarctica, and philosophy and science fiction, which leads him everywhere else in the universe.

Please visit Steve at www.philosofiction.com. If you like Steve on Facebook, you can receive an autographed sampler from Ace and Roc featuring the first two chapters of Daughter of the Sword. You can also find a preview of Daughter of the Sword in the companion novella, Only a Shadow, which goes on sale tomorrow.
Interview with Steve Bein, author of The Fated Blades series- April 7, 2015Steve Bein's Daughter of the Sword Blog Tour - Japanese Police Work 101 Interview with Steve Bein, author of Daughter of the Sword - October 2, 2012Guest Blog by Steve Bein - Why swords?

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