Hey everyone! Welcome to my stop on the 2016 Debut Authors Bash! I’m excited to be hosting Kathleen Burkinshaw, author of The Last Cherry Blossom (August 2, 2016 – Sky Pony Press). This book takes place during an incredibly painful and heartbreaking event in history: the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. It’s SO important that we learn from our past, so I’m REALLY excited to share with you this enlightening interview with Kathleen. First, here’s the chilling cover and synopsis:
Following the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, this is a new, very personal story to join Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.
Yuriko was happy growing up in Hiroshima when it was just her and Papa. But her aunt Kimiko and her cousin Genji are living with them now, and the family is only getting bigger with talk of a double marriage! And while things are changing at home, the world beyond their doors is even more unpredictable. World War II is coming to an end, and Japan’s fate is not entirely clear, with any battle losses being hidden fom its people. Yuriko is used to the sirens and the air-raid drills, but things start to feel more real when the neighbors who have left to fight stop coming home. When the bomb hits Hiroshima, it’s through Yuriko’s twelve-year-old eyes that we witness the devastation and horror.
This is a story that offers young readers insight into how children lived during the war, while also introducing them to Japanese culture. Based loosely on author Kathleen Burkinshaw’s mother’s firsthand experience surviving the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, The Last Cherry Blossom hopes to warn readers of the immense damage nuclear war can bring, while reminding them that the “enemy” in any war is often not so different from ourselves.
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And now here’s the interview!
Question: The Last Cherry Blossom covers a very dark period in history – the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. In your own words, why is it important for young readers to learn about this period in history? Was it difficult to balance being truthful without being too brutal?
Answer: As the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are dwindling, it is important for the younger generation- our future voters to be aware of the danger in using nuclear weapons.
Yes, I definitely wanted to honor the memories of my mother as well as portraying the horrific reality of that day. However, in order to do that, I did work with my editors on various ways to write the descriptions of what my mother witnessed. I’m very pleased with the final outcome.
Question: Can you discuss the parallels/similarities and differences between the changes happening in Yuriko’s home life and the changes happening in her world/Japan?
Answer: Yuriko, like many of us do not like change. There will be new family members in her family soon. Other families are experiencing change when they are losing loved ones to the war effort. When secrets are revealed in Yuriko’s family her sense of stability is lost. Meanwhile, Japan’s fate is not entirely clear. As the war drags on, Yuriko along with other families begin to think about the unsettling possibility that Japan may lose.
Question: What’s the significance of the title and how does it relate to the story?
Answer: One of my mother’s favorite celebrations was Sakura hanami (the cherry blossom festival). I believe it stood out also because it was the last ‘normal’ celebration with family and friends before the atomic bomb dropped. She loved the fragrance of the cherry blossom. After the bomb dropped and the smoke scent invaded her senses,she couldn’t help thinking that she would never enjoy the fragrance of or that happiness in celebrating cherry blossoms..
Question: The cover is haunting yet gorgeous. Where did the concept for the design come from? Did you have any say in it? Do you feel it accurately represents your story?
Answer: I had submitted a mood board to my editor with various covers of other books that I liked. I had hoped it would be mostly in black and white and a pop of color. But all the credit goes to the cover artist Katy Betz. She created the design and when I first saw it the one word was stunning! I would never have envisioned it, but she completely and skillfully captured the emotion of beauty coming from the ashes.
Question: What’s the most important lesson you hope your readers take away with them after reading The Last Cherry Blossom?
Answer: That nuclear weapons should not be used on any country for any reason because each person that was under those famous mushroom clouds on August 6th and 9th were someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, or child.
Question: According to the synopsis and your bio, The Last Cherry Blossom is based partly on your mother’s first hand experience surviving the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. How much of the story is based on her story? What other research did you do while writing this story?
Answer: About 80% of the events in the novel are based on her life. But the description of the day of and days immediately following the atomic bomb are 100% from her own horrific experience in August 1945.
I researched many books on survivor accounts as well as the history of the war in Japan and how it affected the people in their daily lives.
Question: Craziest thing you’ve had to Google for a work in progress?
Answer: Where would a bride of a samurai store her weapon on her wedding day? And Were there movies about mummies in Japan before or during WWII?
Question: Are you working on anything new?
Answer: Yes, I’m at the very early stage of writing another historical fiction story.
And now for the giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a few bookmarks and a signed ARC. Giveaway is US only. To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter below!
About the Author:
I am a writer, a wife, and a mom of an 19-year- old daughter. I have a dog who is a kitchen ninja. I also live with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), a neurological chronic pain disease. Nurturing my creative side does not take away my pain, but it helps me to push through it and live my life in spite of it.
I have visited middle schools to present my mother’s experience for the past 5 years as I worked on this manuscript. In July 2013, I won 1st place in the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators of the Carolinas’ Writing Contest in the Novel category! in September 2013 Anna Olswanger, of Olswanger Literary LLC, offered me representation.
I am thrilled to announce that on AUGUST 2, 2016, THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM will be published by Skyhorse Publishing, New York City, and coming to a book store near you!!!!!!!.
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I would love to read this book (and share it with my children). My grandfather fought in WWII (and specifically in the Battle of the Bulge – 28th Infantry), as did my great-uncle (who was in Normandy). My grandfather is still alive and we’re spending several weeks with him this summer. Books such as this are such an important part of the world of literature. Most children today do not have any idea what took place during that time – nor do they realize how very close we came to having a much different life.
Thank you so much. How wonderful that you can still time with your grandfather. What he must have endured, I can’t even imagine. Yes, we need to keep these stories alive. Future generations need to know the sacrifices our soldiers, such as your great-uncle and your grandfather made to fight for our country and honor them.
Just as much as to remember that nuclear weapons should never be used again. I hope you enjoy THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM when you read it.
Im so excited for this book!
Zainab, thank you so much!
Thanks for joining the #16DABash
This book sounds amazing! I am so excited to read it!
Thanks so much Mary.
Wow, this sounds amazing! Thank you for sharing it with us!
Thank you Gabriella :)
This book sounds amazing. It is about an important time in history.
Thank you so much Penny.
Love exploring WWII via books with an interesting narrative.
Thank you Sue. I hope you enjoy THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM.
I love historical fiction, especially in the WWII era. To date, I haven’t read a book featuring Japanese characters, so I think it would be a great read for me!
Thank you Amanda. I hope you enjoy this different perspective when you do read it
Kathleen is my cousin she is writing this book based on her mother’s (my aunt’s) experiences during the war. After reading the book I am completely amazed at the experiences my aunt went through. She never discussed her life in Japan. You don’t often think of the innocent people that are the survivors of such a horrific event. The book was so exciting I could not put it down. Thank you Kathy for writing this book.
You are so welcome, Roland. Love you <3