I mentioned yesterday in my review of The Peony Lantern that we were able to ask questions to Frances Watts as we read along. Here are the Q&As (excluding spoilers). I’ve also removed names except for mine or Frances.
Q: Frances, love the cover for The Peony Lantern! Did you choose it?
A: So glad you like it! It’s all the work of the wonderful designer at HarperCollins – with some special criteria I supplied to make sure the girl was true to Kasumi in the book.
Q: The haiku are beautiful! Did you write them, Frances?
A: I did write the haiku, Tien – thank you so much for noticing them!
Q: Did you write the haiku after the book? Is there a particular reason there are haiku? Is it just to replace headings? Or just to set the atmosphere for the chapter?
A: I did write the haiku last – I liked the idea of including a form of literature unique to Japan and, as you suggest, Tien, felt they would add to the atmosphere. That marriage of simplicity and minimalism with depth makes haiku so beautiful.
Left: Setting for chapter 1 ~ the village of Tsumago
Right: The torii at the foot of the shrine
Q: Are there actually 65 steps there? Did you count or was it a local knowledge? Is that a significant number?
A: Yes, there are 65 steps (I counted) but I don’t think the number was significant. I just liked that the shrine was high above the village, in the trees, and wanted to give a sense of the climb.
Left: The Torii pass on the Nakasendo Highway (chapter 3)
Right: A summer kimono – note the cooling design
Q: Is the story about the samurai and the servant and the broken plate based on a real
A: The story about the samurai, the servant and the broken plate is an actual Japanese
Q: I was trying to look up an image of a peony lantern but all I get is the ghost story… is a peony lantern different from a normal lantern? How?
A: A peony lantern is basically a lantern with peonies painted on the rice paper. If you google images of “peony lantern” you can find illustrations of the story with the lantern pictured. (There are lots of variations.)
Q: Frances, is it a low – born female thing back then? That they’re not being taught to read / write.
A: I’m afraid educating low-born girls wasn’t a priority – especially in the country areas.
Q: Do you have any pics of Edo?
A: And here’s an amazing fact: Edo is what Tokyo was called until 1868, when the shogunate ended.
Q: is there any significance to this painting other than the feeling that it triggered in Kasumi? I thought, at first, it’s somewhat equivalent to “Playboy” or something lol Please correct me, Frances hahaha… in my defence, Isamu is a teen & a boy ;p
A: Interesting question about the beauty print! The women were fully dressed, I can assure you! I think Isamu’s interest was artistic
Q: Oh I realise they’re fully dressed but the mention of the way the line was of the neck etc… made it sound a little more risqué ;p
A: The bare nape of the neck was considered rather risqué!
Left: The inscription is the artist’s description of seeing the moon on a beautiful night in mid-autumn.
Right: A kaiawase
Frances Watts was born in Switzerland and grew up in Australia. She has published 20 books for children, including picture books and books for younger readers, including Goodnight Mice!, the winner of the 2012 Prime Minister’s Award for Children’s Fiction, and 2008 Children’s Book Council of Australia award-winnerParsley Rabbit’s Book about Books. Her latest book, The Raven’s Wing, is her first novel for young adults. Frances lives in Sydney and divides her time between writing and editing.
Pictured on left: Frances on her research tour in Tokyo; in front of a temple in Ueno Park
My thanks to Frances Watts and the ladies at Read3r’Z Re-Vu