Debut Author Spotlight is a Saturday feature at Book Chick City. We will be showcasing a debut author each week from the genres of horror, urban fantasy and paranormal romance. We will give you all the relevant book information as well as an insight into the author.
Steve Bein teaches Asian philosophy and history at the State University of New York, Geneseo. His short fiction has been published in Asimov’s, Interzone, Writers of the Future, and has been anthologized for use in college courses alongside the works of such figures as Orson Scott Card, Isaac Asimov, and H.G. Wells.
Daughter of the Sword is his first novel. He lives in Rochester, Minnesota.
RELEASE DATE: Oct 2012 | PUBLISHER: Roc | GENRE: Urban Fantasy
Mariko Oshiro has got it tough. As the only female detective on the Tokyo police force, there’s a lot of pressure on her, and her misogynistic commanding officer doesn’t make the job any easier. And then there’s her drug-addicted sister to worry about. Mariko seems to have finally caught a break when an informant tips her off that a new player has arrived on the local drug scene. But instead of working on what might be the biggest drug case in years, she is assigned to a boring property theft—actually, only an attempted theft.
The case turns out to be both more interesting and more dangerous than Mariko bargained for. The item in question, an ancient samurai sword, is the work of a legendary craftsman, whose blades are rumored to possess magical qualities. The thief has one such blade already, one with the power to control all who wield it, and he will stop at nothing to obtain the second. As Mariko struggles to learn to wield a blade herself, she finds herself coming up against a centuries-old curse that’s as bloodthirsty as it is virulent.
What’s DAUGHTER OF THE SWORD about?
It opens with Mariko Oshiro, a detective for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, investigating rumors of a major cocaine shipment. Her lieutenant has it out for her and reassigns her to the least promising case he’s got: the attempted theft of an ancient sword. The sword’s owner, a retired history professor and expert swordsman, says the blade is enchanted. Needless to say, Mariko doesn’t believe in that sort of thing.
The problem is, she’s wrong. This is one of three surviving blades from the forge of Master Inazuma, Japan’s greatest sword smith (and therefore the greatest sword smith in history). All three blades have the power to sway men’s souls, and they have exerted their influence over the course of human events for nearly a thousand years.
The book is primarily Mariko’s, but glimpses into Japan’s past show the three Inazuma blades at work, here in the hands of a samurai warrior, there in the hands of a WWII intelligence officer. (There’s a companion novella too, Only a Shadow, which tells the tale of Japan’s deadliest ninja clan and its attempt to steal one of the fated blades.) All of these stories have bearing on what happens to Mariko in the modern day. I won’t spoil anything, except to say that you might want to cue up the Kill Bill soundtrack. There’s more than one samurai showdown.
Tell us a bit more about the heroine in DAUGHTER OF THE SWORD.
There are four protagonists, each appearing at different points in history, but here I’ll just focus on Mariko.
As the first woman to make detective and sergeant in Tokyo’s most elite police unit, Mariko is a standout, with all the positive and negative connotations that come with that. I love Mariko, and I think my readers will too, but her commanding officer doesn’t share the sentiment. He’s pretty insecure after riding a desk for many years, so a hotshot up-and-comer is threatening to him. Besides that, he’s a misogynist pig, so a strong woman is threatening to him. That makes Mariko the target of all his pettiness and vitriol. Add to that the fact that she works in a male-dominated profession and her life isn’t easy.
She also spent a lot of her formative years in the US, effectively making her a foreigner in her own country. Lots of Japanese people experience this, actually. For example, when I lived in Japan, getting certain promotions with Toyota required an executive to spend time in an American plant, and those execs came back “tarnished,” so to speak. So they got their promotions, but they also got ostracized. Mariko feels that kind of alienation on a daily basis.
How did you research DAUGHTER OF THE SWORD?
It certainly helped that I lived in Japan for a few years. I’ve also got a good friend who’s a cop, and he gets a lot of phone calls from me as I’m polishing a manuscript. I did a series of interviews with female cops in order to get a better understanding of their perspective. One of those was Diana Rowland, who in addition to having a police background is also a prolific writer. Having a resource who also understands writing is invaluable.
But prior to the interviews, the online research, the background reading, all of that good stuff, I’ve been fascinated with Japan for many years. My first exposure wasn’t what you’d call genuine—it was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which I discovered in fourth or fifth grade—but my love of ninja and samurai stories blossomed into a real appreciation of Kurosawa, of the beauty of impermanence you see in so much Japanese art, of the language, the culture, all of it. I got into martial arts, I studied Japanese philosophy in college and grad school, and now I teach courses in Japanese history, Japanese religion, and Japanese philosophy. What can I say? I just love the stuff. After that, a lot of the research just sort of takes care of itself.
Is DAUGHTER OF THE SWORD the first in a series or a stand alone?
It was written as a stand-alone but has blossomed into a series. In terms of actual publication date, the first installation of the series isn’t the novel; it’s the novella, Only a Shadow, which Roc is releasing as an eSpecial this September. Daughter of the Sword comes out in October, and Year of the Demon (the tentative title for book two of the Fated Blades) is due to hit shelves next fall.
When is your favourite time to write?
Late at night. I need the quiet.
Where is your favourite place to write?
My hammock, under the big tree in my yard. That’s a little rough in the winter, so then my office works just fine.
What was the last book you read and enjoyed?
I’m infatuated with China Mieville’s work these days. I’m reading Kraken at the moment. Before that was The Iron Council, which is absolutely terrific.
Which authors do you admire?
China Mieville for his ability to make me feel his settings. Neal Stephenson as the master of rising tension. Tolkien and Frank Herbert for world-building, and George R.R. Martin for taking that world-building and suffusing it with moral compromises, shading over the black and white with gray. Elizabeth McCracken for sheer beauty of prose. Helen Dewitt on the same count, and also for characterization. Jim Butcher for the really fun romps. Milan Kundera for blending prose seamlessly with philosophy.
Describe yourself in five words
Too verbose for this question.
I’m just putting the final touches on book two of the Fated Blades series. After that, it’s all about book three!