Haiku Author Interview: John Shors

Posted: under Reviews.
Tags: , , July 6th, 2009

by Kelly

by Kelly

After reading the novel Beside a Burning Sea, which incorporates haiku into its storyline, I just had to contact author John Shors and ask him how the book came to be.

Here’s our interview . . .

How did you become familiar with haiku?

After graduating from college, I taught English in Kyoto, Japan, for more than two years. It was in Japan where I first became intrigued with haiku and the beauty contained in this unique form of poetry.

The copyright date on Beside a Burning Sea is 2008. Even though this is a historical novel set during World War II, it is also a contemporary novel in that its readers are of today’s world. Sadly, poetry doesn’t command a huge readership in the United States. What sort of a response have you had from your readers about the haiku in this book?

I have had a wonderful response from readers with regard to the haiku in Beside a Burning Sea.

I’d say that, on average, I receive two or three emails a week from readers, within which they’ve written their own haiku.

I’ve also spoken with many book clubs and listened to people read their haikus to me. These events represent an unexpected but enjoyable reaction to my novel. I feel fortunate to have inspired readers to create their own haiku.

Did you know that haiku would play a part of this story when you sat down to write Beside a Burning Sea or did the haiku thread develop later?

From the start, I wanted haiku to be an important part of my novel. I’d never seen a novel that contained so many original poems, and as a writer, I was excited about the idea of populating my book with a variety of haiku that would serve to move the plot forward.

Beside a Burning Sea is a thick novel with long chapters, however, each one starts with a haiku, which by its nature is very short. Was it hard for you to switch back and forth between these two writing styles?

Writing the haiku was my favorite part of the book.

I edited Beside a Burning Sea twenty times, so I looked at each haiku at least that much. Sometimes I would change a word or two, but for the most part, the haiku remained similar to what they had been when I created them.

In terms of the transition into the longer chapters, this wasn’t a big deal. The haiku at the start of each chapter set the tone for me, and I followed that tone until the end of the chapter.

Do novel writing and haiku writing have anything in common?

Well, I like to think that my writing style has a lyrical quality to it, and from that perspective, yes, writing a haiku and a novel aren’t that different — at least for me.

I’m now working on my fourth novel, which also contains a series of poems. While these poems aren’t haiku, I so enjoyed writing poetry that I wanted to repeat the process. It’s fun for me to weave poems into my novels, and readers seem to connect with them. Hopefully that will remain the case.

Thanks, John!

Learn more at the Beside a Burning Sea web site.

Find it on Amazon: Beside a Burning Sea

You might also want to read John Shors other books.

Beneath a Marble Sky is the love story behind the building of the Taj Mahal.

The Dragon House, to be released August 2009, is about two American travelers in Vietnam who are trying to organize a charity to help local street children.


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