Laura Joh Rowland is the author of The Snow Empress, her 12th mystery set in 17th-century Japan to feature Sano Ichiro, a high official in the shogun court.
How do you go about doing your research?
I do a lot of my research in history books and period literature. I do less on the Internet, as I’ve found much of that material to be superficial. I’ve had to wade through a lot of Web sites where people are selling products to get useful information.
Have you been surprised by how the series has developed?
What has surprised me the most is how many characters keep adding themselves to the cast. I didn’t have any set plans as to who was going to be featured in the series because in the beginning, I just cast the first book. I gave Sano a wife in the second book, and now he has a sidekick and various enemies.
Unusually for a woman of the period, Sano’s wife, Reiko, helps him solve crimes. Why did you decide to put her in a nontraditional role?
I wanted a lot of energy between them, and I thought that a good way to do that would be to have Reiko serve as his partner in detection. Since Sano is in many ways a traditional person, I knew that would be hard for him to accept. It’s all the more exciting for me to write about the couple when there’s conflict between them—and for my readers, too.
Why do you start with a prologue scene depicting the crime?
It adds an element of mystery because it tends to concern characters that the readers aren’t necessarily familiar with. The prologue removes the action a little from the detective and gives him something to work his way toward.
Why did you decide to write your next novel about Charlotte Brontë?
The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Brontë [due in March 2008] is a historical suspense novel that gives the real-life author the adventure that she always craved but never really had, even though she did lead an interesting life. This is my tribute to her and my love of Victorian literature. It may be the start of a new series; I’m waiting to see how well this one does. I have two more Sano books to finish before I can do anything else, and the Brontë book was extremely long in the making. I love the character and the period, and have a lot of ideas about where I’d like to go with this.