Kristi Charish is the author of the upcoming urban fantasy Owl and the Japanese Circus. In addition to being an author, she is a scientist with a BSc and MSc from Simon Fraser University in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and a PhD in Zoology from the University of British Columbia. Her specialties are genetics, cell biology, and molecular biology, all of which she uses in her writing. She has also been a scientific consultant for other projects such as Diana Rowland: The White Trash Zombie series.
FangirlNation: Where does the name for Mr. Kurosawa’s casino come from?
Kristi Charish: When I first sat down to write OWL, I started with an old writing prompt exercise I had lying around; when death’s clowns came for me. The goal had been to start a story from that line. As Owl progressed and took shape, the original prompt line was edited out, but the ‘clowns’ part stayed with me, eventually inspiring the name for the casino, The Japanese Circus.
FGN: How did your scientific background play into your work in Owl and the Japanese Circus?
KC: Hugely! Though I’ll be the first to admit science isn’t the first thing that pops to mind when I think urban fantasy. My background in research played a big role in developing the rules that govern Owl’s world, particularly when deciding what creatures I wanted to use.
Regardless of area of expertise, research scientists are trained to look for and analyze patterns (imaginary – like Owl’s world – or otherwise). I also had fun using my biology background to add details – like vampires using narcotic aromatic pheromones to incapacitate their victims. There are a few other places in the book I use my background to add (hopefully!) more realistic details, but telling you would give away spoilers!
FGN: Why give Owl a background in archaeology?
KC: Because growing up I not so secretly wanted to be Indiana Jones!
Seriously though, I did grow up watching the Indy movies and when I first enrolled at Simon Fraser University started in the Archaeology and Anthropology program.
It wasn’t Indiana Jones. I think I knew that was going to be the case when I started, but it took a while for the reality to set in. I guess in a lot of ways I’m living out my undergrad, Indiana Jones fantasies vicariously through Owl 😉
FGN: How much research into mythology did you do before writing? Are there particular sources you would recommend for those curious about mythology?
KC: A surprising amount considering how little of it ended up in the final manuscript J. The majority of my research was on creatures in Japanese and Balinese mythology. A lot of the groundwork served as inspiration and insight into how certain creatures might behave, and even though I take artistic license with the monsters, it helped me layer in a substantial amount of real mythology.
As far as resources go, I recommend starting with Wikipedia and Google searches, with the following caveat: not all source material on the Internet is created equal. You really have to weed through the source material and figure out which leads are worth chasing down. Another fantastic resource for Balinese mythology in particular was archaeology texts, which often address the mythology when discussing history.
FGN: What is the most interesting discovery you have made while researching?
KC: Depends what kind of research- real world genetics or mythology? J With respect to mythology, I would have to say it was looking at the different creatures found throughout Japanese mythology and how much they vary from Western creatures. I was also blown away that one of the Balinese mountains mentioned in the book was originally named after a dragon.
FGN: What are some of your best memories of reading?
Like most authors I’ve been an avid reader all my life. My best memories of reading are from the boxes of old sci-fi and adventures books my dad gave me when I was a teenager. I also loved the Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce and devoured James Clavell’s Taipan and King Rat while in high school. I read Taipan at least five times, probably more. If there was a good adventure to be had chances are the book would brighten my day.
FGN: Owl had a nightmarish graduate student experience. What was yours like?
KC: Mine was awesome! I visit my old PhD lab often and still have a few experiments running on the side for an upcoming paper. And they’ve all read Owl!
But, there were always stories whispered in dark corners of conferences and over drinks at convention parties. Labs where supervisors pit grad students and post docs against one another, where whoever got to the research finish line first was rewarded with their PhD’s and coveted lab positions, and the loser would be flunked out spectacularly during comprehension exams. Labs where fly stocks were stolen and over weekend experiments sabotaged. It was those stories, always told in hushed voices out of supervisor earshot, that inspired Owl’s grad school experiences.
FGN: Where can people find your work?
People can find my work on Amazon, Chapters, Barnes and Noble, iTunes and most other major ebook/paperback retailers. They can also read serialized stories for free on my Wattpad page where I try to post every few weeks.
FGN: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions!
Thanks for having me!
Owl and the Japanese Circus comes out January 13th 2015 from Simon & Schuster.
Ex-archaeology grad student turned international antiquities thief, Alix—better known now as Owl—has one rule. No supernatural jobs. Ever. Until she crosses paths with Mr. Kurosawa, a red dragon who owns and runs the Japanese Circus Casino in Las Vegas. He insists Owl retrieve an artifact stolen three thousand years ago, and makes her an offer she can’t refuse: he’ll get rid of a pack of vampires that want her dead. A dragon is about the only entity on the planet that can deliver on Owl’s vampire problem – and let’s face it, dragons are known to eat the odd thief.
Owl retraces the steps of Mr. Kurosawa’s ancient thief from Japan to Bali with the help of her best friend, Nadya, and an attractive mercenary. As it turns out though, finding the scroll is the least of her worries. When she figures out one of Mr. Kurosawa’s trusted advisors is orchestrating a plan to use a weapon powerful enough to wipe out a city, things go to hell in a hand basket fast…and Owl has to pick sides.