S.J. Pajonas is the author of the Japan inspired SF romance series, THE NOGIKU SERIES. She has recently released book 4 RECLAIMED. S.J. Pajonas also writes short stories and contemporary romances. The first in the series, REMOVED is currently free on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, and All Romance eBooks.
Thanks to her for stopping by for a visit.
RK: What inspired you to write a series based on Japan and Japanese culture?
SJ: I’ve been in love with Japan since my early twenties, ever since I was introduced to Hayao Miyazaki and his amazing films, so in my time off from college, I started studying everything I could about Japan. I read books, saw movies, and did everything I could to gather information on such a wonderful and diverse culture. When I moved to New York City, I was finally able to take Japanese language classes and progressed through six years of language lessons until I was comfortable enough to travel there. My husband and I visited Japan in 2005 and I’ll admit I didn’t want to go home. I loved it there! I didn’t get the idea to actually use Japan in my writing until after the earthquake and tsunami that hit the Tohoku region in 2011. I was devastated for everyone there and couldn’t pull myself away from the news. The clean up process was so fast and amazing, though! I thought, “If anyone is going to survive the end of the world, it’ll be the Japanese.” And my story idea was born!
RK: Can you tell us about your journey to publication?
SJ: I wrote the first two books in the series before querying for agents. When I got my agent, she did a great job of submitting REMOVED to all the publishers, but they were inundated with YA dystopian literature (this series was YA first). Though the responses from editors were overwhelmingly positive, they all said no because they were already publishing similar books. My agent and I parted ways, I aged up the characters into their twenties, edited, and self-published instead. I really like being an independent author, so I’m glad I made this move!
RK: How do you use social media to interact with fans and other writers? What has been your experience as a self published writer?
SJ: I use social media to be social, and I rarely use it for any other purpose. I am myself on Facebook and Twitter, and when people talk to me there, I just stay true to who I am. I occasionally let people know about sales in those channels, but in general, I use social media to post cute photos of foxes, photos or articles on Japan, or to talk about the latest vegetables I got in my CSA box. All totally relevant to my life! 😉
RK: What inspires your characters? What do you feel is important in creating a strong heroine and/or hero?
SJ: In general, I always start a book with an idea of what I want and how I want my characters to be. I concentrate on the kind of people they are, and then, and this is my favorite piece of writing advice, I use astrology to fill in the blanks. I knew for the Nogiku Series, I wanted Sanaa to be strong and opinionated, but she would also feel strong obligations to her friends and family. I chose to make her a Capricorn and drew strengths and weaknesses from that sign. So when I had to choose the kind of person her love interest was, I chose Scorpio, and I based Jiro’s personalities on traditional Scorpio traits. For my next contemporary romance, SUMMER HAIKUS, I wanted to make Isa a Virgo from the get-go, and a lot of my character decisions revolved around that desire.
As for creating strong heroines, I just try to imagine all of my heroines making their own decisions, even if they’re afraid or not to act on those decisions, they have the agency to make them. I also try to make them whole people, with wants and need of their own, thoughts, dreams, and desires. I believe that’s usually enough to signal my heroines are strong and can carry the story all by themselves.
RK: Could you tell us a bit about your upcoming projects?
SJ: I just completed The Nogiku Series and I have a companion novella for that I plan on publishing later this year. Then later this summer I have a contemporary romance, SUMMER HAIKUS, I’m set to publish as well. This particular novel is a New Adult Romance and takes place mostly in Tokyo. It’s a friends-to-lovers romance and even incorporates the Summer Olympics. I love it! This summer I plan to start writing my next Japan-inspired scifi romance series. I’m sketchy on the details (I haven’t plotted it out yet) but I think it’ll be three books and take place on a planet once colonized by Japanese citizens (I refer to this planet in The Nogiku Series, so the two series would be tenuously connected but stand on their own).
And a few fun questions….
RK: Which would you rather be able to do: read minds or see other people’s dreams?
SJ: I find dreams in general really fascinating (I just wrote a blog post on this topic!) so I think I would rather see other people’s dreams.
RK: If you were an evil super-villain what would be your name and your ultimate weapon?
SJ: I think I want to be a ninja. Lol. Big surprise there! And my super power would be the ability to climb anything because that is something I really wish I could do. And my favorite color is purple so maybe Kumo No Murasaki. Yeah. I dig it.
Thanks for having me today! It was fun to answer all of these questions!