#PubDay Author Interview | Discovering a new voice in war drama [Andrew Lam] and a lovely new #IndiePub in the process (Tiny Fox Press) – “Repentance” celebrates its #bookbirthday, today!

Posted Wednesday, 1 May, 2019 by jorielov , , 2 Comments

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Hallo, Hallo dear hearts,

As you know, I love reading a heap of Historical Fiction throughout the year – I’ve had to pull back from reading certain kinds of war dramas these past several years, ever since I read Citadel and found myself unable to ‘let go’ of the haunting story of what happened during that period of the war after I concluded my readings of it. It was a firm reminder that we all have limitations in our readerly lives and it also, encouraged me to seek out the writers who are writing human interest stories set during the war generation as much as the stories on the homefront or the after effects of war in the ensuing years following the end of WWII.

I have previously read a Historical drama set round the internment of the Japanese in America during WWII – it opened my eyes to what they went through but also, how I hadn’t learnt nearly enough in school to see a fuller picture of what was going on during the forties and how there are hidden pockets of information kept just out of reach until we find a writer who can bridge the past to the present – re-affirming a lost generation’s truth and instilling us with a memory of the past which bears reckoning to acknowledge in the present. This first story I read was called “How Much Do You Love Me?” by Paul Mark Tag – it is keenly insightful and I loved how he paced the revelations of what is disclosed. You truly feel jettisoned back to a time where Japanese were dealing with the impossible and where the mindset in America was not as it is today..

This is the second novel I’ve found highlighting this hidden history and I was thankful it also lead me to discovering a new #IndiePub at the same time! I am always overjoyed whenever I find a new publisher in the Indie side of publishing as I love championing Independent Press & Publishers who are publishing the stories which might have become overlooked by larger publishers of the same genre(s) of interest.

I wanted to have a healthy conversation to begin my journey into “Repentance” inasmuch as the fact, I was blessed with the ability to kick-off the blog tour! As you will soon read – Dr Lam and I openly discuss the key components of his novel alongside his writing process and what motivates him as a Historical novelist. It is a wonderful conversation which roots you into his passion for war dramas but also, highlights how the stories of the people are an illumination of hope and strength for all of us.

Be sure to brew your favourite cuppa, sit in a comfy chair and enjoy where the conversation leads! If your a reader of Historical novels & war dramas, I hope this conversation might encourage you to pick up this novel. Also, how lovely is it the tour begins on “Repentance”‘s #bookbirthday!?

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#PubDay Author Interview | Discovering a new voice in war drama [Andrew Lam] and a lovely new #IndiePub in the process (Tiny Fox Press) – “Repentance” celebrates its #bookbirthday, today!Repentance Interview (Andrew Lam)
by Andrew Lam

France, October 1944. A Japanese American war hero has a secret.

A secret so awful he’d rather die than tell anyone–one so entwined with the brave act that made him a hero that he’s determined never to speak of the war. Ever.

Decades later his son, Daniel Tokunaga, a world-famous cardiac surgeon, is perplexed when the U.S. government comes calling, wanting to know about his father’s service with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during WWII. Something terrible happened while his father was fighting the Germans in France, and the Department of Defense won’t stop its investigation until it’s determined exactly who did what.

Wanting answers of his own, Daniel upends his life to find out what his father did on a small, obscure hilltop half a world away. As his quest for the truth unravels his family’s catastrophic past, the only thing for certain is that nothing–his life, career, and family–can ever be the same again.

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781946501127

Also by this author: Repentance

Genres: Historical Fiction, War Drama


Published by Tiny Fox Press

on 1st May, 2019

Published By: Tiny Fox Press (@TinyFoxPress)

Formats Available: Trade Paperback and Ebook

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I have a particular interest in reading war dramas – however, I’ve shifted my focus into human interest stories from the war generations and/or stories of the homefront moreso than direct narratives set at war. What interested me most about your novel is how you’ve presented a curious question suspending through a narrative anchoured to WWII. What originally inspired the story behind “Repentance” and what did you hope readers who love reading war dramas would recognize as uniquely different about how you approached writing this story?

Lam responds: Great question. My inspiration for the novel was the amazing true story of WWII’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which became the most decorated unit in U.S. military history. The 442nd was a segregated unit of Japanese American soldiers that fought with uncommon valor in Europe while many of them had families unjustly incarcerated in internment camps (like Manzanar) at home. They fought ferociously to prove they were just as loyal as other Americans.

But you’re right, I DID want to do something very different. Because there are already many books and even movies that pay homage to these heroes, I did not want my novel to simply glorify the soldiers and victimize the internees. My goal was to humanize the Japanese American WWII experience. So, instead of writing a novel about a “hero,” I wrote one about a coward. I’ve tried to show how combat can make ordinary men behave in surprising and unexpected ways, some good, some bad, and how the effects of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) can adversely affect veterans and their families for the rest of their lives. I’ve tried to humanize this history, which I hope makes the sacrifices of our WWII heroes even more poignant.

What did you feel was the most challenging aspect of creating this story-line? The historical perspectives, the characters or the keeping the illusion of suspense threading in the background of the story before the revelations at the conclusion? 

Lam responds: One of my first goals was to keep the novel concise. I actually made a goal of writing short chapters because I never wanted to reader to get bogged down. I wanted each scene to be straightforward and crisp, like watching a movie. The challenge to this approach is that there is then little room to spare for gratuitous character development. I had to develop each character enough so that readers would care about each and understand each one’s motives, concerns and backstory, but I really wanted the story to move swiftly—because, as you alluded to, the key to this novel is the methodical revelation of secrets that occur in a specific sequence and build suspense, keeping the reader guessing and unsure of what might happen next. Doing all this, and fitting it within the context of the true and dramatic history of the 442nd, is probably the most challenging aspect I encountered. It took a lot of re-writes to get it right.

Your story is rooted inside a tale of a father and son – which of their back-stories and personalities did you find arising in your mind to create first and how did you set about making them feel alive inside the story?

Lam responds: The most complex figure in the story is the father. I had to perfect his portrayal before accomplishing anything else. This is a war hero who made a terrible mistake during the war. A mistake so entwined with the brave act that made him a hero that he’s refused to speak of the war—ever. This man spends the rest of his life trying to atone for what he did, at great cost to himself and his family. On top of that, he is crippled by PTSD, a condition I understood well from my experience as a physician. I wanted to show how debilitating PTSD can be, that it can actually change people’s personalities, and that sometimes the worst wounds from combat are not visible on the outside.

As this is your second war drama and your third book (as the second is about being an eye surgeon) – what do you love most about writing these kinds of stories which seek to re-humble our understandings of war and the stories which sometimes can become lost afterwards?

Lam responds: My writing stems from my love of history. My goal as a writer is to shine a light on fascinating topics in American history that are not well known, but deserve to be. That’s my passion. I wrote my first novel, Two Sons of China, to highlight the American war in China during WWII. I wrote Repentance because I wanted everyone to know about the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. One of the most satisfying moments for me as a writer occurs when readers tell me they loved learning the history in my books even though they’d always been a person who’d “hated” history in school.

How important was it to show this generational shift in understanding and perspective between Daniel and his father? How did you approach setting down the bones of their rift and their disconnection from each other?

Lam responds: I do not think I could have done a convincing job describing the strained relationship between Daniel and his father if I was not Asian American myself. My own upbringing was not emotionally abusive, as Daniel’s was, but there are certain sensibilities common to Asian households that I felt confident in portraying in these characters, such as: the value of education, the importance of achievement, that honor and reputation can be paramount, and that, especially in prior generations, fathers’ wishes are the law because the culture is paternalistic. In some ways, these characteristics are common to many immigrant groups as they first arrive in America. The first generation is concerned with economic security and establishing themselves. Later generations may attain that security, but then find their kids less frugal, less ambitious, and with far more life options available to them than prior generations.

The title of this novel eludes to the key message of its dramatic heart – how did you anchour the reader through the psychological and emotional aspects of your character’s journey? Was it through re-painting the past and shifting to the present to see how Daniel’s father had come through the war itself or was it mostly re-visiting how Daniel perceived his father – first as a child and young adult and then as an adult whose a doctor?

Lam responds: It was both. There are several parallel “journeys’ going on throughout the novel. And the word “repentance” pertains to each one in different ways. One journey is the father’s. We see that he is dramatically different before the war and after the war. By going back and forth between WWII and the 1990’s, we gradually learn what happened and what he did in combat that was so terrible. And “repentance” certainly reflects all he tries to do to atone for his sins.

But just as important is Daniel’s journey and his perception of his father, which starts out as loathsome, then gets even worse, and finally changes into something else. Daniel’s need for “repentance” pertains to his marriage, and perhaps to his father as well.

And I felt that America’s history with regard to Japanese internment was like another “journey” in the novel as well. We see what life was like for Japanese American families before, during and after internment; and in a national sense, the word “repentance” certainly seems applicable when we consider the mistakes that were committed.

I was quite curious what inspired Daniel to become a cardiac surgeon – as to me it felt like a hidden metaphor within the story-line itself. He’s a heart doctor but his own heart needs to be healed through the unknowns of the past which still are afflicting his father – almost as if this is a story fuelling a healing odyssey for both father and son where science cannot reach. What can you share about choosing to give him this profession and how it might elude to the layers of evolving interest within the story?

Lam responds: You’re right. This is a man who has power over the human heart. But he cannot control what is in his own heart, which is variably full of hatred, love, fear, courage, resentment, indecision, and remorse. But to be honest, the real reason I chose for him to be a cardiac surgeon is because I became enthralled with the field as a medical student.

There are times in medical training that are so dramatic and breathtaking that one might easily think to oneself, “God did not intend for me to be seeing this, or doing this.” This happened to me when I watched cardiac surgery for the first time—when I held a beating heart in my hand; when we stopped the heart by pouring a bucket of ice into the chest (the patient’s circulation was maintained via a heart-lung machine); and when we shocked the heart back to life using electric paddles. These images are impossible for me to forget. And that’s why I greatly enjoyed describing the work of a cardiac surgeon in Repentance.

And, as a surgeon myself, I am very familiar with the intensity of surgical training and the strain this can put on a marriage or a family. A surgeon has to be incredibly confident, for he or she is literally violating a patient’s body; but a surgeon must also be humble, because failures are inevitable, and often devastating because the stakes are always very high. Knowing all of this from personal experience, I wanted to convey it through my characters.

When did you start writing and what was the key motivating interest towards focusing on narratives set at war? 

Lam responds: I started writing my first novel during my surgical training. In the midst of that intense period of my life, I still wanted to find a way to share my love of history—and the expertise I’d gained from my college studies—with others (I studied military history at Yale before going to medical school). I also liked being able to be creative and use my imagination at a time when most of my waking hours were spent in the operating room or studying medicine.

I’m most passionate about WWII history, which is why my novels are based on that.

On a personal note – as my father has nonoperational cataracts – are there any moments as a doctor of sight which frustrate you about the short-comings of the field or do you foresee a time where in the future, some of the limitations of today might become alleviated through new understandings of how to address the conditions of today?

Lam responds: I wrote a book called Saving Sight about the amazing history of ophthalmology and the heroes who struggled to invent the tools we use to save sight today. As a retina surgeon, I am very grateful to the innovators who preceded me, many of whom were initially mocked and ridiculed for their new-fangled ideas.

That said, all surgeons fail. I certainly have. There are times when I have to tell a patient that he or she has gone blind and there is nothing else I can do except express sympathy. This is part of the responsibility of being a physician, and I think it always will be, no matter how many future advancements are made.

But the future is certainly bright. Medical technology has advanced at an exponential rate over the last fifty years, and will continue to do so. In my field, gene therapy, stem cell treatments, and even retinal microchips that can be implanted to return some sight to blind patients are all in various stages of use, development, and study. I have no doubt that our capabilities will only increase throughout my career and beyond.

When your not researching your stories or working in the medical field what do you find uplifts your spirit the most? 

Lam responds: My most rewarding moments come from spending time with family and friends, and from meeting new people—especially people who may have interesting backgrounds or ideas that I might learn from. My wife and I have four kids, and there’s no doubt that raising them well is our most meaningful priority, but I think I probably speak for most parents when I decline to call the experience “uplifting.” No, for me, uplifting moments occur when I am learning something new, spending quality time with a friend, or appreciating the beauty God created in the nature we see all around us.

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About Andrew Lam

Andrew Lam

Andrew Lam, M.D., is the award-winning author of Repentance, Two Sons of China, and Saving Sight. His writing has appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Born in Philadelphia and raised in central Illinois, he graduated summa cum laude in history from Yale University, where he studied military history and U.S.-East Asian relations. He then attended medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, followed by specialty training to become a retinal surgeon. He is an Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and resides in western Massachusetts with his wife and four children.

His newest book is Repentance, a historical novel and riveting family drama entwined with the history of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a group of Japanese American soldiers who fought valiantly in Europe during WWII while many of their families were incarcerated in camps like Manzanar at home. The 442nd became the most decorated unit in U.S. military history.

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Similar to blog tours where I feature book reviews, as I choose to highlight an author via a Guest Post, Q&A, Interview, etc., I do not receive compensation for featuring supplemental content on my blog. I provide the questions for interviews and topics for the guest posts; wherein I receive the responses back from publicists and authors directly. I am naturally curious about the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of stories and the writers who pen them; I have a heap of joy bringing this content to my readers.

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This author interview is courtesy of: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Repentance blog tour via HFVBTs

Be sure to not only follow the rest of the tour for keen insight into the novel but for special guest features – return to Jorie Loves A Story on the final day of the blog tour to read my own ruminations and takeaways on behalf of “Repentance”!

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “Repentance”, book synopsis, author biography for Andrew Lam, the tour host badge and HFVBTs badge were all provided by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and used with permission. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Conversations with the Bookish and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2019.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Wednesday, 1 May, 2019 by jorielov in 20th Century, Author Interview, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, The World Wars




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2 responses to “#PubDay Author Interview | Discovering a new voice in war drama [Andrew Lam] and a lovely new #IndiePub in the process (Tiny Fox Press) – “Repentance” celebrates its #bookbirthday, today!

    • Hallo, Hallo Ms Bruno,

      The best part for me on the tour was discovering the publisher Tiny Fox Press and the writerly style of Mr Lam! I had a double discovery of joy and it is all thanks to you and your lovely blog tours! I love how you never fail to clue us into today’s market for Historical Fiction and how the writers your hosting have become my #mustread favourites over the years. Here’s to continuing to champion brilliant and evocative Historical worlds!!

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