JWH Author's Voice Vol. 16

interview with Tadashi Onitsuka


rofessional literary agents are well-established in the West, but did not exist in Japan until about eight years ago. Appleseed Agency, the first successful literary agency in Japan, now produces over sixty books annually, with more than twenty new writers debuting each year. Representative publications from Appleseed include bestsellers such as "Little DJ" and "Violin Crossing the Straits" by Tadashi Onitsuka, creator of Appleseed. In this interview, I asked him about his most recent work, "Quartet!"

Q: Following on the heels of "Little DJ," your previous bestseller, "Quartet!" is a work in which music penetrates the heart. The character Hiraki grows through the process of finding his "own music," but what does music mean to you?

"Violin Crossing the Straits" is a work about a spiritual awakening to classical music. If people didn't love this music, it wouldn't have been able to survive for hundreds of years. Music enriches our lives. It helps us overcome unpleasant experiences, and enhances positive ones.

Q: All of your characters are quite vivid and charming. Are any of them modeled after real people, and is there one character that particularly appeals to you?

There are some who are modeled after people to a certain extent. Several of them stand out, but the one who appeals to me most is the female character Misaki. Interestingly, however, the ones who have left impressions on readers are others like Hiraki, Naoki and Hiromi.

Q: Your job as a literary agent occupies your time on a daily basis, so how and when do your new stories get created? Did you by chance write "Quartet!" while listening to classical music?

I wrote it at a nearby coffee shop. There was probably background music playing there.

Being an agent is my job; writing is outside of that. I think about stories on a daily basis. Right now, I have about five different ideas for novels.

Q: What are some of the difficulties you have encountered as a writer? And on the flipside, when do you derive the most joy from your writing?

The difficult thing is the writing itself. It's tiring sitting at a desk for long hours. On the other hand, I'm pleased when people enjoy my work. When a complete stranger writes something like, "that was good" on my blog, that makes me happy.

Q:Could you explain why you decided to add an exclamation point to the title?

"Quartet" alone seemed a little pitiful. At first I was going to call it, "Nagae Quartet," but at the very last minute, I switched it to "Quartet!"

Q: You planned a number of events in conjunction with the publication of "Quartet!" Can you tell us a little more about these?

There's a musical drama within a concert, and a film. The set-up of the concert parallels that of the novel, with a father performing on piano, a mother on cello, a son on violin, and a daughter on flute. The mother and father are professional musicians, while the two children are auditioning. And since it's a musical drama, the performers have to learn their lines and act as well. The play will be performed in Tokyo from June 22-24, with a nation-wide tour following that.

I'm also writing the screenplay for the film. There are a lot of pros and cons for a writer like me to produce a screenplay. It's a challenge, but I'm hanging in there. Filming will begin in September this year, and should finish in early summer next year.


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