Richard Goodfellow Talks About COLLECTOR OF SECRETS
Who the heck creates a Shinto priest character that owns a gaming company? Not me … okay, yes me. But that’s not how it was meticulously planned when I sat down to write chapter one of Collector Of Secrets. I had full bios for my protagonist, Max Travers, an American teaching English in Japan, and all my major characters, including photographs and detailed back-histories. I had an insane multi-columned spreadsheet mapping out all 80+ chapters, right down to the day’s weather and the intensity level (which of course was graphed). Then why did my fingers keep typing when I was all set to wrap up the chapter? But that’s truly what happened. I remember watching my hands, thinking to myself ‘okay, let’s see where this goes’, and Toshi – the priest – stepped into the scene with Max. In retrospect I am so grateful for that brief moment of ‘divine inspiration’, if that’s the correct term? All I know is that Toshi was never planned, and yet his existence and actions not only solved a number of key plot points, but he became a character that I genuinely love to write.
When the manuscript’s first draft was almost finished, I journeyed back to Japan for a one-month trip. Each day was planned with military precision as I wanted to really get into Max and Toshi’s heads and make sure that the places, characters and book’s key moments were as real as possible. And this focused journey allowed me to visit many more places than I had while living and working in Tokyo for two years in the early 90’s. Back then it was all about hustling for teaching gigs that would pay the enormous monthly bills while leaving just enough money for a quick trip outside the city every couple of months.
This journey gave me the chance to explore a greater cross-section of the remarkable country that is Japan. Hokkaido has majestic mountains (in the north) while Okinawa’s many islands are surrounded with white sandy beaches (in the south). In between are the bright lights of Tokyo and Osaka, the beautiful Izu peninsula and the transcendent temples of Kyoto and Nara.
Even though Collector Of Secrets was written on airplanes and in coffee shops throughout Oregon, Texas, Florida, and a dozen other states, I found that some Japanese scenes fit perfectly into their chosen location, while others, like Todaiji Temple or the Mabuni (suicide) cliffs at the southern end of Okinawa’s main island, gave me goose-bumps, and provided clear inspiration for me to change and improve a specific scene.
I also learned a great deal more about the history of the country and the region, from a conquest and military perspective, and this too was incorporated into the weave of the book. Many tragic events took place in World War II, World War I and for many years prior to that across much of the Asian region (Imperialism). And while much of this historical fact was hard to read and digest, like the murder of Empress Myeongseong, it was necessary to better understand the full foundation upon which modern Japan stands today.
It was a challenging trip that helped sharpen and re-shape Collector Of Secrets, while giving me a chance to re-visit my temporary home more than 20 years after the fact. And should you have the chance to visit Japan, I would recommend that you take Max Travers’ journey (minus the car chases and life threatening situations, of course) and you’ll be amazed at what you find.
Richard Goodfellow’s debut novel, Collector Of Secrets, is available now in hardcover and ebook from Polis Books. Visit him online at www.collectorofsecrets.com or at @rgfellowauthor.