While I have a truckload of friends and fellow author colleagues from Facebook, I have only a handful I have met IRL. (In real life). My friend Patricia Kiyono is one of them. She traveled with her daughter to my sunny neck of the woods and we got a spare afternoon to meet, lunch, and talk books, both reading and writing. She has a new release perfect for the holiday season and I am happy to host her, and the new book, here on the bloggy. Read about how she got the idea for the new story! See, everything you know holds a possible new idea....Patricia proves it.
Post by PATRICIA KIYONO
I've always been fascinated by cultural references. I think they make up the essence of a town. While in most areas of the United States the population is a mixture of many cultures, there are some pockets of a concentration of one ethnic group.
In southwest Michigan, the city of Holland is recognized as a miniature tribute to the Netherlands, the nation to which many of its inhabitants can trace their ancestry. There are several Dutch language churches, and the city hosts the Holland Tulip Festival each May. The streets are swept clean during the Kinderparade, and groups of dancers perform in their klompen, or wooden shoes.
While the cities of Holland and nearby Grand Rapids are typically urban, the villages between them are quaint and picturesque. The Dutch heritage is evident here as well, as several schools, churches, and towns boast names reminiscent of the Old Country - Drenthe, Zeeland, Vriesland, and Borculo are some of the burgs named for people and places in the Netherlands. The telephone book is full of names beginning with the prefixes Van (meaning from), Vander (from the) and De (the). This is where I grew up, and where I still live today.
Of course, my family is Asian, so we always stood out among the tall, fair, blue eyed population. But this community stood up and protected my father and his family during the World War II, when thousands of Japanese families were shipped off to internment camps and lost everything they had. But here in Grand Rapids, Michigan, church officials and civic leaders petitioned the federal government and somehow assured the powers that be that this little family posed absolutely no threat to national security, and that it was not necessary to take them away. Still, Dad remembers being hauled out of school and taken to the federal building and fingerprinted – just in case. Black limousines followed him and his brother whenever they went out with their friends. But thanks to the good people of Grand Rapids, they were able to keep their home. We owe this Dutch community a lot.
It is this type of community that I tried to depict in Christmas Wishes, my newest release. It's about the sense of belonging, and about making wishes come true. Here's a little bit about the book.
Photographer Mitch Carson is tired of big city life. He just wants to settle down in a quiet town with his daughter, Angie. Even that doesn't quell his fear of losing his daughter to his scheming mother-in-law.
Sophie Gardner wants to be a screenwriter. She's ready to leave small town Zutphen, Michigan and go to Hollywood. With a theater degree under her belt, she's busy writing scripts while helping out her sister Joanie, who's bedridden with a difficult pregnancy. Unfortunately, Joanie has somehow coerced Sophie into directing the Christmas pageant at Zutphen Community Church.
When Sophie and Mitch meet, the attraction is instant and mutual. But each wants what the other is trying to get away from. Can they deny their feelings and pursue their dreams? Or will the holiday prove to them that their true wishes might not be what they'd thought?
Mitch tightened the knot on his tie. The action seemed symbolic of tightening a noose around his own throat. He had never thought he’d be going to another church service. Sending his daughter to Sunday School with the VandenBerg family was one thing, but attending a service with her was quite another. But for his little girl, he’d do almost anything, and she wanted to go to the Big Church with him on Sunday, so he’d agreed to go.
Angie sat on his bed, dressed in a new outfit his mother had helped her pick out. Her hair was neatly combed, though he noticed the curls were somewhat uneven. She opened and closed her little purse to make sure she had everything she needed. He wasn’t sure what a six-year-old would need for a church service, but he knew her two grandmas would have instructed her.
“Are you almost ready, Daddy?” she asked. “Jennie says it starts at nine o’clock.”
“I’m almost ready, sweetheart, and we’re not going to be late. The church is only ten minutes away.”
“Sunday School is after church. There’s four other girls from my class at school. And there’s no boys, so it’s more fun.”
Mitch held in his laughter. Her views on boys would change soon enough. For now, her distaste for boys was good.
“Miss Sophie is going to work on our Christmas Pageant songs with us during the first part of Sunday School. She’s so pretty. I think she’s the prettiest lady in the whole world.”
“Mmm.” He wasn’t inclined to disagree.
“Your tie looks funny.”
He looked in the mirror. He’d triple-knotted, and the resulting knot was twice as large as it needed to be. He sighed and unwound the fabric so he could start over.
In a previous life, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary school students by day and changed diapers at night. Now she teaches college students part time and changes diapers only when she's taking care of grandkids. She loves to do anything that doesn't involve exercise. Right now her favorite activities, other than writing, include scrapbooking, sewing, and making music. She and her husband live in southwest Michigan, near their five children and nine grandchildren.
Author links: Patricia Kiyono can be found at her website, blog, facebook, Amazon, and twitter @PatriciaKiyono