Good morning and welcome on Queer Books Unbound! I am very excited to share the first guest post of our new blog series Authors Unbound with you today. Please give Anna Veriani, author of The Winter Quarters, a warm welcome!
My debut The Winter Quarters takes place in rural western Japan, my current home. Living here has been such a genuine joy, especially for someone who never lived near nature before.
I wrote The Winter Quarters only shortly after moving to Japan, and now I feel it’s filled with the impassioned urgency of a newcomer. Ishikawa seemed so strange: It routinely thunders and hails and snows on the same day; every third day, on average, it rains; it is technically a temperate climate, but humid like Georgia, and the flora and fauna remind me more of the tropics. I needed to write about it.
In my book, Kai Ledging, the story’s hero, takes a break from his hectic life of stardom in New York City to relax at his childhood best friend’s countryside inn. While his best friend Hiro likes to make jokes about Kai’s endless wealth, returning to rural Japan reminds Kai of a life where exorbitant amounts of money aren’t required for happiness—a life where everyone is surrounded by myriad luxuries every day, from steamy outdoor baths to resplendent mountain views.
The year I moved to Japan, I started writing poems for the first time. I read lots of poetry, but I’m no poet. I just lacked a quality camera, basically, and wanted some recording of the awesome natural world around me. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, my little poem-scribbling exercises would influence much of The Winter Quarters’s prose.
Through writing these poems I was able to not only celebrate what I saw but also dig deeper into it. Because of my poems I waded into rivers for the first time, felt the algae pulsing between my toes; I learned that there were turtles and crabs and frogs in my rice paddies, the stuff of fantasy for a former New Yorker.
A funny thing about writing a holiday romance: You’ll be working on the novel long after the holiday is over. When I was writing about snow storms during the sweltering months of August, it was my little scraps of poetry that helped me find my way back into an Ishikawa winter.
Now, I’m so glad to have these little recordings of what I saw when I first moved here. They’re better than photographs to me, because much of my wonderment came from sheer ignorance. The first time I ever saw a hummingbird hawk moth, for example, the experience felt downright spiritual. Once I knew the name of the creature, I appreciated them in a more quotidian way.
The ironic part, however, is that most things die in winter. And yet I had committed myself to writing a winter romance. Of course there were gorgeous experiences to put into my novel: a hot outdoors bath in the snow, the crisp snow-laden peaks of Hakusan mountain, the simple pleasure of warm tea on a cold day. But there’s still so much more I’d like to write about. I guess it’s time to begin a spring romance tale.
Snow, steam, and a second chance.
Reluctant socialite Kai has thirty-five days before his family starts shooting the next season of their reality TV show, revealing a life he’d rather keep private—and one that feels increasingly scripted. Desperately needing a break, Kai escapes to his childhood best friend Hiro Asada’s inn in rural Japan. He finds peace in the thousand-year-old hot springs, but his yearning for Hiro resurfaces at the worst time: Hiro is about to inherit the inn, and his parents expect him to marry within the year.
Hiro’s traditional family loves him for who he is, but they can’t imagine two men running the inn. Meanwhile, Kai has a TV contract his lawyer insists can’t be broken. Hiro and Kai need to think outside the box—and solve their problems before Christmas Day, when Kai’s show shoots its annual holiday special.
Anna Veriani was born with a deep love of queer lit and .99¢ New York pizza slices. After graduating from NYU with a degree in East Asian Studies, she set sail for Ishikawa, Japan. Now she spends her days writing by the river and dreaming of opening an expat pizzeria.
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