Interview with Anita Yasuda re: MOTO MAKI’S GHOSTLY MYSTERIES series

Hi Anita, and welcome to MG Book Village! I’m so glad that we have a chance to talk about your upcoming series, Moto Maki’s Ghostly Mysteries, which releases in Summer 2021. Can you tell us about the first books being released in the series, and are there more books coming in this series?

I’m happy to be here, Kathie! I am so excited to chat with the MB Book Village community about my Hi-Lo middle-grade series. Currently, there are four books in Moto Maki’s Ghostly Mysteries. They are The Haunted Umbrella, The Cursed Cat, The Tiger Eye, and The Dream Eater. Each book highlights one ghost or yurei from Japanese folklore. Young readers will meet the harmless umbrella ghost or kasa obake that usually jumps around on one leg and enjoys surprising people. I’ve given the umbrella ghost a twist in this book to give readers chills. Other ghosts in the series are less suspenseful and scarier, such as the dream eater. I suggest readers turn on the lights before diving into this story.

I became fascinated with spooky Japanese tales as a student in Japan some thirty-plus years ago.

On away trips from school, we often stayed in old Japanese inns. My friends and I would try to scare each other. We imagined all sorts of creatures based on the sights, smells, and bumps in the night. It’s a wonder we got any sleep at all on those trips.

Can you give us four words to describe your main character?

Moto is a curious, capable, kind, and relatable kid whose love of treasure hunting accidentally leads him to ghosts.

The M stands for the mysteries that Moto and his best friend, Vijay, become entangled in.

The O stands for the odd supernatural creatures that follow Moto home.

The T stands for the terrific adventures Moto has while figuring out what each ghost wants.

The last O stands for the Japanese word obake that refers to ghosts, monsters, and other supernatural creatures in Japanese stories.

What is it about this series that you think will most appeal to young readers?

The series is action-packed with just enough adventure, suspense, and spook to keep readers hooked and pages turning. I think it will be the perfect series for children who like mysteries and ghosts. Because Moto Maki’s Ghostly Mysteries is a Hi-Lo, it will also appeal to reluctant readers in search of fast-moving text and those on the younger side of middle grade.

How did writing this book series differ from other series that you’ve written?

I have been fortunate to work on several early graphic novels and readers for children, but all of those were developed within their respective publishing houses. This series was different in that I pitched it directly to ABDO and was fortunate enough for an editor at ABDO to say yes. For the Moto Maki series, I dived deep into my past experiences living and working in Asia. I wanted the series to explore traditional ghosts but with two modern protagonists during the Festival of the Dead. The festival goes by other names. In Japan, it is called O-bon, and it usually begins in late July. In other parts of Asia, the English term for the festival is the Hungry Ghost Festival. During this time, ghosts, including those of ancestors, are said to return to the realm of the living. People leave out food and other offerings for the spirits.

How have you found time to incorporate writing into your daily life with the challenges of the pandemic?

I am an early riser. I wake at four am daily. After making a cup of tea, I begin my day with a meditation to center myself. Then, I might check correspondence or post something positive on my social media, but I limit my time spent on platforms to five minutes tops. Then, I plunge into my writing. Usually, I have several projects on the go. I find keeping a written agenda of all my assignments and due dates, edits, and correspondence essential for keeping on track and motivated. When the clock strikes seven, I get ready for a busy morning in the classroom, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Though the world is occupied by the pandemic, the best I can do is keep moving forward. I do this by following my routine and putting one foot or one letter in front of the other. I also think it’s important to take time away from work. So, after teaching, you will find me walking in the woods with my dog. It’s a time to clear my mind and connect with nature.

Can you give us one interesting tidbit about yourself that no one may think to ask you?

From the age of five, my family would spend each March break exploring independent bookstores all over Toronto. Some people might not think this a riveting holiday, but it began a lifelong love of books and inspired me to write.

Are you working on another writing project, and if so, is there any information you can share with us?

I have several projects that my agent is currently sending off into the world. These projects are dear to my heart. They celebrate my South Asian heritage and are rooted in my childhood experiences growing up the daughter of immigrants in North America.

I look forward to the day when readers will be able to hold these books in their hands.

Where can our readers go to find out more about you and your writing?

Thank you for this opportunity to speak with MG Book Village community.

The best place for readers to connect with me is on my website www.anitayasuda.com. If teachers are looking to book Zoom or Skype visits, this is also where they can contact me.

I am also on Twitter @anita_yasuda and Instagram @anitayasudabooks.

I really appreciate you taking some time to talk to me today, Anita, and best of luck with your new series.

Anita Yasuda is the author of many books for young readers. Her middle-grade Hi-Lo chapter book series, Moto Maki’s Ghostly Mysteries, releases in 2021. The books published by Magic Wagon, ABDO Publishing, are illustrated by Francesca Ficorilli. Anita graduated from Victoria College, University of Toronto. She then began working in early childhood education and educational publishing. After living all over the world, she now lives in Ontario, Canada. You can follow Anita on Twitter @anita_yasuda, Instagram @anitayasudabooks, or visit her at www.anitayasuda.com.

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