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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Why LA Ninja?

The ninja is one of history’s most elusive and mysterious entities.  Their existence in the ancient, feudal time of the Samurai in Japan is sometimes mind blowing to me.  To be fair, I acknowledge that in general, I picture an uber glamorized ninja, much like Sho Kosugi of 1980s ninja movie fame ( imdb entry here: ).  Of course I know that this image is ridiculous and purely fictional, but it’s fun and harmless, so long as I know that it is bs.  At least that's what I tell myself.  Still, the allure of this ancient being is strong for me, as I have always had such a respectful interest in the Japanese people, history, and culture.  I mean, let’s be honest; they invented the friggin’ ninja!  Cool points for Japan = one million, right there alone. That doesn't even include the Samurai.  (I will get to them later.)

In my mind, there are a million different reasons that one would want to gen up a story about ninjas.  In the end though, my reason turned out to be pretty stupid and simplistic.  There we were on day, driving over to the drive-ins of all places –to watch what, I can’t remember.  At that time, I had already written One-Eighty, so I knew I could pull a novel together.  Then I thought, out loud, “wouldn’t it be cool as shit if there was a story about a kid from LA; he’s an orphan; he gets adopted by a Japanese family; the dad is secretly a ninja; he teaches the kid to be a ninja; the kid grows up and some crazy stuff happens, and he ends up fighting LA street gangs.”

My wife, who was in the car with me, laughed, and then said, “yes, actually, that would be cool!”  That was how easily the idea came to be.  Of course, anyone that has read LA Ninja knows that that isn’t at all how the story turned out.  Not even close.  I found that while I was developing the plot, it seemed too barbaric.  It was too much muscle and not enough brain; too much lack of concern and not enough passion; too much rage and not enough love; too much Charles Bronson and not enough Jerry Maguire.  You get the point.  I’m kidding, kind of, because I hadn’t written anything down except a summary plot of what I thought I wanted the book to be about.  But it was going in that direction, and I knew that I wanted the story to have the depth, love, and spirit. 

It didn’t matter what I thought, as it turned out, because when I got to writing it, Gabe pretty much took me wherever he was going, and not vice versa.  That’s the beauty, as most writers know, of writing stories and characters.  You, as the writer, may think you’re in charge, but you’re really not.  A true character will always do what they are going to do, whether you’re on board with it or not.  At least that’s what I have found out.  It’s a very exciting thing, as I have blogged about previously.

The outcome was more than I ever dreamed.  Gabe is both a simple and very complex character.   He is both very real and very surreal.  We traveled together on a journey through heaven, hell, and everywhere in between.  He inspired me with his ambition, discipline, strength, and capacity for love and goodness. He frustrated me with the mess of his life and the misfortune of his decisions. 

Why I wrote LA Ninja, I’m still not exactly sure of.  I guess I have never seen or read an all around Ninja story.  You know the one.  The story that follows a strong character but isn’t just about some crazy Japanese ninja running through the 1980’s trying to kill the good guys a la Sho Kosugi.  Not that there’s anything wrong with those stories.  I love those stories.  Call me a dreamer.  Call me a sap, even, but I wanted a story that had love.  I wanted a story that was at least semi-believable. 

I couldn’t be more proud of that piece of work.  I wrote most of it in the span of about three weeks, while my lady was in China.  I wrote it with Phoebe on my lap or next to me, pretty much the entire way through.  I wish I could go back and dedicate it to her, but I can’t, unless I am somehow able to republish it.  I already have the plots ready for the sequels, and I can’t wait to get to work on them.  I have to admit though, the story that I’m almost done with, about a lady named Alexis, has been an even more exciting story for me.  I don’t know how I will feel when it’s all said and done, but I know this: I never knew I had it in me.  Tell me how you really feel.