Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Next Big Thing: Naomi Hirahara

I was tagged by the indomitable Libby Fisher Hellmann (that's my favorite descriptor of Libby -- check out her protagonists on her web site,, and you'll see why).

My next book is the fifth in the Mas Arai mystery series, Strawberry Yellow, coming out on March 5, 2013, but I'm going to cheat a little and talk about the first installment of a new mystery series that I'm currently writing. In fact, this is the last week for me to tweak the changes of the draft that I will be e-mailing my editor next Monday. Giving birth to this baby has been intense. It's been a short incubation period and now it's labor time!

What is the working title of your next book?  
LA Rush.  

Where did the idea come from?
Hmmm. I find this a difficult question to answer. Just threw some things into the bowl of creativity and stirred.

What genre best defines your book? 
Mystery, of course. Subgenre: police procedural meets Bridget Jones meets Grey's Anatomy. 

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
My protagonist, Ellie Rush, is a 22-year-old hapa (mixed race of white, Latina and Japanese descent). Think a younger version of Kristine Kruek of "Smallville." In terms of her aunt, Cheryl Toma, Tamlyn Tomita of "Karate Kid" fame.  And since this is a start of a series, I see this as more of a TV show than movie.

Kristine Kruek

Tamlyn Tomita
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
At the behest of her aunt, an LAPD assistant chief, as well as college friends, a rookie bicycle cop gets tangled in an investigation of a coed's murder, only to uncover secrets that threaten her future and personal relationships.  

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Allison Cohen of Gersh is the representing agent; it has already been sold to Penguin (I guess Penguin Random House). I'll be working with the same editor who edited my Edgar Award-winning novel, Snakeskin Shamisen.  

How long did it take you to write the first draft?
This is the intense part: four months, including outlining. I've never written a novel so fast.  

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
It's difficult for me to identify a good comparison. The tone is light for a police procedural and I have many multi-cultural characters who pop up within it. Perhaps a dash of Lisa Lutz's Spellman books, but only a dash.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My students at UCLA last year! Also, I took a citizen's class with the federal agency, ATF, around the same time. That was the first time I've ever shot a gun or automatic weapon, participated in surveillance, etc.

Also, as I was dealing with my father's terminal illness and death in January of this year, I told myself that I needed to work on something lighter and even semi-humorous. And more youthful.  

What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
There's a lot of romance and angst. And more to come.

Thanks, Libby, for this opportunity to talk about my Ellie (I was going to change her first name, but it didn't work out).

Next week, December 5, you must go to the following blogs:
  • SJ Rozan -- my basketball buddy and consummate award-winning mystery author. Many of you know her as the creator of the Lydia Chin and Bill mystery series, but she has other projects up her sleeve. Read about it next Wednesday here
  •  Sujata Massey -- how much do I love Sujata and her Rei Shimura books? I know Sujata has a bit of a crush on Mas Arai, which makes me very happy. We need our Sujata fix now, and she be telling you all here
  • Gar Anthony Haywood -- I was reading Gar's Aaron Gunner series before publishing my first Mas Arai novel. Gar is a pioneer and you can find his blog on Murderati
  • Ed Lin -- Ed's a wonderful down and dirty writer. He will have some interesting news to share as well over on his blog
  • Holly West -- She's a colleague with the Southern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Holly has been working on a historical and go to here to learn more about Holly and her debut work. 
Thanks for visiting me here at Top Suspense!  You can stop by my web site in mid-December; we will be doing some renovations.


  1. You are on fire, Naomi! Congratulations! I am so happy for you. I look forward to reading "Strawberry Yellow" and "LA Rush." :-)

  2. Thanks, Amy. This year has been a productive one, creatively. The past two years were more fallow in that regard -- was busy with family matters and working different day jobs. Everything was perfectly timed, however. Hope the muse has touched you this year, too.