The Wordicle’s Author’s Leak presents
Tory Gates and his book “Searching for Roy Buchanan (Sweet Dreams Book 1).”
This incredible book has a blend of anime manga, musical blues, with Japanese and American elements mixed with time travel. An eclectic and engaging blend you don’t want to miss! See what the author has to say (free preview of the book at the end of the article).
From the author, Tory Gates:
“Searching for Roy Buchanan began in 2007, as I was casting about for an idea that would put a series of different threads into one story. I had no idea what I was creating.
I’d been writing all my life, everything from news copy to songs, but the long form was elusive. I had written a sci-fi novel in the early nineties, but it never got anywhere.
Time, and how much I had of it played a role in getting the story off the ground. At the time, I worked as a traffic reporter, and I had a fair amount of driving to do. I wrote the first draft between traffic reports! I also used my driving time to think through the characters, the storyline and the concept.
That came from a series of threads that should never have come together, but they tied themselves up in a knot. I was interested in writing a young adult work, because the characters coming to me were in the age group. I’d been interested in history all my life, and my focus turned to Japan, for that, plus other reasons.
Why Japan? I’d read of its history, and more contemporary accounts of the nation. I was a fan of different elements of its culture, including anime, manga and martial arts. In addition, I was not ready to write about the world around me, nor was I ready to write about myself, although elements of me inevitably made their way into the story.
Time travel was not something I was that interested in writing about, but my thoughts, again on history made it attractive. Along with the music: I grew up in the late sixties, and got my older brothers’ template of the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan at my earliest age. Everything, including the roots of the music followed, and blues was the one genre that hit me the hardest, emotionally.
The title just stuck as one; I was not a big fan of Roy Buchanan, but I knew his music, and the mark he made on it. Whether you consider him a blues or rock guitarist, doesn’t matter—he was a musician, a professional, and someone willing to take chances, and make a guitar produce sounds it shouldn’t.
The main character, Aki was originally fourteen when I began to write, but I made her about one year older, for a little extra maturity and later continuity in the storyline. Her beginnings come from Tohru Honda, the heroine of the famous Fruits Basket. I only knew about her, and the show from the children of one of my then-bandmates. For the first time, I saw a middle ground to anime, with some very relatable characters.
Aki could not be Tohru; as my friend noted, Tohru was too perfect, too nice, too forgiving. I also felt Aki needed to be about as normal a kid as you could make her. She was a mix of the traditional and modern Japan, but didn’t stand out. Not exotic in her looks or body, not a super-smart kid, nor was she shy, either. Aki also had to act like an adult; the youngest of three siblings, they have lost their parents, and Aki has lost her potential mentor, as she inherited the ability of time travel from her mother.
One thing I also had to do was really make the characters around Aki stand out: her brothers, Kenji and Hiro drew their own personalities. The eldest, Kenji keeps a cool head in the face of tragedy and a sense of responsibility. Hiro, the middle child, broods over the loss, and his helplessness at not being able to change his family’s situation.
Some strange things happened during the time I wrote the first draft. Not fully knowing what I was writing, I had mapped out characters and a timeline, which quickly changed. When I came up with the time-travel power, it needed a name. I wrote down, “Amida Syndrome.” Only later, did a friend and fellow with greater insight than me, explained that “Amida” is a real word. It loosely means, “Buddha of Limitless Light.”
It meant, I felt, the potential to attain a form of enlightenment in one’s own lifetime. About the only instruction Aki has is that she cannot change the past, only witness it, and be in it. The aim, according to her mother was self-education, and deeper discovery of self. How you use it, becomes a question.
Aki also has to contend with an erratic, even uncontrollable shift in dimensions. A recurring nightmare leaves Aki naturally disturbed (some of Japan’s ghost stories are pretty scary; I recommend Tales of Moonlight and Rain, by Ueda Akinari). The common product of these is a sound, a strange metallic one that sounds like music, but nothing Aki has ever heard before.
Eventually, a mentor arrives in the form of Kazu, an eccentric and retired blues musician. He becomes the teacher to Hiro, and reveals himself as a carrier of the Amida.
The “travels” back in time are a collection that came to my imagination, but had to make sense, in the context of the music, and also—why are they doing this? The search for Roy Buchanan is to find the maker of that music, the first they heard, and what has taken Hiro so deeply. The music has hit Aki, and her brothers, each in different ways, has awakened, and inspired them.
The meetings, back in time, of legends, but especially of those who were not known, was important. For every star, there are a thousand who fly under the radar, who never had great success, or died before anyone knew who they really were.
I also needed to show how the blues was a language all its own, within the universal dialect of music. I had no plan to teach a class, nor did I want to cast any aspersions on other music forms.
Another thing I needed to do: music knows no borders, nor does it know boundaries. How would three Japanese kids get taken by uniquely American music, you might ask? It doesn’t make sense, does it?
I had to stumble along and learn by listening. Japan’s traditional music, like its national identity, is its own, but it also adapts. The power-pop movement in that nation draws on American and British influences, particularly the Beatles, but I hear the Stones and Oasis in their rock music. Their pop music draws on ours, and yes, there is a blues scene in Japan! My friend Johnny Burgin has opened that door with his recent album, No Border Blues, recorded with some amazingly talented friends from over there.
As you go along in your writing process, you find you are throwing in experiences, little things you read or heard somewhere, or just picked up. You try to find the right names for people, the right looks, and then fit them to modern times, but in another land.
Needless to say, the reactions to the early version were positive, but didn’t I get a lot of interesting feedback! The few whom I allowed to read the early draft of Searching… seemed to enjoy the originality; blues fans loved that I had the potential open doors to younger listeners of this music, the roots of what they were fans of. People saw what I saw—an animated film, a soundtrack of the artists that helped make the story go, plus my own pieces.
I was fortunate, however, to get the criticism I needed, from friends of Japanese descent, and from those who were far deeper into the anime/manga culture than me. I was given some fine points about what Japanese folks don’t do! Protocol, politeness, honor, again, parts of how this nation has evolved and changed with the times, yet remained.
I have to also thank the late R.K. Huntington, fellow author, poet, bard, and bandmate. Dick’s command of words and language were beyond just about anyone I’d met back then. He asked to check the book out, and loved it. He was enchanted with Aki, and he too was a blues fan. My grammar, however, was pretty bad—Dick put me through several sessions of how to really edit and craft a book, and keep readers from losing the plot. The whole time, we had long talks, discussed more than wrote, but we also had a lot of fun.
Another thing that happened, was what did not. I found an agent a year or two after Searching… was completed, and while this person worked hard for nearly four years, it didn’t happen. No publisher came calling, no one threw down an advance, no one wanted to talk contract.
Good thing—the book was not ready. I kept writing, the sequel, the third book, the fourth, the fifth, a compendium, and other things…I didn’t stop, and in this time my style changed, and I had finally gotten onto an indie press.
I released Parasite Girls on Amazon in 2013, and eventually that led to Sunbury Press Books. I moved to the fiction imprint, Brown Posey Press and released A Moment in the Sun in 2016, and Live from the Café the following year. Different tales, and steps forward, and all the while I had to rewrite and fix Searching… and that finally saw the light in 2019. The sequel, Call it Love is expected in 2021, with a third, Shake Hands with the Devil to follow. After that, Aki and the gang need time to grow up—and I have to massively rewrite the rest of it, because, change, so much of that!
What I’m trying to tell, at the heart of it all, is a good story. I always look for real, believable, and human characters in any story, and I always find the one I identify with. My hope is people like what they’ve read, and perhaps go back to the book again sometime, as a good read. I also hope that people might be inspired, to write their own works.
To me, writing is my therapy, and has allowed me to examine my own issues, and it has given me a fair amount of direction. I put my characters through a lot—they go through real issues, real things, and they’re not always pretty. Most tend to get through those things, or deal with them in some way.
We get to see Aki try to process grief, in a land where open displays are generally frowned upon, although that is changing. We have three different personalities, all trying to figure it out—in this time, they find they’ve kind of become one person. The music, and the needed change in a time of their lives allows them to break out, find themselves again, and find growth.
I hope people find my stories engaging, at least. I hope they make readers think, and believe, as Aki knows she must, to overcome issues, and while not ignoring them, get beyond and get forward.
I do not think I’m writing anything revolutionary, but I do believe I’m bringing my own voice, and through this, I’ll take you somewhere. When you come back, there are so many more possibilities in this life we have. Let’s use these things we have and have learned, and as another friend said (paraphrasing), the only way to accomplish anything is to do it.”
Tory, thank you for that deep, thorough, and exceptional Author’s Leak! Can’t wait to get our hands on that incredible book! Please support Tory by checking out his spectacular book.
Available on Paperback and Kindle (see preview below).
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