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Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Kami Jin by Lloyd Kaneko

I’d like to introduce Lloyd Kaneko author of science fiction book Kami Jin. He has kindly agreed to be interviewed on my blog. I like to do a little research on my guests and have been looking Lloyd up and he's one interesting guy!


He's a Quaker, a religion I thought had died out in England in the 17th century. Lloyd's highly qualified in his chosen career having gained a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and he's studied creative and screen writing. He is also a judge for various screenplays for International Film Festivals at Mexico, Honolulu, Canadian and Las Vegas.

Thank you for having me here today. I’m very honored to be your guest and to chat with someone across the pond. Although I am a Quaker, I believe my spirituality has taken me to a higher plane after I finished Kami Jin.

A higher plane?
I was born into a Buddhist family, eventually converted and baptized into the Disciples of Christ when I returned from Algeria. Much later became a convinced Quaker. That’s pretty much been my path until now. Now I think I have moved on somewhat. Although my ties are still with First Friends Church of Whittier, and I consider myself to be more spiritual rather than really religious for I have learned to see the beauty and truth in everything.

And you've used that spiritualality in your book?
Having written the book I share where the source of this beauty and truth comes from. So even though I know that religion around the world is dying, I encourage readers of my book to at least maintain their spirituality.

You’re well travelled having visited continental United States as well as internationally to Japan, France, Spain, Holland and Algeria. How come Holland and not the rest of Europe?
I have to admit it was a brief stopover entering and exiting Europe. Europe is a fascinating place and I yearn to return and spend quality time there from one end to the other, starting in the UK. In the States, I have had the pleasure of meeting a lot of friends from the United Kingdom.

We could see you in England sometime soon, then?

I’d like to visit, but Wales is beckoning me. My full name is Ryoji Lloyd Kaneko. My middle name just so happens to be Welsh even though I don’t have an ounce of Welsh blood in me – it’s all Japanese. But I’ve always been fascinated with Wales even though I was given a Welsh middle name at birth. My creative writing mentor in college, Dora Beale Polk, is a famous Welsh author of many works of literature. My other Welsh influence comes from my singing experiences in the Welsh Choir of Southern California. So, there are some words in the Welsh language that I can pronounce, including the correct pronunciation of “Lloyd.”


Thanks to Facebook, I’ve come into contact with a lot more people around the world. I especially have several friends in Bulgaria which is also a destination that I’m very interested in visiting. Besides friendships in Canada, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India, I also have a friend in Saudi Arabia. And, one of the nice features about Facebook is the little tool called “chat.” You don’t even need a phone, just start chatting on line. It has made the world much smaller and closer together. The nice thing about it is that you are communicating in real time. Not like the old days where you communicated with your friends abroad with a postcard or letters that took forever to get to its destination.

The trouble with that though is that you can spend all your time chatting, and not writing! So, what have you learned on your travels?
Personally, I think there’s a lot that can be learned from Europe – especially by people here in the United States. There are many beautiful and fascinating cultures, traditions, as well as a very rich cultural arts history. As a choral singer that sings baritone, I appreciate the great master works that have been written by the great master composers of Europe. This is another reason why I really need to get back to Europe! European art has had a great influence on my life, and for this, I am very thankful – especially having the opportunity to see Picasso’s Guernica in person and the Reina Sofia Museum. Don’t get me wrong, this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands of other works which are just as worthy. I’ve only had a great opportunity to see other samples at the Prado Museum. There are hundreds of other places yet to be discovered, at least for myself!


Not only this, but the United States can learn lessons on how to improve relations and be a good neighbor to its bordering countries like Mexico and Cuba. It seems easier to cross the English Channel between England and France; between France and Spain; than it is to cross the border between California and Mexico. And forget about crossing between Arizona and Mexico!

Really? I never knew that!
To elevate this step another notch, I would really like to explore the rest of the world! I really consider the world to be my real home -- not just Whittier, California, USA.

Kami Jin seems to voice your Quaker beliefs. It evokes readers to think about the world they live in and makes them question their government. Was this intentional?
I’m happy to say that Quakerism still survives here in the States and I know in several other countries it is also doing very well. George Fox would be happy to know that we’re still alive and well even though our numbers are small.



My original intent in writing the book was to tell a story reflecting my experiences in Corporate America in a fictitious setting. But as the story began to shed light on the dark side of capitalism – with greed and corruption consuming both the corporate world and in government – social commentary started to get into the mix of what I thought was going to be an ordinary science fiction novel. So as I got into the second third of the book, I found myself on a mission – to get people to think who they are, the world that we live in, and yes, even question the government. In my book, I mentioned that we were always conditioned to behave like “sheep.”

We do behave like sheep though, don't we!
The churches often did this by preaching the stories of the Shepherd and His flock. We were always told not to question authority. But when this “authority” no longer serves the people and has been bribed and controlled by other entities, what are we, the people, supposed to do? Sit back and permit more powerful people to trample our lives? Deny us our freedoms and the dignity of being human beings just so a relatively few people could live “high off the hog?”

Oh my, that's very deep. I take it you don't care for President Obama?
I voted for him in the last election. I am deeply concerned for him even though I might not agree with everything that he does – especially when he reneged on promises that he made during his election campaign. I admired the man when he talked boldly of facing the enemy face to face in order to settle differences and to come to a peace resolution. He has yet to do this. Instead, he escalates the problem by sending more troops to Afghanistan. This is when he has lost some credibility. In my perception, the country would still rather settle their differences through military force rather than through diplomatic channels. No, I’m not one of those praying for his death – this is against my spiritual beliefs.



No, I just don’t care for the government in its current state. And unfortunately, as city commissioner sworn to defend the Constitution of the United States, I am embarrassed to say that there are a lot of politicians in the federal government that don’t know what the differences are between the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are. Many times quotes allegedly from the Declaration are claimed to be that of the Constitution by U.S. Senators and Congressional Representatives. They practically declare everything as being “unconstitutional.” A lot of things that they declare as unconstitutional aren’t even covered by the Constitution!

Not fancied becoming involved in politics, then?
I have undergone ethics training and have signed pledges to adhere to high standards of ethical codes. However, there are many in political circles who don’t subscribe to the same standards. They accept corporate interest money freely and their lawmaking decisions are tainted and influenced by special interests, not in the interest of the people who they were elected to serve.


We’re stuck with a form government that is old and needs a major overhaul (modernization). From my perspective, the federal government is out of touch and no longer serves the people, but is a government by corporations and for corporations. Hence, there is a lot of legislation that heavily favors corporate interests, and punishes the consumer. There is more concern for profit than there is for the needs of people.

Sounds like Britain's politics!
In Michael Moore’s documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story, there are instances where families are evicted out of their houses by banks. Law enforcement officials are sent to the properties to literally remove these families from their dwellings without any offers to assist them with temporary alternative living accommodations. Yet, government stands aside and does absolutely nothing but encourage this despicable behavior. Where is the humility towards men in all of this? The world needs to know about this. The United States often complains about inhumane practices in other countries, but often gets away with crimes of its own. I think justice has to be served equally, this includes crimes against humanity in the United States.

Here in the UK we’re having an election on May 6th, so politics are a major front line at moment. Do you follow any of that too?
Unfortunately, I do not get very much political news about the UK here in the States – and that’s a sad commentary of what news services are here in America. When I get a rare opportunity, I love watching the BBC World Service. The BBC provides me with an excellent picture of what is going on in the world. Listening to Public Radio here in the United States also provides an excellent broad coverage of national and international news. Unfortunately, they are often targeted for closure by conservatives.



News stations here in America do not provide this to the people here in the States. It is sad because most of the coverage is bickering between liberal and conservative journalism. The “news” that is broadcast here in America is typically someone getting murdered, corruption in government or how broke the government is, sports, corruption in sports – practically everything that would be considered as “unimportant” to the rest of the world, and often boring to me. The good news or someone making a remarkable achievement would often get ignored or overlooked both in broadcast and in print. The good news and newsworthy events are often overshadowed by negative news (violence, crime, corruption, sex, scandals, celebrity gossip etc.).

Yep, that sounds similar.
The only kind of international political news that seem to get headlines here in the States are when a corrupt political head of state is “elected” into high office or if it’s about some political regime that is totally contrary to the United States. If it were an ally having an election such as the UK, news like that would often get buried with other matters and, perhaps, not even mentioned at all.


So sorry, I certainly wish there were more coverage of the politics across the pond. But unfortunately, with the lousy news coverage that we are offered here in America, we’re often kept in the dark about international affairs. I think that’s what I like about short wave radio!

I suppose that's the beauty of the Internet.
Indeed, because of the internet you can get world news despite the poor international coverage of our television and radio companies. While reading a little about your upcoming elections, it sounds as if it pretty much carries the same themes as our election – experience vs. change. Locally, in my municipality, we just had an election for city council. Experience won overwhelmingly. I, however, voted for change. To me, it seems like “experience” has been overly used in political circles. Politicians like to say they are “experienced.” But when you look at their records, very little has been accomplished or very little has changed since the person has taken office. So, how important is experience? What real benefit does the public get from all this “experience.” At our federal level, we have a lot of experienced corrupt representatives that have been paid off by large corporations. They work for the special interests, not for the people. And this was supposed to be a government “by the people, for the people?” I wish the people of the UK well and for a satisfactory outcome of your elections.

Thank you. You’ve suffered with your health and because of that you became dissatisfied with your health service. Was this where you got your major idea for the book?
No, the idea of my book came from seeing the masses of people whom were roaming the streets of Los Angeles Skid Row, homeless. Then, I was unemployed for four consecutive years myself. The anger and frustration of not being able to get a job only added fuel to the incentive for writing the book. And that was to shed light on what the society in America will do to an individual once he or she down and out.



The health issues piled up when I was unemployed and my benefits expired. But as I was writing the book, I was able to see the sinister side of health care in America – how more important profit is rather than how important people are. Many doctors are really more concerned about protecting their liability rather than caring for the patient. Insurance companies are more concerned about making profits and cutting benefits and services rather than the health and care of the patient. Somehow, this entire picture seems very wrong in my mind. It is evident in this country that there are people making medical decisions for patients in this country that don’t have a medical degree or license. That, in my mind is a crime against humanity. Furthermore, the way some doctors practice medicine in this country is totally contrary to the Hyppocratic oath that they’ve sworn to.

The world in which you paint in Kami Jin sounds unthinkable. Do you really think we could be heading that way in the future?
In the United States, a lot of citizens lost their jobs due to globalization and automation. I don’t know if it was apparent to you in the UK, but here in the U.S., a lot of people in Mid-America lost their jobs because a lot of manufacturing jobs were exported overseas. A lot of textile jobs were lost to China. Executives continuously sought ways to maximize profits while keeping costs down. A large part of that strategy was to reduce its work force by seeking cheaper labor.



Think about it, with humans still in the workforce, companies still have to pay salaries benefits. With automation, such as droids and robots, executives would not have to pay salaries, benefits, and can work the machines 24/7 without giving them meal or personal breaks for the restroom or for tea, in your country – coffee in mine. This would save a tremendous amount of money that would put even more money into their coffers!


Now if we really wanted to take corporate greed to it’s the extreme, don’t you think this scenario would be likelihood in the future? After all, Honda built a robot called “Asimo” – an intelligent robot that can walk and talk. Is this just the beginning of the demise of workers and laborers around the world?

I can definitely see it happening. Don't they say not so much science fiction, but science fact.
A science probability. The world hasn’t given very much thought as to automation and humans in the workplace. It has pretty much let corporations decide how to freely “dispose” of their workforce without any kind of transitional planning for humans. And unfortunately, as we are seeing today, people are often getting the short end of the stick when it comes to layoffs and corporate downsizing.

Many of these people do not have anywhere else to go. There are very few jobs to be had or, the skills that they possess are no longer useful. In the U.S. our educational systems really haven’t kept up with changing trends. There is overcrowding in schools, and on top of this, the schools and colleges themselves are reducing programs and opportunities all due to the lack of money. Hence, an increasing number of people are forced out of their homes to live out in their cars or on the streets. Unemployment benefits for individuals last only thirteen weeks. This is really inadequate in today’s times. It takes and individual much longer to find a job, let alone, almost impossible today’s job market to get a job. Yet, the government can find money to fund wars and on other frivolous matters rather than investing on its very own people.

I love happy endings. Please tell if there is any hope in your book?
Kami Jin is Japanese and can be defined two ways. The first meaning is “paper people.” The protagonist, Gordon Sakata, uses this analogy while he is on Earth as he describes the homeless and jobless people in the country as being like discards. Or as he says, “paper plates littering the streets of Los Angeles.” The second meaning is “Godly Person.” After Gordon is kidnapped to the Sierra Nevada Mountains to die, he writes in his diary a series of sermons sharing his insights and solutions to solving the world’s problems of homelessness, poverty and making wars obsolete. When he is rescued by his alien wife, he discovers that he is a prince. After being installed as Emperor of the utopian planet, Xychron, he takes on a “godly-like” persona and returns to Earth to rescue the oppressed from the Earth and take them to another world of hope and prosperity.



As Emperor Gordon is taking the travelers to their new homes on a distant planet, he leaves Earth to ponder several questions to think about for their future:

“As for the people left on Earth, only time will tell if they have learned a lesson. One thing is for certain, when one civilization comes to an end, a new one starts anew. Will the “wheel” recreate itself on Earth once again? Will a new generation of people enslave yet another generation of people? Will the people of earth ever learn its lessons of the past? Or will the status quo remain as generation after generation never breakout of their repetitive lifestyles? Will societies on earth ever progress and advance with time? Will nations still continue to use war, destruction, and killing as an answer and solution to their problems? Yes, as for the people on earth, they too will have a “new campground.” But they are going to have to rebuild without the people who helped build their world, countries, cities, and municipalities. Yes, only time will tell.”
Then at the close of the book, Empress Katherine asks Emperor Gordon a question during a closing dialogue:

“If you had a wish, what would that one wish be?” she asked.
“I only wish that people will never have to live in such terrible living conditions anywhere else in this universe, on any planet again. And that no species ever be held under the bondage of any form of slavery or oppression, no matter what it be called or labeled, not here, nor there, anywhere – never, forever.”
Romance?
Not heavily romantic, but Gordon and Wendy (aka Princess Kathy Kusumatsu) have an affair on Earth and elope to Las Vegas just prior to the break out of a War. They eventually have twins on Earth. When Gordon is taken away to a concentration camp for being suspected as an enemy combatant, he is kidnapped to the mountains nearby to die. Eventually, he is rescued by Wendy, who just so happens to be an alien princess. Coincidentally, Gordon has been wearing a ring, a family heirloom, by which he discovers on Xychron that he is actually a descendant of royalty.

So getting back to your question, “is there any hope in your book?” I would have to say, yes. But, as I said in the book. “The world is going to have to come together as one.” In these times one singular nation cannot achieve peace on its own. Nor can it force its will or its values on other nations by force. Likewise, nations also cannot isolate themselves from the rest of the world. If we are to do anything, it should be done for the benefit of the people of the entire world, not just one nation, state, or municipality. People of the world must be uplifted first, above and before profits.

You created an alien world, and when I wrote Eden (which I thought would be easy because it was a made-up world) I discovered the research to a pretend world was just as complex as if I had been researching Mars. Did you find this?
I really didn’t find this complicated at all. By the time I started writing about this alien world, the characters came to life and pretty much took over control. It was if they were channeling their story and world through me. This was a little spooky and fascinating at the same time!All I imagined what a world like Earth would be like if it didn’t pollute like we do here on Earth. What would a world, similar to Earth, look like in pristine condition? What would the forests look like if they grew hemp to manufacture paper rather than kill trees like we do? Especially when we have not even made a concerted effort to replenish the forrest?

I understand you’ve adapted Kami Jin into a screen play. What did that entail?
Yes, Kami Jin has been adapted into a screenplay. It’s currently 3-hours long and I’m still working on the script. Presently, the script has been entered into a few screenwriting competitions and I won’t know about the results until later this year. But Kami Jin originally started out as a screenplay project. The original title – crossed out in my original screenplay – was called “The Dying Generation.” In fact, the script that wrote it with – and I still have some of the original paper – was produced on a typewriter.
I started the project when I was in college. It was a project that I started while I was learning how to write screenplays through the Writers Guild of America, West here in Los Angeles. Then, I hit the proverbial “brick wall.” I encountered writer’s block and procrastination for many years. Then, as I was recovering from surgery last year, I decided in earnest to write the novel to jump start the screenplay. I published Kami Jin in electronic format in September 2009 through Smashwords and completed the screenplay adaptation in December 2009. In March 2010, I published the novel in trade paperback through Wordclay.

There are plenty of sites for writers needing advice for manuscript layout, how to write a synopsis etc but practically nothing for screen writing. Any advice here?
Yes, there is an excellent book by David Trottier entitled, “The Screenwriter’s Bible.” I recommend this book for beginners and the experienced writer. Also, I highly recommend Final Draft, Inc. “Final Draft 8” Professional Scriptwriting Software. This does a much better job than Microsoft Word and automatically formats your script to industry standards. There is also a place that I like to use as a source for reference materials called the Writers Store here in Los Angeles. They can befound also online at http://www.writerstore.com/. They have books and software on writing for both novel (i.e. fiction) developments as well as screenplays.

My other charitable and environmental effort is a partnership with Eco-Libris. With each paperback book of Kami Jin that is purchased, several trees in the world will be planted with the goal that at least one tree will survive on this planet. In the publishing industry, so many trees are killed for paper pulp. We take, but don’t give back to the environment. Books are placed on shelves and often go to waste. A lot of books are not sold, and then discarded into landfills, not recycled. We need to be smarter and have a greater respect for our environment. This is also why I have decided to self-publish – to have more control of the publishing process. This is also why I encourage my readers to buy the book electronically if all possible. But I am also making the book available through print-on-demand technology, using only enough resources necessary without having to waste paper on books that will not get sold or sit on shelves collecting dust. Yes, I would sincerely love to sell a lot of my artwork, but at the same time, I would also appreciate it if my readers would also join me in appreciating and caring for the environment as well.


What is your ultimate goal in your writing career?
My ultimate goal in writing is to see Kami Jin produced in film, eventually. I really don’t care if it is by a major production or independent company. I probably wouldn’t have cared if it were just an ordinary science fiction novel. But when I finished the book, the story carried a message to the world. For this, I hope the book will be widely read.As a writer, my ultimate goal is to write for the live theatre. I’m thinking about adapting Kami Jin for the theatre eventually.

It is commendable that all proceeds of Kami Jin will go to First Day Homeless Coalition of Whittier, California. Do you do any other charitable projects?

There are many worthwhile charitable institutions for the homeless. But I’ve adopted First Day of Whittier, California not only because some of the book’s story is about the homeless in Whittier, but First Day is not just a typical “soup kitchen.” That is, accommodate homeless people for the night; feed them; turn them out the next morning. First Day has transitional programs to assist the homeless back into the mainstream on society through long-term housing arrangements, job rehabilitation and training, job assistance and follow-up. Essentially, it is a holistic approach to resolving the homeless problems in Whittier.



Are you interested in Astronomy?
Yes, very much so! I’ve been interested in astronomy since I was a child and was given a telescope when I was very young. When I used to go camping and sleep outdoors, I enjoyed starring up towards the heavens and looking at the stars and the constellations.

Unlike today’s scientists, I’m a firm believer that we have and are still being visited by guests from other celestial bodies. There are so many things that the government is hiding – so much secrecy as if we are still living in the Cold War. I think times have changed. Government need to change, be more open and honest. Make the taxes we’re paying more worthwhile.
Absolutley, it's a commendable mindset you have.
You have interesting contests going on where people can sketch their ideas of paper people or, for those (like me) who can’t draw stick men, they can enter one where they can share their own idea of a dream world to win a copy of Kami Jin.
This contest is not just for readers in the United States and Canada, it’s open to the whole world! There is an ounce of an artist in each and every one of you.

Folks, if anyone is interested in winning a copy of this amazing book, Kami Jin, the competiton is running now and ends end of July 2010, so better get cracking!

Thank you Lloyd, for such an insightful interview. I'm sure Kami Jin will do very well. It sounds like such a rich and deep read, and will give its readers something to think about long after they've put the book down.

Places to find Lloyd and buy Kami Jin:

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Buy through the Wordclay Bookstore
E-Book editions in 7 different formats available through Smashwords. Visit Lloyd's Smashwords Profile
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"If you don't have a clear picture of your destination and a precise map to get there,you won't even begin the trip." -- Steven K. Scott, Simple Steps to Impossible Dreams

9 comments:

  1. I would love to sit and talk to Lloyd Kaneko for two days. He shares many of the feelings of middle Americans.
    I'm sure his novel is thought provoking and is going on my TBR list immediately.
    Thank you for the post.
    Lorrie

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  2. Hi Lorrie!
    Thank you so very much for your kind words and comments. My heart goes out to all the middle Americans, and yes, when I was writing my book, they were definitely on my mind. I would be very happy to chat with you one of these days. Feel free to write to me at lloyd.kaneko@gmail.com and we can arrange for a time. I see that you are in PA. On the other left coast, 3 hours behind. Take care!

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  3. The more I get to know Lloyd, the more impressed I become! An endless source of information and creativity. A man whose thoughts and beliefs are founded not only in faith, but logic! I know that my current locale does not compete with Europe in the least, but feel free to stop by so I can just listen to you talk! :)

    Amazing interview! Thank you both so much! :)

    -Lauren

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  4. Thank you. He *is* very interesting and I think my questions could have gone on an on!
    His book will be equally interesting I should think. A best seller, I'm sure!

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  5. Fascinating interview. Congrats on your release, Lloyd. Sounds like it's very much a book of your heart.

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  6. Thank you everybody. I really appreciate your comments.

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  7. Amazing interview - takes me back to the carefree student days when we used to stay up all night and argue the toss on everything, politics, the world, art and culture.

    Well done the both of you for rising above the humdrum 'guest interview' blog post and for really engaging in a thought-provoking dialogue.

    marc nash

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  8. Thanks for stopping by, Sulci, and I have to agree with you in the "interesting" interview, but it was all down to my guest.

    ReplyDelete
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