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An Interview with Karen Hill Anton, Author of A Thousand Graces

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Karen Hill Anton wrote the popular column “Crossing Cultures” for the Japan Times, Japan’s oldest and largest English-language newspaper, for fifteen years. Also during that time her column “Another Look” appeared in the Japanese daily Chunichi Shimbun.

A THOUSAND GRACES is her debut novel. In his review, the novelist David Joiner, author of KANAZAWA, says: “I can’t think of any other fiction written by a non-Japanese to capture Japan so perfectly. And to do everything else so perfectly, too. This novel is nothing less than a masterpiece.”

Her memoir, THE VIEW FROM BREAST POCKET MOUNTAIN, is the Grand Prize Winner of the 2022 Memoir Prize for Books, 2021 B.R.A.G Medallion, and the 2020 SPR Book Awards Gold Prize.

Karen’s writing has appeared in various collections, most recently A PASSION for JAPAN: A Collection of Personal Narratives. She lectures internationally on her experience of cross-cultural adaptation and raising four bilingual, bicultural children. Karen has achieved second-degree mastery in Japanese calligraphy. Originally from New York City, she has made her home in rural Shizuoka prefecture, Japan, with her husband William Anton, since 1975.

You can buy A Thousand Graces here.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I’ve consulted for major global corporations in Japan and coached senior executives in the finance, pharmaceuticals and software industries. I am grateful for the success I’ve had in guiding Japanese women seeking to change careers, make significant lifestyle adjustments, as well as re-enter the workforce after maternity leave.

My readers would not know that I have an interest in physics.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

My book title, A THOUSAND GRACES, is an English translation of my main character’s first name. She is Japanese and her name is Chie. I knew the title and the character’s name before I put pen to paper.

How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?

Elated. My book cover designer, Emily Mahon, was able to realize the vision I had in mind.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

Having others read and praise it. Hearing from readers how they were carried away by the story (“Could not put it down!”) and thought about it and the characters long after they finished reading. Most especially, how much they were invested in and cared about the main character.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

I am working on writing calligraphy pieces that are called Yojijukugo 四字熟語 These simple four-character idioms can have profound meanings, and I enjoy the experience of writing them with a brush and giving them as gifts.

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