Interrogation: Naomi Hirahara

Naomi Hirahara
Who: Naomi Hirahara

Where: Pasadena, CA

What: Naomi Hirahara is the Edgar Award-winning author of the Mas Arai mystery series including SUMMER OF THE BIG BACHI, GASA-GASA GIRL, SNAKESKIN SHAMISEN, BLOOD HINA and STRAWBERRY YELLOW.  Her new mystery series, MURDER ON BAMBOO LANE, features a female twentysomething LAPD bicycle cop and was released with Berkley Prime Crime in spring 2014. Her next in the series, A GRAVE ON GRAND AVENUE, will be released in April 2015. She also has penned a middle-grade novel, 1001 CRANES, which was chosen as an Honor Book for the Youth Literature of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in 2009.

Interview conducted by email. Some answers have been edited.

Big BachiI just finished SUMMER OF THE BIG BACHI and found Mas Arai to be one of the most interesting and original mystery heroes I have encountered. How did you develop that character?

My father and other Japanese American men like him were the inspiration behind Mas Arai. The Sixties and Seventies were the heyday of the Japanese American gardener in Southern California. That many of them, unknown to their customers and strangers, had these amazing experiences was the impetus to make them heroes of a detective story.  Of course, since many gardeners were born in the US but raised in Japan, language was not their strong suit. My challenge is to move the unfamiliar reader into Mas’s world. The mystery genre turned out to be the perfect container to build these stories.

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