THIS WEEK’S OTHER TWO FEATURED BOOKS, “WAR, WV,” BY MICHAEL ABRAHAM AND “SECRET FIRE,” BY DENNIS YOUNG, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.
THE BOOK: Big in Japan
PUBLISHED IN: 2012
THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Griffith
THE EDITOR: Through the publisher.
THE PUBLISHER: Jolly Fish Press, Provo UT
SUMMARY: Big in Japan: Zero to Hero in 400 Pounds.
Buck Cooper is a big, fat nobody at his statistician job in Dallas. The six-foot-six blond guy isn’t sure when he became socially invisible—probably about the time he passed the three hundred pound mark. But when his parents shanghai him to Tokyo for a business trip, he finds himself thrust into a whole new world—where his size still defines him but suddenly isn’t the liability it’s always been. Now, it could be his greatest asset—because this zero is about to become a sumo hero.
Go along with Buck as he gets sucked into Japanese culture as a foreigner, peek inside the secret world of sumo wrestling that can be more dangerous than expected, and cheer as he reaches inside himself for the strength he needs to overcome, literally, huge enemies.
THE BACK STORY: I went to Japan as a missionary during college, and I spent a year and a half there and fell in love with the people and the beauty and the culture. It is amazing! A few years later I started writing romantic comedy, and the idea came up over lunch with my husband to write about Japan. And to write about sumo. BUT…I’m a woman. (Women do not sumo.) And I’m five-foot-one and not sumo size. It was a huge leap to think I could ever get into the mindset of someone doing sumo. But I couldn’t sleep at night because Buck’s character kept bugging me! His story had to be told.
Research was a bear. Honestly, as I started digging, I couldn’t find much written about sumo online in English. (Since that time, there has been more added, but at the time it was tough!) I combed blogs, read news articles, read the Japan Times, dug up a chart on all the various sumo moves, brushed up on my Japanese (which I could speak fine but not read well), and basically immersed myself in the sumo culture for months. It was fascinating! I might not have caught every nuance of the sport and its politics, but I hope I conveyed a Sumo 101 primer for those who want to know more.
I started writing BIJ in the summer of 2009, the third week of July, and it debuted in print in the third week of July 2012 at its launch party at a sweet bookstore called Weller Books in Salt Lake City. In the process, I did SEVEN rewrites from the ground up—always keeping Buck’s character’s integrity, but revamping the various situations he had to face and the enemies he encounters and how he triumphs. Oh, and keeping his love interest sweet all along.
Something of possible interest to readers is that this book has been optioned for film. The producer fell in love with the story and the characters and is working toward production, according to our conversation earlier this month. It’s so exciting! There could be a sumo wrestling romantic comedy coming to a theater near you! Who’d’ve thunk, right?
WHY THIS TITLE?: The title Big in Japan has a couple of layers of meanings. First off, it came from the idea of a person who is insignificant in his own world or hometown or country, but is a big deal somewhere else. I remember when David Hasselhoff was waning in popularity in the United States, but he had a huge following in Germany. Same with Lionel Ritchie being the big star in the Arab world. So, in BIG IN JAPAN, the main character is unnoticed in his own world, but when he gets to Japan, suddenly his biggest liability becomes a huge asset, and he’s known everywhere. Go, Buck!
The other layer of this is a little more on the nose: it’s a story of a six-foot-six, 400+-pound man in Japan.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I think at it’s heart, BIG IN JAPAN is a story that reaches nearly everyone on some level. It’s the underdog in all of us that resonates to this story. If you love a sports underdog story of any kind, from Rudy to MacFarland, USA, to Beverly Hills Ninja, this is your book! It’s got humor, but it also has a deeper side—as Buck has to overcome challenges no one saw coming, and a violence we Westerners wouldn’t expect lurking beneath the surface of a national sport in a mostly peaceful country.
Another audience for this is lovers of travel—and those interested in Asia or Japan specifically. I wrote this book sort of as “my love letter to Japan.” I tried to show what it’s like as a Westerner going to the Orient, and I let Buck live out all my own social gaffes (but with much more charm and grace!) I hope I did it justice.
This book has been read in high school and university English classes because it touches on subjects of bullying, hazing, being ostracized, culture shock, and overcoming fears/doubts/enemies through staying true to principles. It’s been pretty amazing to hear students’ responses along the lines of, “Well, that wasn’t boring.” Bahahahaha!
REVIEW COMMENTS: “Well, that wasn’t boring.” – High School English Student
“Quick and highly entertaining!” – New York Times Bestselling Author Chris Stewart
“This book should be a movie!” – Eric Bishop, author of The Samaritan’s Pistol
AUTHOR PROFILE: Jennifer Griffith is the author of about a dozen traditionally- and self-published titles and anthology submissions. She started writing when her first son was born (she now is mom to five kids), and she had gone so long without an adult conversation that her brain started melting. Her husband, who was in law school at the time, suggested she start writing—which was a good idea, since then she could have conversations with the imaginary people in her head. Most of the time she writes fluff she calls “cotton candy for the soul,” but there are occasional nuggets of heartier fare in there. But she promises none of her stories will change your life. She stays busy as a family chauffeur, driver’s ed teacher, cook, maid, and laundress—as well as family consultant for Boy Scout Eagle Projects, political campaigns, scholarship applications, fashion decisions, and which song to choose for children’s theater tryouts. She’s busy with church and local politics and being in the Daughters of the American Revolution. In her spare time, she writes romantic comedies—because, why not? She’d like to think of her own life with her awesome husband (and kids) as a delightful romantic comedy. Her Amazon author page can be found here.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: As I was writing Big in Japan, there were a hundred times or more when I asked myself what was *I* doing writing about a sumo wrestler in love. But then I remembered—this was Buck’s story. He’s just a great character, and I wanted to go on that wild ride through Japan with him, deep into the depths of sumo, and come out triumphant on the other side. I recently spoke with the producer who has optioned the book for film, and he voiced similar sentiments—that Buck just resonated with him on a visceral level, the things he had to face and overcome in life. I’m not trying to be braggy about this character—I know I haven’t created anyone else quite as compelling in any of my other books (yet!)—I’m just saying he’s real to me, and scores of fans of the book have told me the same thing. I hope someone reading this will fall in love with a big, fat blond sumo wrestler like I did.
SAMPLE CHAPTER: Use the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon here.
LOCAL OUTLETS: I live in a teeny tiny town with zero bookstores unless you count Walmart (and I don’t.) So, no local outlets. How sad. But it’s the price we must pay to have the luxury of never having to sit in traffic. Ever. Except when exiting the county fair on Saturday night once a year.
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, I heard there was a copy in an Arizona Barnes & Noble brick and mortar store somewhere. If you find it, let me know! Send me a photo!
PRICE: Ummm…. $7.99 Kindle, $12.99 paperback on Amazon
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Find me on Facebook at Author Jennifer Griffith. My Twitter handle is @GriffithJen. Or you can email me at email@example.com. I love to hear from readers!