This article originally featured in the February 2021 issue of Connect.
Kahlan Dunn (Aomori) interviewed by Jessica Craven (Saitama)
In my quest to interview various creatives across Japan, I stumbled across someone who practices an art form I admittedly know little about firsthandーcreative writing. It seems like more and more people are into creative writing and National Novel Writing Month these days, so I hope that makes this interview all the more interesting for you.
J: Where are you from, how long have you been in Japan, and what made you decide to come here?
K: I am from Seattle, WA, USA, and I’ve been in Japan since July, 2018 to work as an ALT in Aomori City. I’ve always wanted to teach English in Japan, and honestly it’s been just as amazing and fulfilling as I had hoped!
J: What got you started with creative writing?
K: I’ve been reading and writing since almost before I can remember, but my interest in writing was sparked by my love for reading. Reading has always been one of my passions, and after years of living in other people’s worlds and living vicariously through their characters, I started wanting to create my own.
J: Tell us about your work.
K: I write poetry and fiction and enjoy creating both immensely. My poetry is usually emotional and introspective, and is heavily influenced by my own feelings and surroundings. My prose usually takes the form of flash fiction or novels, and I prefer to write in the fantasy genre. Sometimes I also like to write in the drama or thriller genres.
I will share a sample of one of my poems
called “Drunk on Faerydust”. . . .
Return to me, lovely, and let’s tell the rest of our story in the lilting tongue of our dreams and the wild music of our fantasies.
J: Tell us about the novel you are currently working on now.
K: I’ve never been more excited about a project than I am about this one! It’s called Elekindra and it’s the first book in a series intended for young adult or new adult audiences, and is classified as high fantasy. It’s all about warriors and dragons and monarchs, and how two of them band together to protect themselves from the third.
Here’s an excerpt:
As night falls, the light of the sun dies a bloody death against the knife-edge horizon beyond the turrets and towers of Castle Elekindra. I don’t understand why we say “night falls”. . . . Night doesn’t fall. It collapses, smothers, extinguishes. . . . It creeps over the ceiling of the universe like an infection . . . like a blight . . . like a bleed.
J: What kind of themes or ideas does your work explore?
K: I think that books of any substance should not only be entertaining and engrossing, but should also impart some truth or wrestle with some dilemma that is relevant to its modern readers. This world is filled with people of every race, sexual orientation, gender identity, walk of life, and role in society, and it makes no sense to me that so much modern fiction only reflects a small sliver of that diversity. And so, my characters are mold-breakers and “natural order” subverters and unique beings in and of themselves. My characters are women who lead and men who follow; people who believe love is love, and who hail from worlds that accept that truth as fact . . . people who suffer from anxiety attacks, or come from troubled homes, or struggle with undeniable flaws such as greed or arrogance or cowardice
. . . people my readers can intimately relate to, and who challenge their view of our own world, whether or not the story takes place within it.
J: What inspires you as a writer?
K: When it comes to poetry, I am very inspired by music and art and nature. My prose is also often inspired by such thingsーespecially when I am creating new worlds for my fantasy fictionーbut my characters are usually inspired by the people around me and heavily influenced by my own life experiences.
My characters are women who lead and men who follow; people who believe love is love, and who hail from worlds that accept that truth as fact . . .
J: Do you have a “formal” education in creative writing, or how do you learn to improve your writing?
K: I majored in creative writing when I was in college, and I actually just finished submitting my application to the University of Washington’s MFA in creative writing program! Besides school, I have also found invaluable feedback and support online with the DeviantArt literature community. I have been a member of the community since 2012, and I know without a doubt that I would not be the writer I am today without their support.
J: Has being in Japan influenced your work in any way?
K: Absolutely! These last two and a half years have been a time of growth and development for me, both as a person and as a writer. Throughout my time here, I have come to realize that though I love teaching from the bottom of my heartーand always willーbut writing is my number one passion. It makes me the happiest, compared to everything else I’ve ever done.
J: What advice do you have for people who are interested in creative writing?
K: Read! Read, write, and practice writing like what you’ve read. The best way to learn how to write the kind of work you want to create is to read books by authors who write the kinds of stories in the kinds of styles that you favor. Then writeーand find a community that will help you develop and hone your craft.
Kahlan Dunn is a third-year American JET from Seattle, Washington now living in Aomori. She has an undergraduate degree in creative writing from the University of Washington. More of her writing can be found on her Deviantart page here.
Jessica is a fourth-year American JET from Arkansas state now living in Saitama. She is the art section editor for CONNECT. On weekends she enjoys hiking in remote areas of Saitama or taking day-trips to Tokyo. When not adventuring, she can be found reading or creating her own artwork, which can be seen on her Instagram @jessica_craven_art.