Saturday, May 18, 2013

Interview With Author Dan King

1. What type of books do you write? Historical Non-Fiction. My most recent book is:  The Last Zero Fighter, Firsthand Accounts from WWII Japanese Naval Aviators, published by Pacific Press in 2012.

2.  What is your newest book about? “The Last Zero Fighter” is firsthand accounts of the training & combat experiences of five Japanese WWII Naval aviators. The book follows them from enlistment, training and then to the skies over China, Pearl Harbor, Midway, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and other pivotal Pacific War battles. I read, write and speak Japanese so was able to delve deep into the training system, the pilots’ motivation and their personal opinions.  My next book is about the interviews I did with several of Japan’s last surviving Iwo Jima veterans. It will be the first book ever written in English about the world’s most infamous and horrific battle from the Japanese point of view; and in their own words.  To date, I am the only person who reads, writes and speaks the language) to document their experiences after meeting them in person. I had no need for an interpreter or translator because I could ask them the questions, and more importantly, also ask follow-up questions on the spot.

3.  What inspired you to write it? I was inspired to write “The Last Zero Fighter” after meeting several WWII Japanese pilots and getting to know them. I discovered their personal experiences were far more complex than was portrayed in the US. I also learned they were similar to our American WWII veterans. They too, were flying for their families, their fellow pilots and their country. Their eyes lit up when they talked about the first time they sat in the cockpit and the joy of flight. 

4.  What is the writing process like for you? My writing process can be summed up with the Japanese phrase “Genchi Genbutsu” a useful term I learned in Japan. The term means to “Go to the source and examine it firsthand”.  I visited the Japanese WWII veterans in their homes to see how they lived; spent time with them to see what they were like and gain their trust and understanding for my project. I attended their reunions and dinner parties. I asked hard questions such as “Why did the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor?” and documented their revealing replies.

Since 1988 I interviewed ninety-seven Japanese WWII Army & Navy veterans for my book series on their firsthand accounts. I have also visited most of the former Japanese domestic WWII airfields and military ports as well as a large number of Pacific battle sites: Iwo Jima, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Midway, Wake Island, Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Nanking, Truk Lagoon etc…

My process involves lengthy mind numbing, and backside numbing, sessions of transcribing & translating Japanese audio recordings, reading letters and memoirs from veterans as well as WWII reference books in Japanese.  When I get to the writing phase of the project I always have a cup of coffee and our cat ‘Rampy’ on my desk. In the back of my mind is the thought, “These stories will disappear from history if not documented.” So I feel a great deal of responsibility because far too soon, the WWII veterans from all nations will be gone, taking their incredible experiences and lessons with them. What will we have learned from them? How do we pass on those lessons?

5. What did you do before you became an author? Before I started writing, I worked for Toyota Motor Corporation for fifteen years, ten of which were in Japan. I then started working as a historical/language/technical consultant for films, TV documentaries and museums. I still do this work.

6. How does it feel to be a published author?  I am always excited when a reader sends me a letter or email thanking me for writing “The Last Zero Fighter”.  Some have told me they were inspired by the way the pilots overcame terrible loss and tragedy.  Others have said they have had their perceptions of WWII changed as a result of reading these true stories by the men who lived them.

7. Any advice for struggling writers? No real advice for struggling writers, because I’m one, too. Perhaps it is best to write about something you can’t stop thinking about. If you don’t wake up in the morning and hit the pillow at night with it rattling around in your head, it is best to find something else to devote yourself to writing about. When a writer is passionate about his subject, it shows.

8. Where do you see book publishing heading? Well, I can’t say for sure, but there is growing interest in self-published material. New authors, who were typically ignored by the big publishing world, are finding the creative control and rapid desk-to-market times empowering. With publishing becoming accessible to the average person, perhaps we will see more print, audio books and e-books on a wider range of subjects.

For more information, please consult:


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This blog is copyrighted material by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2013 

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