30 Questions for Honobu Yonezawa (From readers)

When Even Though I’m Told I Now Have Wings was published, questions for Yonezawa-san were collected on a special website – and there were more than 400 of them. Here are 30 of the passionate exchanges between Yonezawa-san and the readers, that have not been presented before.

Question 1: What is your favorite mystery from the Classics Club series? By the way, I personally find the mystery of the school announcement’s meaning in Those Who Know Something to be the most fascinating. (From wakkun)

Answer: I have feelings for each one, so I can’t say that one is superior while the others are inferior, but I do think that The Reception Table is Right over Here and A Very Wonderful Shop in Approximating the Distance between Two were written with quite an interesting approach and conclusion.

Question 2: I am ashamed to admit this, but while I’m working, my head is constantly clouded with quite a lot of unrelated thoughts. I believe that you have strong concentration, to be able to create a world in a novel from scratch, immerse yourself in that world and write stories for it. How do you manage to stay focused on the work you have in front of you? (From Taibou)

Answer: I’m not normally able to concentrate to that extent. When I’m writing about the climax of the story, there are days when I can write 80 or even 100 pages, but those are rare. For the less colorful parts, I don’t do anything but write little by little, slowly deciding between this or that.

If you have to force yourself to concentrate, I’ve learnt from hearsay that this thing called “SHIMEKIRI”1 is really effective.

Question 3: My pet theory is that the heroine of a novel written by a male author is the ideal woman of that author. Is Chitanda-san your ideal woman? If not, what is your favorite type from the Classics Club series? (From Anko)

Answer: In my case, unfortunately, my preferences and ideals are not reflected at all in the heroines of my novels. As for the female characters in the Classics Club series, they are too young for me to consider them being my type, even at the point when I started writing the first novel.

Question 4: The Classics Club series is a story in which the characters solve mysteries lurking in everyday life. If you run into such everyday mysteries in real life, would you try to solve them, full of curiosity like Chitanda-san? Or would you conserve your energy like Houtarou? (From scent)

Answer: “I wonder if it’s like this.” “I suppose I could also think of it this way.” I would have fun coming up with theories in this vein, but I wouldn’t find the most convincing piece of evidence or break the yo-tsume2, so I suppose it’s a compromise of curiosity and energy conservation.

Question 5: In The Credit Roll of the Fool, there is a chapter titled “Let’s Try This”, but I read in the afterword of The Kudryavka Sequence that the main theme for that chapter is “Agitation”3. What did you mean by that? (From Katakana)

Answer: I don’t remember the details, but in the fifth chapter of The Credit Roll of the Fool, a character was stirring up (or agitating) another character4.

Question 6: In the Classics Club series, I felt like I discovered all kinds of shapes and sizes that youth can come in. So, my question is, when you were writing about such youth moments, did you draw it from your personal experience? (From Mikan)

Answer: “I remember an election for the Executive Committee during my student days”, “The marathon was long”, “I made a mirror frame as a graduation project for middle school”. Such experiences are included in my stories. However, what I felt during those times are not reflected.

Question 7: I enjoy the English titles as much as the contents of your novels. Have you decided on an English title for Even Though I’m Told I Now Have Wings? (From Koichan)

Answer: An English title is added as part of the design when the volume is published in paperback. Currently, I’m thinking of “Last seen bearing”5.

Question 8: This is a question for the “Mysteries!” Newcomer Award selection committee member Yonezawa-sensei. What points do you focus on when you judge novels? (From Toon)

Answer: The first point is whether the story is twisted. I look out for whether it is lacking in respect for history or living people, whether it makes light of readers and treats them as idiots. This might cause many books to be overlooked in terms of workmanship, but when a Newcomer Award is given, it is publicly announced to the world, and takes a spot next to the previous winners of the award. This shows the character of the award, and announces to everyone that the publisher holds value for what that author produces, so I tend to be wary of parts that are overly weird.

Of course, if a novel is excellent, I drop all that caution and judge the novel with the consideration that it could still be dangerous. There are novels like problem children who are awkward and lack any sort of sociability, who will get into some sort of scandal sooner or later due to a slip of the tongue, but possess overwhelming power that I have no choice but to recognize… being forced to yield by such novels is the true pleasure of newcomer awards. I was struck by such a novel during a prelection in the past.

Question 9: In recent short stories, Houtarou has been cooking quite often. What is his specialty? (From m nico)

Answer: I don’t think he’s that skilled to have a specialty. Anyway, he would never do anything that takes up a lot of time or effort, so his repertoire would consist of only fried foods, I believe.

Question 10: Please tell me the origins of Oreki-kun’s name! (From Uka)

Answer: I had just finished thinking of Oreki Houtarou’s personality and background, so all that was left was his given name… I was thinking about that while walking in town when I saw a sign in the grounds of a shrine that said, “供奉”6. That left a strong impression on me, so I split it into 供恵 (Tomoe) and 奉太郎 (Houtarou) for the two siblings.

Question 11: The Classics Club series is usually told through the eyes of Oreki, but in The Kudryavka Sequence, the story is told by all members of the Classics Club, with a mark for each of them; a spade for Oreki, a clover for Satoshi, a heart for Chitanda and a diamond for Mayaka. I believe that you assigned them based on the image you have for the characters, so what kind of image do you have for each of these playing card suits? (From Double Cheese Barbie7)

Answer: The spade represents the trump card. It is usually the strongest suit, and the ace of spades is drawn in a different format.

The club, like the actual object, lacks a sharp edge, but is widely versatile, and can be used for various purposes.

The suit of hearts brings to mind the clergy, with the image of ideals over reality, and prayer over compromise.

The diamond makes me think of the world. It contains painful, dirty things, but also contains the joys of life.

Question 12: Please tell us about the things you pay attention to, if any, while writing your books, especially when you’re describing the psychology of a character. (From Pageshi)

Answer: I make sure that the characters are not tossed about solely for the story’s convenience. For example, if there is a particular emotion that must be felt by the characters for the story to take shape, but is unlikely to be felt by them, more effort must be put into the story to avoid that problem, and I make it a habit to do so without warping the characters’ feelings.

Question 13: If you did not become an author, what do you think you would have done? (From mtrgt)

Answer: Hmm, if not a scenario writer or a scriptwriter, then I would probably be a civil servant.

Question 14: Does Houtarou like Eru? He does, doesn’t he? (From Kaachan)

Answer: Who knows…?8

Question 15: The Classics Club series tends to use the many-detectives format (like in Black Widowers9 and The Poisoned Chocolates Case10) compared to the Holmes-Watson format that most mysteries use. Do you have any intention or fixation behind that? (From Picric Acid)

Answer: That is because Oreki is not the only person who can face the mysteries. There is a limit to his knowledge and intuition, so he requires the help of others (usually the other members of the Classics Club) to get to the resolution. Above all, he is not solving the mysteries on a professional basis, so whenever he gets involved with someone else, the feeling of “Why am I solving this mystery?” has to be shown.

Question 16: Please tell me how you manage your books and arrange them on a bookshelf. Also, do you place your own books in the room where you work? (From Lamb)

Answer: My bookshelf is roughly split into bunko, shinshoban and tankobon11. Each category roughly follows the Nippon Decimal Classification12. And yes, I do keep my own books in my working room… I get many opportunities to refer to them when I write about my previous works, like this.

Question 17: There is a club called the Global Act Club during the Cultural Festival. What kind of club is it? (From Moomin)

Answer: Its full name is “Global Activities Club”. You can think of it as a club where students with an interest for international affairs gather. They might have fundraising activities, and if there are sister schools overseas, they could hold international exchange activities.

Question 18: I feel that some whydunit elements have been omitted from the Classics Club series. On the other hand, it seems like Houtarou puts weight on the question of “Why am I solving this mystery?” Rather than the reason for why an incident occurs, the reason for solving the mystery seems to be the crux, or the key of the series. Is that wrong? (From Pepe Jr)

Answer: I consider both these aspects as important. “Why did the culprit want to make it a mystery?” “Why must Oreki Houtarou solve that mystery?” I believe that it is with these two elements that you can point to the richness of a mystery novel. Like in What’s Missing from the Box, I have written howdunits that completely ignore the motive, but those are few and far between. Personally, as a singular fan of mystery, howdunits with no motive tickle my heart, but I think they are good only because they are done once in a while.

Question 19: The series is set in Gifu, but the characters do not use a dialect. Do you imagine them using standard Japanese, or do you imagine them conversing with the local dialect, and you convert that into standard Japanese for the books? (From Oreki’s Aunt)

Answer: Firstly, the story is set in the fictional “Kamiyama City”. It is not clearly stated anywhere that it is in Gifu Prefecture, so there is no reason to use Gifu’s dialect. Secondly, my friends in university almost never spoke in dialects, so I do not feel unnatural when writing “standard Japanese”. (Although there would be some quirks to the intonation in general…) To answer your question, I do imagine the characters speaking standard Japanese.

Even so, some colloquialisms from the Tokai region have made their way into the text, like “B paper” (B1 paper), “class dismissal” (after lessons have ended) and “car school” (automobile driving school).

Question 20: Chitanda-san is usually polite in her speech, but how does she address Tetsugo-san13 and the rest of her family at home? Does she say “Otou-san”? Or does she say “Otou-sama”14? (From Amaebi)

Answer: Chitanda speaks politely, but she is not overly polite. For example, she would not use the honorific form of “to say”. I believe that “Otou-san” would be fitting for her.

Question 21: How many times do you have to reread a book before it gets published? (From Lee)

Answer: Taking the example of Even Though I’m Told I Now Have Wings, once while writing the draft, once for final adjustments which may or may not have to be done depending on the situation, once or twice for the production of the magazine galley proof15, two to four times for the production of the tankobon galley proof.

Question 22: Do you have plans for Sawakiguchi-senpai to appear again? (From Kamiyama High School Quiz Research Society OB)

Answer: She would be busy since she is taking entrance examinations, but she could probably show up.

Question 23: Starting with the Classics Club series, I read all your books, allowing me to catch a glimpse of your database-esque abilities here and there. Do you give special attention to gathering knowledge even outside of reading? (From Ersatz Man of the World No. 84)

Answer: In this line of work, people with unbelievably extensive knowledge are a dime a dozen, so I do not think at all that I am knowledgeable. However, I will answer your question about whether I give special attention to gain knowledge.

In any case, you can discover new things by looking at things with your own two eyes. There was a time when I was told that “there was no such term as shinokosho16 during the Edo period”. However, I went to the Edo-Tokyo Museum and saw a ukiyo-e17 with “shinokosho” written on it. With that, I understood that the class system at that time may not have been known as “shinokosho”, but that word definitely existed.

It is said that “thought without learning is dangerous”18, so rather than just swallowing the discovery whole, it is crucial to re-examine it with books and other sources of information. As with the aforementioned “shinokosho” example, was the ukiyo-e really printed in the Edo period, and where did that term come from in the first place… it is impossible to be certain about those things without books.

Question 24: What is your favorite food? (From Omurice)

Answer: I was asked this question a while back, and I immediately answered “burdock and wintermelon”. But those are ingredients, not foods…

Question 25: Did Houtarou use Sekitani-san’s real name and detail his story in high school for the Hyouka anthology? (From Yoshidaa)

Answer:  Sekitani Jun’s full name is written on documents in school, so it is public knowledge and it would be meaningless to hide it. Then again, considering Chitanda’s feelings, and also considering that people who were involved in that incident (especially Sekitani Jun’s schoolmates) might read the anthology, I think Oreki would use a pseudonym or initials. As for writing the history of that incident, Oreki would have a half-hearted attitude towards it, but expecting him to have the responsibility and drive to cover all the details would be too harsh on him.

Question 26: How do you think up everyday mysteries? (From Wind-up bird)

Answer: Everyday mysteries are just another type of mystery. The most basic foundation of it is made up of your understanding of mysteries, or the accumulated experience you have had with mysteries. It could be a whodunit, howdunit, locked-room mystery, or make use of a secret code, flashback or narrative trick… Another point is, as obvious as it sounds, that you have to raise your antenna up high in daily life. By taking a walk for one hour, you should be able to find three to four mysterious things, putting aside the question of whether you can write them into a story.

Question 27: Houtarou wears a white trench coat in the winter. It is quite rare to see a high school student wearing a white trench coat to school, so was there any reason for that setting? (From Koyuki)

Answer: The trench coat is described as white because of Oreki’s limited vocabulary. I actually imagined it to be of a shade between yellowish off-white and light beige. Well, I thought that it would be useful for traffic safety because it can be seen well at night. I made Oreki wear that because I also wear something similar to that, and there is no deeper meaning behind it.

Question 28: Is the Classic Club series a reflection of the life you wanted to lead in your youth? (From Norfolk Kagura)

Answer: No. In my youth, I wanted to go to the Nationals with my club.

Question 29: Are you conscious of reality when you write a novel? Do you think that it is just fiction, or do you think that you should write it in line with reality because it is a novel? I would be happy if you could tell me how you think. (From Yuki Yuu)

Answer: You can pursue reality, but that is usually made up of days when nothing in particular happens. Even on days when incidents occur, those incidents could be completely unrelated. If you want to see reality as it is, you should just go out and look at real life, and there is no need to read a novel. Thus, I do not aim for my stories to imitate the real world, but to write a good work of fiction, some degree of reality is still required. I feel utterly envious when the real world fails to follow the rules of reality, yet does not get called “a bunch of contrivances”, or said to “have an unreasonable setting”.

Question 30: Will you write the Classics Club series until it is complete? (From Kachan)

Answer: Yes, that is what I plan to do.

Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher, Slush56, _Maki

Assistants (Tier 1) : Karen Kronenberg, Definitelynotme, Rolando Sanchez, Yazmin Arostegui

Thank you very much for all your support!

  1. Shimekiri means “deadline” in Japanese. However, it could also refer to the to-do list app by Aoba Software. I’m not sure which one Yonezawa-sensei is referring to.
  2. Yo-tsume is a term in shogi where one’s solution to a shogi puzzle is not the one meant by the creator of that puzzle, so it is invalid. Breaking the yo-tsume in this context means finding the right order of logic.
  3. In the afterword of The Credit Roll of the Fool, Yonezawa-sensei mentioned that the title of chapter 5 is in a different style because he couldn’t think of a good title for it “that could instill a feeling of surprise”.
  4. Naturally, the former is Irisu and the latter is Houtarou.
  5. This did end up as the English title for Even Though I’m Told I Now Have Wings.
  6. This is read as “gubu”, and means puja, which is a worship ritual performed by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains to offer devotional homage and prayer to one or more deities, to host and honour a guest, or to spiritually celebrate an event.
  7. Aussie slang for Barbecue.
  8. BRUH
  9. A fictional men-only dining club created by Isaac Asimov for a series of sixty-six mystery stories. The six club members meet once a month at a private room, and each one takes a turn to act as host for the evening and brings along a guest for the occasion. In the course of the subsequent conversation, it always comes out that the guest has a problem, varying from personal issues to problems at work to actual crimes. The club members try to solve the problem, raising various related aspects in the course of the conversation, but are unable to come to a conclusion or resolution.
  10. A detective novel by Anthony Berkeley set in 1920s London in which a group of armchair detectives, who have founded the “Crimes Circle”, formulate theories on a recent murder case Scotland Yard has been unable to solve. As at least six plausible explanations of what really happened are put forward one after the other, the reader—just like the members of the Crimes Circle themselves—is kept guessing right up to the final pages of the book. Yonezawa-sensei mentioned in 15 Year Walk with the Classics Club that The Credit Roll of the Fool was meant to be a mini version of The Poisoned Chocolates Case.
  11. The different types of books in Japan. Bunko are A6 size (105×148mm), with soft covers and are usually contains novels, classics or poetry compilations. Shinshoban are of size 105×173mm, slightly bigger than bunko, with soft covers and are usually technical or academic books. Tankobon are larger (128×182mm or 128×188mm), with either soft or hard covers, and can contain all kinds of material, from novels to essays to business advice.
  12. A system of library classification developed for mainly Japanese language books maintained by the Japan Library Association since 1956, based on the Dewey Decimal System.
  13. Chitanda’s father.
  14. Like -san, ­-sama­ is an honorific, but is a more respectful version for individuals of a higher social standing.
  15. The preliminary versions of publications meant for review by authors, editors, and proofreaders, often with extra-wide margins.
  16. This refers to the feudal class system in Edo Japan, with samurai at the top, then the farming peasants, then the craftsmen and artisans, with merchants at the bottom.
  17. Translated literally as “pictures of the floating world”, ukiyo-e is a genre of Japanese art that flourished from the 17th to 19th century. Its artists produced woodblock prints and paintings of such subjects as female beauties; kabuki actors and sumo wrestlers; scenes from history and folk tales; travel scenes and landscapes; flora and fauna; and erotica.
  18. This is a phrase from Book 2 of The Analects of Confucius. The full saying is “Learning without thought is pointless. Thought without learning is dangerous.”

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