Meet Karin Tanabe – she’s a former POLITICO reporter turned fiction writer whose books reel you into another place and time you thought only existed in history books and movies. Karin just released her fourth novel, The Diplomat’s Daughter, about three young people forced on a journey in the face of physical and mental hardships that arise during World War II. With Karin being a gifted writer, we had high expectations for her responses to our questions and we can confirm she did not disappoint.
You’ve written 4 successful novels – we know that asking you which one is your favorite is like asking which child is your favorite, but we’re going to do it anyways. If you HAD to pick, which book of yours is your favorite and why?
Well, the rule is that your latest book should always be your favorite book, and I think that holds true for most authors, including me! But I don’t think I’ll ever feel as close to a book as I do to my third book, The Gilded Years. It’s the only book I’ve ever written that was based on a true story and it’s set at my alma mater, Vassar College. It was also my gateway drug to writing historical fiction.
What can readers expect in The Diplomat’s Daughter that sets it apart from the others?
The Diplomat’s Daughter is historical fiction set during World War II. I know what you’re thinking, there are so few books written about World War II, haha. That was actually my biggest challenge in writing this book, how to make it sound different and fresh in a genre that is very, very popular. But I think what sets it apart is that I have a different take on war, focusing on an internment camp in Texas that interned both Japanese-Americans and German-Americans, Jewish refugees in Shanghai and a town in Japan where Nazis and Jews lived peacefully together. Little known stories wrapped together in a quick 464 pages.
Ok, switching gears. Your work consists of writing books. Does that mean you like to read on your downtime?
I absolutely love to read and my reading habits tend to vacillate from highbrow to lowbrow with not too much in between. I’m constantly trying to read the classics and every couple of weeks I read a book I skipped in high school, or just feel like I need to have in my brain. In this category, I’m currently reading “The Quiet American” by Graham Greene. In the guilty pleasure category, I’m reading “Fitness Junkie” by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza, which is a fun satire about our spinning/green juice/cayenne pepper cleanse/hundred dollar yoga pants obsessed society. I picked it up not because I workout a lot, but because I loved their last book, “The Knockoff,” which was like a reverse “Devil Wears Prada.” I’m also reading “Rich People Problems,” by Kevin Kwan, which is just as funny as his first two books.
What’s something readers might be surprised to know about you? (nothing is off limits!)
When I was 22 I kissed Mick Jagger. Let me clarify that I kissed him and not the other way around. And yes, I was extraordinarily intoxicated.
Your turn! Ask yourself a question and answer it.
Q: Karin, which book do you wish you had written?
A: “The Great Gatsby,” because it still is the great American novel, and “Fifty Shades of Grey,” of course. I don’t care how bad it is. I wish I’d written it and that I was swimming in gold coins just casually writing poorly edited sex scenes while watching my fortune grow. Maybe in my next life.