This interview originally appeared in the July/August 2016 Horn Book Magazine as part of Publishers’ Previews: Debut Authors, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a first book. They choose the books; we ask the questions.
A little boy looks for quiet — absolute quiet — amidst the lively sounds of busy Tokyo in Katrina Goldsaito’s The Sound of Silence.
1. Where is the quietest place you have ever been?
KG: If I tell you, will you promise to go? First you must write the monks of Kokedera temple a month in advance, and when they respond, bring your postcard to the gates, where they’ll ask you to copy down the heart sutra over a cacophony of chanting and bells — the noise prepares you for the quiet. Only then can you enter in the tiny ancient forest, covered in thick moss that soaks up all sound. The quiet nestles into you, slows your breathing, brings you back to yourself.
2. What’s the best technique to get a child to listen?
KG: Maybe children are always listening. Maybe when we say to a child, “You’re not listening,” what we really mean is “You’re not listening to me.” I say to my son, “Don’t pour your milk on the floor — no — wait — stop — don’t!” but he’s hearing the slosh of the milk and the internal roar of If I pour this, will it go up or down?
3. What do Julia Kuo’s illustrations tell you about your own text?
KG: There’s one spread in Julia’s stunning illustrations where little Yoshio is standing on the train platform with his boot on the yellow line that you are under no circumstances allowed to cross. It’s such a perfect gesture: Julia captures my father (whose story the book is based on), revealing his mix of rebellion and curiosity.
4. You used to live in Tokyo and now live in San Francisco. What is the biggest difference in the soundscape?
KG: For years, I only knew Japan through my father’s stories: the crunch of pebbles at his family’s shrine, the mournful song of the yakimo man pulling roasted sweet potatoes off coals in the back of his truck. The sounds evoke a whole universe for me. In San Francisco, I don’t get the same tug of yearning from the disco roller skaters and drummers on Hippie Hill.
5. Do you find a leaky faucet an inspiration or annoyance?
KG: Since the moment you asked this question, I’ve been determined to find inspiration in a leaky faucet.