Publishers' Preview: Books in the Middle: Five Questions for Misa Sugiura

This interview originally appeared in the January/February 2023 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Books in the Middle, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Momo Arashima Steals the Sword of the Wind, and along the way she acquires some unlikely allies and a better picture of herself.

1. Your first fantasy novel! What was the most challenging difference from writing realistic fiction?

A few years ago, I would have said I could never write fantasy because I couldn’t make up worlds that didn’t exist. But it turns out that part was easy. My biggest challenge has been remembering to make space in the world-building and action sequences for the slower-paced character-building scenes that have always been my specialty. I get so excited about using the skills that are new to me that I forget to include what I already know how to do.

2. What food would be found in your magic backpack?

Mochi (grilled so that it’s crunchy and toasty on the outside and warm and gooey on the inside); deep-dish pizza from Gino’s East in Chicago; and banana cupcakes with cream cheese frosting from my favorite local bakery.

3. Who would you most like to have by your side for an epic quest?

Maybe Yelena Belova, Marvel’s new Black Widow — she’s a master tactician, she’s an incredible athlete and fighter, and she has a great sense of humor. Or Rey from the Star Wars universe; she has a more reliable moral compass. In my own life, I’d have to go with my husband — he’s an out-of-the-box thinker, very practical, and great at fixing things. And I know I can trust him.

4. Have you ever experienced real, non-metaphorical magic?

My great-grandfather told his family he could control people, objects, and the weather with his mind. He was probably making this up; on the other hand, he was the son of a Shinto priestess, so maybe it was true! I myself have not experienced non-metaphorical fairy-tale magic…yet.

5. What quality does Momo have that you most wish for yourself?

I tend to avoid conflict; it’s hard to speak up if what I say might upset people. Momo starts off like this, but deep down, she’s a fighter. When something is important to her, she fights with everything she has, regardless of risk. I’d love to be like her in that way.

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Photo: Misa Sugiura.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Editor Emeritus Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc., from 1996-2021. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his MA in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a BA from Pitzer College in 1978.

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