Thursday, September 19, 2013

Interview with Jennifer Cody Epstein

Yesterday I reviewed the marvelous The Gods of Heavenly Punishment, a wonderfully gorgeous and gutting novel of World War II that focused on Japan and a handful of people there. It was kind of a revelation and I can't gush about it enough! I'm thrilled to share my interview with the author, Jennifer Cody Epstein, who talks about her writing, her book, and what she does when not writing. Enjoy! Be sure to enter the giveaway to win a copy of this great book.

What was the plot of your very first piece of fiction?

It's all rather hazy now, but I believe it was about a magic swingset that could swing you into another dimension. That, and fighting with siblings!

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

I'm rather remarkably unstructured (according to those around me, at least). But my rule is to try to put in at least two hours of something writing-related a day. As I get closer to a deadline, those hours will grow, however--when I'm in "the zone" I sometimes write for five or six hours a day.

Was The Gods of Heavenly Punishment the original title of your book?

It was! It was actually a title that came to me unusually easily--the moment I saw that the phrase (it's the title of an old Japanese "Hell Scroll") I thought a-ha. That's it. It just summed up so much about what the novel was for me--the idea of man as god, as divine punishers, of the punishment that is war and that comes in its wake.

As you were writing The Gods of Heavenly Punishment, was there a particular scene or character that surprised you?

Anton Reynolds was a bit of a surprise--largely because I had no idea, when I first began writing him, that he'd end up being such a Casanova! I initially saw him as a very dry, somewhat pretentious (albeit very talented) little man, and I didn't have any real plans to explore facets of his personality other than his architectural decisions. But when I crossed his character with that of Hana Kobayashi--the sultry, troubled, London-schooled wife of Anton's master carpenter--sparks really flew; and I found trying to imagine his response to that unexpected passion really fascinating to delve into literarily.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

I love hanging out with my daughters, running with my dog, and doing yoga, and also eating really good food (thankfully my husband is an incredible chef) and drinking great wine. And bourbon. And of course, I really love reading.

Read any good books recently?

I have! Over the summer I read and enjoyed The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin (lovely language), City of Women by David Gillham, and Black Swan Green by David Mitchell (who is as close to a literary hero as I have right now). I'm currently reading Sarah Jessica Cane's The Report and in my spare time grabbing snatches of World War Z--largely because I got a real kick out of the movie (and, um, Brad Pitt!).

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My thanks to Ms. Epstein for her time and her thoughtful responses. You can learn more about her and her books at her website and find her on Twitter.


I'm thrilled to offer THREE readers a copy of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian readers, ends 10/4.


  1. I loved this book, and I was surprised by Anton when I was reading about him. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Good afternoon, Audra & Ms. Epstein!

    :) I am not sure if I am within the deadline of this contest, but I've been trying to get back to where I could lay a comment on not only this posting, but the others' that are ending on the 4th! If nothing else, you and the other authors will know how keen I am to read your novels, which I still think is rather brilliant! :)

    A portal through a swingset!? I ought to have come up with that idea! I was always swinging whenever we could get to a park! Love that idea!!

    I love the explanation behind the title, because it gives a clear, translucent thought behind the writing and creation of the story!

    I nearly had to chuckle reading about her 'unexpected character detouring into her plot!', as that is what I think is one of the best instances of a writer being guided by her own character to head off into a place that she/he might not have thought possible to travel! As well as noting that 'reading, wine, and family' are some of the best companions we can aspire to have in our lives! :) Amen!

    The only book I recognised from her list of 'recent reads' is "The Orchardist" by which I thought I might fancy to read myself! This was another lovely interview, Audra! Thank you for giving us a glimpse into the author!