Author Interview: Lila Mina

There’s a very specific skill needed to pull off writing a book like Fated, something that takes a combination of knowledge and life lessons that are hard-won. It takes a lot of first-hand knowledge of language and culture and a lot of painstaking research.

Lila Mina may be one of the few, maybe only person that could have pulled off such a feat. Having spoken with her (and as you’ll be able to read below), I can see the breadcrumbs of her past in her novel, and I love how resourceful and unique the novel is.

I was delighted to speak with her, and reading her novel was a joy. You can read my review of Fated here.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a native French speaker from Europe, and I’ve been living in Japan for more than a decade with my family. Writing has always been my creative outlet, for as long as I can remember. I began writing short stories back in junior high school, then went on with writing tons of fanfiction for fanzines, in French and English, when that was a thing. I moved to longer original stories in my early twenties until my law school killed my creative spark. It took me fifteen years to get back to creative writing. That’s when I realized I loved writing stories with extra levels of steam. 

Today, I’m in my early forties, I run a couple of businesses and write whenever I can find the time. For years, even before moving here, I’ve had a deep emotional connection with Japan, and I find inspiration in what I see and experience in my daily life, as well as what I’ve learned over the years. Through my mother’s side, I grew up with a rich inner world based on Scandinavian fairy tales with strong ties to nature and the Unseen surrounding us. So the instant connection I had with the myths and animistic worldview prevalent in Japan that inspires most of my stories doesn’t surprise me.

You’ve had an exciting background yourself! Do you feel the adventures you’ve experienced and the worldliness you’ve attained as someone who’s lived in many different countries affects how you write your characters beyond their cultures?

Definitely! My world and life are so different from when I lived back in my country of origin. Being a foreigner in a vastly different country, with different worldviews, practices, expectations and social rules taught me so much about myself… and the reality of being foreign resident. I figured out what was the most important for me, and what seriously needed work and improvement, above all when disasters and catastrophe struck. It inspired me to write characters who experience life-changing revelations. That’s why all my books have this common point, because cultural differences create interesting tension, chance for character growth and teachable moments between protagonists. People can stay true to themselves yet grow at so many levels.

What is your favorite novel, and has it inspired how you write? How?

It’s a very difficult question. I’ve had too many favorites over the years now, and it wasn’t any particular book that pushed me into writing. 

But if I had to think back to my formative years and the books that made a lasting impact, I think it’s a mix of classics – from Les Misérables, The Three Musketeers to Dracula and Water Margin by Shi Na’ain. Then later the Anita Blake series by Laurel K. Hamilton (my first steps into polyamory and paranormal universe), but also science fiction, historical novels and thrillers. I read Stephen King and Michael Crichton when I was 12-17 for example. More recently, I’ve binged on the Nordic Noir genre (like Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbø) and Chinese and Japanese authors in SFF and crime, notably The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, or Out by Natsuo Kirino. Authors writing magical realism like Haruki Murakami, Jose Carlos Somoza, or Selma Lagerlöf always hit close, and their books have been a major source of inspiration when I began writing in earnest. 

Of course, I cannot forget the long-lasting impression left by James Clavell’s Shogun when I was 16 or 17. It was my first introduction to feudal Japan, led me to watch all Kurosawa movies, and when I began writing Fated, I realized that there was a strong connection with that novel I read 25 years ago.

I didn’t read a lot of pure romance books, and I think this shows in the stories I write. Although all of them have a strong romance plot (and/or extra steamy scenes), with a HEA for the love birds, I enjoy creating the kind of world-building that is more often associated with fantasy and SFF, and the darker side of crime and paranormal always thrilled me. 

It makes it harder for me to reach a specific audience, but genre-blending is a favorite pastime of mine. Reading books from so many cultures and styles also led me off the usual path when it comes to trope and story structure. Some readers find it disturbing, others enjoy the novelty. The only thing I will say is that you should read my books with an open mind and not come here for the fetishes.

Tell us about your novel, Fated, and The Temper Saga series.

Fated is an adult LGBTQ fantasy romance set between modern and ancient Japan, with a time-travel/soul transmigration twist (soul transmigration is a big thing in Asian fantasy). The four main protagonists live in Tokyo as a polyamorous family, raising their children together. One of them, Francesco, is a newcomer into the family dynamics. The plot revolves around him finding his place, along with the challenge of seeing another family member, Honda, get lost in time, replaced by the soul of the man he used to be four hundred years before, a powerful Japanese warlord named Date Masamune, who hates our heroine Lana because of a demonic conspiracy. Half of the story is set in modern times, the other half in a distant past. 

Like in the rest of the series, there are strong supernatural/fantasy elements in Fated, beside the obvious soul transmigration aspect. Japanese demons and deities interfere in the lives of my protagonists, some are foes, some are allies. Half of the protagonists are Japanese (Honda and Yuki), half are Italian (Lana and Francesco). Cultural background and communication differences play an important role in the way all of them come to be together and live as a family. 

In Book 1, Deference, the saga starts with how Lana meets first Honda, her martial arts instructor, then Yuki, his wife. The first trilogy (Deference, Dread, Deliverance) explains how they find out that their lives are directly affected by old curses that impact Honda and Lana. Processing trauma, resilience and healing through openness, love of others and self-acceptance are major themes. Francesco comes into the picture in book 4, Vindicta, set in Italy, when we get to dive into Lana’s traumatic past.

What are some key takeaways you’re hoping readers get from your books?

The Temper saga and my books in general are very explicit, extremely sexy – downright kinky at times. I want to show older, mature heroines and heroes exploring their desires together, as this is not enough shown in today’s romance. In fact, there is a major issue in today’s publishing world: once they hit 28, women are ‘unfuckable’. Women’s literature works on a closed-door policy and older bodies should not be shown. Finding your identity, exploring it, changing your life isn’t supposed to happen to women over 28 – the only thing women ‘can’ do is divorce, or remarry. This is of course ridiculous, because life is about constant change and growth, and it sends the wrong message. People can totally figure out their career, their path, their desires and identity (not to mention love) in their 40s and beyond! This is one of the biggest lessons that Japan taught me.

I also hope to make non-queer readers more open-minded about LGBTQ people and families around them. I would like to show that a book with a full LGBTQ cast doesn’t have to be only about them fighting for their identity, but simply living it as such. The core tensions and issues don’t have to be only about that. That’s how we can progressively move to a kind of representation that is truly inclusive.

Finally, I want to show that you can write about dark themes, BDSM and rough sex practices while making sure that explicit and enforced consent is at the core of the relationship. While non-con/dub-con is a sub-genre that has its place on the shelves, we need to see more books where it’s not supposed to be a theme actually show all partners involved having a say and power over what happens. I’m a huge fan of dark vampire stories and love books with huge power imbalance, so I will never judge. However, in more normal stories, whether there is power imbalance or not, but especially when there is, we need to see and hear about consent at all times.

What is different about Fated?

Fated was a bit of a surprise for me. When I was wrapping Vindicta, book 4 in the series, I thought the saga would end with that book. And then, there was a big reveal near the end that almost wrote itself, and I realized I needed to explore that path. It also helped me tie loose ends and offer more insight into my characters, on top of giving more room for Francesco as part of the Honda family and understand this part of Honda’s identity. 

Fated is the only book in the series that has multiple POVs (one per part), as the rest of the series focuses on my main character, Lana. Of course, with its double cast of characters and two timelines, Fated is quite different compared to the rest of the saga. That’s why I consider it to be a quasi standalone book that readers unfamiliar with my series can grab. It does contain some spoilers, but I was happy to see that for newcomers to my world, they were not an issue, rather an incentive to give the entire series a chance. 

Like the rest of the story, it is built on mutual acceptance and support of each protagonist’s identity and desire. They love each other also because each of them accepts that another partner brings something special, necessary and unique to their relationship. At the end of book 4, Honda, Lana and Yuki thought they were a triangle, but in fact, with Francesco, they are a diamond – a shield that protects their children and prepares them for the extraordinary path ahead of them.

What are your plans for future novels?

Fated ends the Temper saga but it’s not the last time that readers see my ‘Fab Four’. I have started a spinoff series, the Dragon saga, where they will be featured, and after so many years writing about them, I do plan to write short stories focusing on them. Book 1 of the Dragon series (How to tame a dragon) should be published later this year. On February 14, I released Platinum Nights, a contemporary romance that is completely unrelated to my Temper universe, but that also features a seasoned couple. It’s my personal take on the good ol’ billionaire trope.

What inspires you to write?

Usually, something I see or read will make me react – positively or negatively, and a plot bunny is born! I can spend months or even years chasing it, or sometimes it’s a done deal in a matter of weeks. It all depends on my current mood and available time.

There’s a belief that writers need to break out at a young age to attain significant momentum in publishing. Do you find that your age has been to your detriment in how others view your work, and/or do you also find that your age adds wisdom to your characters and plotlines?

Well, I cannot speak for writers in their early twenties who want to land a publishing contract. This was never my goal. Having said that, I find it restrictive, limitative and downright discriminatory to set aside a new author simply because they are considered ‘too old’. I guess this tells a lot about how a society sees ‘older’ people (knowing that ‘old’ seems to start at… 29?! lol).

Living in a country that respects the older generations and that praises skills and talents *honed* by years of practice in all kinds of fields, this makes me shake my head. Unless you are exceptionally talented, nothing beats practice, and when it comes to writing, your own life experience can breathe much depth to your characters. It’s quite exceptional (maybe even a fantasy) to have it all figured out at 25, including addressing past trauma, embracing your own identity or understanding your real aspirations.   

Also, this implies that you cannot ‘find your voice’ after you’ve hit a certain age, or that you cannot learn anything new or find your path when you’re over 26. That’s so wrong! All of us can find what motivates us, our creative spark or start from scratch regardless of our age. I started writing seriously at 35, but I also began martial arts at that same age. My teachers don’t care how old we are, it doesn’t matter. Only dedication and practice do. The same goes for writing or any kind of art. 

That’s why I took the self-publishing road. I don’t want to waste time and energy trying to pitch to people who are only motivated by big figures or by social media trends and have a very narrow set of expectations that you should meet. This isn’t real life, this isn’t what real people can and should aspire to, and it blocks so many diverse and minority voices from being heard.

What do you enjoy about publishing, and what do you struggle with?

I love sharing my babies with the world, but marketing efforts are a pain. It’s a solo job and I can’t be on all fronts at all times. Maybe one day I’ll be able to hire a PA, but that’s not possible for now. 

What has been your greatest struggle writing, and how would you inspire other writers to overcome it?

Well, writing in another language than your native tongue is of course a challenge. But for me, the biggest hurdle is to find time for myself. Running two businesses next to writing means that I spend already most of my time in front of a screen, and when finally the day is over, it’s hard to motivate myself or find the energy to continue, even for a couple of hours. So I’ve learned to be kinder with myself and stop stressing over that. There are weeks where I don’t write at all, and then I will have the chance to write dozens of pages in one sitting. 

You talk about coming to writing again after a long break. What advice would you give to those who are considering picking up writing again after losing touch with the practice?

First of all, be gentle with yourself. Start with small. Write what you want, what inspires you, even if you think it’s silly. Share it on free platforms first if you are daunted by the self-publishing process. Find your community, even if it’s small, and join some of the awesome author groups on social media to find people with the same dreams confronted to the same challenges. 

How can we purchase your book?

All my books are available on Amazon stores worldwide. They are also enrolled in Kindle Unlimited!

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