KN: How did this story come to you?
NBF: I lived on Saipan for about ten years, teaching and working with students, especially guiding their own writing about their island. I also worked with the man, Filipe Ruak, who survived hiding in the caves with this family during the war and then "saved the dances." His dance group was make of young men who danced the traditional dances, an important part of their culture. Dancing is part prayer, part being physically fit, part community connections.
Filipe Ruak shared many stories about his childhood. When I said I was interested in writing a novel about the story of his people and how they survived the war, he asked me to do that. Filipe Ruak and his courage to tell his people's story is the reason I wrote Warriors in the Crossfire.
KN: Is Suicide Cliff a national monument?
NBF: Yes, Suicide Cliff is a national monument. You can stand at that cliff's edge, look straight down nearly a thousand feet, see the ocean crash against volcanic boulders and imagine. Slender white birds, fairy terns, swoop and circle the face of the cliff. Islanders believe they are the spirits of the people who died there.
KN: How did you decide which Japanese characters to include in you chapter headings?
NBF: The Japanese characters, the kanji, that begin each chapter were carefully selected. I wanted each character to reflect the heart, the theme, of each chapter. Sometimes I think of the nesting dolls in which one fits into another. The kanji character fits into the "little beginning poem" which fits within the chapter.
KN: How did you develop the father/son theme?
NBF: The father-son relationship seemed essential to Joseph's learning about the deeper meaning of being a warrior. Joseph needed to understand the wisdom of his father and his Japanese teacher, Sensei, to let grow from being a boy and becoming a man.
KN: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?
NBF: I did indeed swim with the turtles and sharks. I wanted to have the courage to hold onto a turtle by its shell and RIDE. I didn't have the courage to do that but I did paddle my kayak over the reef and wait for the sharks to come near (out of curiosity not hunger!). I put on my mask and snorkel and felt the terror of being in the deep dark water with a shark swimming beneath me.