Christina Courtenay – The Jade Lioness

CCourtenaysmallNicola here! Today we are welcoming award-winning author Christina Courtenay back to the Word Wench blog to talk about her new book, The Jade Lioness, and the fascinating history behind it. Christina writes romantic historical fiction with exotic and unusual settings and the Jade Lioness is no exception. Set in 17th century Japan, it has been described as "lyrical and fascinating." Here Christina talks haikus and the Japanese festival of Tsukimi or "moon viewing."

"I'm sure we've all paused to stare at the moon of an evening, especially when it's full and perhaps with a benign smiling face visible on its surface (or so we imagine).  It is awe-inspiring and beautiful, and it has been important to human beings as a way of measuring time for millennia.  It makes you feel small and insignificant, filling you with wonder at the unfathomable mysteries of the universe.  This was especially true recently when we had the so called ‘blood moon’, a rare total lunar eclipse, which made everyone excited.  It was an extraordinary sight and one well worth missing some sleep for!

This was an unusual occurrence though and mostly we only give the moon a passing thought.  Our lives Blood moonare too busy and we no longer worship the moon as a deity, the way the ancients did.  Having landed a spacecraft on its surface and walked on it, I suppose some of the mystique has disappeared too.  But it is still awesome when you take the time to really look – have any of you contemplated it recently and admired it properly, dedicating time and effort to this pursuit?

The Japanese make a point of doing just that and the tsukimi (or otsukimi) festival has been a part of their calendars for centuries. The word literally means ‘moon viewing’ or ‘moon gazing’ and it is a festival to honour the autumn moon and to celebrate the harvest.  Some people celebrate on the day of the full moon, usually the 13th-15th day of the 8th month of their old calendar, which would be late September or early October for us, depending on when the year started (this varied).  Others prefer the waxing moon in the 9th month.  Either way, the moon should be at its most dazzling, allowing the viewer to contemplate the beauty of nature and the universe in full glory.

In the past there would have been organised outings and there was a tradition of holding parties to view the moon.  Noblemen in the Heian era (794-1185AD) gathered to write and recite poetry to the moon, or compose and play music, preferably somewhere where the moon could be seen properly, like in a large field, or perhaps near water where its light would be reflected and shown to best advantage.

Nowadays Japanese people don’t celebrate in quite the same way, but they might display beautiful Tsukimi dangoflowers, fruit and autumn grasses in their homes and eat special rice dumplings called tsukimi dango.  Just like for Thanksgiving, there are seasonal foods associated with tsukimi and harvest time.

Temperance, the heroine of my new novel The Jade Lioness, has never given the moon any more thought than what we normally would and is therefore surprised to be taken moon gazing by the hero Kazuo. When he tells her she's supposed to write a haiku poem about the experience – which as you probably know is not easy – she’s not exactly thrilled.  She manages, thanks to the fact that she’s in love (you’ll have to read the book to find out why that makes a difference), but writing that scene presented a much bigger problem for me than for her because I’m rubbish at poetry!

A haiku poem is supposed to consist of three lines – the first with five syllables, the second one with seven, then a final one of five again.  There are other rules too, but as I said, I’m not very good at poetry so I stuck to the basics when trying to come up with a poem for my characters.  Traditionally haiku were often about nature and were supposed to just capture the essence of a thought, drawing an image with a few brushstrokes in the form of words.  I find this hard and probably didn’t do a very good job, but I hope readers will forgive me for that as it’s only a very small part of the story.

TJL medium frontI sometimes wonder why I make life so difficult for myself (it was, after all, my own fault for adding that scene to the book), but then I suppose life would be boring without a challenge now and then!

Would anyone like to have a go?  I’ll send a signed copy of the book to the person who writes the best haiku about the moon or autumn.  (Although I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t want to, so if you prefer just tell me about your thoughts on moon gazing, or poetry!

Huge thanks to the Wenches for having me as a guest today!

Christina xx

Here is the blurb for The Jade Lioness:

Can an impossible love become possible?

(Nagasaki, 1648)

Temperance Marston longs to escape war-torn England and explore the exotic empire of Japan. When offered the chance to accompany her cousin and Captain Noordholt on a trading expedition to Nagasaki, she jumps at the opportunity.  However, she soon finds the country’s strict laws for foreigners curtail her freedom.

On a dangerous and foolhardy venture she meets Kazuo, a ronin. Kazuo is fascinated by her blonde hair and blue eyes, but he has a mission to complete and he cannot be distracted. Long ago, his father was accused of a crime he didn’t commit – stealing a valuable jade lioness ornament from the Shogun – and Kazuo must restore his family's honour.

But when Temperance is kidnapped and sold as a concubine, he has to make a decision – can he save her and keep the promise he made to his father?

Christina's WebsiteFacebook page and Twitter  

The Jade Lioness is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Thank you very much for joining us today, Christina. I'm off to try my hand at a haiku… 

165 thoughts on “Christina Courtenay – The Jade Lioness”

  1. I’m generally pretty self conscious about even attempting to write poetry, but for a book set in 17th century Japan…
    Frosty autumn night.
    My child runs out in bare feet
    to gaze on the moon.

    Reply
  2. I’m generally pretty self conscious about even attempting to write poetry, but for a book set in 17th century Japan…
    Frosty autumn night.
    My child runs out in bare feet
    to gaze on the moon.

    Reply
  3. I’m generally pretty self conscious about even attempting to write poetry, but for a book set in 17th century Japan…
    Frosty autumn night.
    My child runs out in bare feet
    to gaze on the moon.

    Reply
  4. I’m generally pretty self conscious about even attempting to write poetry, but for a book set in 17th century Japan…
    Frosty autumn night.
    My child runs out in bare feet
    to gaze on the moon.

    Reply
  5. I’m generally pretty self conscious about even attempting to write poetry, but for a book set in 17th century Japan…
    Frosty autumn night.
    My child runs out in bare feet
    to gaze on the moon.

    Reply
  6. It’s a rare occasion to see the moon in Manhattan with skyscrapers in the way as well as heavy cloud coverage, but when it’s visible, it’s mesmerizing in its glow and majesty. What a beautiful tradition in Japan to honor the moon and the universe.
    Thanks for writing such an inspired story.

    Reply
  7. It’s a rare occasion to see the moon in Manhattan with skyscrapers in the way as well as heavy cloud coverage, but when it’s visible, it’s mesmerizing in its glow and majesty. What a beautiful tradition in Japan to honor the moon and the universe.
    Thanks for writing such an inspired story.

    Reply
  8. It’s a rare occasion to see the moon in Manhattan with skyscrapers in the way as well as heavy cloud coverage, but when it’s visible, it’s mesmerizing in its glow and majesty. What a beautiful tradition in Japan to honor the moon and the universe.
    Thanks for writing such an inspired story.

    Reply
  9. It’s a rare occasion to see the moon in Manhattan with skyscrapers in the way as well as heavy cloud coverage, but when it’s visible, it’s mesmerizing in its glow and majesty. What a beautiful tradition in Japan to honor the moon and the universe.
    Thanks for writing such an inspired story.

    Reply
  10. It’s a rare occasion to see the moon in Manhattan with skyscrapers in the way as well as heavy cloud coverage, but when it’s visible, it’s mesmerizing in its glow and majesty. What a beautiful tradition in Japan to honor the moon and the universe.
    Thanks for writing such an inspired story.

    Reply
  11. Hi Christina and Nicola
    The orient has always held a fascination for me. I had a period when I read many of Pearl Buck’s stories about China. The Japanese Samurai make a fabulous theme for films but so far I haven’t read any novels. This one sounds like a great place to start!
    Oh romantic moon
    reflecting photons of love
    from spirits above

    Reply
  12. Hi Christina and Nicola
    The orient has always held a fascination for me. I had a period when I read many of Pearl Buck’s stories about China. The Japanese Samurai make a fabulous theme for films but so far I haven’t read any novels. This one sounds like a great place to start!
    Oh romantic moon
    reflecting photons of love
    from spirits above

    Reply
  13. Hi Christina and Nicola
    The orient has always held a fascination for me. I had a period when I read many of Pearl Buck’s stories about China. The Japanese Samurai make a fabulous theme for films but so far I haven’t read any novels. This one sounds like a great place to start!
    Oh romantic moon
    reflecting photons of love
    from spirits above

    Reply
  14. Hi Christina and Nicola
    The orient has always held a fascination for me. I had a period when I read many of Pearl Buck’s stories about China. The Japanese Samurai make a fabulous theme for films but so far I haven’t read any novels. This one sounds like a great place to start!
    Oh romantic moon
    reflecting photons of love
    from spirits above

    Reply
  15. Hi Christina and Nicola
    The orient has always held a fascination for me. I had a period when I read many of Pearl Buck’s stories about China. The Japanese Samurai make a fabulous theme for films but so far I haven’t read any novels. This one sounds like a great place to start!
    Oh romantic moon
    reflecting photons of love
    from spirits above

    Reply
  16. What a lovely post, Nicola and Christina! Christina, your book sounds fascinating—can’t wait to read it.
    We’ve had some amazing moons here recently, and I’ve spent time gazing up at the sky, and reflecting on the power of Nature. I find myself being more and more mindful of the world around me, and try to stop and appreciate the small details of the sunlight, the color of the leaves, the rippling of the wind on water. There is magical poetry in those moments!

    Reply
  17. What a lovely post, Nicola and Christina! Christina, your book sounds fascinating—can’t wait to read it.
    We’ve had some amazing moons here recently, and I’ve spent time gazing up at the sky, and reflecting on the power of Nature. I find myself being more and more mindful of the world around me, and try to stop and appreciate the small details of the sunlight, the color of the leaves, the rippling of the wind on water. There is magical poetry in those moments!

    Reply
  18. What a lovely post, Nicola and Christina! Christina, your book sounds fascinating—can’t wait to read it.
    We’ve had some amazing moons here recently, and I’ve spent time gazing up at the sky, and reflecting on the power of Nature. I find myself being more and more mindful of the world around me, and try to stop and appreciate the small details of the sunlight, the color of the leaves, the rippling of the wind on water. There is magical poetry in those moments!

    Reply
  19. What a lovely post, Nicola and Christina! Christina, your book sounds fascinating—can’t wait to read it.
    We’ve had some amazing moons here recently, and I’ve spent time gazing up at the sky, and reflecting on the power of Nature. I find myself being more and more mindful of the world around me, and try to stop and appreciate the small details of the sunlight, the color of the leaves, the rippling of the wind on water. There is magical poetry in those moments!

    Reply
  20. What a lovely post, Nicola and Christina! Christina, your book sounds fascinating—can’t wait to read it.
    We’ve had some amazing moons here recently, and I’ve spent time gazing up at the sky, and reflecting on the power of Nature. I find myself being more and more mindful of the world around me, and try to stop and appreciate the small details of the sunlight, the color of the leaves, the rippling of the wind on water. There is magical poetry in those moments!

    Reply
  21. Thank you Cara, glad you enjoyed it! I’m the same, I seem to notice nature much more these days and there’s so much beaty to see 🙂

    Reply
  22. Thank you Cara, glad you enjoyed it! I’m the same, I seem to notice nature much more these days and there’s so much beaty to see 🙂

    Reply
  23. Thank you Cara, glad you enjoyed it! I’m the same, I seem to notice nature much more these days and there’s so much beaty to see 🙂

    Reply
  24. Thank you Cara, glad you enjoyed it! I’m the same, I seem to notice nature much more these days and there’s so much beaty to see 🙂

    Reply
  25. Thank you Cara, glad you enjoyed it! I’m the same, I seem to notice nature much more these days and there’s so much beaty to see 🙂

    Reply
  26. Hi Quantum! By co-incidence I am reading one of Pearl Buck’s stories now! I love reading about the orient too and have a real yearning to visit Japan as a result of reading Christina’s book!

    Reply
  27. Hi Quantum! By co-incidence I am reading one of Pearl Buck’s stories now! I love reading about the orient too and have a real yearning to visit Japan as a result of reading Christina’s book!

    Reply
  28. Hi Quantum! By co-incidence I am reading one of Pearl Buck’s stories now! I love reading about the orient too and have a real yearning to visit Japan as a result of reading Christina’s book!

    Reply
  29. Hi Quantum! By co-incidence I am reading one of Pearl Buck’s stories now! I love reading about the orient too and have a real yearning to visit Japan as a result of reading Christina’s book!

    Reply
  30. Hi Quantum! By co-incidence I am reading one of Pearl Buck’s stories now! I love reading about the orient too and have a real yearning to visit Japan as a result of reading Christina’s book!

    Reply
  31. Hallo, Hallo Ms Courtenay,
    I truly thought I had waited to long to leave you a note! What fun is this today! One of my favourite things to do is moon gaze and observe the stars! What joy to look skyward and find my dear friends who twinkle and nod, whilst giving me a smiling moon at the same time. If the clime were not so frightfully humid I’d spend more time with my eyes and heart skyward to the cosmos.
    Not sure if this plays by the rules as I’m a poet of the heart, but here’s what came to me to share:
    Afterglow sparkles of moondust,
    enlighten my spirit;
    betwixt a heart anew.
    You’ve inspired me with this celebration, as I will add it to the year I start to celebrate the Winter Soltice! What unexpected bliss, for me! Top cheers!

    Reply
  32. Hallo, Hallo Ms Courtenay,
    I truly thought I had waited to long to leave you a note! What fun is this today! One of my favourite things to do is moon gaze and observe the stars! What joy to look skyward and find my dear friends who twinkle and nod, whilst giving me a smiling moon at the same time. If the clime were not so frightfully humid I’d spend more time with my eyes and heart skyward to the cosmos.
    Not sure if this plays by the rules as I’m a poet of the heart, but here’s what came to me to share:
    Afterglow sparkles of moondust,
    enlighten my spirit;
    betwixt a heart anew.
    You’ve inspired me with this celebration, as I will add it to the year I start to celebrate the Winter Soltice! What unexpected bliss, for me! Top cheers!

    Reply
  33. Hallo, Hallo Ms Courtenay,
    I truly thought I had waited to long to leave you a note! What fun is this today! One of my favourite things to do is moon gaze and observe the stars! What joy to look skyward and find my dear friends who twinkle and nod, whilst giving me a smiling moon at the same time. If the clime were not so frightfully humid I’d spend more time with my eyes and heart skyward to the cosmos.
    Not sure if this plays by the rules as I’m a poet of the heart, but here’s what came to me to share:
    Afterglow sparkles of moondust,
    enlighten my spirit;
    betwixt a heart anew.
    You’ve inspired me with this celebration, as I will add it to the year I start to celebrate the Winter Soltice! What unexpected bliss, for me! Top cheers!

    Reply
  34. Hallo, Hallo Ms Courtenay,
    I truly thought I had waited to long to leave you a note! What fun is this today! One of my favourite things to do is moon gaze and observe the stars! What joy to look skyward and find my dear friends who twinkle and nod, whilst giving me a smiling moon at the same time. If the clime were not so frightfully humid I’d spend more time with my eyes and heart skyward to the cosmos.
    Not sure if this plays by the rules as I’m a poet of the heart, but here’s what came to me to share:
    Afterglow sparkles of moondust,
    enlighten my spirit;
    betwixt a heart anew.
    You’ve inspired me with this celebration, as I will add it to the year I start to celebrate the Winter Soltice! What unexpected bliss, for me! Top cheers!

    Reply
  35. Hallo, Hallo Ms Courtenay,
    I truly thought I had waited to long to leave you a note! What fun is this today! One of my favourite things to do is moon gaze and observe the stars! What joy to look skyward and find my dear friends who twinkle and nod, whilst giving me a smiling moon at the same time. If the clime were not so frightfully humid I’d spend more time with my eyes and heart skyward to the cosmos.
    Not sure if this plays by the rules as I’m a poet of the heart, but here’s what came to me to share:
    Afterglow sparkles of moondust,
    enlighten my spirit;
    betwixt a heart anew.
    You’ve inspired me with this celebration, as I will add it to the year I start to celebrate the Winter Soltice! What unexpected bliss, for me! Top cheers!

    Reply

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