Saturday, September 29, 2007

Author Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

We have a very special guest blogger today, Wendy Nelson Tokunaga! Her debut book, Midori by Moonlight, just came out and I couldn’t be more excited about it. I’ve read it. It rocks. It’s about a young Japanese woman lost in translation in San Francisco as she finds herself and her American dream. Not only is Wendy an awesome author, but she is also such a sweetheart that she’s giving away a signed copy of her book Midori by Moonlight today! All you have to do to be entered to win is post a comment today. So, without further ado… here’s Wendy…

What's In a Name?
By Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

It happened again. I just got an agreement letter from my publisher that allows me to extend the deadline for turning in my second book from January1, 2008, to March 1, 2008 (Yay! Every bit of extra time helps!) and my name is spelled incorrectly in three places, including where I have to write my signature: Wendy Nelson Tokunga. Tokunga, with a crucial missing "a," and which sounds to me like the name of a small African nation, instead ofTOKUNAGA.

I know this is my fault; I was the one who wanted to change my name to myJapanese husband's when we got married, even though he warned me that it would bring nothing but misunderstandings, mispronunciations, and misspellings. "Nelson is so easy. Why would you want to change it?" he asked.

It made sense. But I always figured I'd change my name when I got married. It had nothing to do with being "one" with my husband or being a traditionalist as opposed to a feminist. I think women should do whatever they want as far as changing or not changing their names when they tie the knot. It should be their choice to keep their "maiden" name (that term really does sound so old fashioned, but "pre-marriage" name doesn't sound so great either), hyphenate, or change to their husband's. And there are also women who may use their maiden name for business purposes since they were already established in their career under that name, but use their husband's name in their personal life. Or not. Then there's the whole thing when couples have kids and if you have a different name from your husband's you may have to give an extra explanation: "I'm Jane Smith, Jennifer Henderson's mother."

But for me changing my name seemed glamorous, like show business, when a Norma Jean Mortenson could turn into a Marilyn Monroe. I also like the trick it plays on people to see a blonde, American Caucasian woman with a Japanese name. Since my marriage I have always gone by Wendy Tokunaga (and surprised many a job interviewer who expected to meet a Japanese-American). But my agent advised me to use Wendy Nelson Tokunaga for my debut novel, MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT, so there wouldn't be any confusion about my ethnicity, especially since the book is about a Japanese woman who escapes the confines of Japan and comes to San Francisco to pursue her American dream. Still, people get confused anyway.

My husband was correct, though. Having a name that is hard to pronounce and doesn't go with your face is a double whammy. It always presents a problem with the checkers at Safeway who are trained to address their customers by name without fail via their "Club Card" in a policy of forced "neighborliness."

"Thank you, Mrs.- " Very long pause with face scrunched up. "Ah, ah,TAKANUGA? TOKUNGA?"

"Don't worry about it," I say, as someone who doesn't like to spend any more time than she has to at the grocery store.

"Sorry! But you sure don't look Samoan!"


K.T. Hernandez said...

Too funny, Wendy! This coming from a woman who took on her husband's Latin last name. I am so excited for you and your new book. I WANT one!
Best of luck,
Kim Hernandez

Nathalie said...

Your book looks funny... good luck with it :)

Anonymous said...

I want one too!!

It is your first book... you must be super excited!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Kim, nathalie, and lily. Yes, having the book out is exciting. And, Kim, I wonder if people expect that you are Latina?


K.T. Hernandez said...

Yes they do. And I'm not. I know just enough Spanish to get into trouble. How about you? Have you ever been to Japan, and if so, were the Japanese people surprised by your blond hair?

Anonymous said...


Yes, I have been to Japan many times and even though a lot of Japanese people now dye their hair blonde, I still get stared at and stick out because I am Caucasian. When they see me with my husband, they assume that he is American and doesn't speak Japanese. :-)


Angie Fox said...

You two could have a lot of fun with that the next time you go to Japan. ;)

Congratulations on the book! What a neat premise. I'll be sure to pick up a copy.

And I also married a hard last name - Gwinner. Throws people for a loop. I took his name, but am writing under my old one - Fox. Much easier!

Kathy Bacus said...

Congratulations on your first release, Wendy! And on getting the deadline extension for your next book. We're working under the same timeline as my next book is also due March 1st. I'm counting on my winter break from school to get me caught up on pages...

After my divorce I took my maiden name, Bacus, back. I gave up on correcting the pronunciation of it. Rather than 'Backus' it's usually pronounced 'Bah-kus' as in Bacchus, the god of wine and revelry. Hey, I figure it could be worse. My married name was also the name of a particularly nasty noxious weed...!

Enjoy your success!

~Kathy 'Bullet Hole' Bacus (Backus)

Estella said...

Your book looks like a good read.
Good Luck!

Jenyfer Matthews said...

Best of luck with the new book!

Christie Craig said...


Hmm.... I still think the name, Tokunago sounds important. And your books sounds darling. Thanks for guest blogging on Killer Fiction.

Crime Scene Christie

Anonymous said...

Angie, thank you and I understand why you use Fox for your writing name, although I guess Gwinner is pronounced the way it's spelled? Or maybe not. Sort of like Gwinner Paltrow? Haha.

Kathy, I am in school too and that is one reason why I wanted an extension. Good luck with your March 1 deadline! I feel like my last name should be Bacchus, because I do enjoy my wine. :-)

Estella, Jenyfer (nice spelling of that name!), and Christie, thanks for your comments!


danetteb said...

Hi Wendy,
Lol...My married name is french,but everytime I go to the store, the sales people pronaounce it differently everytime.
I love your cover and its set in one of my favorite places.
Hugs, Danette

catslady said...

I definitely thought you were japanese with the name and the title of your book lol. My maiden name was dichiara and don't even try to pronounce it much less spell it. My first is Jeanne and no one ever gets that right either. I married a sheats and was thrilled thinking how easy it was - nah people still mess it up lol. I guess I need to learn not to just assume things!

Anonymous said...

Wendy, congrats on your first book release! There's nothing quite like holding that first baby in your hands. (Unless it's holding that next one. LOL.)


Anonymous said...

Danette, merci beaucoups! Your first name sounds of the French persuasion as well.

catslady, Dichiara -- that almost looked Japanese to me at first! Yes, you are so right: don't assume anything. :-)

Thank you, Faye. Yes, I can't quite believe this baby has been delivered!


Anonymous said...

Just to let you know right now I'm off to packing up stuff to bring to my book launch party, which is being held at Ink Spell Books in beautiful downtown Half Moon Bay, California (about 30 miles south of San Francisco). In case any of you are close by, come on down. It's from 7pm to 9pm. Thanks!

Gemma Halliday said...

Have a great launch, Wendy! Wish I could be there but life has intervened today.:(
Thanks so much for coming to chat with us. Everyone, go buy her book! Seriously, I LOVED it.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lucy said...

Sounds like a fun book. :-)

Gemma Halliday said...

Okay, it's officially Sunday, so I'm picking a winner from the list to receive the copy of Wendy's book. And, the random winner is... (closing eyes and pointing at screen)... catslady! Congrats! Catslady – send me your mailing address info and I’ll get your prize out to you ASAP.
gemmahalliday (at) gmail (dot) com