The greatest trick the writer ever pulled off was to convince the reader that the worlds and images painted within the mind through the written word are real. Perhaps the second greatest trick was to convince them that this all came about through some linear process; as though the entirety of the story already existed and simply needed putting down on paper.
With my book – and with many others I’m sure – the truth was somewhat more of a messy affair with discarded ideas and characters resigned to the character graveyard. Stephen King describes this iterative process as being akin to following a red string and watching the story slowly reveal itself. In a not dissimilar way, it was as though my own stories revealed themselves to me and took on a life of their own that almost seemed out of my control.
Several of the ideas emerged in an inchoate form while I was hiking over the local mountains of the castle city of Himeji in Japan where I live and later took the form back at the keyboard. Other ideas came about through experimentation. One of my favorite parts of the book is when fictional author Rei Toshimoto is reading from his autobiography entitled, “A butterfly in the onion soup” at Kyoto’s oldest bookshop.
The title (sans the word ‘onion’) came about after I enlisted the help of a random book title generator online which forced me to imagine how the character would choose such an intriguing combination of words. The result was a metaphor for the Mitsubishi fighter jet he would later find himself piloting whilst on a suicide mission. Elsewhere, the ice cream company at the heart of Pattern Separation was very nearly an instant ramen company. The end result may have been somewhat similar, but it would never have resulted in the pairing of matcha and wasabi to give the world the ‘Matchachabi’. In this way, reading the book for the first time may be as much of a journey of discovery as it was to writing.