Eric: My first novel, The Apology, came out of two monthlong trips – one in Vietnam, the other in Japan – that Kip planned for us. The story revealed itself as we went along: An American filmmaker and former U.S. Marine who served in Vietnam returns to Asia to shoot luxury tourism commercials, only to get caught up with his past and the Japanese mafia.
Emily: We travel because there’s no replacement for getting out in the world. Eric could research his books on the computer, but at home you can’t talk to the locals, you don’t have brilliant guides, and you don’t get the sounds and smells and real-life drama of a place.
We were like nomads in Vietnam, soaking up every sight. The book opens at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, where we stayed. Kip also set us up with a guide who introduced us to the Apricot Gallery, where we saw the painting that’s the centerpiece of the first half of The Apology.
Eric: Our second trip, to Japan, was where Kip really went above and beyond. I needed to better understand the Japanese yakuza (mafia) culture and the social fabric of Tokyo’s New Latin Quarter nightclub, where celebrities and underworld figures mingled from the 1960s to the 1980s. Kip set up a meeting with its legendary manager, Shintaro Yamamoto, and we sat and talked with him for two days through a translator Kip arranged at Tokyo’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel.