They just come to me. Which makes it sound easy! But sometimes the right name can take MONTHS to come to me. When I first started writing I was calling the mermaid "Millea" but it never sounded right... The story didn't actually get going until I found Esmerine's name.
2. Alander is an interesting and complicated character: a bit of a literary snob, but also deeply loyal. Who were your inspirations for Alander?
I saw him as kind of a Mr. Darcy figure but with an intellectual bent. I've periodically known guys like him, too, where you'll be talking about something and they'll, like, reference Dostoevsky or something, and you'll think, "Ooh, he's smart, I like smart" and "God, but Dostoevsky? How pretentious" at the same time.
The first job-let I ever had was working a booth at an anime convention. My sister and I were at a convention and this guy is like, "Hey, you want to work for me?" Like, he would just show up to a convention and hire reasonably attractive girls (the better to get anime nerd boys to part with their dollars) on the spot as they browsed his booth. We didn't have anything else to do at the convention so we spent the rest of the day working the booth and at the end he paid us in merchandise. We then used this to convince our parents to take us to Anime Weekend Atlanta, because he got us in for free. It was a lot of fun, but grueling. We had to work the entirety of the dealer room hours, which was like 10 hours, without any break or barely any food (and the whole time I was wearing a Fushigi Yuugi costume complete with those little cheap Chinese shoes with NO support) and in the end I was paid in anime soundtracks. I had an awesome collection of anime soundtracks after that, though. I always worked the CD section because I could read some Japanese and so I could find CDs for people much easier than everyone else.
I love Splash, in all its 80s movie glory. And The Little Mermaid in various incarnations--the heart-wrenching original, the Disney version. As a kid I was obsessed with Saban's Adventures of the Little Mermaid.
5. What is your favorite thing about autumn?
Cooler, drier weather, in theory, although living in Florida we're lucky to see much of my true favorite weather, with a high of about 60, until December. (With any luck next year I'll be living in Maryland.) Ditto for changing leaves...I love them, but they don't really change here! Autumn is my favorite season, actually, but in Florida it's kind of a big tease, where you only get hints of the best parts.
My two favorites actually are not Miyazaki films: Whisper of the Heart and Only Yesterday. They are both slice of life stories, that capture certain aspects of what it's like to grow up and find your place in the world, as well as to fall in love, although in Whisper of the Heart, the growing up and falling in love happen together, in the moment, and in Only Yesterday we see flashbacks of the protagonist's childhood, and then her current life going to rural Japan, a sort of "back to the land" thing. Both have beautifully rendered backgrounds of Japan, but they aren't fantastical like so many Ghibli films. To my chagrin, Only Yesterday still has not been released in the US. But I am also a big fan of Miyazaki himself. Howl's Moving Castle is my favorite of his, but I love so many of them!
Thanks for answering my questions, Jackie! Whisper of the Heart is also, in my opinion, one of the best Studio Ghibli films ever (remember my old blog banner?). I hope you consider checking out Between the Sea and Sky when you have the chance!