03-17-18 – Jessica Scott

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Writing THE SAMURAI'S HEART by Walt Mussell

I’d like to thank Romancing the Genres for having me today and for tackling the topic of men in romance writing. A few years ago, I pitched an article to Romance Writers of America’s magazine on the men of RWA. My suggestion was rejected. I’m glad that there are others out there who think this topic is a good one.

So what does it mean to be a male writer in the romance world?

Initially, it left me with trepidation. I walked into my first Georgia Romance Writers (GRW) meeting about ten years ago. I’d met two of the members at a book signing a few months earlier and they’d invited me. At the time, I was focused on selling humorous parenting articles to regional magazines and trying to publish a book on marriage. The two women assured me that a male who wrote nonfiction would be welcome. At my first meeting, people treated me with courtesy. They invited me back, but I don’t know who expected to see me again.

But I did go back. I started attending monthly meetings. The following year, I attended my first writer’s conference. Overall, I tried to improve my craft. I learned about self-editing. I learned about querying agents and publishers. And, because writers discuss everything amongst themselves, I learned not to blush over certain topics.
But in those early years, I could never forget that I was a man in a woman’s world. It isn’t that I tried to forget. It’s just that I was deathly afraid of doing something that would embarrass either myself or my chapter.

I liken it to my first year of living in Japan.

I spent four years in Japan in the early 90s. In my first year, I lived in a small town where I was the only non-Japanese in the area. Sometimes, I’d come home late on a Sunday evening from a weekend of tourism and would take a taxi from the train station instead of walking home. I never had to tell the taxi driver where I lived. He already knew. Everyone in town knew where I lived. Everyone in town knew what I did. And if I’d done something culturally repugnant, everyone would have known that, too.
In my early years in romance writing, it felt the same way. I wasn’t the only guy in my chapter, but there were so few guys that I knew if I did something wrong, particularly at a conference, it would be remembered.

But things got easier. I eventually settled in. And after a while, one of my friends at GRW suggested that, if I was going to hang around, I had to try writing a romance. I began by penning some contemporary novels that I could never seem to finish and that contest judges hated. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what I was doing.  

Then I fell back on my love of history, particularly Japanese history. Based on a mysterious cross tile located at Himeji Castle in Himeji, Japan, I began writing a Japan-based inspirational historical.

Though I finally enjoyed some contest success with this effort, the reception from agents and publishers was lackluster.  I began working on other projects, publishing three novellas and two short stories. I also wrote other works.
But I never gave up on this first historical.
I reached the decision to self-publish it when I heard of Kindle Scout, an Amazon program where you place an excerpt from your novel on-line and people vote on it. I was selected by Kindle Scout and was awarded a contract with Amazon.
[The excerpt that won me the contract is still available on Amazon’s website. Please click this link if you wish to read it. ]
(The Heart Of The Samurai Book 1)
“Love and swords are forged in fire.”

Japan, 1587. Sen must find a husband to marry into her family’s swordsmith business. She seeks a Christian husband, though Christianity is banned.

Enter Nobuhiro. Third son of a high-level samurai, Nobuhiro fled his harsh father and apprenticed himself to a swordsmith. He yearns to prove his worth.

They seem an ideal match. But for Sen, the choice is faith or family. For Nobuhiro, choosing a Christian ends any reconciliation with his family. Can love be forged from the impossible?

With The Samurai’s Heart having been released in July, I’m now enjoying my new PAN status.

And, as far as making embarrassing mistakes, I’ve discovered that I can’t worry about it. I’m going to make them anyway.

But after ten years in GRW, I can say one thing. As long as I take my writing seriously, I’ll be seen as a writer first.

Walt Mussell lives in the Atlanta area with his wife and two sons. He works for a well-known corporation and writes in his spare time. Walt primarily writes historical novels, with a focus on Japan, an interest he gained during the four years he lived there. He refers to his novels as “Like Shogun, but the heroine survives.” He is currently working on books 2 and 3 in his series, The Samurai’s Soul and The Samurai’s Strength.

Outside of writing, his favorite activity is trying to keep up with his kids. As one is away at college and the other is in high school, this is proving more difficult each day.

You can follow Walt on Twitter at @wmussell. Please visit his website Daddy Needs Decaf at Please check out his Facebook page at “Walt Mussell - Author.”

Facebook Author Page
Twitter @wmussell:
Amazon Author Page:


Diana McCollum said...

I really enjoyed your blog post! What a journey you've had to romance publication. Your book sounds really good and I will definitely check it out. Do you have a difficult time writing the female voice? Do you run things by your wife? Just curious!!

Walt Mussell said...

Diana, thank you for your comments. Yes, I have difficulty with the female voice. I do run a lot things Japan-related by my wife (since she is Japanese). However, the female voice (and the writing in general) I run by other authors. My wife is not a reader. And if I run the writing by her, she has difficulty separating the female voice from the author's voice that makes it my work.

Sarah Raplee said...

Is your next book about a secondary character in The Samurai's Heart? Will all your books have a Christian Inspirational Element?

I look forward to reading The Samurai's Heart. The story sounds so intriguing because it's set in a culture and historical context I don't know much about.

Barbara Strickland said...

you had me at Japan. I love the country and am fascinated by the history. Great post by the way.

Evelyn Hill said...

Your story sounds fascinating. I'm interested in Japanese historical romance and in inspiration historical romance, but a story that merges the two? Quick, where's that Click button?

Kate Curran said...

Walt fascinating blog and love to hear a writers journey. And what a unique niche. It always seems to come back to write what you know.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Great post, Walt. I am glad you were welcomed to the romance group, as you should be. Your book sounds interesting, and I love the tagline!

Walt Mussell said...

Sarah, Books 2 and 3 are both based on characters in Book 1. The books will continue to have inspirational elements, though they will remain primarily historical fiction.

Barbara, thank you for your comments. I was fascinated by Japan before I ever went there and remain fascinated to this day.

Evelyn, thank you. I hope you enjoy it.

Walt Mussell said...

Kate, I agree that it comes back to writing what you know. It's also what makes you the most comfortable.

Lynn, I'm glad you like the tagline. I went through a lot of thembefore deciding on that one.

Michelle Monkou said...

Fantastic post. I love Asian culture and studies. My daughter spent a year in Korea and I visited her. Loved it. She's including Japan in her graduate studies program. But anyway, good luck with your path and looking forward to reading your book.

Walt Mussell said...

Michelle, I remember how difficult it was for my mother when I moved to Japan. (A part of her didn't think I was coming back.) That can't have been easy for you, even for someone as traveled as you. (I remember you from your time as RWA President. Your background is fascinating.)

I hope you enjoy my book.

Judith Ashley said...

Great having you join us this weekend, Walt. I totally believe that when we write stories that capture our hearts and imagination, our energy is in the words and our readers feel them. So glad you've found your heart energy in writing Japanese historical romance. BTW: Is it translated into Japanese?

Walt Mussell said...


Thank you. It is not yet translated into Japanese. However, I've designed it to be translated. There are a few devices in the book which hopefully are immediately understandable to a Japanese reader though not obvious to an American one. For example, early in the book, my heroine awakens and can smell the cherry blossoms outside. Cherry blossoms don't have a strong scent, so the heroine's best friend makes fun of her when the heroine mentions it. In Japanese literature, being able to smell cherry blossoms indicates someone is in an extremely agitated/stressed/high tension state. So, for a Japanese reader, that would be obvious. For an American, not as much.

Judith Ashley said...

Thanks for sharing that example/device. These are the elements that enrich stories for readers.