Sunday Quickie – Hugh Ashton

Hugh Ashton, Author of The Deed Box of John H. Watson MD, a series of Sherlock Holmes adventures, talks a little about himself and his writing in the first of my “Sunday Quickies” author interviews.

Hi Hugh, tell us a little about your background.
British, came to Japan as a technical writer (musical instruments & audio gear) in 1988. Remained as a freelance writer/journalist/copywriter/editor/rewriter since then. I write my meanderings on books and publishing on – which are often somewhat idiosyncratic or even contrarian, but I hope are usually entertaining. I have links to my books from there.

Give us the elevator pitch about your latest book of short stories.
My latest publication is Tales of Old Japanese, published by Inknbeans Press. It’s a collection of five short stories about older people in Japan – they’re much more interesting than the old people. Tales of loss and of finding again. They were written to be read out loud at a writers’ group in Tokyo, and they’ve really worked well in print. Great illustrations from Nikki McBroom of Arizona! Here’s the link: and
They’re very internal stories, told through one pair of eyes for the most part. Yes, things happen in them, but there’s really no antagonist. I like the older people in Japan because they’ve lived through a lot. Earthquakes, tsunamis, an appalling war which saw the destruction of whole cities, a period of extreme poverty after that, and then the good life, followed this last year by a trifecta of disasters following a couple of decades of recession. And they still have a cheerful smile for the most part. I really miss my father-in-law who died three years ago at the age of 99 years and 11 months. Right up to the month before he died, he and I would go and choose books together, and eat sushi together at the kaiten sushi place.

How do you work on a story to bring the components like character and plot together into the final product?
I watch the characters in my head. I see the film playing out. Sometimes I introduce an element, but for the most part, I just watch the characters and write down what they do and say.

What is one thing that has helped you develop as a writer?
Writing for Japanese customers. They’re fussy about length, content and deadlines. If you can satisfy a major Japanese customer with your advertorial project, you can write anything!

What is the most successful thing you’ve done to market your books?
So far… Facebook. Links to book sites, building up a network of friends, and ultimately attracting the attention of my publisher, Inknbeans Press. For actual selling, I have you to thank for the idea of widening my Twitter circle of followers and gently pushing them in the direction of my books. It’s hard to sell books here to a limited audience – after all, most people here don’t have English to the level where they can sit down and enjoy a book in a foreign language.

You can discover more about Hugh’s Sherlock Holmes stories here:

Leave a Reply