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Found in Translation: A Bestseller

Katheleen Flinn (Photo by Roger Steen)

by Bruce Rutledge

Author Kathleen Flinn is no stranger to bestsellers. Her memoir The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry was a New York Times bestseller in 2007. But never did she imagine that her book The Kitchen Counter Cooking School would make her big in Japan.

Flinn talked about becoming a bestseller in Japan during her Seattle Litcrawl event at Ada’s Technical Books on October 19. The fame came fast. Early this year, she noticed hundreds of Japanese people friending her on Facebook. A month later, her publisher told her the book was a bestseller in Japan. Today, 30,000 are being printed, a musical is in the works and there are plans for a TV drama based on the book.

The publisher took her on a whirlwind tour of Japan this summer. She appeared on TV shows and did reader events where she met her fans. “It was really great to see how this (book) impacted people – a book I wrote in a country I didn’t know anything about,” she said, noting that readers would bring her gifts at the event. “I have to say my American readers have never given me gifts!”

Flinn worked closely with translator Riko Murai and editor Rie Tanaka, who appeared on a video during the Litcrawl event. Flinn pointed out how the Japanese book was designed quite differently from the American one. There were illustrations of all the characters, short bios, and the text was broken up with boxes and other graphics in the Japanese version. “There were a number of distinct differences,” she said, “but I would say the title is the biggest one … in Japanese, the title is Miracle Recipes for Bad Women!”

Flinn says she plans to write another book specifically for the Japanese market with Murai and Tanaka. To do that, she plans to stay in Japan for a couple of months. In less than a year, Flinn went from knowing little about the country to being a bona fide Japanophile.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School was phblished with the Japanese title Miracle Recipe for Bad Women