Hours before her wedding rehearsal dinner at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Mako Yoshikawa received a call from police notifying her that her estranged father had passed away. Experiencing grief and guilt over not inviting her father to the wedding, Yoshikawa began a journey to understand more about his life.

Yoshikawa, who is the director of the graduate creative writing program at Emerson College, writes about this journey in her new memoir, “Secrets of the Sun.” Yoshikawa joined GBH News to talk about the book, which is out now.

Haley Lerner: What led you to start writing this book?

Mako Yoshikawa: My father and I have had a really complicated relationship for much of my life. He was a very brilliant physicist, but he was also violent and abusive and bipolar, and we were essentially estranged and strained for many decades of my life.

It was November of 2010, and I was getting married. We had a rehearsal dinner set for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum [in Boston] that was going to be really wonderful. I had not invited my father to the wedding. And when I was getting ready for that event, I got a phone call and found out that my father died.

It was already such a hugely emotional experience getting married — and I put off getting married for a really long time, I was 44. After getting that call, I was thrown into this kind of chaos, this guilt and confusion and grief. And so after that, I knew I needed to start researching and writing about my father.

Lerner: Your book opens with this rehearsal dinner scene. Can you take me through how you wrote that and how it’s a grounding point throughout the memoir?

Yoshikawa: It was, emotionally, the launchpad. This is why I wrote the book. Because I was just about to get married, and then having your father die and then just feeling so guilty about not having him there.

But I actually wrote it almost at the end, so I was going to just write the memoir without acknowledging that my father died the day before my wedding, because I just thought that that was just so terrible that I wasn't sure if readers could deal with that.

But then I was writing first about my father's own romantic relationships without even really kind of interrogating why. That was my starting point, because of course, I just got married. So, at the end, I went back and wrote about the day I found out he died. That was me coming to terms with what led me to this whole journey.

Lerner: Where did the title “Secrets of the Sun” come from?

Yoshikawa: My father was a fusion energy researcher. In fusion energy, what they're trying to do is replicate what the sun does and the way the sun creates energy. So, that was a phrase that my mother used in talking about what what his research involved. She said he was trying to discover the secrets of the sun and she saw that as a really noble enterprise. And, I have to agree with that.

But, there's also a pun and that is something I don't want to reveal. I did find out one possible explanation for why my father was so angry and sad in his life, and why he had such complicated relationships with people. And it has to do with that pun.

And also the other thing about the sun: they called Japan the land of the sun. And that's also a reference to [my father's] background.

Lerner: You teach other people about writing. What would you say you've learned from writing this book that you would share with your students?

Yoshikawa: In this book I was writing a lot about trauma and violence. In the beginning, I had a lot more scenes of violence. And I think it ended up kind of pummeling the reader a bit, and I wasn't actually managing to get it through that violence is really terrible and traumatic.

I was making the reader shut down. And so it's really important to think about how to pace your writing. So, I just cut that way down and, as a result, I like to think that the scenes I do have land harder because there's less of it.

Lerner: Overall, what are you most proud of with having this book come out?

Yoshikawa: I'm really proud that I stuck it out because it really was just so hard. I'm proud that I stuck it out as a memoir. If I had written this as a novel, it would have been much easier to get it published. But I think it actually would have been a lesser work.

I do think that, overall, it's harder to get nonfiction published. But I wanted to do it as nonfiction because I want it to lay claim to the story. I wanted to just actually say, this is something I did and it feels more honest for me to publish this as nonfiction. And so I feel proud of myself that I stuck it out.

Mako Yoshikawa will be at Porter Square Books on Feb. 15 to discuss "Secrets of the Sun." She also has an event at Brookline Booksmith on Feb. 22.