Today we’re celebrating the release of Rin Chupeco’s fantastic debut, THE GIRL FROM THE WELL!
A dead girl walks the streets.
She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.
And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.
Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out.
The Girl from the Well is a YA horror novel pitched as “Dexter” meets “The Grudge”, based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story.
Trust me, you need this now — and here are a few places where you can get it!
One mantra, if you will, from the story is Okiku’s musing on “fires that fly.” To that end, what was the spark that inspired the novel? What was it about the Okiku of legend that spoke to you?
There’s a bittersweet taste to a lot of Japanese ghost stories – often enough, the bad guy never gets his comeuppance, and it’s the poor victims that’s doomed to haunt places for the things their murderers are guilty of (call them the Asian equivalent of Henry VIII’s wives). Okiku’s story was especially sad – there are a lot of versions to the legend that makes it hard to determine which is the right one, but she was essentially a kind person considered too insignificant to be treated better than she was, and it cost her her life. The idea to have her killer be inadvertently responsible for giving her the power she didn’t have in life appealed to me.
The first spark came when I was working at an office at a very old building, complete with a rickety elevator. I look like the quintessential Asian ghost, except maybe better dressed, so it was a trial for other people working in the same building when they finished their overtime at the same time I did. Old elevator + ghostly-looking girl inside said elevator when the doors open + night time + barely working lights = a certain amount of screaming and flailing. They eventually called me “good Sadako”, after the character from the original Ringu series.
The second spark was when I was watching an Asian horror movie marathon with a friend, who wondered out loud what we would do had we been in the same situation as the characters in those films. What would we use to fight off a ghost who was apparently unstoppable?
“With another ghost,” I quipped, and then was struck by the novelty of that idea.
You masterfully blend the supernatural with the contemporary, bringing us into a world where spirits are all too real and the rituals to exorcise them are deadly. What kind of research did this story require?
Thank you, that’s very nice of you to say!
I tried to make my research as accurate as I could. (Confession: I have never been to Japan, though I have been a big fan of Japanese culture ever since I was a kid.) For instance, I tried to describe places in the novel as they really are, such as Osorezan and Mutsu and Himeji Castle – sometimes it takes an hour of research to write just a couple of lines of description for them. But I also incorporated a bit of creative license in other areas, to further the plot I had in mind. Dolls did play a role in some Japanese religious ceremonies, but the way they’re used in exorcisms in the book was mostly supplemented by my imagination. I tried to ensure that the locations described in the novel were as authentic as I possibly can, but many aspects of the rituals that take place were also just things I came up with. It was a lot of fun to come up with these unspoken ritual ‘rules’ so I could set certain limitations on my ghosts to keep the balance, but it was also a daunting task to keep them sounding credible.
With multiple characters, intersecting story lines, and a first-person narrator who sometimes pulls back to be omniscient, what was the process of writing the novel like?
I treated the whole writing process as an experiment, first and foremost. I understand that the writing style is a bit different from what most are accustomed to, but given the kind of protagonist the novel had, I felt it worked well with how I wanted to structure the narrative. Okiku is not your everyday heroine, and I wanted to emphasize that – she definitely doesn’t think the way your standard young adult female does, and her sense of detachment throughout the novel was written deliberately. Naturally, being rather different (and, I hope, rather unique), I knew it would be risky because there’s a chance it might come off sounding pretentious – or worse, gimmicky – but I always try to write something in a way that no one else to my knowledge has done. I think it worked out pretty well, considering.
What can we look forward to from you next? (As per your website, I see a sequel?! Or perhaps a companion novel?)
Definitely a sequel – although ‘companion novel’ also describes it well. The Girl from the Well was written to be a standalone book with a definite ending, but I also wrote it to accommodate a sequel if needed. As far as I’m concerned, Okiku’s told her story, and she doesn’t feel the need to say more. But I also realized that Tark, my other protagonist, has his own story to tell. And where Okiku will always be the logical, somewhat aloof, brains of the operation, Tark makes up the heart and soul of the two, and if the first book had been told through his eyes, you’ll have seen more of Okiku’s personality than from Okiku herself, who is not the type to divulge much even when knowing things from her point of view. With Tark you’ll get warmth and emotion and empathy amid a lot of self-deprecating snark. The Girl from the Well does have a conclusion, but the sequel will show how the first book’s ending will bring about a lot more complications for him than he expects – or wants. It’s going to give me a chance to show off Tark’s engaging personality, and also a way to showcase Okiku’s more thoroughly as well.
|Diana Gallagher is a gymnastics coach, writing professor, and country music aficionado. She holds an MFA from Stony Brook University and once had a story published on a candy cigarette box. Her contemporary YA novel, WHAT HAPPENS IN WATER, releases in Fall 2015 from Spencer Hill Contemporary. For deep musings on gymnastics and Game of Thrones puns, follow her on Twitter.|