Rin Chupeco: THE GIRL FROM THE WELL

The Girl from the Well (August 5, 2014; Sourcebooks)

You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.

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.

—–

We have a lot of fantastic authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. One author, four questions.  Today we’re talking to Rin Chupeco, author of THE GIRL FROM THE WELL.  And while not technically an undead spirit herself, Rin has been mistaken enough times as one hat she feels she can  competently write about them.

Hey, you’re getting published!  How’d that happen?

It almost didn’t. I live in the Philippines, where writing speculative fiction locally was discouraged – mostly because nobody has ever eked out a decent living from them. The chances of successfully establishing myself as an author in the international scene was even lower. For the longest time, I believed people when they said it wasn’t worth the effort, until a chance encounter with a rather famous writer (here’s a hint: his name starts with an ‘N’, and ends in an ‘eil Gaiman’) convinced me I’ll never know if I never try.

The thought of a nine to five job for the rest of my non-pensioned life finally scared the crap out of me, and I began to write. At first they were short stories, which got me into local and online indie publications, but with little financial compensation. From there I soon graduated to novels. I wrote a book, queried it for awhile, then shelved it after realizing I’d made the neophyte’s mistake of querying too soon. My experiences in an old building where I used to work, combined with an odd conversation with a friend about horror movies, inspired me to write a second book, which I did in roughly three months, falling back on my love for creepy Asian things and psychological ghost stories.

I knew this was THE ONE after I penned the final draft; I knew it was different, I knew there was nothing like it out yet, and I thought the concept was unusual enough to be noticed. Requests started coming in as soon as I started querying, and I eventually signed on with Rebecca Podos and Nicole LaBombard from the Helen Rees Agency. A few months later, I accepted a publishing deal with Sourcebooks, and have been thrilled ever since.

What’s your debut book about?  Can you share any cool details with us?

THE GIRL FROM THE WELL is based on the Bancho Sarayashiki, which is one of the most popular ghost stories in Japan. It’s about a young maidservant accused of something she didn’t do, but was thrown down a well as punishment. Now her ghost rises nightly from that well, unable to rest in peace. It’s the same story the movie Ringu / The Ring was based upon, but while the relentless Sadako is driven by hate and rage with little reason, my protagonist has something few ghosts are able to retain in the afterlife: a conscience, however slight that may be.

This doesn’t stop her from being violent when the situation calls for it, and while she considers most of what she does true justice, I wouldn’t say she’s been able to temper it with mercy when it comes to many of her victims – though she’s forced to reassess her centuries-old vengeance when innocent humans become involved. It’s a tale of redemption, a love story without necessarily being a romance – and it’s a story about how even the worst of monsters might still deserve what most people are often given: a second chance.

Are there any other ghost stories / urban legends you enjoy other than the Bancho Sarayashiki?

Right off the bat, I’m gonna say that Japan has some of the weirdest ghosts you will ever read about. One is Hanako-san, a little girl who has a predisposition for haunting toilets. She appears only after you knock at the  third stall of a school bathroom on the third floor, and ask for her by name, much like the Bloody Mary legend. Outcomes vary, from apparitions of a bloody hand, to her killing the caller rather gruesomely. Another more horrifying ghost is the Kuchisake-onna, a woman who wanders around with a mask on who stops and asks people if she’s pretty. If they say no, she kills them; if they say yes, she takes off her mask and shows them a mouth that has been slit from ear to ear, and asks them again. Another “no” gets them killed, and a “yes” will make her slash their mouths to give them the same disfigurement. Not exactly a good outcome for both answers.

Philippine mythology doesn’t get as much popularity as I think it deserves, too. There’s the legend of the manananggal, who’s usually a pretty girl in the daytime. At night, she has the ability to sever her body from the waist up, sprout wings, and fly over rooftops looking for babies and pregnant women to feast, on with a long prehensile tongue that can slip through small cracks in ceilings for this purpose. And there’s the tiyanak, which manifests as a crying baby apparently left in the woods or at an abandoned lot, and turns into basically an evil gremlin the instant you pick them up. I am a huge sucker for stories like these!

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

1. I was born and raised in the Philippines, but am ethnically Chinese for the most part. (I’m something of a mutt, with some Malay / Thai / Spanish / etc. trawling through the family bloodstream, though we’ve never been able to pinpoint a more definite ratio). This might explain why I’ve got huge eyes for an Asian, but STILL does not explain why I’ve got the body of a short thirteen year old girl while other family members are built like models.

2. I have foldable hands, in that I can fold them lengthwise, due in part to an old diving-into-a-shallow-pool-because-I’m-an-idiot incident. This gives me no superpowers whatsoever, other than the ability to gross people out.

3. I grew up on a steady diet of television and books, and Conan O’Brien was my babysitter for the latter part of my childhood. (On the other hand, Remington Steele appeared to be my favorite series during my toddlerhood. My father has stories  where, at two years old, I would point to Pierce Brosnan on-screen and yell: “That’s my boyfriend!”)

Despite an uncanny resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin has always maintained her sense of hummus. Raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps eight pets: a dog, six birds, and a husband. She’s been a time traveler, a Starfleet captain, and a mutant, because real jobs are overrated. Her YA horror, THE UNNATURAL STATES OF DEAD GIRLS IN WELLS (Sourcebooks), pitched as Dexter meets the Grudge, is due out Fall 2014.
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One thought on “Rin Chupeco: THE GIRL FROM THE WELL

  1. I love it when books are inspired/influenced by myths of foreign lands- particularly east Asia. This one sounds like a mysterious interpretation… Great interview! ^^

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