Author Interview | Rin Chupeco
For the month of October I’m hosting Spooks and Tea where we aim to consume as much horror, or spooky, books as possible.
I also wanted to do something a little different and fun this year so I reached out to a few authors to see if any would be interested in taking part, most of them agreed to do a Q&A with the Book Club! I have never felt more blessed.
If you’re a member of Books and Tea you’ll have been given the chance to ask these authors questions, as well as getting to see their answers early.
It is now time for me to share the first one which is the amazing Rin Chupeco! I hope you enjoy these questions we came up with because I actually screamed when she emailed me back! Keep reading to see what we asked her.
Despite an unsettling resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin always maintains her sense of hummus. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. Dances like the neighbors are watching.
The Shadowglass is her next release on 1st March 2019, you can pre-order it now.
Tecsie would like to know how scary would you consider your horror series to be for someone who is easily scared but loves The Bone Witch and really wants to read your other work?
I understand why The Girl from the Well might be classified as horror, but I actually don’t consider it scary, especially because I believe basing the story from the POV of the ghost takes something away from the scares. I always consider it a coming of age story, a feminist retelling, and a non-romantic love story (especially if you take its sequel, The Suffering, into consideration). The horror aspects just happen to be its really noticeable aesthetic!
I was curious if when writing The Girl From the Well did you ignore other adaptations that the Japanese legend has inspired or where they part of your research too?
Almost all Japanese ghost movies take inspiration from Bancho Sarayashiki (The Ring and The Grudge, especially) I’ve already watched most of those movies (and re-watched countless times) long before I thought about writing the book, so it can be argued that I didn’t do research so much as I was already familiar with them by the time I got around to drafting the novel. I did try my best to write something that the movies haven’t done before, which was mainly making the ghost the (anti-)heroine and making her a sympathetic character, even if you don’t always agree with her decisions.
Egg asked What drew you to that story and are there other legends that interest you?
I’ve always been a huge fan of Japanese mythology, and the Bancho Sarayashiki was one I’ve read about often growing up. I think the absolute injustice of the story was what that drew me in (Japanese ghost stories tend to favor the male aggressor even when they’re at fault, and never have good endings for women in their works), and I’ve always wanted to do a version where the ghost finds justice or metes out revenge. I also love the Botan Doro (The Peony Lantern) which is about a man who meets a mysterious woman he falls in love with but is eventually revealed to be an undead revenant. My absolute favorite ghost is the kuchisake-onna – a pretty girl wearing a flu mask who’ll ask you if you think she’s beautiful if you encounter her along a dark road. If you answer wrong (and based on the legend, practically all possible answers are the wrong ones) she removes her mask to reveal a long slitted mouth, and kills you.
Ruthsic wants to know what your influences were for The Bone Witch trilogy?
The concept of the dark asha in the Bone Witch was inspired by Filipino witch doctors, or mangkukulam. They’re generally feared by the Filipino public, but that doesn’t stop them from approaching a mangkukulam if they need healing or want someone to be hexed, and I wanted the bone witches in my story to have that same sort of hypocrisy going on for them, as well as be privy to that same general scorn for people who supposedly raise the dead for a living. The worlbuilding is heavily reliant on both Asian and Middle Eastern culture – a lot of kingdoms in The Bone Witch have Middle Eastern roots like Odalia (based on the Ayyubid dynasty) or Drycht (Wahhabism). Others like Kion are more of a melting pot of culture. And of course, the bone witch aesthetic is heavily inspired by real-life geisha.
Ruth asks why did you decide to write The Bone Witch in the style of switching between two time periods?
I’m always experimenting with writing styles, and I try to write things that I haven’t usually seen in a lot of other books. I wanted to see if it was possible to maintain a sense of tension and foreshadowing even if the reader technically knows the “ending” of the story – an anti-spoiler, if you will. I really like dual timelines because I love unreliable narrators. Just because A leads to Z doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be finding out B, C, D, etc. in their proper order, which I found still helps keep a sense of mystery.
Anthony is wondering was there anything you planned for The Bone Witch series that actually did not make it into the books?
I’d fleshed out a lot of history of the other kingdoms that didn’t make it in the book. I’d also had a small side plot that involved Mykaela, Altaecia and Polaire’s friendship history early on that I had to remove because it didn’t add to the overall arch of the plot.
He also asks if you were magically transported into The Bone Witch universe, who/what would you be?
I’m probably only going to be a commoner, unfortunately. I have none of the coordination necessary to be an asha, have a very minimal head for fashion, and am not as good at fighting to be a Deathseeker. Personality-wise, I am more likely to be one of the daeva than anything else.
What do you and Tea have in common with each other? This question comes from Shade
Tea was to a certain extent me as a teenager. Like her, I was extraordinarily stubborn – if I wasn’t interested in a lesson or believed something to be useless to know I’d either try to ditch it or exert the least amount of effort needed just to pass and pacify my teachers/parents. But if I was very interested in something I’d go up and above expectations to excel at it. Also, I grew up in a country that was very conservative and Catholic, so my being a pansexual liberal atheist was a problem. I was considered the black sheep or an unruly student more often than not, and I’m used to going against the majority, much like Tea.
Allie wants to know did you always know where Likh’s path/story would lead theme and was that your intentions from book one?
Likh initially had a smaller part in the series than they wound up being. But the more I wrote about them the more I grew to like them, and they wound up stealing the spotlight in a lot of scenes. Their role increases with every book in the trilogy, and I consider Likh to be one of the most important characters in the series after Tea and Fox!
Many of us want to know where did your inspiration for the daeva come from and do you have doodles of them to remind you which one has which features? (If so can we see!)
I love to draw, but I’m terrible at drawing creatures! Artists better at this than I have done their renditions (I sometimes share their works on my Instagram) so what I usually went by when I wrote the books were the descriptions I’ve fleshed out beforehand rather than anything visual. I mostly think of them as chimeras. (I tried to doodle the azi when I signed some of my books but they all just looked like three-headed giraffes. I wished I’d taken photos because my publisher no longer have the copies- apparently they were popular despite it!) The concept of a daeva is actually taken from Zoroastrian mythology!
And without spoilers, how did you feel when writing both time periods final chapters for The Shadowglass?
Those were the most intense endings I’ve ever written to date. It says something that people I’ve given early ARCs to have all told me later on that the endings have made them cry, which is a good sign that you’ve written a good one. I’ve always believed that you have to write an ending that justifies your plot buildup, and I like to think readers will find it a good payoff to leave the series with, and also be an ending that’s both bittersweet and strangely satisfying.
A budding writer, Lopi, asks “Is pacing and paragraph/sentence structure more important when writing horror, so as to ensure the right emotions are being invoked more consistently throughout the story?”
I always feel that it’s important to place readers in the same position as the characters – they have to feel what the character feels, vividly imagine what the character must be seeing, etc., as closely as possible. It keeps them emotionally invested. And in horror, atmosphere is always going to be key. Readers ought to imagine being in the same room as the character, and have to imagine that the things that go unseen in that room are also quietly, silently watching them. Paragraph structure is important – when describing atmosphere, you can be lush with prose within reason. But when the action starts happening, I like using brevity to keep things tense. I like to compare it to the direction in Hitchcock’s Psycho – when the stabbing happens, it’s brief, it’s intense, and it gets straight to the point.
Allie is curious what are your favourite scary movies?
Juon: The Grudge! I love that they take all the things that make you feel safe and subvert it completely. Hiding underneath the blankets? Well, the ghost is in there with you, too. Think you’re safe in a crowd? The ghost is right in the crowd too, but no one else sees her but you! Juon loves playing with unpredictable timelines too, which was also an inspiration.
She also asks “Do you like to also read horror as well as write it? Who/what are your favourites?”
My first “adult” book was Pet Semetery by Stephen King when I was seven years old, so I’m a huge horror buff. I collect ghost stories and legends, and am a big fan of Peter Straub, Christopher Pike, Shirley Jackson, Daphne du Maurier, Cassandra Khaw, and Mark Danielewski (and of course, classic Poe!)
If you could write a horror book with any author, living or dead, who would you pick and why?
I would have loved to collaborate on something with Daphne du Maurier, just because I love how understated her horror works are!
Lastly, your next two releases are fantasy books, but you are featured in an upcoming horror anthology coming out in 2019. Aside from that, do you think you’ll revisit the horror genre, or is fantasy your home now?
I love the fact that as a YA writer, there’s no specific genre I’m expected to stay in. I can switch from fantasy to horror to probably contemporary if I’d a mind to. That said, I do have a lot of ideas for more horror books, and would love to write those in the future! Right now though, I go by a lot of what my publishers and agent recommends, and they’re very enthusiastic about the fantasy pitches I’ve made!
Okay we lied, one more!
What is life like now that you’re an author AND a mom? Are you finding a good balance?
I just had my second baby two months ago and sleep is not my friend right now! But the key to a good balance for me is finding the right support – I have family who I can rely on to help out and babysit when I need time to write or revise, and my husband has been very good at stepping up and giving me as much time to draft as I can! I think I’ve learned to be very humble since becoming a mother – I had to learn to ask for help when I used to be very independent and balk at finding assistance. Budgeting my time and sticking to a schedule also helped a lot!
Thank you again! ❤️
So thats everything! I really enjoyed reading through Rin’s answers, they were a lot of fun. I can’t wait to check out her other books as I’ve only read The Bone Witch trilogy but it really blew me away. I’m also one of the people up late crying as I finished The Shadowglass!