|Rin Chupeco, Author of THE GIRL FROM THE WELL|
Welcome Rin! I've heard great things about your YA horror, THE GIRL FROM THE WELL, releasing in August from Sourcebooks. So how much did that six-year-old Rin's reading of The Pet Semetary (S. King) affect current day writer Rin? (And btw, I have a total author crush on your adorable and clever author page on your website!)
Thank you! I worked as a graphic designer back when writing wasn't paying the bills yet, and it's nice to be reminded that my old jobs were occasionally useful things to have done.
Six-year-old Rin would tell you that she wished she had current Rin's reading comprehension then so she could have understood more of the nuances (and gory parts) of that novel. Current Rin (whose only advantage over six-year-old Rin is hindsight, really) would tell you that she was glad her younger self hadn't. Getting bogged down in the details would have robbed six-year-old Rin's initial wonder and interest at reading something so strange and creepy and unique for the first time in her life. Learning how connecting with the right kind of books for you changes everything, and it's something I still take to heart after all these years. It tells you what kind of books you like to read, what kind of other books you ought to read, what kind of reader you are and - if you take that one step further like we both had - what kind of writer you would like to be.
Oooh, nice set up, Rin. So tell me, what kind of writer do you want to be? Like, if someone were reading your writer eulogy, what would be the things you hope they'd say? (And I only ask horror writers to write their own eulogies ;))
Quite frankly, I'm a vocal, snarky, opinionated person who can be quite offensive in that Dr. Gregory House sort of way mostly when it deals with people I don't necessarily like over issues I feel strongly about, so I would probably be disappointed if my funeral didn't have a lot of similarly vocal, snarky, opinionated Gregory Houses. So in a place where I probably wouldn't be in a position to care about opinions, I would sincerely hope that whatever people say about me, the one requirement I would demand in any eulogy is that they would be scathingly honest about it, and about me. If people think that my writing in some odd way was able to inspire them, or convince them to pick up a book every now and then, that would be the greatest compliment they could ever give me. If people didn't like my work or thought I take too many risks in writing style or treatment for them to fully enjoy it, then I appreciate the fact that they read my works in the first place. Call me a good writer or a bad one - but hey, at least call me a writer!
Writer it is then. As this is your debut, can you tell us a bit about how that process went for you? The Reader's Digest version. And was it harder or really no different with you being in the Philippines?
It was actually simpler than I expected it to be, and my being several timezones away from all the agents I queried was barely a factor. I tried to query an earlier manuscript, but decided after a few weeks that I wanted to work on it some more. I'd just finished The Girl from the Well then, and felt more confident about querying it, as I thought it was in much better shape. Fortunately, it received a lot of requests, and in the end it came down to four agents from three agencies who were all awesome in their own way. In the end though, I opted to go with both Nicole LaBombard and Rebecca Podos from the Helen Rees agency. Having two agents in place of one is definitely an advantage, but it also means I get twice the critiques / revisions, which also means more work. I'm glad for it, because they're both brilliant people who've only made my manuscripts better. Later that year, I signed a deal with Sourcebooks, and have never been happier! About the only obstacle to living in the Philippines to date is scheduling phone calls (Skype, on my end) with my agents and my publisher, but we've managed to make it work so far.
There's such a huge YA fan base in the Philippines. Have they found you yet? And are they insanely excited to have a home girl to fan over?
I have seen some smatterings of curiosity over the YA blogosphere about me, but I should mention that a lot of Filipinos get excited over anything or anyone Filipino that gets noticed outside of the country. I think that given the Philippine's current situation (constant corruption mostly, and the sense that ordinary folks here can't seem to catch a break because everything is stacked against us from the get-go) we always tend to view ourselves as underdogs, and it becomes a big deal when someone does something out of the box - it's a "hey, I started out with the crappiest poker odds, but I still got to beat the house" sort of pride. I think I might be the first YA writer in the Philippines with a literary agent AND a traditional publisher for my novel, so there is also that novelty. That said, writers get a lot less attention here than say, other noteworthy Filipinos like Manny Pacquiao or Bruno Mars or Charice Pempengco, so I don't think I'll be getting mobbed by any masses in any foreseeable future (and I hope it stays that way!).
Give it time. The early hooplah over your book is exciting enough that I imagine you'll have some fandom. Maybe not Bruno Mars big, but YA author big :)
Thanks! A little bit of fandom is always good for the soul!
Your novel, The Girl From the Well, is receiving great early reviews. Some of the adjectives used are creepy, creepier, haunting, scary — when you chose to play around with this old Japanese ghost story, what kind of creep factor did you know you HAD to include?
The creep factors I wanted to include had a lot to do with the one factor that I didn't want to add, which was 'goriness'. I've seen my share of awesome B movies in my youth, like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Evil Dead and Army of Darkness, Hellraiser, etc. but I decided early on that descriptions of mutilation and similar weren't what I wanted for this particular novel. Curiously enough, I wanted my book to be very subtle about the horrific things it suggests to readers, which is not a description you might expect in a horror book. My favorite horror movies had always been the ones where very little gore is shown on-screen, and where the worst of the carnage is only hinted at or suggested, not shown - which I'd always felt made more impact. So the psychological aspect was always more important to me - more in keeping with the Tale of Two Sisters or an Alfred Hitchcock Presents short rather than Saw. While it made it more difficult to write, since my protagonist is someone I wanted people to be both terrified of and be sympathetic toward, I think (and hope!) I was able to balance both aspects of her nature well enough.
This! When I chatted with Danielle Vega we talked a bit about horror movies and how I can't watch them because of the damn music. That creepy, bass heavy beat worms its way into my gut and..eek. So I think the prelude to the gore is the scariest part.
Absolutely! Sometimes I don't know what's worse - the creepy music, or when they choose not to add in any music or sound at all.
But here we are, at the end of our chat and it's time for the three burning questions! What are the next three books on your TBR pile? The best drink ever? And the song you keep hitting replay on.
Thanks so much, Rin! I look forward to The Girl From The Well, though I'm going to read it with the lights on.
1.) a. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
b. Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis
c. Skin Game (The Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher
2.) It's a toss-up between a midori sour and icy taro milk tea with panacotta pudding (not as bad as it sounds. Really!)
3.) Iron by Woodkid - I really love anthemic music!
Thank you for having me!
And thank you, Rin! Check back for more interviews in about a month!