Rin Chupeco on the Ghost and the Girl and the Well
We love a good ghost story as much as the next person, making Rin Chupeco's The Girl From the Well an instant delight. With its uniquely creepy story and expert prose, this is one novel that will, pardon the pun, haunt you for days on end. Curious about the story behind the story, we asked Rin about the inspiration for the novel and here's what she had to say:
Inspiration for The Girl from the Well began with two things: the ghost and the girl. The more I wrote, the harder it became to separate the two.
The idea for the ghost came to me several years ago, when I was still making my living writing technical manuals for a mobile-programming company, which was based in a rather old building. Since I often clocked out late, I inadvertently gave the other people working there some good scares. After a day's grueling overtime, the last thing you need is to have the dilapidated elevator doors slide open to reveal someone who could pass for The Ring's Samara standing inside (me).
Samara’s character is named Sadako in the Japanese version of the movie, which was more popular where I live, so they took to calling me "good Sadako." It made me think about the concept of a 'good' ghost that didn't necessarily look the part.
That was when the girl began to take shape. I knew that The Ring was based on the Bancho Sarayashiki, a popular Japanese legend of a girl, Okiku, who was killed and thrown down a well. And the more I learned of the unfortunate Okiku, the more I realized that the legend only attributed one major characteristic to Okiku — insignificance. In feudal Japan it wasn't uncommon for women to be considered second-class citizens in many parts of the world, this still applies. No doubt Okiku would have thought of herself as unimportant too. I wanted to take that insignificance and turn it into her strength — to take the most horrible thing anyone could have ever done to a girl and, ironically for her killers and for other killers, use it as her means of empowerment.
Trying to weld the two ideas together was easier than I expected. Okiku's never going to be a friendly undead, even with her allies. I wanted her undeadness to shine through first and foremost, but I tried to add some hints of sanity with the insane. A small part of her will always be horrified at what she had become. This is why she talks about herself in the third person when she kills, as if this can distance her from the act. But a bigger part of her has learned to revel in the mayhem, to accept her own worth, even if it had to be in the afterlife.
The Girl from the Well isn't just an odd little ghost story. The novel is also about a girl who once thought herself unimportant and learns — sometimes poignantly, sometimes gruesomely — that she isn't.
- Rin Chupeco