I hope you have been enjoying the summer despite the current circumstances. It's time for another interview, so let's say hello to Chinese-Filipino fantasy novelist Rin Chupeco!
PB: Hi Rin! Welcome to pjbermanbooks.com. Tell us a bit about your background.
RC: I was born and raised in the Philippines, and lived here pretty much all my life! I've worked a lot of jobs, mainly in the telecom and travel industries, but their real purpose was to keep me afloat until I could write my way into a living. I also tend to resemble several variants of undead Asian ghosts, and have been mistaken as many of them in at least four separate instances!
PB: What made you decide to become an author?
RC: I think I was born wanting to be an author. I was hooked on books at two years old, could read by around four, and was already planning to write my own series of chapter books at seven years old. I'm a pretty private person, and books were a huge source of comfort for me growing up.
PB: When did you first start writing?
RC: Seven years old was when I decided I wanted to be an author. Ghost stories were my jam back then, and horror books my first love. When I was in fourth grade, I made up a ghost story for Halloween and wound up scaring my class. It was a great feeling, and further cemented the desire to have more people reading and reacting to my works that way.
PB: What was the first story that you can remember writing?
RC: That very ghost story I told the class in fourth grade! It was mainly about a boy who was lost in the woods, and was being shown the way home by some very strange girls who only appear to him by peeking out from around some trees to urge him on, only revealing their heads to him. In the end, he winds up arriving at the center of the forest instead of his house, and only then did he realize that surrounding one of the largest tree trunks were the headless bodies of those little girls. I had a pretty vivid imagination as a kid.
PB: When you begin writing a new story, do you always know the ending?
RC: I always know how I'm going to end a story as soon as the ideas for it manifests in my head, long before I'd even written a first chapter. It's always writing the middle part that stresses me out!
PB: If you could meet any of your characters, who would you meet, and what would you say to them?
RC: I would love to have personally known Okiku and Tark from The Girl From The Well. I would volunteer to go on their adventures fighting both evil unexorcised ghosts and serial killers. I enjoy ghost hunts and the running joke with me is that nothing ever happens when I'm around (a long time ago, a fortune teller once told me I had some kind of 'negative' aura that repels ghosts, though they'd still haunt the people around me) and it would be pretty funny to actually see if this could affect Okiku, too!
PB: Tell us about The Bone Witch.
RC: The Bone Witch is about a bard who encounters a girl living in exile in a lonely beach littered with the skeletons of dead beasts. Banned from the kingdoms she once protected, she narrates her life story, from learning as a child that she is a necromancer, a "bone witch", when she accidentally raises her older brother from the dead; to being introduced into a magical society of asha / summoners tasked with defending the land from undead monsters capable of resurrecting themselves at set cycles. But as she continues her tale, the bard slowly begins to realize that not all is what it appears to be, and that she may not be as innocent as she claims.
PB: Where did the idea for Wicked As You Wish come from?
RC: I read a lot as a kid, and that included ghost stories, as mentioned before, fairy tales from different countries, and different mythologies. Back then, I always assumed that these stories all had shared universes where the magic system followed a similar structure, that Peter Pan existed in the world of fables as Sleeping Beauty, or Momotaro, or Maria Makiling. That idea stuck with me, and I started thinking how things would go if they also were reworked as part of our actual world - if people like Robin Hood and the Snow Queen and King Arthur actually existed as authentic, validated historical figures.
PB: Of all your achievements, which are you most proud of?
RC: Getting this far as an author, really. There were a lot of hurdles I had to jump through along the way. Shipping was painfully expensive back in those days when literary agencies didn't accept emails, and most publishers weren't interested back then in looking at manuscripts about characters who weren't American or white, much less the authors who weren't American or white either, with no credentials to their name yet. I would like to keep it going, see how much further I can keep at this!
PB: That's a very valid point. As a non-American author myself, I agree that even now, achieving greater diversity in the writing industry from the perspectives of both race and nationality is an important issue to fix. When you're not writing though, what is your favourite book series to read and why?
RC: There's far too many for me to list here, but the books I keep coming back to, I think, are Agatha Christie books, but particularly Hercule Poirot. If anything, it still teaches me about great plot twists and how details are so important to the story. Another is the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, who is one of maybe three people who taught me humor, and shaped my sense of it for the better.
PB: What are your long term ambitions with regards to writing?
RC: To keep doing it for as long as I can! I suppose every writer's goal at this point is to have a TV series or movie adaptation of their books, though a personal dream of mine is to have an anime series, too!
PB: That would be awesome! If you weren’t an author, what career would you be in?
RC: I genuinely had never thought about a different career path other than being a writer - everything I've done had always felt like stepping stones to get to this point, but people have told me in the past that I would probably make a good lawyer, though I'm not sure what that says about me. I think in another lifetime I would have liked to have been a graphic novel artist or a mangaka, which are basically writing-adjacent jobs as well.
PB: What’s the next target for you?
RC: Writing the third and final book of the Hundred Names for Magic series (the first book being Wicked As You Wish) and then finishing up some adult crossover books I've started working on - one about bi vampires in the vein of The Witcher and Castlevania, and another that's basically Swan Lake meets Untitled Goose Game.
PB: Tell us a random fact about yourself.
RC: My house is a cat sanctuary and not necessarily by choice. I adopted a stray orange tabby some time back, and he has been very clever at seeking out other stray cats and inviting them into the house to stay for good without my permission. I have had a succession of twenty or so cats so far - some I've managed to adopt out to good homes, but many with underlying health conditions that I've decided to care for myself. Every time someone asks if my superpower is cats, I often joke that I am instead the cats' superpower, because I mostly do whatever they want me to.
Thank you som much to Rin Chupeco for speaking to us today. If you'd like to check out her books, you can do so via the links below:
Until next time, happy reading!