Juggernaut writing platform’s editor’s pick of the week is ‘Hatsuyuki‘, by Tapo J. Mandal .
On a remote peninsula in northern Japan, as the first snow of the long winter starts to fall, a mysterious new student appears at the local high school, and a young schoolteacher meets a beautiful girl at a dive bar. Could they be connected? Or does the hidden poster in the men’s restroom hold a secret? And what lies waiting outside in the merciless snow…? A story based on the most dreaded revenant in Japanese folklore, the Onryō. Tales in the genre popular in the West include the movies ‘The Ring’ and ‘The Grudge’.
Read the story here.
Tapo spent an inordinate amount of time traipsing across various countries in his youth, spending a lot of those years in Japan. He climbed mountains, bathed in hot springs, developed ninja chopstick skills that ensured he always got the last piece of sashimi, and survived earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear explosions and other local charms – but, much to his dismay, Godzilla never once made an appearance to destroy his office building. After briefly exploring a career as a DJ at a Yakuza-owned nightclub, he decided to move to India and try to write it all down before the world ends.
Your story is Editor’s Pick of the Week. Please tell us more about it, and its inspiration.
I believe the scariest horror comes from Japan – whether it be books, movies or manga (graphic novels). There is something relentless and real about these creations that I admire – unlike Hollywood, there is often no happy ending where the lead character finally escapes the woods/haunted mansion. I wanted to write paying homage to some of the legends of this school of horror, while also trying to bring it closer to readers in India and elsewhere.
Hatsuyuki is based on the most dreaded revenant in Japanese folklore, the Onryō. Tales in the genre popular in the West include the movies The Ring and The Grudge. My inspiration comes from the time when I lived in a remote, snowbound part of Japan myself. Your imagination does funny things to you there.
Do you have any particular rules or rituals you follow as a writer?
The two most important things for any writer are (a) reading – as much and as varied as possible – and (b) discipline – actually sitting down, pulling the ideas from the clouds in your brain, and beating/sculpting them into words on paper. The latter is the hard part, so my basic mantra is to give myself a word count target for the day – no matter what kind of stuff comes out, write them down until you hit your target. The second draft is for sorting out the mess. Of course, all of this is easier said than done.
What got you interested in becoming a writer? Where do you go for inspiration?
When I was a kid, I was lucky to have access to a lending library on my street. There was also a tiny used books stall not too far away where I could find gems to borrow or buy at throwaway rates. These two magical places took me all over the world in my childhood. The writing, I suppose, was a natural progression from all that reading – it was like I was so full of words that I had to release some back into the world. I was, and still am, very self-critical – there is so much beautiful writing out there, I don’t want my contribution to this feast to be tripe. I get inspired by places – cities are brimming with culture and atmosphere whereas the countryside can have overwhelming beauty and loneliness – and people. Then it’s about putting the right people in the right places in your mind – sometimes if you do it right they tell you the story themselves.
What are your favorite genres to write? Why do you like them?
Cyberpunk. Dystopian/Post-apocalyptic fiction. Sci-fi. Horror. Satire. I like these because in their own way they help me cope with the world. Reality as we know it is sometimes scarier. I prefer to imagine what could be, what else there is, what ‘real’ really means, the lines between humanity and technology, and our acceptance of the so-called truth. Also – we have so many talented writers in India, but where are the cyberpunk and dystopian writers? We loved films such as The Terminator, Blade Runner, The Matrix, Akira, Mad Max: Fury Road etc. just to name a few – but surely we can produce similar works ourselves? That would be my goal – in whatever small way, to contribute to this canon as an Indian writer.
Your bestselling authors and books list. Why do they make it to your list?
The works of William Gibson – he defines cyberpunk for me. Also, Stephen King, because he is a storyteller par excellence. I am also a fan of Raymond Chandler, Joseph Heller (I wish I could write something like Catch-22), Alex Garland, Tagore (in translation), Mike Mignola, Alan Moore, Junji Ito – it is hard to keep this list short, but I’ll stop here for now. These writers have vastly differently styles, but the common thread is quality storytelling and the fabulous worlds to which they take you.
Any writing tips you’d like to share with fellow writers?
Write the book/story that you want to read. Don’t look at what others are doing, who is on the bestseller list, what genres/themes are ‘popular’ these days. Stay true to yourself and your story. Someone will want to read it. Don’t talk about the money – the aim is to be read. And with the publishing world the way it is these days, it is easier than ever to get your stories in front of people. In fact, right here on Juggernaut you have a great platform and they have a unique and commendable mission to give everyone an opportunity to be read. So – keep reading, keep writing.