Friday, May 3, 2013

A Spooky Q&A With Dave Chua - Writer of "The Girl Under The Bed"

Local readers may already be familiar with Dave Chua's award-winning novella "Gone Case" which was adapted into two graphic novels recently. The graphic novels - which depicted a boy's coming of age story in the very heartlands of the  HDB landscape - were a collaboration with artist Koh Hong Teng.

Both books were well-received by local readers mainly because it spoke right to the heart of the true-blue Red Dot Islander. Even more so when the books were visualized by Hong Teng, whose amazing artwork were so detailed and vivid.

This time round, in Epigram's graphic novel "The Girl Under The Bed" (with young artist Xiao Yan), Dave Chua turns to another favourite genre of his - horror. Despite being set during the Hungry Ghost Festival or "7th month" (in Hokkien), the story is also another realistic, coming-of-age tale of a teenage girl.

Red Dot Diva lays out some glittery offerings so that Dave will reveal what lies behind the spooky tale.

Red Dot Diva: After the coming of age story of "Gone Case", I was a little surprised that you decided to write a ghost story this time round. Has this horror story always been niggling at the back of your mind? What inspired it?
Dave: Well, I've always enjoyed horror stories and have written some here and there. A story I wrote, "Last Days", won 2nd prize in Chiaroscuro's short story contest and I have another story in Innsmouth magazine, which is also a horror e-zine. For "The Girl Under The Bed", I wanted to do a ghost story with a local setting. I was inspired after flipping through Xiao Yan's portfolio, with her creepy illustration work, I thought it would be a good fit.

Red Dot Diva: Which kind of ghost in local folklore do you find the most scary? 
Dave: Probably the pontianak and the toyol. Though the white blanket and long-haired ghosts always freaked me out.

Red Dot Diva: Are you still superstitious about the traditions surrounding the Hungry Ghost month?  
Dave: I'm not tremendously superstitious but I wouldn't disturb offerings left for the dead or deliberately walk through a cemetery at night.

Red Dot Diva: I believe the "Gone Case" adaptation with Koh Hong Teng was the first time you worked on a graphic novel? What did you learn from that experience?;
Dave: I learned that one should respect the artist's vision and by working together you can make a good story work even better. I also don't believe in having too much text in a graphic novel that will crowd out the images. 

Red Dot Diva: How differently did you approach the collaboration with XiaoYan concerning "The Girl Under The Bed"? (as compared to "Gone Case")
Dave: It was quite a short timeframe so we brainstormed quite a bit about the story and how it would go. Thankfully, we lived near each other so it was easy to meet up. The story was also more co-written, as we developed it together. 

Red Dot Diva: You have a knack of writing down-to-earth, relatable, coming-of-age stories. Is there something special about that time of life for you personally?
Dave: Thanks. I guess I wanted to tackle a story for younger readers, so that was one of the main things I wanted the story to have.

Red Dot Diva: Do you have a favourite horror writer or book? 
Dave: I enjoy Stephen King's work a lot and "Salem's Lot" scared me out of my wits. 

Red Dot Diva: In your opinion, What makes a horror story memorable? 
Dave: I think it's the characters in the story and how they are affected by the horror. 

Red Dot Diva: What do you think is more frightening: That which is seen or unseen? 
Dave: Probably a bit of both!

To celebrate FCBD later on, an official book launch for "The Girl Under The Bed" will be held at the Crossroads section of Kinokuniya's flagship store from 2.30pm to 3.30pm! Both Dave Chua and artist Xiao Yan will be there to meet readers and field questions. Xiao Yan - who has a unique macabre artstyle - will also be doing a live drawing session! 

Every purchase of the book entitles you to take part in a raffle where 2 limited-edition mounted art prints from the book can be won. Free samples of Sonny Liew's upcoming "The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye" will also be given out whilst stocks last. 

So go chope your seats early!


To the non-locals out there, names of South-East Asian spooks like pontianaks and toyols may sound unfamiliar to you. But Red Dot Diva thinks, that's a good excuse for you to grab a copy of the graphic novel: To expand your knowledge on ghouls, as well as learn more about the still widely practised Festival of the Hungry Ghosts!

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