Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Book Review and Author Interview: The Waking - Dreams of the Dead by Thomas Randall

Kara moves with her father to Japan when he accepts a teaching position at a boarding school that Kara also attends as a day student. Before she can even settle in, Kara begins having nightmares that get stronger when students at the school start dying. Is someone - or something - trying to take revenge for a murder of a popular student killed before Kara's arrival?

Although probably too slow for most horror fans, this novel does build up to a nice crescendo of creepiness for the final reveal. I liked how we got a fresh take on the paranormal craze with the incorporation of Japanese myths and legends.

The main reason I wanted to read this was for the Japanese setting. I spent two semesters at a university in Fukuoka, Japan and Kara's experience (minus the paranormal happenings of course) was in many ways similar to mine so that aspect was very fun for me.

This is the first in a trilogy but the plot wraps up so nicely in this one, I really can't imagine what the other two novels could be about - and I love that.

THE WAKING: DREAMS OF THE DEAD is available in paperback now. As part of the book blog tour, I got to interview Author Thomas Randall. Here we go!

THE WAKING has a Japanese horror flick vibe. Were you inspired by any of them? I've enjoyed THE RING and THE GRUDGE and their American remakes, to a point. The U.S. version of THE GRUDGE doesn't really hold together, which is unfortunate because the vibe and atmosphere of it are awesome.

But actually those weren't my inspirations at all. I love folklore, and Japanese folklore and legend are incredibly rich and varied. I've always been fascinated by the fact that Japan has no real vampire legend. There are vampiric creatures, but no vampires, so I wanted to take what is fascinating to me about Japan--its beauty and history and folklore--and mix it with an exotic vampire story that would be new and different for readers mostly familiar with modern vampire stuff.

On top of that, I loved the idea of writing about this girl who is on this real adventure that would intimidate or terrify most of us, starting over in a new place many thousands of miles from home, and to show the kind of courage that takes and how large a mysterysome parts of the world are to people who don't live there.

Kara and her father move to Japan after her mother dies. Why are authors always killing off mothers?
Bad childhoods? :) Just kidding. It's very practical, to be honest. Writers often kill off both parents, forcing the young protagonists to make their own way in the world. It's a classic conceit of children's literature. If the reader is identifying with this character, the first thing you've done is made the reader understand the peril the character is in...what would THEY do without their parents to take care of them? Many of the greatest stories in children's literature simply wouldn't happen if the parents were around to take care of the young protagonists.

In killing off just the mother, which is another common tactic, you've similarly denied the main character something, but it's a different something. Fathers are often seen as more distant or befuddled or less caring than a mother would be. That's not the case with Kara and her father in THE WAKING, but even in this trilogy, there's a comfort and an understanding that Kara might receive from her mother that her father has a difficult time providing. Not to mention that in order for them to both feel cast adrift while starting anew in this strange land, they need to feel loss. The absence of Kara's mother is just as important to the story as the presence of her father. So, no, it's not a conspiracy against moms. :)

You describe a lot of Japanese cultural customs throughout the novel. What kind of research did you do? Did you actually eat umeboshi? (I did once...and never again!)
I am, I confess, the pickiest of eaters. Two of my three kids have inherited that trait and it drives my lovely wife nuts. Most of the things I talk about the characters eating in the trilogy would never pass my lips. My eldest son would probably try most of it. There are a few things that intrigued me, but for the most part, I'd be starving.

As far as research goes, I read books and essays and blogs and did other research online. I talked to a friend of mine who taught English in a private school in Japan. I wanted the reader to see the world from Kara's perspective as she immerses herself into the culture. There's gradually less reliance on that as the trilogy goes on because Kara will have become acclimated and so will the reader. One thing I didn't get to do for research was go to Japan, but I still hope that will happen one of these days.

Wow - you really got it right for never having been there! You have written a ton of novels - which one would you most recommend to someone who enjoyed THE WAKING and why?
Curious readers might give Christopher Golden's POISON INK a try, for another smart, gutsy girl dealing with a supernatural encounter that could destroy her life.

Thanks Thomas (a.k.a. Christopher)!

Find links to more reviews of the novel and interviews with Thomas by clicking on the graphic below.


Alice Teh said...

Hi Lenore! Hi Thomas! This is a great post and I enjoyed the interview. I'm a bit wary of horror books but I might check this one out. Thanks!

brizmus said...

This is a great post, and I am SO reading this book!
I love anything that has to do with Japan!
So sad he didn't go to Japan for research. :-(

Beth F said...

I knew I couldn't read this one. I'm a scaredy-cat! I gave my copy away, and I hope the person who won it will enjoy it and review it.

Little Willow said...

How cool to read something that, in some ways, paralleled your own experience! (I'm glad that the reflections were personal, and not related to the horror elements. *grin*) Thanks for being a part of the blog tour, Lenore!

bermudaonion said...

The book sounds interesting even though I'm not a big fan of horror. I think my son would probably like it a lot.

Keri Mikulski said...

Great time of year for this book. :)

Sadako said...

I love Japanese horror/suspense books. They're just so weird, even when there's no obvious "horror"--like I read one where a man's wife and his daughter are in a car accident and the wife's spirit goes into the daughter's body.

And of course I loved the Ring cycle. This one looks really great. Thanks for reviewing it.

Zibilee said...

This book sounds very interesting, particularly the inclusion of the Japanese myths. Great review and interview, I am glad you really enjoyed it.

Staci said...

Sounds like one I must check out!!

Joanne ♦ The Book Zombie said...

Awesome review and interview, Thanks Thomas and Lenore! I'll be adding this series to my must-reads :)