Part of the fun of many mystery novels is deducing “who did it?” But what about when the story comes out and tells you? Or rather, what about when several characters in a story deliver detailed accounts of the crime, none of which quite line up? Such is the case in Rikako Akiyoshi’s The Dark Maidens, released in English this week by Vertical Inc. The novel stars a group of young women, none of whom seem to agree on the circumstances which led to their mutual friend’s death. AiPT! recently had the privilege of speaking with Akiyoshi about the novel, her influences as a writer, and more.
AiPT!: How did you come up with the concept for your novel The Dark Maidens?
Rikako Akiyoshi: One day out of nowhere I came up with an idea of beautiful girls gathering to tell their own story on their mutual girlfriend’s death, but each story is totally different. I really liked the idea of “different POVs over one incident” so I developed it into a book. I think it turned out well!
AiPT!: What was it like writing The Dark Maidens using a Rashomon-style? What unique opportunities did this approach provide?
Akiyoshi: Building six different stories around a girl’s death was a big challenge, but I really enjoyed writing as I knew it would turn out intriguing.
AiPT!: Many of your novels star school-aged characters. What do you think draws you to young protagonists?
Akiyoshi: You know, it’s funny that I’m especially drawn to Japanese high school-aged characters as I never attended high school in Japan. I went to American high school in L.A., which is quite different from Japan’s. Yes, having attended American high school was very much fun with proms, etc., but I always envied the cool uniforms, close-knit Japanese high school system, clubs, school trips, and school festivals. So I think I want to write what I didn’t have a chance to experience.
AiPT!: What was your experience like seeing The Dark Maidens adapted into film?
Akiyoshi: That was a wonderful experience to see my story getting translated into a big screen with visual and sound!! The film version is awesome, so I really hope that DVD gets released in English, too.
AiPT!: What other writers and/or novels have influenced your personal style?
Akiyoshi: I encountered The Metamorphosis by Kafka when I was 11, and I was very shocked and deeply impressed by it. Till then, I read novels like Anne of Green Gables. You know, the kind of novels that tell you “if you work hard, happiness will come to you.” But The Metamorphosis was totally different, telling you that the world is full of garbage, and although you work hard, happiness might not come to you. Don’t take me wrong, I LOVE Anne of Green Gables and that is still one of my favorites, but reading Kafka was a quite special experience. I guess I was too young to read Kafka, but his works really sucked me in. I started to think that I wanted to write something like his works, something dark and complicated. So, here I am now!
AiPT!: Do you have any other upcoming books or projects you would like to tell us about?
Akiyoshi: My 12th book, Memory of Glass, will be released in Japan this summer. This book is about a 40-year-old woman with memory loss (due to car accident) being suspected of killing a man, but she doesn’t know if she actually killed the man or not. The man killed her parents 20 years ago and was just release from jail, so she has a motive. She called 911 claiming she killed him, and when the police arrived she had a bloody knife in her hand and there was a dead body lying on the floor. She doesn’t remember anything about it, not even about having called 911. I have a feeling this piece is going to be a great success.
AiPT!: Where can fans of your work follow you online to learn about new releases and updates?
Akiyoshi: I have a twitter account @rikakoppi – although I hardly tweet, whenever I receive any comments on my books, I reply. I can read and write in English, so feel free to give me a buzz!
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