Ono Fuyumi Long Interview Part 2: The Rules for Writing Girls’ Novels

This is the second part of the interview with Ono Fuyumi from Da Vinci‘s December 2010 issue. Ono discusses the rules and restrictions she encountered at the time of writing the original Ghost Hunt series. Please go to part one “The Ghost Hunt Series Reprint” to read the interview from the beginning.

Ono Fuyumi
Left: The galley proofs of the Ghost Hunt series and her favorite Japanese language dictionary. Right: The state of her work desk. It is decorated with a colored paper signed by mangaka Nagai Gou.

Ono Fuyumi: The Rules for Writing Girls' NovelsHaving loved horror and ghost stories since childhood, and having come into touch with many works, it seemed inevitable too that Ono-san started to work on the Ghost Hunt series. However, with regard to the background of the series’ creation, you actually made great use of the rules peculiar to girls’ novels of that time.

That’s because girls’ novels had a lot of rules at that time. Such as writing the novel from a girl’s first point of view, not using difficult kanji as much as possible, and completing it in a few amount of pages. Particularly the fact that it had to be a romance story was an absolute requirement, but writing romance isn’t my strong point from the very start. I said, I could make it work somehow if I can at least turn it into horror. It was a painfully exhausting strategy. In accordance to that agreement at that time, at first there was a plan to have a love triangle between Naru, Mai and Bou-san. Now that I think about it though, it was a correct decision that I quickly gave up on it (lol).

At the time of writing, you gathered a lot of materials, and accumulated domestic and foreign knowledge relating to the occult. To the author Ono-san herself, it was an indispensable work in the context of comprehending the world in her novel.

If you think about it with reason, I think that spirits probably don’t exist. I liked ghost stories. If they existed I think it would probably be enjoyable, but it’s also unreasonable. I thought about it in that way regularly, so until I became able to picture a world in which ghosts exist, there was a need to read a lot of material.

Thus, in 1989, the first work in the series Are there really lots of Evil Spirits!? became published. At that time, it was an era when neither the Japan Horror Novel Award nor the Kadokawa Horror Bunko existed. It seemed like you couldn’t say that there was enough understanding in general either with regard to horror.

Actually, I finished writing the original draft of the second work There really are a lot of Evil Spirits! before that. They rejected it because it was too frightening. It stunned me. I am writing horror, so what do you mean it’s not okay if it is scary? At that time, most people were of the opinion that “Girls dislike scary things”. So in a hurry I wrote the first work Are there really lots of Evil Spirits!?. The reason why volume 1 and 2 differ subtly in taste is due to those kind of circumstances.

However, Ono-san was confident that “there are girls who like scary things”. As if living up to the expectations of the author, the series favorably piled up volumes, and grew into a popular work in a span of nearly 4 years. Every day, many fan letters from readers reached the eyes of Ono-san.
Left: The living room was also decorated by this kind of object. Right: Various adorable cat goods are strewn all over the house.

I received a lot of letters, didn’t I? They asked things like, ‘Please tell me the birthdays of all characters’. I haven’t had readers with those kinds of viewpoints, so it was a very fresh response. I also received delightful letters such as “This is the first time I read a book that wasn’t a manga.” “I’ve come to like scary stories which I used to dislike.” The number of published copies remained fixed until the end without a change. But thanks to the enthusiastic fans who followed it, I was able to write the series to my own liking in the later years. The amount of kanji increased, and people died (lol). I was mostly given free reign. It felt like I was secretly playing together with the readers in a corner of the class. It was very enjoyable.

 

The series concluded with the last volume I don’t mind Evil Spirits! in 1992. In this last volume, Ono-san solves the great mystery relating to the entire series in a vivid manner. The series composition, which consisted of elaborate foreshadowing, surprised the readers.

I had the general points in my mind at the time of writing the first volume. It’s an orthodox mystery at the root, so I foreshadowed in advance from the first volume with the intention of bringing it to that conclusion. Deciding to end it at volume 7, came much later. Around the middle of the series, I started to sense the limits of writing in the so-called first person point of view of the protagonist. So, as a horror series, I thought it was time to end it around here.

“Ghost Hunt” Reprint Commemoration Special Feature

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