The third part of an interview with Japanese mystery novelist Ayatsuji Yukito, in which he talks about living in the publishing world, and his wife Ono Fuyumi. The interview was originally conducted in 1999, and published as a preface interview in a special issue of the magazine Hon no Mushi. Please go to part one “The Roots of Ayatsuji Mysteries” to read the interview from the beginning.
It’s up to the editor.
There were many people at my school who aimed to become an editor in the future. What is a “good editor” to you?
It depends on the editor, their motivations differ. I want to work with someone who I can trust… so a “person” after all. For example, there’s a publisher that has an editor who I trust immensely. If they quit there and go to another publisher, I would come with the editor. My requirements for a good editor are abstract, but they have to “see the same world” and “understand my language”; because there are many people who don’t understand my language. We go together to collect data, they collect documents for me, and I also consult with them on the contents. It’s easier to do if they return answers which resound if you strike back at them. It’s like a three-legged race.
How do you select a publisher?
The conversation will be about “What should we do about the places where the orders come from after meeting them once?”. You don’t want to release from a place that’s too small. Because it’s business. In any case, you can see it on any paperback shelf[ref]In Japanese bookstores, paperbacks are not arranged by author name, but instead are grouped by publisher.[/ref]. Currently, the greatest in the market are Kodansha, Shinchosha and Kadokawa. On the second rank we have Kobunsha and Shueisha. Naturally, you want to collect them in a place with many shelves. All companies will want to publish in paperback at their own places; they fight it out there in that vicinity.
Thanks to you all, new orders keep coming even now. The agreement occurred a little before five years ago though. Until three years ago, the schedule was closely packed. If I could speed up my writing more, I would probably handle it easily though. The publisher gradually understood it, something like “that guy is slow at writing, so it’s far from done even if you tell him [to do it] now”. Nevertheless, whether it’s necessary or not, eventually it’s about “the quality of the work and the sales”. It’s a relentless world thereabouts. When it’s time to cut, it could probably terminated. You have to create good things, and on top of that you have to sell it.
Did the Kobe Child Murders[ref]The Kobe Child Murders occurred in Kobe, Japan on March 16 and May 27, 1997. Two child victims were murdered by a 14-year-old boy.[/ref] of two years ago have any effects on the world of the mystery genre as well?
Not that much. It was terrible when M-kun’s Little Girl Serial Murder Case[ref]Ayatsuji refers to the 1988-1989 case of Tsutomu Miyazaki, known as the Little Girl Murderer.[/ref] happened. Horror movies disappeared from rental video stores, but the Kobe incidents didn’t reach that extent. It didn’t effect the publishing world very much. It has the most effect on television. But it doesn’t look like a drama was created in which a head was decapitated or had a boy as the criminal.
I’m sure there are kids who receive bad influence by reading horror novels and the like. Because a human being can be influenced by any kind of thing. If there is a child who takes an interest in the cruel deeds because of a horror novel, there are also children who think that these things are not acceptable. There are also cases in which the “impetus to violence” inside humans sublimates due to the things people see. If it’s severed because it’s no good, we are no longer able to do anything. That kind of thing seems funny like “I’m cutting an octopus with my own legs”. That’s why I’m opposed to unreasonable restrictions.
Both you and your wife are bestsellers. Is she your rival?
I’ll change the topic completely. What kind of boy were you in your middle school and high school days?
I was a honor student. I was able to do everything when it came to studying for school even without cramming. It wasn’t only studying, I had the sense that I could do other things as well, and I was also popular with the teachers. There was one girl who received official recognition from the teachers, and she was also the greatest prodigy of my year… She was truly, an awfully unpleasant person. If there was someone like that existed now, I’d beat them. I changed completely when I got into university.
What kind of existence is your wife, horror writer Ono Fuyumi-san, to you?
A partner, an accomplice. It’s already been 18 years since we got to know each other… A rival? That’s unthinkable, she’s my collaborator. Because she’s also the one who gets to read everything first.
I wanted to see photographs of Ono-san, so I searched bookstores for her books, but I couldn’t find any in them.
Because no photographs are taken of her at all. She is somewhat three-eyed (laughs). I met her at the university’s mystery research society[ref]Kyoto University Mystery Club[/ref], and we married when I was a graduate student. At the present we rent and work in separate rooms. In my case, if her books keep selling, I would be able to survive even if I can no longer write (laughs).
What’s your primer for those who would like to touch an Ayatsuji mystery for the first time after this?
First of all, it’s best to stop with “Satsujinki” (Blood Thirsty Killer). It’s far too cruel, and you might not think so, but I often hear that people stop reading it. So I suppose it’s between “The Decagon House Murders” or “Kurayami no Sasayaki” (The Darkness Whispering). I roughly write two varieties; the first type has a trick at the core (The Mansion series), and the other type is psychological horror (The Whispering series).
What’s your dream from now on as a mystery writer?
I don’t have any (laughs). It will take an unknown amount of works; It’s my long-cherished ambition to continued writing comprehensible works constantly until I pass away. With my appearance, one stream changed (causing the “New Orthodox” movement[ref]Read more about the New Orthodox School in Ellery Queen is Alive and Well and Living in Japan.[/ref]), so I don’t feel the need to do something bigger than that too. Well, I’d like to spend the remainder of my life peacefully (laughs) …
What’s your dream as a private person?
I like Kyoto too, but I want to live in a place where the nights are quieter, and you can’t hear a thing. Because it’s possible to be a writer anywhere (if there is a fax machine and express home delivery). I think, we’ll eventually move houses, but my determination isn’t quite there yet. Because it’s convenient to stay in the city. I’d like to build a house in the middle of a quiet forest or something, and calmly live there.
And Ono-san will be next to you…
Of course she will be. But we no longer live under the same roof already (laughs), so we have to construct two family houses. It’s because our deadlines differ, and thus our cycles are different too. We don’t go to the companies. So it’s intense to be together all day long. But we eat our dinners together… Ah! Please don’t write this down, okay? (laughs)