Chatting with Among the Headstones Author Cinderella Lo
Welcome author Cinderella Lo to Darkling Delights. She's sharing not only cemetery rules and traditions in Hong Kong cemeteries, but what inspired her short story The Eternal Glow of Yue.
How do you feel about cemeteries? Do find them creepy?
I don’t find cemeteries creepy unless they’re neglected or abandoned. A cultural factor plays into this. Because I find cemeteries in Southeast Asia a lot spookier than those in Canada where I used to live.
My birthplace Hong Kong has a wealth of ghost stories related to cemeteries. People accept these legends as facts, or at least take them into consideration for important decisions such as moving into a condo or opening a shop nearby.
Do you know where your ancestors are buried? Do you visit their graves?
In Hong Kong’s culture, people are expected to worship their ancestors several generations back. Because land in the city is notoriously scarce, burial grounds are rare and often limited. Most people are cremated, their ashes stored in tiny rectangular hollos in cement walls inside multi-storied public cemeteries – which ironically reflects their life-long residence in multi-storeyed shoebox-sized apartments.
I remember when I was a child in Hong Kong, my family we went to worship our ancestors – especially the maternal and paternal grandparents - at the annual spring and autumn worships. For us kids, these were exciting events, because we got together with cousins and were allowed to wander around while the adults were busy with worship ritual, e.g. preparing the incense. They used to share offerings with the ‘neighbouring ancestors’ – the people buried next to our grandparents - as an act of neighbourly amicability.
We are supposed to focus our attention on the worship of our own ancestors. But sometimes when I see names and pictures of my ancestors’ ‘neighbours’ – the people buried next to them – I’m tempted to let my imagination wander, wondering what their lives were like and how they passed.
What gives you the creeps?
Sometimes the realisation that I’m alone in a secluded environment is enough to give me the creeps.
For your story in Among the Headstones, where did you get the inspiration?
My inspiration for the story “The Eternal Glow of Yue” came from an urban legend in my native city, Hong Kong. Several decades ago, a sick, impoverished woman died in a run-down flat. Her death wasn’t discovered for days, until the police broke into the apartment. All the while, her children were still being fed – by their mother’s ghost.
In my story, I changed some details and I added the character of the delivery guy. I wanted to add a romantic note to the story, and also to highlight the issue of intergenerational poverty.
Fantastic and whimsical, intensely romantic but not necessarily about requited or fulfilled love, realistic yet timeless.
What are your literary influences?
I’m drawn to fiction that is simple in structure yet has great depth and allows multiple interpretations. Authors who inspire me include Mitch Albom, Paulo Coelho, Charlotte Brontë, Jane Austen and Shu Yi (a popular romance writer in Hong Kong).
What’s the first horror story you wrote?
Normally, I write fantasy and romance, and “The Eternal Glow of Yue” published in Among the Headstones: Creepy Tales from the Graveyard is my first ever horror story.
The creation of this story was supported by creepy signs right from the start, which I consider auspicious.
To research ideas, I sat in the library of my condo, alone, reading about local legends and the horrific tales of true events that had happened in Hong Kong. I felt goosebumps and a slight wind stirred from behind me. There was nobody there, no movement – but the wind kept brushing me in a creepy way. I told myself that it was a strange effect of the air conditioner.
The next day when I began to write, it was a dark rainy day. Here in Bangkok, such weather is unusual. Watching the thick hovering clouds from the full-length corner windows, I thought, “What better time to write ghost stories than a gloomy rainy day?”
Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
For instance, my story in the anthology “Hikikomori – A Short Story Collection (Creed of Slaves Book 2)” was inspired by a friend who has both a daughter and a son. She mentioned once that she prefers her son to her daughter, and inspired me to write a story about the mother-daughter relationship during the self-isolation in the pandemic.
What are you currently working on?
The past two years have been a very special period in lives, because of the pandemic, and this has inspired my current writing project: a compilation of short stories and a romance novel.
As her name entails, Cinderella always carries a whisk of fantasy in her wherever she goes. She devotes her life in the pursuit of beauty in life: beautiful things, beautiful minds, beautiful hearts, beautiful relationships.
With her background in psychology and social work, she has worked as a fundraiser and project manager in the non-profit sector. She currently lives and explores life’s possibilities in one of the most exciting cities in the world, Bangkok (Thailand), where she is an active member of the Bangkok Women Writers Group. She wants to touch people’s hearts with her poems and stories.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Here you'll find Gothic ghost stories by Robert Ellis, Lee Murray, Greg Chapman, Morgan Pryce, Rayne Hall, Guy de Maupassant, Myk Pilgrim, Zachary Ashford, Amelia Edwards, Nina Wibowo, Krystal Garrett, Tylluan Penry, Ambrose Bierce, Cinderella Lo, Nikki Tait, Arthur Conan Doyle, Priscilla Bettis, Kyla Ward, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul D Dail, Cameron Trost, Pamela Turner, William Meikle and Lord Dunsany who thrill with their eerie, macabre and sometimes quirky visions.
You'll visit graveyards in Britain, Indonesia, Russia, China, Italy, Bulgaria, Thailand, USA, Australia, South Africa and Japan, and you can marvel at the burial customs of other cultures.
Now let's open the gate - can you hear it creak on its hinges? - and enter the realm of the dead. Listen to the wind rustling the yew, the grating of footsteps on gravel, the hoo-hoo-hoo of the collared dove. Run your fingers across the tombstones to feel their lichen-rough sandstone or smooth cool marble. Inhale the scents of decaying lilies and freshly dug earth.
But be careful. Someone may be watching your every movement... They may be right behind you.
Purchase Link: www.mybook.to/Headstones
The ebook is available for pre-order from Amazon at the special offer price of 99 cents until 31 January 2022. (After that date, the price will go up.) A paperback is about to be published.