The original story about Alondra DeCourval in Japan (The Fox & the Foreigner) was meant to stand alone. Then the second time Mason and I went to Japan, we met a spectrum of Japanese artists who made dolls – some of whom even taught doll-making. Many of the things I learned from the doll-makers inspired me to write “Sakura Time.”
Also inspired by real life was Alondra’s breakfast in the Japanese coffeehouse. I adore Japanese ‘fat toast’: pillowy slices of white bread slathered with strawberry jam. I really was the gaijin woman bumping into the tables in a Tokyo coffeehouse.
The final inspiration for my story “Sakura Time” is obviously Japanese horror movies, especially The Ring (Ringu), Dark Water (Honogurai Mizu no soko kara), and even Kwaidan. Japanese ghosts are terrifying because they are implacable. There’s nothing you can do to distract or assuage them until their vengeance is carried out. At the risk of spoiling the story, I’ll admit that I wanted Alondra to face a ghost she couldn’t outwit.
Oh, and a final note, when I hear the voice of the gruff priest at the Kiyomizu Kannondo shrine in my head, he speaks with the voice of Takayuku Sugo, the actor who played Wanjudo in the Hell Girl anime.
“Sakura Time” was written for an anthology of doll stories to be edited by Ellen Datlow, who also happens to collect creepy dolls. When it didn’t make the cut, the story was accepted by Billie Sue Mosiman for her anthology Fright Mare: Women Write Horror, which was published for Women in Horror Month in February 2016.
After that anthology’s publication, the story made Ellen’s list of Honorable Mentions in the Best Horror of the Year #9, published by Night Shade Books in 2016.
Now it appears in the 3rd Alondra chapbook, Alondra’s Adventures, which is available now on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2LquxHc.