Monday, May 27, 2019

The Legend of Pontianak and Other Supernatural Ghost Stories

Memorial Day is today and I have that it is important that we honor those service men and women who lost their lives serving our country. Both of my grandfathers served in World World II and both of my grandmothers did as well. They were Rosie the Riveters. In fact, the last plane built for War  World II is in the Smithsonian Institute and has both of my grandmother's autographs on it. My dad serviced in the Korean War and my brother was a Marine and served in Vietnam. I also have one son-in-law who is in the Coast Guard. I make it a point to always to thank the men and woman who serve our country for us. If you see a veteran today, although this isn't Veteran's Day, thank them for their service and honor all of those who lost their lives while serving our country.

Today's author interview is very interesting, especially if you like ghost stories. For all of my readers who are fans of my novel THE KEYSTROKE KILLER: TRANSCENDENCE, this next book that I will introduce you too will scare the wits out of you. Read about Dr. Elmi Zulkarnain Osman and his book THE LEGEND OF PONTIANAK AND OTHER SUPERNATURAL GHOST STORIES. One of the things I find fascinating about this book is that I spent several months in Singapore and Malaysia and the folklore is amazing; so, when I get to read about ghost stories from another country I get excited. I hope you will too.

Dr. Elmi Zulkarnain Osman

Tell your readers a little about yourself, where you grew up, where you live now, where you went to school etc. Let them get to know the personal you.

I had a very interesting childhood living in Singapore and spending most of my school holidays in a village in Selangor, Malaysia in the 1980s and 90s. People around me loved telling me ghostly tales such as the female vampires from the Malay folklore Pontianak and Hantu Penanggal. Ghost stories are plentiful in South East Asia. And many are quite believable. Ghost stories in Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia alone are enough to make a believer out of the most skeptical. Mix the modern day it-happened-to-me narratives of ordinary people with cultural beliefs and legends and it does make one wonder which came first; An innate belief in the afterlife? Or mysterious, unexplainable occurrences that simply took on lives of their own? Anyway, my family members love watching Malaysian and Indonesian horror movies, so I was indoctrinated by the age of five.

What inspired you to author this book?

We Asians love our horror stories, whether they be lurid tales from folklore, gruesome accounts of twisted crimes, or mysterious experiences that happened to a friend-of-a-friend. Our movies are packed with ghosts and ghouls, both of the serious and comedic variety. And all manner of twisted, creeping, crawling creatures lurk in the pages of Asian literature. I am Malay and from the Malay perspective, there is a wealth of ghouls and ghastly spirits to draw on in Malay folklore. I think we’ve only scraped the surface in using them in our tales. I authored this anthology because I think it is quite interesting to explore a range of different ideas centered around the same theme – the supernatural.

Where did you get the inspiration for your book’s cover?

My book's cover was based on a Cathay-Keris Productions film titled Pontianak. It told the story of the eponymous Pontianak, the infamous long-haired female vampire from Malay mythology. Traditionally, this creature is said to be the vengeful spirit of a woman who had died during childbirth. This film was a massive success, screening in major cinemas for almost two months − an unusually long period for homegrown films of the era. As a result, the Pontianak tale is fondly remembered by people of all races in Malaysia and Singapore.


Who has been the biggest influence on you personally and as a writer?

Stephen King? Edgar Allan Poe? As a writer – probably; but the most incredible influence on me personally are my two mothers (I have two moms as I considered my grandmother who took care of me since young as my mother too.) They are the most sweet-hearted souls. Both mothers always encouraged me in whatever I wanted to do and bragged about my accomplishments; no matter how small. They taught me to be a smart-worker and to take pride in my work, as well as to have an eye for details. All three of these traits have served me well in my writing. Nonetheless, I could never have finished writing this book without the encouragements from my wife. Her sacrificial actions made it possible for me to complete my studies and my anthology.

What were your struggles or obstacles you had to overcome to get this book written?

Struggling with the juggling. I love my family and I love my job, but I confess that I don't always love the juggle. It was a constant headache (and heartache) to find a healthy work-life balance in order to write the book consistently throughout my doctoral program. Looking after myself was challenging.

Tell your readers about your book.

The Legend of Pontianak and Other Supernatural Ghost Stories is essentially an anthology of eleven creepy supernatural tales from around the world. I have a story about the Pocong, also known as a wrapped ghost from Malaysia and Indonesia, a story on Trunyan an Ancient Cemetery in Bali, one about the incubus who lies upon sleeping women in order to engage in sexual activity with them and a bone-chilling case of exorcism involving a girl called Sarah Sullivan. Although all the stories in this anthology are works of fiction but they are not purely the works of my imagination. Let’s just say I am merely acting as a stenographer of other peoples’ histories and ghostly experiences.


You have a book on ghost stories, have you ever encountered one yourself. If so, tell us about it.

My encounter with the Pontianak was in the late 1980s. It happened when I was visiting my family in a Kampong located in Kuala Selangor, Malaysia. It happened during just after sunset when I was hanging out just outside the house with my cousin. I was about eleven years old. We were about to go inside the house when my eyes caught the sight of a lady. I cannot say I could truly see her face but her hair was long and shiny, her skin was smooth and fair. However, only half of her body could be seen. I could not see any legs. I was totally speechless by the sight. I turned around but could not find my cousin. Apparently, he had run off upon seeing this ‘lady’. I slowly backed away. I was mumbling some prayers which I now could not recall. I then found my cousin inside the house. He was hugging his mother tightly. He was pale – very pale. I could not really remember everything but I knew I was informed by my aunts and uncles that what I saw was actually a Pontianak.

Who is your target audience and why?

My book may contain strong violence, gore, horror/terror, sex scenes, nudity, sexual dialogues/references, which certain people may find objectionable. I cannot truly control who reads my book but I am targeting mature individuals that have an interest in the supernatural and the unexplained to appreciate my work.

If you were going to give one reason for anyone looking at your book to read, why should they buy it?

This book is really a worthwhile investment in terms of time and money for people who love the supernatural and creepy ghost stories. However, for the people who don't read horror because they are just too scared; they should also go for it. There's a lot more to this genre than blood and guts and creepy dolls. My book is one great horror book to get these types of people started.

What do you consider your greatest success in life?
This book is one of my successes in life. However, being a father to my two boys has been, without a doubt, my greatest source of achievement, pride, and inspiration. Fatherhood has taught me about unconditional love, reinforced the importance of giving back and taught me how to be a better person.

What one unique thing sets you apart from other writers in your genre?

I am not trying to be a revolutionary horror ghostwriter. I am not trying hard to emulate the writing styles of great writers such as Charles Dickens and Samuel Taylor Coleridge; although they do influence the way I initially write my stories. I am just trying to be myself; me. Since the last few years, I have transitioned to a much heavier writing style that contains strong language, high graphics of sexuality and mature themes. I no longer think about what or how people will perceive me. I want to write sincerely; from my heart. Furthermore, I strongly feel that good writing is good writing. Believable characters and compelling plots are crucial regardless of who’s picking up the book. I don’t just write in a strong language just for the sake of it but because I want readers to appreciate the authenticity of the work and realize the “Emotional Truth” of the story. That makes me different. That makes me who I am. That is ME.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

I do not overthink anything. I just keep on writing, no matter if I am pleased with the final results or not. I rely a lot on my research materials. There will always be something to write about. The main problem is putting everything together. Weaving sub-plots can be difficult. I will always story-board my multiple points of view and sub-plots to the main plots so that I can make my stories longer without making anyone who reads my stories fall asleep.

What one piece of advice do you have for new authors.

This might sound like a cliché, but it’s certainly true. When you are just a beginning writer, start writing about what you know. If you want to write about something that you are not really familiar about then you must be willing to learn these other subjects in great depth. Else, please just stick to your own experiences and feelings. You’ll sound more convincing. You’ll sound credible. You’ll sound sincere.

Tell your readers anything else you want to share.

The Legend of Pontianak and Other Supernatural Ghost Stories is intentionally written to intensity your fears and trigger your imagination to run wild. Rest assured that my stories are sure to scare, terrify and thrill even the bravest of souls - you’ve been warned.