Tell us a bit about the traditions of ghosts and hunting ghosts in China – how does one become a ghost hunter? How do you get rid of malevolent spirits?
The most famous ghost hunter is Zhong Kui, who committed suicide and became a ghost demon. People hang portraits of his likeness on gates and doorways to scare away evil spirits. He wears a fierce expression on his face, has a black beard and thick eyebrows and holds a magic sword. Often he has skeletons in his attendance.
There is not that much information regarding ghost-hunting in China, although there is quite a bit about the different types of ghosts you might meet. Here are a few examples, which I have used in Ting Ting the Ghosthunter: torch-mouth ghosts have burning mouths that are like torches; needle-mouth ghosts, the poor things, have throats as thin as needles so they can never get enough to eat or drink; foul-mouth ghosts have such disgusting breath they can’t stand to smell themselves; and then there are the tumour-ghosts, who have big boils of pus which they must eat.
A ghost-hunter trains for many years, meditating and practicing with special weapons like coin swords, mingshen mirrors and snake whips. These weapons are embued with certain powers after chanting or marking them with a talisman. I researched the art of ghost-hunting, but being a writer of fiction, A Ghost in My Suitcase is largely imagination peppered with some factual information.
There are several ghosts in the book that I invented, such as the fat-belly ghost and a ghost that can make a bed come to life. I always keep in mind my young readership. Even though there are frightening times, there are light hearted moments too.
In the wonderful adaptation of the book to play by Barking Gecko Theatre, the ghost scenes are further embellished to suit the medium of stage and actors. The art of creating, whether it be for the stage or page, must move and be flexible.