Building Dread, Creating Hope, and Getting Revenge: An Interview with Keshe Chow - Uncharted

Building Dread, Creating Hope, and Getting Revenge: An Interview with Keshe Chow

By Uncharted

“MINE,” by Keshe Chow, tells a haunting story about the invisibility of victims of domestic and sexual violence while offering a fresh take on the typical revenge story.

Uncharted Magazine: When she wakes up in the hospital, Claire says, “It’s amazing how transparent being a victim can make you.” This speculative element works well as a metaphor for victims of sexual and domestic violence. Could you explain how you landed on that comparison and what you wanted to explore with it?

Keshe Chow: I find that so often, the discourse around sexual and domestic violence victims centres around the perpetrator, not the victim. Whenever there’s a high profile case, we always hear a lot about the abuser—how they were such an upstanding member of the community, how they were pushed to do it, how no one ‘ever saw it coming’—and any mention of the victim is almost like an afterthought.

With Claire, I wanted to highlight how believable her invisibility was, even though she was the person at the centre of the suffering. It takes her a long time to figure out what’s happened because she’s so used to being talked about and talked over, and to having her individuality and identity erased. It seemed pertinent to show that abuse victims are often so dehumanized that it’s entirely convincing for them to be treated like they are already dead.

Uncharted Magazine: Claire’s husband repeatedly draws out her name in a way Claire remarks on, but he’s never named on the page. What are you saying about names as symbols of ownership or possession or about their importance more generally in abusive relationships?

Keshe Chow: From my understanding, abusers often have a need for ownership and control. Claire’s husband uses her name as a method of coercion, of manipulation, of intimidation. It’s almost weaponising something that fundamentally belongs to her, by flipping it around and using it against her.

Similarly, harking back to my comments from the earlier question, names have significance in the reporting of these situations. When abuse cases are discussed in the media, the perpetrator’s name is often mentioned more frequently than the victim’s. In my view, names are really important in the way we frame our conversations around these issues.

In this story, I wanted to subvert that trope. So in this case, the perpetrator is never named. He could be anyone, any of the abusers we hear about. In my view, the why behind what he did doesn’t matter. In the end, abuse is abuse, and it’s never justified.

Uncharted Magazine: Several stories about victimhood either end in bloody and violent revenge or a feeling that justice wasn’t served. “MINE” subverts the expectations of both of those cliches. What was important for you to include or exclude in portraying a victim of domestic violence?

Keshe Chow: I think for me, the most important thing was giving Claire a voice, and to show the many layers of her humanity. That, and how very isolating motherhood is. I actually wrote this story when both of my children were quite young, and those endless nights of pacing alone in the dark were still very fresh in my mind. While I had (and have!) an extremely supportive partner, I feel like those years were still extremely lonely. I can imagine that the sense of isolation would be amplified exponentially for those suffering from domestic abuse.

Uncharted Magazine: The way tension is built in the opening scene, where the key keeps missing the lock, was chilling. There were also instances of misdirection, like the early importance of swimming lessons for Macie, which blindsides readers to the climactic moment when Claire wakes up in this hospital. What are your tips for building tension, and what’s your advice on how to use tension to tell a compelling story?

Keshe Chow: To be honest, a lot of my writing and storytelling comes quite instinctively! I don’t often have specific plans or tools in mind. Specifically for building tension, I think being able to create those situations where your readers know something bad is about to happen, but they don’t know what or when, is probably key. I tend to use a lot of symbolism and imagery in my writing, which hopefully helps to build that overall atmosphere.

Uncharted Magazine: “MINE” is an unconventional ghost story, blending contemplative parts of death like those ruminated on in David Lowery’s “A Ghost Story” with classic horror elements, all the while making the reader root for the “haunter” instead of the “haunted.” What story of yours or another writer’s would you recommend to someone who enjoyed “MINE,” particularly ones tinged with supernatural elements or exploring revenge?

Keshe Chow: For short fiction, I absolutely loved ‘The Long, Slow Courtship of Mr. Death and Famishista’ by Sunyi Dean, a quirky story about a love story between Death and a sort of supernatural influencer. It’s so unique, with a very distinctive narrative voice and creative use of horror.

For full-length fiction, I can’t go past Shelley Parker-Chan’s ‘She Who Became The Sun.’ It has it all: ghosts, a revenge arc, a cast full of morally grey characters. I found it absolutely riveting, and the sequel is waiting patiently on my bookshelf to be read as we speak!

Uncharted Magazine: What can you tell us about your upcoming work?

Keshe Chow: My debut novel is called The Girl With No Reflection and releases in August 2024 with Delacorte Press. It’s about a sinister mirror world in which our reflections aren’t actually reflections, but sentient creatures forced to mimic us. It combines fantasy, romance, and horror and is perfect for those of us (like me, not gonna lie!) who find mirrors really creepy.

The novel I’m working on, For No Mortal Creature, is actually a ghost story! This is what I’ve affectionately dubbed my ‘Inception with ghosts’ idea and is based on the Chinese belief that even ghosts can die and become jiàn (the ghost of a ghost). It’s due to come out the year after next, in 2025. I incorporate a lot of horror elements into my writing, which is actually pretty ironic because, in real life, I’m the world’s biggest wimp!!

Uncharted Magazine: Thank you so much for sharing your insights!


Keshe was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and migrated to Australia when she was two years old. She currently lives in Naarm (Melbourne) with her partner, two kids, and an ice cream-obsessed cat named Wasabi. She won the 2020 Perito Prize, the 2021 Yarra Literature Prize, the 2021 Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction, the 2022 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript, and the 2023 Uncharted Magazine Thrilling Contest. Her debut novel THE GIRL WITH NO REFLECTION will be out in 2024 with Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House).

Sara Omer is a first reader for Uncharted Magazine and Orion’s Belt. Her work is published/forthcoming in The Deeps, Black Hare Press, and others.