Already an established writer of romantic novels, Natsuo Kirino (nom de plume of Mariko Hashioka, born in 1951), burst onto the mystery scene with "Kao ni Furikakaru Ame" ("The face on which rain falls"). The novel took the prestigious Japanese crime fiction award, the Edogawa Rampo Prize, in 1993.

Since publishing her first work of romantic fiction in 1984, Kirino has produced over 40 novels and short story collections. "Out," her first work to be published in English, was picked to receive Japan's top mystery writer's award in 1998. The English translation of another of her books, "Soft Cheeks" is now under way.

Why did you choose the English word "Out" for the original Japanese title of your novel?