'I DON'T WRITE horror,' says Koji Suzuki. 'I'm not interested in horror.' Quite a surprising claim coming from the man known as Japan's answer to Stephen King. Suzuki's novel Ring sparked a boom in Japanese horror films, or J-horror. It was made into the Japanese movie Ringu (1998), then given the Hollywood treatment as The Ring (2002). Another of his books, Dark Water, was made into a movie last year. 'All over the world people think of my novel as a horror story, but I don't look at it that way,' he says. 'I just thought I was writing an interesting story.' Suzuki wants readers to think of him more as a writer of touching stories about how a father protects his daughter from the dangers of the spirit world. In fact, the 48-year-old father of two daughters has strong views on parenthood and the importance of fathers in raising children. 'I wrote Ring in 1989 - 16 years ago. At that time I wasn't yet a success. My wife supported the family as a teacher and I stayed at home and took care of our daughter, then only two. I was a house husband - like John Lennon,' he says, laughing. 'The main theme of the book is how a father protects his daughter.' Perhaps so. It's true that the main character, a Japanese newspaper reporter named Kazuyuki Asakawa, must solve the mystery of the cursed videotape in time to save his wife and daughter, not to mention himself. True, too, that a single mother and young daughter figure as the main characters in Dark Water. But it's doubtful that most people would interpret the book as a father-daughter story. In fact, Ring is at heart a detective story with an old-fashioned device propelling the plot. A videotape with a virus is discovered which, when watched, causes the viewer to die within one week, unless they can discover the antidote, called the 'charm', which has been erased from the tape. The story then concerns Asakawa and his friend Ryuji's efforts to discover the secret of the charm and save their lives, and those of Asakawa's wife and daughter, who have inadvertently watched the tape. Suzuki took the virus theme and gave it fresh twists in his next novels, Spiral and Loop, which together form the Ring trilogy. All are available in English. So the novel is a masculine story. Yet both movies (the Japanese one starring Nanako Matsushita and the American version, starring Naomi Watts) feature a woman as the central character. 'The director told me it was better to have a woman fleeing horror than a man - better to have Nicole Kidman than Arnold Schwarzenegger,' he says. Suzuki graduated from Keio University in Tokyo, majoring in French literature. He wrote a thesis on French philosopher Albert Camus. 'I read a lot of literature from around the world,' he says, reeling off names. But he has a special affinity for Ernest Hemingway. Suzuki is a yachtsman, and one of his favourite books is Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea (1953). His first book, Paradise, which is now being translated into English, is an adventure story set at sea. 'My character is not very Japanese,' he says. 'Japan is the culture of the farmer. The west is the culture of the hunter. I think of myself as a hunter.' Perhaps because he was born in Hamamatsu, home to Honda Motorcycles, he's keen on riding motorbikes. Six years ago he rode across the US, from Los Angeles to Key West. Suzuki portrays himself as a tough guy, but one who isn't above changing nappies. Japan has a history of ghost stories. It used to be said that ghost stories were told in the heat of summer in the hope that they'd send chills up the spines of listeners. Spirits and ghosts appear in the works of some of Japan's greatest writers. Suzuki's stories build on this tradition, but he gives his books a contemporary urban ambience. Science looms large, particularly in the last two books of the Ring series. Descriptions of DNA figure strongly in Spiral, and a computer that mimics life is a key element of Loop. He's now working on City Edge, a novel that will incorporate into his fiction the theory of relativity and quantum physics. 'I like science very much,' he says. 'I like to know how the world works.' Indeed, his books are probably closer to those of Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park, than King. Suzuki says he's pleased with how his books have been adapted to screen. 'Last week, my wife and daughter saw the American version of Dark Water. They were so moved they cried at the end.' He says he likes the Hollywood versions best because of the better production values. Although Suzuki was the spark that lit the J-horror boom, he and Hollywood have been moving apart. The film sequel to The Ring wasn't based on his second novel, Spiral, which hadn't yet appeared in English. It was an original screenplay. So far, there has been no move to film Loop. But if a movie were made, Suzuki says he'd like to try his hand at writing the screenplay.