As an elementary school student in Japan, Hitomi Kanehara lost interest in academic topics and began to skip school in order to socialize with friends and write stories. Her father Mizuhito Kanehara, a professor of sociology at Hosei University, brought her along on a year-long research trip to San Francisco, where she attended both American and Japanese schools. During her stay in the United States, with her father’s permission, she began reading stories by Ryū Murakami and Amy Yamada that contained strong violent and sexual themes.
Kanehara returned to Japan and attended middle school, but became anorexic and engaged in self-harm. Her father continued to support her writing, and arranged for her to participate in a fiction workshop for sophomores at his university. Against the wishes of her mother Chieko, Kanehara dropped out of her first year of high school, left home, and began to write stories, including Snakes and Earrings, that drew on her own experiences with cutting, suicidal thoughts, body modification, and living with different boyfriends. She has described Snakes and Earrings as the story she “had to write”. Her father read and edited the Snakes and Earrings manuscript before it was submitted for literary prizes.