Every time I tell someone that I’ve just completed a degree in Creative Writing, they ask if that means I’m a journalist, and the answer is, not even remotely. Journalists deal with the real world, every second. Creative Writing students usually suck at journalism, for a simple reason: we don’t do reality.
Personally, apart from full-on fantasy, I love writing about alternative versions of reality. I love steampunk, post-apocalyptic, and I have a soft spot for magical realism. I love taking the real world and adding a layer of magical dust on top, little surprising things hiding in unexpected corners, eyes peering from under a mushroom, a talking pigeon with a pocket watch… I think that’s why I’m so fond of mythology: it’s the result of men adding that layer of magic and mystery, fear and excitement, to the world they lived in.
The mythological creatures that immediately spring to mind are, of course, vampires and werewolves; they’ve been far overused in the past years, and I’m afraid to say that I’ve by now developed an adverse reaction to them – I see them and run in the opposite direction, except of course for my beloved Dracula. But there is an impressive amount of lore to use as a resource, from all over the world! I recently purchased an encyclopedia of fantastical creatures – I was amazed at just how many there are, divided by place of origin of the legend.
I am especially fascinated by the correlations between mythology and the land. Why are there some areas richer in legends, such as Scotland or Ireland, while some have next to none, like Italy? What different flavour do the myths take in different locations? What are the tropes/figures that appear in completely unrelated lores – such as the figure of the trickster spirit: the Coyote in Native American culture, Anansi the Spider in Africa, Loki for the Norse mythology, the Kitsune in Japan. Even Italy has a trickster, even though it’s a human rather than a supernatural creature: Harlequin, the famous mask of the Venice carnival, dressed in colourful clothes.
The trickster is a figure I’ve always found fascinating. So when I started researching to write a story centered on mythology, I was instantly drawn to it. And I have to admit that I’ve had a soft spot for Japan ever since my manga days in my early teens – and Kitsune have always been particularly fascinating! I’ve used them once already, in my short story “City of Foxes”, released by Storm Moon Press, taking them out of their context and stripping them of most traditional attributes to insert them in a dystopian urban fantasy setting.
This time, for my most recent work, I decided to try and include as many elements as possible from original legends, setting the story in Feudal Japan and seeing what happens pitting a samurai against a kitsune in a game of wits – and thus my upcoming novella, The Ronin and the Fox was born. I also threw in a second Japanese mythological creature for good measure – but you’ll have to find out what that is by yourself :)!
In feudal Japan, Kaede Hajime lives as a vagabond ronin, a samurai without a lord. As he spends the night at a village’s inn, the innkeeper begs him to help stop a mischevious kitsune, a fox spirit, plaguing their village. But when he captures the spirit—in the form of a hauntingly beautiful man—Hajime learns that the kitsune has troubles of his own. The pearl that contains the fox’s soul has been stolen, leaving him a slave to the new owner, who is forcing him to attack the village.
Hajime agrees to help the fox retrieve the jewel, but living with a fox spirit isn’t easy, and the budding trust between them is constantly tested. Kitsune are tricksters above all, and Hajime must decide how much of the story the fox tells him is truth. What’s worse, an old comrade of Hajime’s is in town, bringing with him the sour memories of Hajime’s time as a samurai. Hajime must find a way to locate the thief and steal back the jewel before the thief turns the kitsune’s considerable power against him.
The Ronin and the Fox will be available from Storm Moon Press on February 24th.
Pre-orders are already open at 20% discount :)!