Hello, nocturnal readers!
Today is October 16th, which means that we've reached the second half of this event. Time really does fly, doesn't it? Please visit other Wicked stops as well:
Heidi@Rainy Day Ramblings: The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters
Gin @ Gin's Book Notes: Erin Keyser
I am beyond proud to welcome the wonderful Heather Demetrios to The Nocturnal Library! Her book, Exquisite Captives, is one of my favorite reads this fall and I can't wait to share her post with you guys. So without further ado...
Something Wicked Strikes in Exquisite Captive
When I first started working on my new YA fantasy, Exquisite Captive, I did a lot of research about jinn mythology, reading all kinds of Arab folklore about the creatures that fascinated me so much. Exquisite is the story of Nalia, a jinni who’s been trafficked from her homeland and sold as a slave to a human master. Before I started doing my research, all I knew about jinn was pretty much what every American knows: Disney’s Aladdin and I Dream of Jeannie. Wishes, magic lamps and bottles, harem pants. But as I delved more into the mythology I realized that there is A LOT more to the jinn than I knew. One of the types of jinn I discovered are ghouls. I’d heard the word before, of course. To me, it vaguely translated as “monster of some horrible kind.” But in Middle Eastern mythology, ghouls are cannibalistic jinn who lure their prey in various treacherous ways. According to what I consider the Bible of jinn mythology, Legends of the Fire Spirits (a seriously excellent scholarly guide to all things jinn by Robert Lebling), ghouls are “flesh eating” and disguise themselves in order to capture their prey by shape shifting (a common jinn trait). They are solitary creatures who often appear at night and are accused of being “violators of graves.” In some accounts, the ghoul uses sex as a means to trap their prey. Color me intrigued.
Ghouls and jinn are also known to haunt desolate places, which is why when I went into the Sahara Desert in Morocco to do research for Book 2, my driver, Moustafa, said a bismillah to protect us. In Islam, a bismillah is a kind of blessing and protective prayer. Many Moroccans believe in the existence of jinn and shared personal stories with me of experiences they’d had and people they knew who’d been possessed by jinn. So let’s just say I was happy Moustafa said the bismillah.
In Exquisite, Nalia is the sole survivor of a massacre that killed her entire royal caste and, as such, is the heir to the throne. She’s now being hunted by the caste of jinn that instigated the coup—the Ifrit. Since Nalia’s hiding out in the Hollywood Hills with her evil (and, yes, hot) master, I knew I had to come up with a way for these Ifrit to hunt her. Nalia is incredibly powerful. Unlike the other jinn, who can only access one of the four elements for their magic, Nalia can use all four. So sending in a few assassins wasn’t going to do the trick. I had the feeling that Calar, the evil empress of Arjinna—the jinn realm—would send one killer, very stealthy-like, to take Nalia down and thus secure Calar’s position on the throne. It had to be someone incredibly powerful. I decided on a ghoul. I took the mythology I’d learned and expanded on it so that my ghoul, in addition to being a cannibal, takes on the appearance of his victims. In this way, he’s able to hunt Nalia down without her knowing it and disguise his true terrifying form from the rest of the world as well. The bonus? Most jinn don’t believe in ghouls—they think they’re just figures in scary legends. So when a bunch of jinn all around the world go missing, nobody suspects that one nasty ghoul is enjoying an international buffet.
The segments that feature my ghoul are separate from the other chapters and only last for a few pages. Each one takes place in a different international location and features one victim that he’s hunting. I quickly realized that my ghoul was also a bit eccentric and had a personal connection to Nalia’s past. I don’t want to spoil anything, so that’s all I’ll say. Below is an excerpt from the first ghoul segment, which takes place in Beijing. It’s the first of the seven segments in which we follow the ghoul on his hunt for Nalia. Here, he’s tracked down a Marid jinni (the type of jinn that do water magic). The ghoul is currently disguised as an Ifrit jinn (the fire magic jinn who have taken over the jinn realm) and so his victim does not yet know that he’s a ghoul.
The jinni whimpers as she steps into the moonlight, silently crying out to the gods. Her body trembles as a gust of wind swoops through the courtyard. The rancid smell the Ifrit has brought with him gets stronger the closer she is to him, like rotting food or, no, more like . . . rotting flesh. And suddenly she knows this is no ordinary Ifrit, and the word, the horrible word for what he is, fills her with mindless terror.
The Marid stands, horrified, as the ghoul’s smile stretches to his ears, then grows wider, splitting his face open to reveal dozens of eellike teeth. Her agonized shriek lasts only a moment as those teeth sink into her soft flesh. As soon as they break her skin, she can no longer speak. No longer move. Limbs frozen.
But she can feel everything.
When he finishes his meal, the ghoul licks his lips and sighs with satisfaction. Then his body shudders and the air around him warps as his limbs and face transform into those of his victim. The ghoul gazes at his reflection in a stagnant pool of water on the courtyard floor. As long as he stays out of the moonlight, his true form is hidden. He touches the birthmark beside his mouth and smiles. Next time, his quarry won’t see him coming.
To read the first few chapters of Exquisite Captive, go here. If you just want to freak yourself out in proper Halloween fashion, go to page 17 after you click on the PDF link above and that will give you the full Beijing section with my ghoul.
I had no idea I could write such grisly stuff! It’s not the kind of thing I would normally like to read, either. But what makes these sections special to me is that I get to write about places I’ve traveled to and it was great fun creating short, terrifying scenes. If you’re like me and can’t do too much terror, then this is for you. It’s just enough, but not overboard. Don’t worry—there are only seven ghoul segments in the book. Book Two of the series includes other kinds of jinn monsters who I can’t wait for you to meet. For now, though, don’t forget to say a bismillah whenever you’re alone. You never know what might be lurking in the shadows, licking its lips.
When she's not traipsing around the world or spending time in imaginary places, Heather Demetrios lives with her husband in New York City. Originally from Los Angeles, she now calls the East Coast home. Heather is a recipient of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award for her debut novel, Something Real, whichPublisher's Weekly calls “[An] addictive yet thoughtful debut” about reality TV stardom. She is the author of the upcoming EXQUISITE CAPTIVE, a smoldering fantasy about jinn in Los Angeles (#1 in the DARK CARAVAN trilogy), as well as I’ll Meet You There. Coming from Macmillan in Winter 2015, I’ll Meet You There is a love story about a young combat veteran and a girl rapped in their small town, both struggling to escape the war at home. Heather is the founder of Live Your What, an organization dedicated to fostering passion in people of all ages and creating writing opportunities for underserved youth. She is proud to have an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. You can always find her on Twitter (@HDemetrios), ogling the military dogs she wants to adopt (but can’t because her NYC apartment is way too small). Find out more about Heather and her other books at wwww.heatherdemetrios.com andwww.darkcaravancycle.com.
Thank you, Heather, for the wonderful post! And a huge thank you to Feri from Le Non Design for the banner above. Please visit her at http://www.le-non.com.
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