Hi everyone! Today on WBW I have a very special guest post for you from the wonderful E. R. Murray. You may recognise her name from my reviews of her books (Caramel Hearts, The Book of Learning and The Book of Shadows) as well as the interview I did with her back in June. Elisabeth is back with us again today on the blog as part of her Blog Tour and will be telling you all about some of the wonderful mythical creatures that appeared in her latest book: The Book of Shadows, and how she went about creating them! I’m also running a little bit of a giveaway–I have one copy of Elizabeth’s new book to send to one lucky reader, so keeping reading to the end to find out how! Take it away, E:
The Book of Shadows: Making Monsters by E R Murray
World building is one of the most fun and brain-wrangling elements of writing fantasy. Everything has to match for it to work; there have to be rules that are infallible, and although it may seem that anything goes, in truth, a lot of thought goes into the process. Here’s some of the thinking and research that enabled me to create the monsters for The Book of Shadows – Nine Lives Trilogy 2.
Deus-Umbra: Although Ambrose is still Ebony’s archenemy, I wanted to take the story up a notch and test Ebony’s resilience with some kind of beast that Ambrose could call upon for assistance. Because the Order of Nine Lives is ancient and powerful, to be authentic, the monster had to have equal power and strength. I chose a demon as I find them interesting creatures in mythology, and because they can be represented as both good and bad, with complex emotions and motives.
Inventing a name was really fun. I studied Latin as part of my degree at university and I love wordplay, so I decided to try to combine the two. ‘Deus’ meaning God, was an obvious beginning but it was difficult to team it up with something to make a decent name. Thankfully, the book’s title, The Book of Shadows provided inspiration. ‘Umbra’ means ‘the fully shaded inner region of a shadow cast by an opaque object, especially the area on the earth or moon experiencing the total phase of an eclipse’.
This seemed a natural fit, seeing as those in the Order of Nine Lives live among regular people in a concealed way, and there’s a shadow of disaster always hanging over Ebony.
King Vulture: I wanted a way to deliver messages within the world, like carrier pigeon only more exciting – I’ve always been intrigued by the relationship between bird and man – and so I explored the bird of prey world for possibilities. I had been considering an eagle, but the King Vulture is extremely striking – its plumage and overall look is so unusual and incredible – that I decided it was perfect as is, so I didn’t change its appearance at all. The King Vulture is found in Central American jungles; they weigh up to 10lb with a wingspan of up to 6’6’’ and some amazingly colourful plumage, so they’re pretty magnificent.
I researched the behaviour of the bird’s flight and habitat to keep them authentic. However, in keeping with the rest of the Nine Lives story, I wanted the King Vulture to have more significance. I looked into ancient Mayan mythology and discovered that these birds were believed to carry messages between gods and humans. A few tweaks and the mythology suited my purposes perfectly, and once again it was in keeping with the natural order of the Nine Lives world; in The Book of Shadows, the King Vulture delivers messages between the Reflectory and earth, through the shadows and across time.
Shadow Walkers: I loved creating these creatures. I always think of shadows as unusual; in one sense, they are simply the result of an object coming between rays of light and a surface, but in another, e.g. ‘the shadow of war’, the word is used to represent oppression and gloom. As a result, people fear shadows. Things that go bump in the night usually climb out of the shadows I people’s minds, so there’s something powerful about this perfectly natural phenomena, making it easy to play with.
The Shadow Walkers represent our greatest fears, the darker sides of humanity. They’re not actually monsters as such, but souls that have been trapped in the Shadowlands with their personalities eroded, and so they’re partly terrifying, partly human. In many ways, it’s the human element that makes them more terrifying and unpredictable, as this means there is an element of free will, only with Ambrose controlling their every move.
E.R. Murray writes novels for children and young adults as well as short fiction. Caramel Hearts (Alma Books) was her first book for young adults. Her middle grade debut The Book of Learning – Nine Lives Trilogy 1 (Mercier Press) was chosen as the 2016 Dublin UNESCO City of Literature Citywide Read for Children, and The Book of Shadows – Nine Lives Trilogy 2 will be published in September 2016. Elizabeth lives in West Cork, where she fishes, grows her own vegetables and enjoys plenty of adventures with her dog, Franklyn.
Thanks a million Elizabeth for being on the blog, and WBW wishes you all the best with the book’s success. Moving on now, to the little giveaway I mentioned earlier. I have one copy of The Book of Shadows to give to one lucky reader. All you have to do is follow us on Twitter (@weebitwordyblog) and send us a DM saying why I should pick you to be the lucky winner. I will be picking and announcing the winner on Thursday, September 29. Good luck to everyone! 🙂