––a person with a fear of cemeteries
[Greek- coimetro ‘burial place’]
This one is for my Story Dam buddy, Tui Snider.
The funeral was today. Everyone gathered at the funeral home, garbed in black. They clutched handkerchiefs, sobbing quietly as if that would disturb Grandpa and make him rise from the dead. I half wished that he would. I know he is gone, his soul left his earthly body, but it still terrifies me. Being buried in the ground, surrounded by other corpses. What if you aren't really gone? Impossible in this day and age, but one can never be too careful. I'm going to tell my wife when it's my time, she better put me in a crypt in the back yard.
To find out more about the April A to Z Blogging Challenge and join the fun click here!
Today I also have Anna Tan on the blog with her new book, Coexist.
British Books and a Malaysian Girl
As long as I can remember, I’ve loved reading. My mum says that of her 3 children, I learned to read the youngest, partially because I was competing with my childhood friend Josh. Friendly rivalry, you know? I was that kid who sneaked into the spare room to read a book whilst I was supposed to be doing homework (because that’s where the bookshelf was), and the one who put a book in between the textbook covers when I was supposed to be studying. Oh, I also remember perfecting how to roller-skate in the house while reading a book. (Only in the house, though)
I grew up with Enid Blyton, favoring Secret Seven and the Five Find-Outers over Famous Five – also not forgetting The Faraway Tree, Malory Towers, St Clare’s, The Wishing Chair, The Adventurous Four and many others, though I think I loved Secret Seven the best. I read and re-read CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. I also loved mystery books, preferring Nancy Drew over Hardy Boys, eventually maturing to Agatha Christie. When I was about 11, I started my first failed attempt to read The Lord of the Rings (I gave up at the preface/introduction). On my second try the next year, I started with Chapter One and finished the whole thing.
I suppose Narnia was the one who set the whole writing thing off – I loved the whole series, but one book that stuck with me was The Horse and His Boy. I don’t really know why. I’d written essays and stories before that, usually for school, but that year, when I was 11 (because I hadn’t managed Tolkien yet), I wrote my first fan fiction (if you could call it that) about going to Narnia and meeting Shasta and the horses. That has stuck in my mind as the First Story I’ve Ever Written (which was not an assignment/homework). I have no idea where that story went (it was never published anywhere), but something changed after that – I’d discovered that I’d actually like to write these stories, not just read them.
When I started writing the story that would eventually evolve into Coexist, I’d just experienced frost for the first time that I could remember. I come from a tropical country, where everything is hot all year round. We do have four seasons: Hot, hotter, haze, and flash floods (still hot). In December 2013, I’d gone on a nature walk with my uncle’s family up in Cradle Mountain, Tasmania. Part of the trail was covered in planks, and it was quite cold (at 6am!!) so I could see the frost. It was pretty magical. My head started filling with fairy stories, and then it struck me – why do all the cold places have really nice fairy tales? (Or at least Disney-fied ones?) Eastern folk tales seem to be gory and scary and not (yet) cleaned up for kids – they’re targeted to frighten, rather than to inspire. I placed the idea out of my head until I visited South Lake Tahoe, California in January 2014 and had my first experience ever of snow. That’s when I started to think seriously about it.
Snow. Wonder. Magic. Magical places. Fairy tales. Fairies and pixies and imps. Noble centaurs, light-footed elves and gruff dwarves. Dragons that swooped overhead, regal and majestic. I've always loved a good fantasy story, especially when there’s magic involved! Some of my favorite writers over the years include Robin Hobb, JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Brandon Sanderson, Lynn Flewelling, Terry Pratchett and Garth Nix (as you see, I was eventually weaned off the mystery books). It’s all magic, magical systems, strange and wonderful lands and lots of different sentient, maybe magical, species. I’d also been toying with writing in a more fairy tale style – a little archaic sometimes, but with some old-world charm.
Putting all of these together, I came up with my A to Z theme for 2014: flash fiction about mythical creatures. I had originally given myself leeway to make them separate flash fiction pieces instead of a single interweaved story, but somehow I managed to tie them together. Of course, since I grew up on (mainly) British books, plus the snow bias, I ended up writing a very Western/European centric story, based somewhere in Britain. I’ve cleaned it up since then, of course – 26 magical creatures tends to overpopulate a short novella, even if most of them had some sort of purpose. Some I’ve had to cut out entirely (goodbye, trolls), though some I’ve managed to leave in, or at least leave in allusions to them.
In this day and age where we talk about diversity in writing and cultural appropriation, where people argue for representation of people of color in stories and being able to identify, it seems odd that I, a Malaysian of Chinese descent, would choose to write a story of two white girls in Britain, using mostly European fairy tales. Why not write a story about Asians using Asian folk tales? Maybe next time I’ll write about a sword-wielding Chinese chick with powerful kungfu moves. Or a demure Malay girl who stands both with and against the Pontianak in her kampung (village).
But for now, I’d like to think of Coexist as a tribute to the writers I have grown up with, a throwback to the worlds I loved while growing up, an echo of the stories which have given me a voice and a space in this English writing world. This too is a form of coexisting.
About the Book
Jane Hays has been told all her life that it’s dangerous to be out in the forest past sundown. At fifteen, she’s quite sure that it’s all old wives’ tales... yet, why does her village bar the gates every night? Why do they even have gates? When she is caught in an unexpected rainstorm on her way home, Jane ignores all the warnings and seeks shelter in a cottage in the middle of the forest. Soon, she is caught up in a world of magic and beauty – and in the storm of the Fairy Queen’s wrath.
The Fairy Queen is out for blood. There have been intruders - human intruders - in her domain and she will stop at nothing to find them and kill them. After all, it is only fair. She is only seeking retribution for the death that humans leave in their wake.
But Jane isn’t all that she seems to be. And the events of the night aren’t as innocent as they appear.
A tale of magic, fairy creatures and family, Coexist is a novella for the young and the young-at-heart.
Get Coexist on Amazon or use code ZM78D to get 50% at Smashwords until May 7th.
About the Author
Anna Tan grew up in Malaysia, the country that is not Singapore. In 2015, she traded in a life of annoying other bean counters for one of annoying the online world with questions about life and death and everything in between. The answer is sometimes 42.
When she is not writing or nitpicking over other writers' copy, she can be found reading a book or attempting to organise her room.
She can be found lurking at the following places:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads
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