Hello, hello! Life’s been here and there and everywhere, but today I’m back on the blog with a treat for you. Copper artist and debut author Clovia Shaw has graciously agreed to write a guest post about what inspired her to write her new urban fantasy novel, Nogitsune.
Lincoln Black is nogitsune–a “field fox” cast aside by his family, an outsider among the hidden community of American kitsune descended from the shapeshifting fox-wives of Japanese folklore. When a curse pushes his harmless taste for his lovers’ vital energy toward monstrous, uncontrollable hunger, Linc is forced back to the one place he’d—almost—rather die than go for help: home.
The first night back in town, a cousin he doesn’t know defies clan politics to enter his dreams. Wouldn’t you know, he wants to strike a bargain: Find a stolen piece of a stranger’s soul, and he’ll help Linc break the curse.
That help comes in the form of Delia, a geomancer who knows every inch of the city, and whose energy Linc finds dangerously tempting. It would be too easy to lose his head, and drain her life away with no more than a kiss. Armed with a key to the magical pathways hidden behind the mundane world, Linc’s own sly magic, and a will o’ wisp with an attitude problem, they search for the broken piece of soul.
Too bad they’re not the only ones looking for it.
With his self-control slipping, Linc finds himself indebted to a cousin he can’t trust, running afoul of more than one god, and putting Delia in danger just by wanting her. He’s looking at a jacked-up choice: Die to keep the only person who cares for him safe, or risk becoming a monster straight out of Japanese fairytales.
How great does that sound? And readers, just for you, she’s giving away one e-book of Nogitsune! Details follow the post. Take it away, Clovia!
The idea for Nogitsune came from a glimpse of old Japanese folk magic. While researching kitsune in general, I ran across a brief mention of something I hadn’t seen before in the lore. Much like the European practice of burying a live black dog in the churchyard to create a church grim to protect it against evil spirits, a similar ritual was employed in Japan to create guardian spirits out of dogs, and more rarely, foxes. I was struck by what a terrifying, awful way to die it would be, and what kind of entity would be created from such a death.
It stuck in my mind while I did other things, and when it was time to choose what to write next, it was still back there, skulking.
America has such a rich and varied cultural history an Urban Fantasy or Paranormal Romance featuring kitsune seemed like a natural. But I needed to get them here in a way that was equally natural, so I didn’t start out on a giant handwave. So, to history! The earliest Japanese in America were shipwrecked sailors, which didn’t work for my purposes. The next chance for my foxes to stow away had promise—men, women, and children, and foxes are all about family—but they came to Hawaii, and that was an additional cultural layer I felt like I didn’t have the resources or understanding to attempt, and it still didn’t fit well with the world taking shape in my head. I kept looking at the Gold Rush, and all those Chinese railroad workers—it was a perfect way to get kitsune out of closed Japan, to China, and into America. But that brings in the strong fox spirit tradition in Chinese folkways, too, the railroad, the Old West, and a lot more research as this fictional history began to live, breathe, and build itself.
Back with the developing characters, my MC, Linc, has a slight Texas twang when he’s being sarcastic. What. So back in I go, and I find out that Texas has an amazingly rich (and painful) East Asian history. From Pershing’s Chinese, to the Japanese Emperor’s gift of rice seed in 1904, and always the railroad, there are so many points in history where fox people would have been present, and stayed. Linc comes by it honest, and that’s important.
Kitsune aren’t just folklore and shrine guardians, they’re pop-culture icons, evolving along with Japan and represented in everything from manga to product packaging to theme weddings. They’ve also spread far beyond Japan in this capacity, with three generations of anime fans recognizing the characteristic fox-face smile, or the stylized facial markings taken from traditional theatre masks. So while I wanted to get it right, be careful with my research, to make sure my foundations were strong, respectful, my foxes aren’t old Japan’s foxes. And they wouldn’t be.
Beyond their reputations as dangerous seducers, kitsune are tricksters, habitual line-steppers who waylay travelers with awful practical jokes, and could never quite fake being human in the old stories. As fox-wives, their true nature is betrayed by their shadow, a peeking tail, a barking dog. If the fox is trying to gain enlightenment in the guise of a monk, the locals politely ignore the back hair and bad pronunciation, but they know. The longing to fit in, and the simultaneous inability to stand being normal, is a fundamental characteristic that’s compelling.
With Nogitsune, I tried to build an American fox subculture that feels real and familiar, that grows out of the real folklore in authentic-feeling—if sometimes unexpected—ways, and acknowledges that all families have their own histories and folktales. At some point, though, you have to be true to the book, to leap off and create the world your story and your characters need, and accept you’re never going to get it right for all readers.
But I can hope most of them will enjoy it despite its flaws, and as a writer, that’s all I really want out of any book: for people to enjoy reading it.
Thanks so much to Shveta for having me on her blog today!
If you want to enter for a chance to win, just leave a comment either here or on the LiveJournal mirror by 11:59 EST on Friday, 13 September. (Please remember to include an e-mail address so I can contact you if you win!)
And be sure to learn more about Clovia at her website, http://cloviashaw.com!