In seventeen years of writing I can safely say that it has never happened to me before that I became so consumed by a story that I put my current one on hold.
In August last year I discussed my horror novel in the works ‘The Wraith in the Woods’, and while that story is still very much alive, I’ve hit the proverbial pause button on it in favour of my brand new novel ‘Death’s Edict’.
This is a story that began forming a few months ago when I found myself enjoying a lot of foreign films and media, from incredible Indonesian action movies such as The Raid Redemption (2011) and The Night Comes for Us (2018), to the amazing Spanish series Money Heist, to the extraordinary game Ghost of Tsushima from developers Sucker Punch, set during the first Mongol invasion of Japan. Incidentally I was also studying Japanese mythology and folklore as inspiration for my horror book ‘The Wraith in the Woods’.
I have always had a strong fascination and love for Japanese culture, from my young days watching anime and playing my favourite video game series Metal Gear Solid, by legendary creator Hideo Kojima. For the longest time I wanted to tell a tale rich in their amazing culture, but I had no basis for a story – until now.
Whilst researching Japanese history and mythology, I stumbled upon the very real ‘Great Kantō earthquake’ of 1923 that devastated Japan. Whilst an immensely tragic event, it fascinated me as an unusual and unexplored backdrop for a novel. Yet at the same time, Japanese mythology is so rich with exciting supernatural tales and symbols that I wanted a story that felt like a thrilling, unusual ride.
Enter Death’s Edict, which is the culmination of all of the aforementioned elements, in a novel that is fast-paced and (I hope) terrifically exciting and unique to read.
Weeks ago on my Instagram page I set the scene with a little background on the earthquake and its relevance to the story, where I wrote:
In 1923 a deadly earthquake devastated the island of Kantō, resulting in the deaths of over one hundred thousand souls.
The catastrophic event which descended Japan into chaos became known as Kantō dai-jishin (関東大地震), or:
“The Great Kantō earthquake”
On that day the death gods ascended to the skies, as they peered behind the veil of man, enamoured by a magnificent feast.
For when such immense death permeates through time and space, in a single blink, even the gods themselves cannot turn a blind eye.
Death’s Edict is a tale of survival and fate, following two connected characters’ journeys of the aftermath of the earthquake, where they find themselves trapped in a strange place, facing trials devised by the Gods in order to determine their worth.
The synopsis of the book reads as follows:
“At the eclipse of existence, life, death and choice are merely the games of gods.”
Ren awakens on the rooftop of a strange building, and discovers that the island of Kanto has been torn asunder by a devastating earthquake.
Across the sea of rubble, the fate of his wife and children is unknown.
Trapped with him is Yuna, a child who became separated from her parents in the wake of the catastrophe and wishes to find her way back home.
As Ren vows to help Yuna search for her family and to be reunited with his own, a message written in burning blood reveals that in order to leave with their souls intact, they must survive the trials of the gods in all fifteen floors below, and in doing so gain control over life, death and choice.
This is not the sort of story that I would send to a traditional publisher, especially here in South Africa, because it’s quite ‘out there’ and unusual. Although it’s a story that I am very excited to write and tell. It has been so far a very creatively interesting experience to set a book in one location and craft all fifteen floors of the trials, and it’s allowed me a lot of freedom in playing with strange ideas and delightful terrors.
At the heart of it all, however, is the story of Ren and Yuna, and the mystery of their connection, their respective pasts and how they survive together through fearsome trials. It is my hope that readers will be as attached to these characters as I am, and be forced to keep turning those pages for their story as much as the drama and excitement of the supernatural and the action.
I plan to publish Death’s Edict in 2022, but it’s still early in the writing process and a lot of planning and story mapping is still being done. That said I’m looking forward to sharing a lot more about this book as the writing develops. You’ll be able to follow more teasers and snippets on my Instagram account as they come.