by Victory Witherkeigh
GENRE: YA Horror
The parents knew it had been a mistake to have a girl. At birth, the girl’s long, elegant fingers wriggled and grasped forward, motioning to strangle the very air from her mother’s lungs. As she grew older, she grew more like her father, whose ancestors would dream of those soon to die. She walked and talked in her sleep, and her parents warded themselves, telling the girl that she was evil, unlovable, their burden to bear only until her eighteenth birthday released them.
The average person on the streets of Los Angeles would look at the girl and see a young woman with dark chocolate eyes, curly long hair, and tanned skin of her Filipina heritage. Her teachers praised her for her scholarly achievements and extracurricular activities, from academic decathlon to cheer.
The girl knew she was different, especially as she grew to accept that the other children’s parents didn’t despise them. Her parents whispered about their pact as odd and disturbing occurrences continued to happen around her. The girl thought being an evil demon should require the skies to bleed, the ground to tremble, an animal sacrifice to seal the bargain, or at least cause some general mayhem. Did other demons work so hard to find friends, do well on their homework, and protect their spoiled younger brother?
The demon was patient. It could afford to wait, to remind the girl when she was hurt that power was hers to take. She needed only embrace it. It could wait. The girl’s parents were doing much of its work already.
She smoothed the wrinkles down on her black Hermès slacks and shirt before turning the crystal hotel doorknob.
“You bring nothing good into this world,” her mother said, baring her teeth. “You just corrupt and destroy everything. You’re a catalyst, a demonic catalyst. You’re only fit to annihilate. One day you’ll understand the destructive nature of your power. You’ll see the damage you’ll bring to those around you when it’s too late. All those people who tell us you’re amazing, they’ll figure it out. You’ve fooled them for now, but they’ll learn.”
The mother slammed the door as she walked out with that last statement. The tears flowed from the girl’s face as she looked at the door. Her breathing sped up as her stomach roiled, sending her sprinting to the toilet. Her hands were shaking, clammy, as she collapsed to the floor, chills running through her body as she looked up at the ceiling. The orange and bergamot scents of the soaps mixed with the stark, white porcelain tile floor were the only anchors she could focus on to stop herself from throwing up again. Deep in her gut, at the core of her being, there was only one thought she could grasp: she’s right.
“I don’t want to be evil,” she said, whimpering to herself. “I don’t want to be alone.”
“But you aren’t alone, pretty girl,” a voice said with a throaty laugh.
How does your book differ from other horror books?
The Girl is my debut YA Dark Fantasy/Horror novel, available through Cinnabar Moth Publishing on December 6, 2022. I took inspiration from pre-colonial Filipino and Pacific Island mythology and gods to create my urban dark fantasy world in which my main character lives. I longed for a brown skin heroine like myself in YA dark fantasies I read from the early Aesop’s Fables and original Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales. As I got to middle school, Roald Dahl, R. L. Stine, and Christopher Pike were authors I gravitated toward but still didn’t see myself in the characters, per se. I just watched The School for Good and Evil on Netflix, a book series written by Soman Chainani, who I’ve heard speak in person. His series did a great job of highlighting some joys in the darker, horrific sides of storytelling and reminded me how enamored I was with the woman who cursed everyone at the start of Beauty and the Beast by Disney. I developed a character that flits between human and demon, an anti-heroine, and a female character who isn’t your typical Mary Sue archetype. I didn’t want yet another “golden” hero character in a fantasy or even a horror story. The Girl examines the gray areas of growing up as a young brown female navigating through rejection, lost friendships, hurt relationships, and choosing imperfection. The Girl delves into the horrors that often get overlooked in the “coming of age” stories - the terrifying truth that may be coming to terms with your darkest self is more important than what you’ve been told.
What makes it unique?
The one thing about the Philippine Islands and even the rest of Polynesia that people forget in today’s census groupings is that the “nations” we know today were never actually united before the European colonizers came along. You’ll still find some dialects still carry words or art forms across the path of the Austronesian migration, connecting the Philippine Islands closer to some of the indigenous Polynesian chain of oral traditions. When I hear the terms “dark fantasy” or “horror,” my mind immediately jumps to the aesthetics and imagery of the stories I’d hear from my relatives during a typhoon or power outage. For “stories centered with fantastical and horror elements,” the Pacific islands, while beautiful, are also filled with so many things that cause death and pain: the volcanic ring of fire, typhoons, mosquitoes carrying yellow or dengue fever. The Girl will hopefully be the first glimpse into some tales of our pre-colonial gods and nightmares that became our own myriad of wives’ tales and stories that genuinely acted as a guide to keeping people, especially children, alive. Stories about creatures who haunt the jungles, waiting for the unsuspecting child to eat. Or the shape-shifting, blood-drinking aswang, a female predator able to hide amongst the living. Hopefully, The Girl will be another gateway for readers to discover the diaspora for the first time or add another dimension to the growing mythos.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Victory Witherkeigh is a female Filipino author originally from Los Angeles, CA, currently living in the Las Vegas area. Victory was a finalist for Wingless Dreamer’s 2020 Overcoming Fear Short Story award and a 2021 winner of the Two Sisters Writing and Publishing Short Story Contest.
She has print publications in the horror anthologies Supernatural Drabbles of Dread through Macabre Ladies Publishing, Bodies Full of Burning through Sliced Up Press, and In Filth It Shall Be Found through OutCast Press.
Her first novel, set to debut in Spring 2024 with Cinnabar Moth Publishing, has been a finalist for Killer Nashville’s 2020 Claymore Award, a 2020 Cinnamon Press Literature Award Honoree, and long-listed in the 2021 Voyage YA Book Pitch Contest.
Victory Witherkeigh will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.a Rafflecopter giveaway