Sunday, March 24, 2013

Karin Cox – What Inspired Me to Write Cruxim

What Inspired Me to Write Cruxim

by Karin Cox

I think it’s true for most novelists that inspiration often comes from strange sources. For me, it usually means a weird idea popping into my head at about 2 am, when I’m struggling to fall asleep, or a book arising from something I latched on to in a dream (when I finally manage to sleep). But the inspiration for Cruxim actually came from a photograph. About eight years ago, I invested in a writing workshop at Byron Bay Writer’s festival, here in Australia. It was run by Stephen Lang, author of An Accidental Terrorist, and he showed the class a photograph of a gothic tower and asked us to describe it using all of the senses. I wrote the first few paragraphs of a story, which sat there for several years until I found it scribbled in a notebook and considered expanding on it. The trouble was—I had no clue what I wanted to do with that snippet of writing.

I had the idea of making the person in the tower a mythological creature, but I wanted to make him and his love interest something a little unusual, something far less standard than a vampire or a werewolf, or even an angel. I knew I needed to make him very conflicted about his past and his role in the world. As I was searching through mythological creatures, I read about the Kresnik, a creature from Croatian mythology that is sometimes also called Cruxim, or a Dark Angel. They dine on vampires, but they are basically angels rather than evil. I decided to explore making my hero an angelic being whose mission was to kill vampires, because how can you be considered holy and yet spend your life killing others, even if those others are vampires? It leads to parallels with the Christian crusades, or with the idea of Jihad. And then I wondered, what if someone dear to him became a vampire? How would he handle that, when his mission is to kill them all? And the rest of the story sort of just fell into place.

I ended up incorporating the freakshow—Gandler’s Circus of Curiosities—because I’m fascinated by the concept and the cruelty of freakshows, which were commonplace in the 18th and early 19th centuries. I think it is human nature to be a little curious about mutation, but the way the people in freakshows were exploited is frightening. Nowadays, it seems almost unthinkable that freakshows like the one in Cruxim were ever allowed, but in the early 1700s, a lot of the underlying medical or heredity reasons behind conditions were unknown, so some were considered almost a mythology in themselves, or a punishment, a curse, or a supernatural affliction. Freakshows were mostly phased out by the mid-1900s, but now we fill our need for the unexplained with shows like “Crossing Over”, “Embarrassing Bodies”, documentaries about ghosts and the supernatural, or Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Our curiosity about the “other” is still very much alive.

For Cruxim, Gandler’s Circus of Curiosities presented a really good opportunity to juxtapose the mythological with the supposedly “freakish”. Often, there is a scientific or rational explanation for the things that we consider otherworldly, and I wanted to put my mythological Sphinx and Cruxim in a place where they were the true unexplained “freaks of nature.” Doing that enabled me to spend more time exploring Amedeo’s relationship with his Maker, too. Why had he been singled out to be this creature unlike any other? How did he feel about his mission and about the path he had to follow?

Like all novels, Cruxim is an amalgamation of ideas and themes. The kernel of it all was that gothic tower in the photograph, but as soon as I started writing it grew into so much more. I like to think that it explores the idea of “the beast within” and whether we allow ourselves to be led by animal urges or by rational or moral decisions, or whether fate, alone, guides us by the hand. In Cruxim’s case, I think Amedeo is influenced by a little of each—and perhaps we all are.

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Genre – Paranormal Romance

Rating – PG15+ (some violence & swearing. No sex)

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