For today’s Phobia Friday, I would like to welcome Karin Cox who will be discussing her new novel, Cruxim – a gothic paranormal tale of dark angels, malicious vampires and a villain inspired by Josef Mengele himself.
1) What attracted you to writing in the first place?
I’ve been a writer as long as I can remember. My earliest memory of writing is winning a poetry contest when I was in about year four, so I was probably about eight or nine. With my (enormous) earnings, I bought a kite and I thought, Now this is a gig I could get used to. I still make about the same amount of money per annum
English was always my favourite subject at school, but when I applied for university, I listened to all the naysayers who said “You’ll never get a job if you do an Arts degree.” So I enrolled in a Science degree in the hope of becoming a zoologist. Big mistake.
Within a year, I’d transferred to a Bachelor of Arts to study English Literature, Communication Studies and Myth and Ancient Literature, which led to my career in editing and to my job as an inhouse author for an Australian publisher, rather ironically writing books about … zoology and natural history! Writing has always been a natural state for me. I’m one of those people who jolts awake in the wee hours to scribble ideas in a notepad by my bed. It’s cathartic, a necessary process of working through my own thoughts and emotions.
2) Tell me more about your new release, Cruxim; what were its inspirations and how did you first come across the being from which the novel takes its title?
About eight years ago now, I invested in a writing workshop at the Byron Bay Writer’s festival here in Australia. It was run by Stephen Lang, author of An Accidental Terrorist, and in it he showed us all a photographic of a gothic tower and asked us to describe it using all of the senses. I wrote the first few paragraphs of this story, which sat there for several years until I found it scribbled in a notebook and considered expanding on it.
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. I knew I need to make him conflicted about his past and his role in the world. As I was searching through mythological creatures, I read about Kresniks, which are creatures from Croatian mythology and sometimes called Cruxim. They dine on vampires but are basically angels. I decided to explore making my hero that: an angel type being whose mission was to kill vampires, because how can you be considered holy and yet spend your life killing others? 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
3) There have been lots of interpretations of angels, demons and vampires in literature – why do you think we keep returning to these particular mythological creatures as writers and readers? Do you think any of this derives from their roots in the Christian mythology that underpins much of Western society?
I think it does. For a novelist, Christian mythology provides the chance to use the complexities that underpin religion to enhance the story. The leap of faith. The guilt of being a sinner. The hypocrisy of believing in redemption, but perhaps not for the truly evil. The lure of sex and the “forbidden.” The dichotomy of God and Satan. Good and evil. That’s a treasure trove of conflict for a writer. All of those things can be worked into the theme of the novel to explore faith, good, and evil, all within the safe confines of the novel.
4) Cruxim features a couple of despicable villains in Beltran and Dr Gandler – were there any specific sources you drew upon for the characters of this horrific pair?
Writing evil characters can be disturbing when you’re in the moment, but I think the real world presents plenty of case studies for heinous acts of inhumanity. When I was coming up with the characters of Gandler and Beltran, I tried to imagine some of the most evil humans I had ever read of, and in a way, I modelled my antagonists on them. Joseph Mengele, the notorious “Angel of Death” of Auschwitz, performed experiments into heredity, including amputations, sterilization and other atrocities, using humans for his subjects. As one of the world’s most evil men, he became my inspiration for Gandler.
Beltran is more of a classic narcissist. Charming and attractive, unlike Gandler he is more interested in emotional cruelty than physical depravity. Having power over people mentally and emotionally is a turn on for him. I consider him more of a Ted Bundy type weirdo. He likes to mock and taunt, to torment people, and to render others helpless and vulnerable.
5) The freakshows of the 19th & 20th centuries have always fascinated me so I’m intrigued as to why you decided to make one of them a key setting for Cruxim?
I’m fascinated by freakshows, too. I think it is human nature to be curious and a little awed by mutation. Nowadays, it seems almost unthinkable that shows like the one in Cruxim were ever allowed, but we have to remember that in the early days of freakshows in the 1700s, no one knew the underlying medical or heredity reasons for the conditions, so some of the abnormalities were considered almost a mythology in themselves, or a punishment from God, a curse, 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 me, the freakshow 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 to be otherworldly, and I wanted to put my mythological Sphinx and Cruxim in a place where they were the true explained 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?
6) So what’s next for Karin Cox? Any last words?
Next is the sequel to Cruxim, which I know many of my early readers are eagerly anticipating. I’m hoping to have it out by Easter, and it is tentatively titled Creche at present. It provides a lot more background into Amedeo’s past—background that even he was unaware of, and also into Sphinxes and the mythology surrounding them. So it explains a few incidents in the first book and why they panned out the way they did.
I’m also working on several other projects, some non-fiction, some fiction and some for children, and running my website for indie authors to find reviews, Indie Review Tracker. I’m always busy. If I only had a few more hours in each day (about twelve more a day would be great!) I could get a few more books out this year too. My book of short stories, Cage Life, is doing really well at present too, so I’d like to take some more time to do a few more shorts in 2013 as well. As for sleep, well …
Thank you, Karin!
To find out more about Karin and her projects, please visit the following links:
Indie Review Tracker