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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

GUEST POST: Japanese Mythos and Fantasy by Annette Marie


Before I knew anything else about the Red Winter trilogy, I knew Japanese mythology would play a central part in the world and magic of the series. I’ve been fascinated with Japan’s rich, varied, and ancient mythos for many years, and I was so excited to tell a story with magic, creatures, and folklore that aren’t often drawn upon in Western fantasy.

My research began with Shintoism and kami. A kami is a god-like being, but the term is far more encompassing than you might expect—it includes anything with a spiritual nature and supernatural powers. A defining characteristic of kami is that they embody both good and evil, equally capable of nurturing or destroying. It’s even said they possess two souls, one gentle and one assertive.

Many principal kami of folklore became characters in the Red Winter series, and I wanted to stay true to their dual natures. Figuring out where to hold fast to the original stories, and where to deviate into fantasy, was tricky at times. Some characters seemed to leap straight from their mythos and onto the pages of the book—from a playful kitsune shapeshifter with fox ears, to a crow lord called the Tengu, to the irascible god of storms Susano.

However, though the Red Winter series is fantasy through and through, when it comes down to it, even my wildest imagination couldn’t match some of the tales from Japanese mythology. From incomprehensible to hilarious to just plain weird, some of the folklore had me shaking my head in confusion. Melding that hint of “bizarre” with the mystical atmosphere of the series was a fun challenge.


Susano the storm god, as an example, has an origin story I chose not to include, where he was banished from the heavens after throwing a flayed horse through his sister’s sewing room in a fit of bad temper. His role as the slayer of a great eight-headed dragon I did include, but I skipped over the manner of the dragon’s defeat—where Susano only claimed victory by getting the dragon drunk first. As much as I wanted to honor the original mythology, I wasn’t sure that particular tale would win his character a lot of respect.

Japanese mythology includes the yokai, a term often translated to “demon”. But the yokai, like the kami, possess a dual nature—not necessarily benevolent, but rarely are they irredeemably evil. Even a yokai as seemingly despicable as the Kappa, a water ogre known to drown children and horses, isn’t all bad. Kappa are said to be obsessed with politeness, so if you bow to them, they will always bow in return, and you can befriend them with gifts and offerings—though beware, as their friendship might not be as beneficial as you would hope.

In Red Winter, the idea of kami and yokai as both good and evil, capable of benevolence and destruction in equal measures, is a prominent theme, and a lesson the human heroine Emi must come to learn as she delves into the worlds of the spirits. In both Shintoism and Red Winter, the concept of harmony is crucial—harmony with nature, balance between light and dark, and the pursuit of sincerity, honesty, and purity. But above all, Red Winter is an adventure—a journey through magic, myth, and the worlds of kami and yokai.

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Official Author Website
Order Immortal Fire HERE

GUEST AUTHOR INFORMATION: Annette Marie is the author of the Amazon best-selling Steel & Stone series, which includes Goodreads Choice Award nominee Yield the Night, and fantasy trilogy Red Winter. Her first love is fantasy, but fast-paced urban fantasy and tantalizing forbidden romances are her guilty pleasures. She lives in the frozen winter wasteland of Alberta, Canada (okay, it's not quite that bad) with her comparatively sensible husband and their furry minion of darkness—sorry, cat—Caesar. When not writing, she can be found elbow-deep in one art project or another while blissfully ignoring all adult responsibilities.



Immortal Fire Official Synopsis: Once, Emi believed the heavenly gods were righteous and wise, while the earthly yokai spirits were bloodthirsty and evil. But with a traitorous deity poised to destroy her world, and the yokai standing as humanity's only defense, the lies of her upbringing have toppled to reveal a far more terrifying reality.

Despite the looming threat, Emi can't escape her greatest distraction: Shiro, the fox yokai who has so deftly claimed her heart for his own. Soon—too soon—she will have to break the curse that binds his magic and memories. And once the ancient power inside him awakens, the yokai she loves will be changed forever.

As the earthly gods gather to wage war against the heavens, Emi and Shiro must gamble everything to turn the tide against their immortal, all-powerful foes. Together, they will find a way to save her world— even if it means losing each other.

NOTE: Susano artwork courtesy of Japanmeonly

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