Gods of Pestilence, and Other Happy Subjects
Hello, Strange Candy readers! Jo-Anne suggested I write about the mythology behind the main characters in my novel Jenny Pox, in which each of three main characters has a unique paranormal ability (or curse, depending on your perspective). So I'll ramble about that for a minute, and I promise I'll try to avoid any spoilers—no guarantees! Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments form below.
Jenny Pox occurs in a world nearly identical to our own. Readers categorize the book as “paranormal,” but you won't find any fae, werewolves, supernatural detective agencies, angelic orders or secret vampire societies. The paranormal elements in this story are restricted to the supernatural abilities of the main character Jenny, her nemesis Ashleigh, and Seth, the boy they both like. Beyond that, the story might take place in any regular small town in America. As with a tightly controlled scientific experiment, I wanted as few variables as possible. In Jenny Pox, those variables happen to be paranormal.
Jenny spreads a deadly supernatural plague to anyone she touches, animal or human. She can't turn off her power, so she spends her life avoiding people as much as possible, because she doesn't want to hurt anyone. This makes her existence very lonely and painful—then she discovers a boy in her town, Seth, has the opposite power. He can heal with his touch. This means their powers cancel out, and Jenny can safely touch him.
Things aren't that simple, though. Seth already has a girlfriend, who is Jenny's opposite in many ways—popular and influential where Jenny is a complete loner, strikingly pretty where Jenny is small and pale and invisible, ruthless about using her power where Jenny completely restrains herself from ever using her own. Ashleigh's touch makes people feel love, and she uses it relentlessly to manipulate and control others.
I love ancient mythology of all kinds, but these powers weren't based specifically on any one set of myths. In any polytheistic system, you will find a god or goddess associated with pestilence, healing and love, so I drew on a rich variety of sources to enhance the story. The Egyptian goddess Sekhmet, for example, was a perfect parallel to Jenny, and some of Jenny's character was drawn from research into that goddess, who was extremely important in early Egypt but little remembered today, even among people who like ancient mythology.
The myths I considered most heavily aren't ancient and aren't mentioned directly in Jenny Pox. I'm a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, like most people with an interest in supernatural stories. In Lovecraft, the background is that old, wicked gods once ruled the universe, but were banished with the arrival of order and light. The old gods are waiting in the darkest depths of the universe to return, destroy life and reassert their rule. Some humans want to help them do this.
[possible spoilers ahead!] Drawing on Lovecraft, I imagined what might have if such primordial spirits found their way into the human reincarnation system (there is reincarnation in the world of Jenny Pox). They bring with them powers that didn't actually have any meaningful physical expression before they took on physical forms. And then—what if, through hundreds of incarnations, some of these spirits began to learn compassion and, in general, how to be human? Assuming humans reincarnate for the purpose of learning and growing, maybe some of these very old and evil spirits begin to learn the lessons that human souls are meant to learn by incarnating. And some of them aren't quite so evil anymore—they're turning good, so to speak. But not all of them are! Some keep to their original evil and destructive nature, and treat human beings like playthings.
In the story, the characters don't know their own backgrounds, in this larger sense. They consider themselves human beings with odd, inexplicable abilities. They learn more about their deeper background in the course of the story.
That's a quick look at the mythology involved in Jenny Pox. I'm open to questions, if you have any!
J.L. Bryan studied English literature at the University of Georgia and at Oxford, and then studied screenwriting at UCLA. He is the author of Jenny Pox and three other novels. His Haunted E-Book International Blog Tour will begin in January, with great giveaways like an Amazon Kindle and The Haunted Library ebook collection.
Want to win a copy of Jenny Pox? Then leave a comment on this post with your email address.
Giveaway ends Saturday 11th December.
On another note, I'll have the winners from the Jennifer Rardin tribute up hopefully by tomorrow.