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February 12, 2010

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes on the mythology of TOKEN OF DARKNESS

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Amelia Atwater-Rhodes's latest novel, TOKEN OF DARKNESS, is a little different from the other installments in her Den of Shadows series. Below, she explains how she came about writing a ghost story for a world that doesn't have or believe in these spirits, and shares why this book hits a little closer to home any anything else she's published so far.


Nyeusigrube does not have ghosts.

One of the greatest advantages of writing some form of fantasy --- whether it is epic or urban --- is the freedom a writer has to invent that world’s mythology. How will I explain magic? What kinds of creatures will I have? What higher powers will live in this world?

A long time ago, I decided that there were some mysteries I wanted to leave intact. Though I have characters who have set themselves up as idols, or who have seen their own civilizations rise and fall, I consciously chose not to decide which religion was “right.” My characters know no more about God or the afterlife than any human does… though some of them may think differently, and certainly many of them have strong feelings on the subject.

A side-effect of this decision is that Nyeusigrube’s mythology regarding ghosts is very specific, and seemed to me to leave absolutely no room for the character who came to my attention in 2007.

Samantha’s story was written in November, 2007, during National Novel Writing Month, but she came to life the previous summer. In a very short span of time, I experienced two deaths. Specifically, while driving to the funeral of someone I was close to, I witnessed the aftermath of a highway traffic accident in which a young man was killed. It was midnight on the Jersey Turnpike at the time; I drove until two in the morning to reach my destination. As is my tendency, I turned to writing as a form of catharsis, to help me work through my own reactions.

As a result, TOKEN OF DARKNESS probably has more of me in it than any book I have ever published. Though I have very little in common with Cooper, Brent, Samantha or Delilah, and I have never personally been haunted by a color-coordinated ghost, the challenges they face mentally and emotionally all to some extent came from me.

I started writing TOKEN OF DARKNESS with the knowledge that it was a little different from my previous books (the fact that one of the main characters was a kind of ghost that Nyeusigrube’s mythology says cannot exist was one clue). I wasn’t sure, when I began, if it would fit into canon at all, but I am pleased to say it all worked out in a way that has helped inspire future stories, as well.

The writing of this book was a process of discovery and inspiration, and I can honestly say I am pleased with how it came out. It is an epilogue to those we have lost, and a prologue to all that is yet to come.

-- Amelia Atwater-Rhodes