I’m pleased to welcome fellow Jolly Fish and Utah author Johnny Worthen to my blog today. Johnny’s new young adult novel, ELEANOR, is earning rave reviews. Kirkus Reviews said ELEANOR is “a riveting supernatural character study wrought with the pains of first love the struggles of self-acceptance.”
Johnny describes the book this way: Eleanor is a modest girl, unremarkable but extraordinary, young but old, malleable but fixed. She is scared and confused. She is a liar and a thief. Eleanor is not what she appears to be.
The idea for ELEANOR came from Native American legends . . .
I can trace the inspiration for ELEANOR (THE UNSEEN) to the Navajo legends of the Skinwalker, which first ran across in Tony Hillerman’s story by the same name. Skinwalkers are evil magicians who can change their shape. Some places linked the legend to werewolves.
I was surprised to see this comparison. I don’t know why, but I’d thought that particular tale was relegated to the Transylvanian mountains and not the American deserts.
I did more research and discovered that shape-shifters are actually a very common trope across cultures. Universal, even.
And that was the inspiration.
Such a common myth must have something behind it, I thought. Putting aside Joseph Conrad’s ideas, I worked up an actual living species that has lived alongside man since the beginning. They’ve been seen, witnessed, reported on, however inaccurately, and they survive today. That became the paranormal essence of the story and I had a lot of legends to draw from for details.
Since ELEANOR is an American story, I worked primarily with the Native American legends of the shape shifters. The Navajo call them Skinwalkers. The Shoshone have a similar creature, an ogre thing that shares some of the characteristics with its Navajo cousin. The Shoshone call theirs a Nimirika.
ELEANOR takes place in Wyoming – Shoshone country, so their myths are forefront in the story. Eleanor knows the name Nimirika. But since she can trace her origins to the high plateaus of Arizona, the Navajo legends play strongly as well.
For more about ELEANOR and Johnny visit johnnyworthen.com
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