Friend or foe?
By Nerine Dorman
My most recent release, Camdeboo Nights, is about friends… And, of course, enemies. This paranormal roadtrip/creature mash-up features vampires, witches and mages… and other things that go bump in the night, as well as a bunch of youngsters who realize they have to rely on each other if they’re going to make it through the night.
The primary relationship is between my vampire, Trystan, and the young mortal woman Helen. Warning, this is no Edward/Bella-type pairing. The two know that they *like* each other and they’re interested in each other, but they’re rather tentative about hooking up. Trystan’s worried about his motivations, since he’s pretty sure she’s going to make a good vampire snack if he’s not careful, and Helen’s had such bad luck dating boys, she’s taking things slow. But that doesn’t stop them from having a few moonlit walks.
Helen’s just been uprooted from her life in Cape Town, and has been forced to move in with her grandmother, who lives in an isolated farming hamlet in the countryside. Not only that, but she has to start attending boarding school. Not fun. Though she tries to fit in with the popular kids, this is not to be. She doesn’t like the way they pick on the kids who might be slightly different. And it’s precisely the fact that she’ll stand up for the underdog that draws two other very important friends to her – Arwen and Etienne.
Arwen’s parents really did name her after a character from Lord of the Rings. Not only that, but she’s descended from a long line of hereditary witches, who’ve gone into hiding in the same hamlet where Helen’s just moved to. She’s prickly and aloof, and doesn’t easily take to strangers, perhaps because her parents have always sheltered her. Perhaps because of this, she goes out of her way to provoke people by dressing goth and making no secret of her interest in ghost-hunting and tarot cards. It doesn’t help that she’s basically making herself a target for the bullies.
I must admit I have a massive soft spot for Etienne. He sees right through Arwen’s standoffish exterior, and the two are best friends. Which is fantastic for Etienne, because his parents split up years ago and he’s been shunted around from family member to family member, until he’s ended up at boarding school. But that’s not his only problem. He’s also a little person, which among the generally sports mad crowd at Rubidge Secondary School can and does present a problem. From time to time he should really keep his mouth shut, as his wisecracks get him into further trouble.
I decided to tell Camdeboo Nights from the perspective of these four characters. Why? They won’t always talk to each other. They won’t always have all the information, though readers will have the privilege of knowing more of what’s going on behind the scenes than the characters. And of course, what I’ve discovered so far is that every reader will pick his or her favourite character.
The most commonly asked question I get is who’s my favourite? I honestly can’t tell you. I love all of them for various reasons. I’d love to know who yours is once you’ve had a chance to read the book. Will I write more? I’ll say this much, that there are tentative plans afoot, but when I do pick up the story, it will most likely be a few years after the events in Camdeboo Nights. I’m rather fond of Trystan, Helen, Arwen and Etienne, and I’d love to see them reunite for another adventure.
Curious much? I invite you to take the chance to lose yourself in my world for a spell. There’s nothing typical about this novel, as many of its readers have discovered so far.
Buy Camdeboo Nights at Amazon
About Camdeboo Nights
Helen Ashfield’s world is about to be turned upside down. Is she ready?
Helen Ashfield’s life is complicated. Not only must she adjust to her parents’ divorce, but she has to come to grips with her new school in the small South African Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet. She’s sorely mistaken if she thinks she’s going to slot seamlessly into her new life. Her growing magical powers have attracted the unwanted attention of Trystan, a vampire, who may not have her best interests at heart.
Outcast from his kind for drinking another vampire’s blood, Trystan has been on the run for almost a hundred years from Mantis–the closest thing their kind has to an enforcer. All Trystan wants is an existence of quiet anonymity, but Helen turns his world upside-down.
Helen’s powers also mark her as one of Mantis’ targets. If Mantis gets control of Helen, she’ll change the course of history…for the worse.
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Armed with her grandmother’s shopping list, Helen ran out to the familiar silver Volvo, looking forward to speaking with Arwen, only to discover Szandor and another woman with a teased-out mop of white-blond hair waited in the car.
The woman turned icy gray eyes on Helen, giving her the impression that she could read each of Helen’s secrets.
She was pale, which wasn’t helped by the funerary aspect of her clothing–a buttoned-up sleeveless shirt with a cameo at her throat. When she moved, an audible swish of many layers of satin and chiffon filled the vehicle.
This must be the aunt. She couldn’t be the mother. The resemblance to Szandor was almost uncanny.
Szandor smiled, but the pleasure did not reach his eyes. “This is Sonja, my sister. Sonja, this is Arwen’s new friend, Helen.”
Sonja gave the briefest of frowns before facing the window.
“Uh, hi,” Helen said, wishing that she could be anywhere else but in this car with these peculiar people. The journey to Graaff-Reinet would be just over half an hour but it would feel like an eternity.
Szandor made a sound that was almost a snigger before turning the key. If only Damon were here, but her brother had gone to visit the Prof the instant his chores were done.
They drove in silence, with only the hiss of the air-conditioner as accompaniment, until they left the valley.
Then Szandor said, “Did you enjoy the films last night, Helen?”
She thought her heart would explode. Should she lie? Should she allow the story to filter through without some of the pertinent details?
“I… Uh. Yes.” She had watched films after Trystan had walked them home. Granted, she hadn’t been able to concentrate on any of the onscreen action.
“Oh,” Szandor said.
She caught a glimpse of his amused expression in the rearview mirror.
Bloody hell, of course he didn’t believe her. What did she expect?
“You haven’t seen or heard anything that you would consider out of the ordinary, have you?” Szandor asked.
“You’ll tell us if you do, won’t you?” Szandor asked. It was more a command than a question.
“I guess so.” Helen clutched the seat with white-knuckled hands.
Her grandmother’s amused tones echoed in her memory. The whole lot of them, they’re all witches. The father, too.
How far would Szandor push his craft? What could he do? Was she in any danger? If there was the superstitious fear of witchcraft that was prevalent among the indigenous Africans…
She’d read a little about the subject a few years previously while researching for a painting for her art classes. Witchcraft was a fascinating topic but she had never expected to ever deal with the real thing. Now her present situation seemed very real and very menacing.
“Where’s Arwen?” Helen hoped to steer their conversation to safer territory. She may as well have said “Nice weather, we’re having.”
“Arwen has been grounded,” Szandor said, his pale gaze reading the road ahead.
Oh heck. He knew.
“Oh.” Perhaps it would be better to say nothing at all then she wouldn’t dig herself a deeper hole.
The rest of the ride passed in uncomfortable silence. Helen pressed her face against the glass and hoped nothing more would be said.
She hated deception of any kind. Whenever she lied, she always ended up being caught out. Instead, she watched the passing landscape, where gray-blue spiked agave lined the road in clumps. Every so often jeep tracks led from the road they followed and she wondered where they went.
About Nerine Dorman
An editor and multi-published author, Nerine Dorman currently resides in Cape Town, South Africa, with her visual artist husband. Some of the publishers with whom she works include Dark Continents Publishing and eKhaya (an imprint of Random House Struik). She has been involved in the media industry for more than a decade, with a background in magazine and newspaper publishing, commercial fiction, and print production management within a below-the-line marketing environment. Her book reviews, as well as travel, entertainment and lifestyle editorial regularly appear in national newspapers. A few of her interests include music travel, history (with emphasis on Egypt), psychology, philosophy, magic and the natural world.
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