I had hoped to send this out before the end of September, but there were a few deadlines that needed my attention, including my next Scholastic horror novel, which I hope I can start talking about in a few months time.
Anyway, to round out my rapid fire (for me) series on The Ghost of Drowned Meadow, I though I’d end on a more lighthearted note: manga and anime!
Most of the time when I begin a novel, the protagonist comes before anything else. Whether it’s Hope or Sonya, Jael or Boy, I find their voice, and everything comes from that. But with this book, I stumbled across the history of Camp Siegfried, and felt like I just had to write about it. One problem, who was the protagonist?
It felt a bit strange, coming at it from the opposite side. I needed a hook into the character. Something fun to at least somewhat balance out the absolute darkness of a real life Nazi summer camp in Long Island. Ultimately, the inspiration came from my son, who is such an ardent manga and anime fan that he’s actually turned me into one as well. Even though he’s 18, off in college and doing his own thing, we still chat every week about the latest episode of That Time I Got Reincarnated Into a Slime, or whatever the latest show is that we both fancy. At an age when it’s a real challenge for a parent and their adult offspring to find common ground, we still have this, and I am grateful for it.
And so I made my protagonist, Morgan, into a huge manga and anime fan. So huge, in fact, that she also reads the light novels. For those uninitiated, the way the Japanese entertainment industry works is generally to put out what is called a “light novel”, which is basically a short novel with occasional illustrations geared toward teens and young adults. If that does well, they adapt it to a manga, which is a Japanese style comic book. If that does well, they adapt it into an animated television show, aka anime. And if that does well…sky’s the limit, really. Movies, video games, even theatrical stage adaptations. It’s truly a well-oiled machine. And Morgan is so passionate about it all that she goes right to the light novel source to discover the newest, freshest stuff! That also meant I didn’t have to worry as much about illustrations. Because of course I had to invent one.
Well, okay maybe I didn’t have to. But I wasn’t sure how the rights would need to be handled with an existing manga/anime property for her to obsess over, so it made more sense from a practical stance to sidestep that issue and make my own. And also, it was an excuse to make my own.
It’s called My Secret Dream of a Boring Life, which if you know manga and anime, is exactly the sort of lengthy and awkward title you’re likely to encounter in the genre. It’s about a young but powerful oni sorceress called the Night Queen who has recently conquered the entire continent and isn’t sure what to do with herself now that she’s accomplished her life goal. She decides to learn more about her subjects, especially humans, whom she knows little about. She magically transforms her appearance into a human, and joins a band of adventurers, hiding her true power and identity, and through them learns how to be a “normal” person. Naturally, she also falls in love with a young human swordsman named Kosuke. It’s romantic and silly, with occasional eruptions of gigantic action sequences. I genuinely think if a studio wanted to produce it, it would be a huge success.
Anyway, so yes, not only did I plot out an entire 10 volume manga/anime storyline, but I wrote the first four chapters of the light novel that Morgan obsesses over. There are a few brief excerpts of it in the actual novel, and she often views the world through the lens of the Night Queen, just as a proper hardcore anime fan would. During revisions, my editor and I agreed it would be a welcome respite to end the book on a fun note after all the harrowing chapters of child ghost Nazis and such, so we actually include one of the light novel chapters as bonus content at the back. Naturally I wrote it in the style and tone of a real light novel as well, awkwardly translated prose and all! The only thing I regret is that we didn’t think of doing it until it was too late to hire an illustrator to give us a real manga style depiction of the Night Queen. Ah well. I did pick out an opening credits song for her, at least.
And on that glorious note, I end this series. From now on I’ll be back to my monthly schedule. So until next time, be well, and happy October!