After some trial and error, successful Oddities are created with skills far superior to any the world has ever known. But before long it is apparent that individuals with such power have the potential to be more dangerous than the enemies they were created to protect against. After the Empress’s mysterious death, a cull is called. Oddities are taken into the custody of the Temple, where they are never seen or heard from again.
Except for one.
Due to her scandalous heritage, Katasuma is the only Oddity whose birth was never recorded. With the aid of her caring father, Low the Wise (who also happens to be the Emperor’s most trusted advisor) Katasuma spends her entire life in hiding behind the closed door of Low’s private chambers. Aside from her father, no one knows Katasuma even exists.
Sixteen years go by.
Another pompous and arrogant young man sits before a card-reading witch, desperately seeking salvation from his imminent death. The witch is old and grisly, but not forgetful; something in the young man sparks a memory. When he begins asking about a set of experiments he has devised to woo the Emperor into delaying his sentence, she knows this is her chance to correct the mistakes of the past. The question is, will the young man choose common mortal greed or the enlightenment offered by the Tarot?
I loved this well-written book and it's surprising ending.
Kat Hawthorne has had a number of poems published in various poetry compilations, and her short fiction can be found in Underneath the Juniper tree Magazine, Fiction and Verse Magazine, Dark Edifice Magazine, Shadows Express Magazine, Kills ‘n’ Chaos Magazine and Infernal Ink Magazine. She penned the plot and basic narrative for the recently released interactive game Fearless Fantasy.
KM: This is your first novel. What inspired it?
KH: I wish I could claim some grander inspiration than the truth. You know, like I saw the perfect silhouette of a girl take shape in the foam of a half-drunk beer, and then was instantly hit with a brilliant idea. But alas, no. It was nothing like that.
The idea for The Oddity came during a brainstorming session with an employer who wanted to write a story, but needed some help. He already had an idea; he wanted to write a story featuring a questionable king and the long-suffering princess that was to become his queen. Toxic chemicals, monsters, bounty hunters—it was just a matter of time, really, before the idea of a mad scientist was suggested. This is how my brain works; vague ideas transform into an unstoppable flow of subjects, plots, subplots, motivations, outcomes—they begin and I simply can’t stop them until I have something resembling a story idea. I spouted my thoughts ceaselessly for an hour or more, then finally, when it was over, I prepared to receive the praise I knew must be coming my way. And then …
My ideas were not at all what my employer wanted. He was fixed on a light “damsel in distress” scenario, in which the lowly princess would hire two brave bounty hunters and, together, they would fight their way to the king’s castle and pursue their lofty salvation. I set my notes aside and we worked on his idea instead.
However, one cannot think of a plot involving monsters, tyrannical kings, and a mad scientist without developing it. Hence, The Oddity was born.
KM: Is there a message in The Oddity that you would like your readers to grasp?
KH: The Oddity was strongly influenced by the concepts of the Tarot, most specifically, The Wheel of Fortune. The story deals with the cyclical nature of time and our tendency to repeat past behaviours, both the positive and the negative (despite often knowing the probable outcome). The Wheel of Fortune suggests that fate is ever revolving; we may find ourselves at the bottom of the wheel for a while, where everything seems to go wrong. But the wheel is always turning and soon we will be at the top. One should not get too comfortable in either position.
The idea of personal insight plays a significant role in the book in that, by looking into the future and knowing what is likely to happen based on past examples, we should have the ability to change our fate for the better. The Tarot may be a mystical thing not believed in by all, but the ideas behind the cards are actually (surprisingly) very rational. Sometimes, we are blind to the need for change or don’t know how to manage it. In the book, the Tarot acts as a springboard for my characters to make those decisions, but the greater idea is the development of self-awareness.
KM: What part of researching the book was the most interesting for you? Were there any symbols or themes that you would have liked to have included but didn’t make it into the book?
KH: I thoroughly enjoyed learning the meanings of the Tarot cards. Indeed, I had no idea about any of them before beginning this project, not being a particularly strong believer in things mystical myself. But still, even to a skeptic like me, the concepts were very insightful and, I feel, universal and easily translatable to everyday life. The cards are meant to bring awareness to confusing or otherwise upsetting situations, or to provide a catalyst for thinking and decision-making. I can honestly say that research for this book has influenced my own way of thinking in many regards.
I wanted to write a book about a young girl with a very rotten lot in life who manages to take hold of her destiny and change things. I wanted a character who had spent her life being told she would never be capable of making her own decisions, to then toss that foolishness aside and prove otherwise. I wanted to show the folly in pre-established ideas (even well-meaning ones) that become so ingrained they are never questioned or challenged.
Eh, and I wanted to write something involving a mad scientist.
KM: What author’s work do you like to read? What books have had a significant influence on you or your writing?
KH: I really can’t say that I have one particular author that I call “my favourite” as there are so many talented writers, it is impossible to do so. Sitting on my desk, however, I have a few select tomes (all as thick as my head) that never fail to inspire. They are: The Complete Tales & Poems of Edgar Allan Poe; The Complete Poems & Plays of T. S. Eliot; Fairy Tales From The Brothers Grimm; and a few choice dictionaries.
I often re-read Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and am quite fond of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. As far as contemporary writers go, I adore Joe Abercombie’s dark wit and unusual (though very human) way of describing things. I would say all these authors and more have had an influence on me and my work, and I am ever seeking more.
KM: How did you begin writing?
KH: I have always been a writer. If I recall, my first completed manuscript was a sweeping historical romance starring a princess and a knight (named April and Jammes—yep, that’s two m’s). I was about ten years old when I wrote that (longhand, of course). I took creative writing in high school and then pursued it more seriously in college and university. I did not attempt publication until recently, however. It took some time to work up the nerve to try that.
KM: Do you have a preferred genre to read? To write?
KH: I am a dark fantasy writer by and large, and I love to read the same. I dislike graphic violence or gore, and you will never find such things in any of my work except by suggestion. I like to tackle hard subjects sometimes, but I (hopefully) present them in approachable ways. I will read anything that is well written, but am very fussy on what exactly the phrase “well written” means.
KM: Which do you feel is more important: characters or plot? Which has had the most influence on The Oddity?
KH: Oh, characters, for sure. Many of my earliest publications actually started out as character sketches. One, (The Pain Merchant, my first ever publication) began as a character sketch for someone else’s story that simply took on a life of its own. The Oddity has been classified as “literary fiction,” and from what I understand, strong, in-depth character development is one of the genre characteristics. I often begin a story with a character already worked out. I simply throw a situation at them and watch them get out (or not). All my work is character-driven.
KM: Give us three “Good to Know” facts about you.
KH: 1. I am obsessive about the cleanliness of my writing area. Seriously, if you come in and mess it up, I will break your arm :D
2. I am back in school. I have been working away at completing Ryerson University’s copyediting course, and plan to continue on with substantive and stylistic editing courses in the fall. I suppose that qualifies me as a mega-nerd.
3. I tend to be more concerned with the way the words sound than what they mean. It’s a flaw. I am afflicted with something of a musical habit, and I feel that is why I am so conscious of the way two words sound sitting next to one another.
KM: Any last thoughts for our readers?
KH: I sincerely hope these are not my last thoughts, but in case they are, I will try to make them grand (or at least somewhat decent). Writing, like any form of art, is subjective. I genuinely hope you enjoy reading The Oddity—I have gone to great pains to ensure you do. Readers are the most important things to a writer—in fact, without readers, there would be no writers. This is my open-faced, pre-emptive thanks.
You can contract Kat Hawthorne via her website.