Native Americans and their legends feature prominently in ELEANOR, and the THE UNSEEN saga as a whole. The original kernel of the paranormal aspect of the story originated in the Navajo legend of the Skinwalker. In that story, an evil magician can take the form of another person to do mischief and murder. That got me me thinking.
Just about every culture has myths about shape-shifters. I imagined a thousand different narrators having seen the same thing but describing it in a thousand different ways, their prejudices and fears coloring their opinions. From this, I imagined not a monster, not a demon, not a magician or spirit, but an animal, an evolved parallel species to mankind, related and real.
Within ELEANOR (THE UNSEEN), I made direct reference to the legends of the skinwalkers and also a Shoshone tale about the Nimirika, a cannibal ogre clan that shares many characteristics with its Navajo cousin. These references in the story are not offered as explanations of what is happening but as historical reference and precedence. The characters, having no direct experience with what’s happen, naturally turn to relevant legends and folk tales as a way to get a handle on it. There they find some truth in the stories, but also some glaring errors.
Things are not as they appear.
It is true of the little town of Jamesford where the story takes place, true of Eleanor, the unassuming girl everyone ignores, and true of the prejudices and misconceptions of the past.
As ELEANOR the ultimate outsider seeks to find some happiness for herself, some community as she’s losing her only family, she is old and young, malleable but fixed. She is lost and alone. Her past is clouded in superstition, her future dark with fear. She is the same as us and utterly different.
It was a gamble for Eleanor to rejoin humanity, but she was driven to it. She’d been too successful forgetting. The last vestiges of her family hung by a thread in her transformed brain and drove her to be reckless. Ten years later, Eleanor hides in plain sight. She is an average girl getting average grades in a small Wyoming town: poor but happy, lonely but loved. Her mother, Tabitha, is there for her and that’s all she’s ever needed. But now her mother is sick and David has returned. The only friend she’d ever had, the only other person who knows her secret, is back. And Eleanor again becomes reckless. 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.
About the Author:
JOHNNY WORTHEN graduated with a B.A. in English and Master’s in American Studies from the University of Utah. After a series of businesses and adventures, including running his own bakery, Worthen found himself drawn to the only thing he ever wanted to do—write. And write he does. When he’s not pounding on his keyboard or attending writers conferences, Worthen spends his time with his wife and two boys in Sandy, Utah.
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