A few weeks ago, I took a break from proof-reading my first pass pages for The Inquisitor’s Mark by reading an e-copy of a book I won in a contest. I ended up devouring the story in one day and then writing a long, rambly email to the author gushing about it. (I really need to stop writing emails after midnight.)
The book was Soul Cutter by Lexa Cain, and I asked Lexa for an interview. Before we get to the questions and answers, here is a blurb for the book:
The Soul Cutter is hunting again.
Seventeen-year-old Élan spends her free time videoing psychic scams and outing them online. Skepticism makes life safe–all the ghosts Élan encounters are fakes. When her estranged mother disappears from a film shoot in Egypt, Élan puts her medium-busting activities on hold and joins the search.
In Egypt, the superstitious film crew sucks at finding her mom. When a hotel guest is killed, whispers start–the locals think their legendary Soul Cutter has come back from the dead. Élan’s only ally is Ramsey, a film-crew intern, but he’s arrogant, stubborn–and hiding dangerous secrets.
When Élan discovers the Soul Cutter is no scam, she finds herself locked in a deadly battle against a supernatural killer with more than her mother’s life at stake.
Élan’s fighting for her very soul.
1. Lexa, first of all, thank you for agreeing to let me pick your brain! One of the best things about Soul Cutter is this: I was expecting a story involving the same-old Egyptian gods I’ve heard about before, and instead I found something that combined folklore and urban legend from a distant country. Is the soul cutter based on real Egyptian folklore?
I’m sorry to say there’s no Bedouin soul cutter. It’s my own creation. However, the demon spirits—the darsani—are based on actual Arabic legends of efreet (sort of the evil cousins of djinn).
2. A brief scene of comic relief that made me laugh in this heart-stopping thriller was Élan’s encounter with Egyptian products sporting bad English translations. I assume this was based on real experience?
Oh yes! For a writer who’s particularly sensitive to spelling/grammar mistakes, living here can make your blood pressure rise. You’re constantly seeing misspelled signs and menus, like “welcome” can be welcom, wilcom, or welcm. And you’ll find things like: Aly’s Stor, Sant Marea Restrant, minral watr, potatas, piza, Hair Salan, blo dry, and many more.
3. The primary setting of Soul Cutter is an abandoned palace that should have been featured on an episode of Supernatural. (Seriously, I was expecting Sam and Dean Winchester to appear at any moment.) Is this based on a real location?
Yes! It’s based on a lovely palace in Alexandria called Montaza Palace, built in 1932 by King Fouad (1868-1936). In my story, it’s his son, King Farouk, who builds a palace and artificial lake in the desert as a private getaway. That part is fictional, but I included some details of the real life of King Farouk (1920-1965) who was deposed and left Egypt in 1952. (pics of palace and king are on my blog)
4. How about your main character, Élan? Who or what was your inspiration for her?
The idea for my book was based on a question I asked myself. Could I create a heroine who was a murderer and have people love her despite what she’d done? I wanted to examine the ethics of taking a life and how it changes a person. Now, it seems unlikeable characters are popping up left and right, but I was pleased that Élan ended up being edgy while still being likeable.
5. Tell us a little about yourself.
My home is in Egypt near the Red Sea. Living outside the US has its drawbacks, but because I’m here, I own an apartment, retired early, and can devote myself to writing. Yay!
6. What are you working on now?
I’m very excited about my new project! It’s a thriller about medical ethics, immigrants, and terrorism. It’s NA/YA and told from the POV of two Egyptian-American sisters, a “good” girl and a “bad” girl. It’s got lots of characters, high stakes, and suspense. Definitely my most ambitious project to date.
Many thanks to Lexa for this interview. If you don’t already follow Lexa Cain, you can find her at her blog. And if you’re looking for a fine YA horror story set in an exotic location, you can’t go wrong with Soul Cutter. Find it here!