I just want to thank you, reader, for making it this far. This book would not have been possible without your support and interest! As one of my favorite authors, the thriller writer Matthew Reilly said, never underestimate the power of your encouragement! I'd like to warn you of heavy spoilers ahead, if you've just skipped ahead.
[HEAVY SPOILER WARNING BEYOND THIS POINT!]
That said, I'm going to pull back the curtain a bit and describe some of my inspirations. If any aspect of this interested you, I'll be happy to detail my sources. Before I go into the monsters, mysterious locales, or gear geekery, I'd start with the core of the novel: the cast.
-Sebastian "Ian" Ward: Ian began his existence in the abandoned first draft of "Juvenalia, Too," (J2) written a couple years back. This earlier version of Ian lacked a narrative voice and backstory of the current version. The lack of an arc or development made the character a chore to write (a big warning sign!). Some elements both share, though: A skilled fighter and leader from an affluent, but dysfunctional family. A "modern" Teddy Roosevelt, a "realistic" D&D/Pathfinder ranger, or grounded "Indiana Jones" -like character were influences. Someone respectful and interested in protecting ancient ruins and endangered species, is inspired by the real-life security contractors that do it today. His weapon of choice, his Winchester 1895, is directly based on one Roosevelt used on safari.
Ian's a worldly figure who's faced hardship, unlike others he grew up with. I tried to get him confused and vulnerable, devoid of his normal connections. Having him drawn in from an adjacent reality helped accomplish that, from a narrative point of view. As someone who's traveled and lived in a few countries, the frequent disorientation and jetlag, plus emotional and physical distance, are things I can relate to. Fortunately, he has his newfound comrades to help him out. The fact he's a Miskatonic University graduate was a pretty blatant sign he's in a Lovecraft universe (or at least, some variant of it).
-Cyrus Black: In an earlier draft, Cyrus Black was originally another character from a shared "contemporary fantasy" multiverse. However, this character did not fit well with what I'd planned for J2, so I revised the concept from scratch. Having him as more introverted, but intelligent and strong, served as a good foil to his comrade Ian. As a black man and whistleblower, he has no other option left than the Task Force.
On a lighter note, much of his gear and gadgets are based on real life ones. His micro-radar, which can detect motions and heartbeats through thick was, is based on research done back in 2012. An MIT researcher managed to convert a wi-fi device into a radar device able to peer through walls. His stealth suit, which dissipates body heat by circulating water, was an old military experiment. His helmet is designed to break-down facial recognition algorithms, although he has an augmented reality device embedded within. Similarly, his shotgun of choice, the Liberator 12K, was a (real life) combination of 3D printed parts and common hardware. Since being the group's gadgeteer means he has a variety of exotic ammunition, a shotgun is the most suitable firearm.
-Devi Patel: Devi did not exist in the earlier draft of J2, and it was poorer for it. Devi ended up being one of my favorite characters to write. Now, reader, you might have met someone, who, despite seeming to always slack off, or worse, arrive to class or lecture drunk or under certain substances, nevertheless passes with top grades. One such person was (very loosely) the inspiration for Devi. Of course, making a habit of this helped cause the death of a patient, so she had to look for other venues. She's creeped out by things she does not understand, as I envisioned her as someone more comfortable with science and technology than magic. From that came her initial crush on Cyrus and interactions with Carmen.
Devi's memory palace technique is based on a real-life mental exercise of the same name, used to facilitate remembering details. The presence of various occult tomes in there reflects a fascination with the supernatural, despite her conscious desires. Her later experimentation with mixing magic and medicine with the zombie re-animation reagent reflected some changes on her part. That was a massive shout-out to a Lovecraft story, Re-Animator, which was turned into a cult classic movie starring Jeffery Combs. Her weapon of choice, a dart rifle, seemed like a much better way to reanimate zombies: from a nice distance.
-Carmen Zamacona: Carmen existed in a vastly different form in that earlier J2 draft, split into two bland characters. Having her as the daughter of Yog-Sothoth and occult specialist made her more than a little strange (and fun to write). She's a consummate prankster at times, flirty and explorative at others (in more ways than she initially seems). Her last name is a homage to an unlucky conquistador in HP Lovecraft's short story The Mound. She is also a formally trained occultist, shares a father figure with Wilbur Whateley, and bookstore owner. She's also haughtier (at first) and comfortable with antiquity, as shown by her weapons of choice.
Carmen uses an enchanted Colt Dragoon, the most powerful pistol from the era of black-powder muzzle loading percussion revolvers. Only magnum revolvers would later exceed it. It's antique nature means it can't take modern gunpowder, but it can take black powder and various enchanted or alchemical powders to be used against supernatural threats. Her Britarms revolver is a modern muzzleloading revolver from the UK, intended for target shooting. I imagine such a weapon would be more precise than the Dragoon, but also something of a concession to the present, as she finds herself grounded and more attached to the group. Her auto-reloading crossbow, the Steambow, is based on a real life one. It's a positively retro-futuristic, quirky device, just the sort of thing Carmen would enjoy.
The Supporting Cast
The main characters were supported by Hodgson Strategic Consulting, a fictional company run by Director Dexter Danforth. He, and that company, huge part in the original Juvenalia. His company is a reference to the British horror writer William Hope Hodgson (further detailed in Chapter Inspirations).
-Dexter Danforth: Dexter Danforth was a main character in the original Juvenalia. After the events of that novel, he retired to a desk job, hoping to find allies to continue his fight against the Attic and its remnants. He is well aware of continued threats, so he keeps his Taurus Raging Judge revolver nearby. He used to fight monsters in high school with his friends, two of the other main characters from the original Juvenalia, Jack Yeager and Benny Bear. After a monster killed their group's leader, they went their separate ways, until it returns at the beginning of the original Juvenalia. His old friends still back him up, but he is still the protagonists' primary support. Unfortunately, he's less protected against magical surveillance, which was how the Lost Boys were able to force him on the defensive.
What good are villains if they're not fleshed out and credible? Sadly, the human antagonists are inspired by historical and real-life examples.
-The Lost Boys: The Lost Boys are based on too many real-life examples of racists and white supremacists, but they have a few specific ones. In particular, they are based on the creepy philosophy of ecofascism, plus elements of historic groups. Their ranks are a combination of the Klu Klux Klan and the Nazi Waffen-SS, as are their uniforms. The fact American and European security services have members sympathetic to such groups (even to the point of arming, assisting, and protecting them) is sadly real as well. The lower-tier members are poorly trained fanatics armed with homemade scrap metal firearms and largely decorative swords, while the members with tactical training are more conventionally armed.
Their name is a reference to Peter Pan, since many of the members are amoral man-children seeking attention and infamy. One of the first spree killings and terrorist attacks in European history was the arsonist known as Herostratus, who burnt down the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. When asked why he committed such an atrocity, he stated it was so he'd be immortalized by his act of murder and destruction. To this day, the phrase "Herostratic fame" refers to macabre public actions (such as spree killings and suicides) done for attention. The people of Ephesus found a possible solution to such fools: denying them the infamy they sought. Obviously, a world of social media and instant global communication allows them to become very infamous, very quickly. This, in turn, inspires copycats.
-Arnold Reich/Monty Ward: Arnold started off in a separate story, but migrated over to J2's reboot. He fit much better with what I had for it, although the twist about him being Ian's "brother" was not in the original draft. I figured he'd be a perfect counterpart to Ian, a sort of darker version of what he might've been like, had he followed what his relatives wanted from him. Arnold is much more ruthless than Ian, which he justifies to himself as trying to save the world. Like Ian, he has respect for history and the environment. However, he takes that in warped, nightmarish directions.
Arnold's use of a longbow with gimmick arrows was a callback to an archetypical fantasy "ranger," as well as a similar weapon used by the character Benny Bear in the first Juvenalia. His use of a longbow for indirect fire, the ability to arch over buildings, is one I felt was underutilized in fictional archers, like Green Arrow. After all, archery is named for the arch of the arrows. In added irony, Hong Kong protestors ended up using arrows in a similar manner to I envisioned. Lastly, Arnold's "birth name" as Monty was a quick reference to him and his uncle: "Rich and Monty," a shout-out to the awesome show Rick and Morty.
-Erik Carter: Erik was a delightfully horrid character to write, though he did not get much "screen time." I originally imagined him as a combination of Harry Potter's villain Voldemort and Eric Cartman from South Park, only a distant relative of HP Lovecraft's Randolph Carter. He's a former student of Hypatia's Hollow, able to call upon the powers of Yog-Sothoth, and able to restore himself to life. That last ability, of course, is fueled by blood magic that requires he murder people. To a ruthless racist like Erik, a white supremacist Neo-Nazi terrorist group are his natural allies.
While less of a direct threat or public face than Arnold, he makes many of their actions possible. The ability to move people and materials around through portals would be a game-changer for even a small terrorist group. That occult lore is what gives the group the ability to virtually shut down their opponents' intelligence and support, as well as to launch attacks anywhere, anytime, with near total impunity. Thankfully, such abilities are fictional.
-Richard "Richie" Ward: Richard Ward was a fun antagonist to write. His smarmy grin, his smug mannerisms, and "Jersey accent" mask what depths he's capable of descending. He was a skilled covert operative, able to survive the fall of the original Attic from the first Juvenalia. Like a psychopath, he is able to be superficially charming and lie his victims into a sense of false comfort. Ian is unlucky enough to be the target of some of his manipulations, but fortunately what he finds in Richie's basement is enough to rouse his suspicions.
Richie is skilled at both traditional tradecraft and occult lore, enough to get him to Hypatia's Hollow. The founder of both modern intelligence and occult traditions, at least in the Anglophone world, was John Dee. As such, it made sense in-universe that he'd be the founder of an occult school (as well as colonization) of the New World. Uncle Richie was well aware of this, and he hid out in Hypatia's Hollow while his two foes battled across the world. Real life intelligence agencies require a lot of paperwork and logistics, as Charles Stross' excellent Laundry series details. Richie is essentially a dark product of that world, eager to burn bridges when they outlive their usefulness.
A few notes on each chapter, the locations, the creatures, and the franchises that inspired them.
-Chapter 1: The location of Uncle Richie's house on the Chesapeake was relatively close to the Jamestown Settlement (which John Dee supported), as well as the Washington Beltway (where American intelligence agencies are headquartered). More darkly, the area, called Delmarva (a reference to the nearby US states of Delaware-Maryland-Virginia) is the setting of the Stephen Universe cartoon series. The monsters of the chapter were based on the heroines of the series, the Crystal Gems, only with a far more tragic backstory.
-Chapter 2: The remote island of Tharstad is fictional, as was the Ashen Order. The monster of the chapter was a combination of the Peppa Pig series, with touches of the 'swine things' from the writings of William Hope Hodgson. Hodgson was a direct influence on Lovecraft, and he wrote nautical horror (such as Boats of Glen Carrig), occult detective stories (Carnaki the ghost finder), and forerunners to post-apocalyptic/Dying Earth fiction (The Night Lands) and cosmic horror (House on the Borderland).
-Chapter 3: The setting of this story, as well as the backstory of Lothaire, are inspired by Clark Ashton Smith's Averoigne stories. Smith was a pen-pal of Lovecraft, and perhaps the most under-rated of the classic Weird Tales writers. His Averoigne are traditional fantasy stories (which directly inspired early Dungeons and Dragons), set in a fictional province of medieval France. The Snirps, of course, are based on Smurfs, which were originally created by a Franco-Belgian cartoonist. The antagonist of that series was combined with a Smithian necromancer, leading to the character of Lothaire. The name Lothaire was selected because it was similar to a Smithian necromancer, Nathaire, antagonist of the amazing Colossus of Ylourgne. Read that story and you will know why.
-Chapter 4: A version of this chapter existed in the first draft of J2, but far more disjointed. The creatures in this chapter were a combination of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Mickey Mouse. The favellas of Brazil are a fascinating setting, and they seem like a good place to lose someone. As such, they served as the perfect location for a mad scientist's deranged experiments. Having the creatures being able to rewind time, as opposed to being just giant mindless mutant creatures, made more sense to me as to how they survived multiple encounters against heavily-armed gangsters and police surveillance. Their intelligence and tech-savvy, even acquired through trial and error, made them far more lethal opposition. If you study neuroscience, you may have caught Devi's reference to the Brazilian scientist Miguel Nicolelis, who designed a brain-controlled exoskeleton used to open the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
-Chapter 5: In the original draft of J2, the hunting lodge visit was the initial chapter. I believed it fit better about midway through, to have an escalation of the threats to the main characters. Pieter Pretorius existed in the earlier draft, where he would have been the main antagonist. The monsters in both drafts was My Little Unicorn, a nightmarish take on a certain cartoon pony franchise. I wanted to avoid ripping off Charles Stross' take on unicorns, as detailed in his novella Equoid. Needless to say, the military equipment here was based on real-life gear used by the South Africans, who have an expansive range of domestically produced military hardware. The tank battle at the end of the chapter was originally unplanned, but I felt it would be a good place to show off both the protagonists and the Lost Boys' own escalating capabilities.
-Chapter 6: This chapter was my favorite to write, hands down. The real-life Unit 731 were horrid, deranged monsters during World War II, Imperial Japan's biological and chemical weapons research unit. Having them mutilate humans and turn animals into weapons made sense as a backstory for the Juvenalia universe's Pokemon analogs. The villain's given name, Satoshi, is a reference to Pokemon's creator, and the namesake of the anime protagonist's English name, Ash. The creatures the main characters fight are references to Magikarp, Bulbasaur, Charizard, Squirtle, Pikachu, and Mewtwo.
-Chapter 7: This was another enjoyable chapter to write, especially how gross the creature was. Ranger Jude is the Juvenalia universe's analog of Thomas the Tank Engine, also known as The Railway Series. I created that character over a decade ago, and I always enjoy springing it. The Australian setting gave me the chance to add in a few interesting aspects, such as the robot train (based on the real life one by Rio Tinto) and the road train (long tractor-trailers that cross the Outback). Having a three-way train battle, and a few minor Mad Max references, made this a blast to write. The Australian thriller author Matthew Reilly originally inspired me to read and write, so I wanted to pay homage with a suitably epic action scene in his home country. In this chapter, the Great Race of Yith and their city of Pnakotus are "borrowed" from Lovecraft's story Shadow Out of Time.
-Chapter 8: For the finale, I wanted to go beyond Earth. Hypatia's Hollow was a natural location for it, since it was the (very loose) Juvenalia analog of Harry Potter's Hogwarts. The orgy scene was an admittedly different "action" scene than the rest of the novel, but a novel on supernatural transformation and sexuality didn't feel right without it. I tried to make it a mind-screw as well as a physical one. The psychic landscape the main characters cross, though, is directly inspired by Lovecraft's Dreamlands stories, as are the creatures inhabiting it. I hope you enjoyed the final battle scene there.
I hope you enjoyed Juvenalia, Too, as much as I enjoyed writing it. There may be a third Juvenalia novel, which I am calling Juvenalia Tree at this point. Like the first two novels, it would focus on a largely stand-alone cast and plot. There would be cameos and callbacks, like J2 did with the original. That said, I thank you, dear reader, for making it this far!
On an unrelated note, I also publish a magazine of weird fiction from Southeast Asian writers, Ombak Magazine. Our second volume was just released for free online, at wwwDOTombakDOTorg
Hope to see you again!