Risingshadow has the honour of publishing a guest post by Naomi Clark.

Naomi Clark lives in Cambridge and is a mild-mannered office worker by day, but a slightly crazed writer by night. She has a perfectly healthy obsession with giant sea creatures and a preference for vodka-based cocktails. When she's not writing, Naomi is probably either reading or watching '80s cartoon shows - sometimes she manages to do all three at once.

Naomi Clark's urban fantasy novel, Undertow (Ethan Banning, Book #1), was recently published by Ragnarok Publications.

Click here to visit the author's official website.


One of the key questions Ethan Banning asks himself, and is asked by others, in Undertow is: is this really happening? Does he really have a demon living inside him, or is it madness? I think that’s a crucial question in a book where one of the main antagonists isn’t a tangible, physical presence in the story, but quite literally a voice in Ethan’s head. After all, there’s a long history between demonic possession and mental illness in our world. Just because I’ve created a fictional world where supernatural creatures are real, doesn’t mean Ethan’s has to be real, right?

Demonic possession isn’t recognised as a psychiatric or medical disorder, but there are plenty of psychiatric conditions that were once blamed on demons. 20% of dissociative identity disorder sufferers identify one of their alters as demons, for example. The Catholic Church takes demonic possession seriously enough that they still train exorcists today. One of our most famous horror films, The Exorcist, was inspired by the real-life alleged possession of a boy known as Robbie Mannheim. Whilst all those involved in the exorcism swear it was a genuine case of demonic possession, the boy himself remembers nothing of it, and since then other explanations such as schizophrenia, Tourette’s, OCD, and even group hysteria have been suggested to explain his story.

It’s easy for us to look back on occurrences that confused and terrified people in past centuries and say, “well, clearly that case of vampirism was really just porphyria,” or “that alleged werewolf must have had hypertrichosis.” Similarly, when people hear voices or act violently, we now have a plethora of rational explanations and solutions at hand.

One of the challenges of writing a character like Ethan is trying to keep the balance between the supernatural and the mundane. He’s experienced plenty of the supernatural, but in a rational world people look for rational answers. It makes sense to me that he and the people around him will look for any other answer before deciding, “Yes, it’s demons.”

And the truth? Well, I like readers to ask questions. Did that character do the right thing? Are they reliable? Can I trust their perceptions? I don’t think you should ever take anything for granted in Ethan’s world. Especially when it comes to demons.

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