Today we are very excited to share an interview with Author Victory Witherkeigh (The Girl)!
Meet the Author: Victory Witherkeigh
Victory Witherkeigh is a female Filipino author from Los Angeles, CA, currently living in the Las Vegas area. She has short story print publications in horror anthologies such as Supernatural Drabbles of Dread through Macabre Ladies Publishing, Bodies Full of Burning through Sliced Up Press, In Filth It Shall Be Found through OutCast Press, and Nightmare Fuel’s 2022 Edition: Objects of Horror, etc. Her debut novel, The Girl, was published in December 2022 with Cinnabar Moth Publishing. The Girl has been a finalist for Killer Nashville’s 2020 Claymore Award and was long-listed in the 2022 CIBA OZMA Fantasy Book Awards.
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About the Book: The Girl
Girl. Athlete. Scholar. Scorned by her parents. Comforted by her demon.
The parents knew it had been a mistake to have a girl. At birth, the girl’s long, elegant fingers wriggled and grasped forward, motioning to strangle the very air from her mother’s lungs. As she grew older, she grew more like her father, whose ancestors would dream of those soon to die. She walked and talked in her sleep, and her parents warded themselves, telling the girl that she was evil, unlovable, their burden to bear only until her eighteenth birthday released them.
The average person on the streets of Los Angeles would look at the girl and see a young woman with dark chocolate eyes, curly long hair, and tanned skin of her Filipina heritage. Her teachers praised her for her scholarly achievements and extracurricular activities, from academic decathlon to cheer.
The girl knew she was different, especially as she grew to accept that the other children’s parents didn’t despise them. Her parents whispered about their pact as odd and disturbing occurrences continued to happen around her. The girl thought being an evil demon should require the skies to bleed, the ground to tremble, an animal sacrifice to seal the bargain, or at least cause some general mayhem. Did other demons work so hard to find friends, do well on their homework, and protect their spoiled younger brother?
The demon was patient. It could afford to wait, to remind the girl when she was hurt that power was hers to take. She needed only embrace it. It could wait. The girl’s parents were doing much of its work already.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
The idea came first but just barely. I only had the idea in my mind for about a day or two when the book’s title hit me. This was in my early twenties, during one of those sleepless, insomnia, panic attack evenings after coming down from a tough day at work. And they both just sat in a variety of notebooks for quite some time on and off after that.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
She smoothed the wrinkles down on her black Hermès slacks and shirt before turning the crystal hotel doorknob.
“You bring nothing good into this world,” her mother said, baring her teeth. “You just corrupt and destroy everything. You’re a catalyst, a demonic catalyst. You’re only fit to annihilate. One day you’ll understand the destructive nature of your power. You’ll see the damage you’ll bring to those around you when it’s too late. All those people who tell us you’re amazing, they’ll figure it out. You’ve fooled them for now, but they’ll learn.”
The mother slammed the door as she walked out with that last statement. The tears flowed from the girl’s face as she looked at the door. Her breathing sped up as her stomach roiled, sending her sprinting to the toilet. Her hands were shaking, clammy, as she collapsed to the floor, chills running through her body as she looked up at the ceiling. The orange and bergamot scents of the soaps mixed with the stark, white porcelain tile floor were the only anchors she could focus on to stop herself from throwing up again. Deep in her gut, at the core of her being, there was only one thought she could grasp: she’s right.
“I don’t want to be evil,” she said, whimpering to herself. “I don’t want to be alone.”
“But you aren’t alone, pretty girl,” a voice said with a throaty laugh.
This scene in The Girl still gives me great pride, not just because of where it is in the novel, but how it came about in constructing it. The excerpt presented here is part of a longer chapter, but it was, in fact, the first whole chapter I ever wrote on day one of NaNoWriMo 2019. I had this image in my head – of a young Pacific Islander girl crying alone in a hotel bathroom after a fight with her family. Readers would see her caught up in her emotions of loneliness, fear, and vulnerability. And what if someone or something answered her back when she cried out to the universe? Any of the traveling chapters were my favorite parts about writing The Girl. All the locations mentioned in The Girl are places I have visited. It was so much fun to revisit those historic sites and the city’s magic at my disposal.
YABC: Playlist sample (5 Songs) for your current WIP?
I use music to help get my mindset needed to explore the macabre or inner turmoil of dark fantasy and horror. I’ll use certain songs that stir emotions if I need to be in a particular feeling for a scene or try to brainstorm. These are some of the current pieces I’m using for my W.I.P. (Work in Progress)
“Conceited” from Remy Ma’s 2005 album There’s Something About Remy: Based on a True Story.
“Till I Collapse” by Eminem from The Eminem Show
“Wake me Up When September Ends” from Green Day’s 2004 American Idiot
“High Road” by Fort Minor featuring John Legend in their 2005 album The Rising Tide.
“I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by The Darkness from their 2003 album Permission to Land.
YABC: What’s a book you’ve recently read and loved?
I love the writers and creators of Storm King Comics, especially their Tales for a Halloween Night graphic novel series that comes out every year. They recently released Volume 8, and I got my Volumes 1-5 signed at San Diego Comic-Con this past July 2022. Sally King helms the company. She also is John Carpenter’s (the creator of the Halloween franchise) wife and a fantastic editor in her own right.
YABC: Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
“— there are certain… misconceptions about me, pretty girl. I, and those I command, end life. That is our purpose, always has been. Our valley is its own land as we are our own kingdom. Death is the one act all living things will succumb to, whether good, evil, or in-between. We don’t have a stake in moral debates or questions, as your kind has called it, since we are a constant, an equalizer. We come for everything and everyone. But humanity has definitely found some of the most creative ways to end life over the centuries, and every so often in history, we’ve granted a request to aid them in doing so.”
Only then did he look over at the girl, his tongue darting out to lick the sugar off his lips. She had barely breathed as he had been speaking, her tongue building more saliva as she became wholly entranced with his words, almost as though she saw the visions of his brethren carrying out their jobs over the centuries. She found herself a little startled that the sound of her own heartbeat was thudding loudly in her ears as he seemed to hesitate to tell her the next part.
“Your ancestors are one such example,” he said, head tilting slightly and as she gasped, he continued. “You, my dear, are the descendent of not one but two who sacrificed to one of mine, my finest general, in fact. You learned the story of Lapulapu?”
While my earlier excerpt was definitely tricky due to the exploration of feelings of vulnerability or emotional struggles, especially in coming-of-age stories, where it is heart-wrenching to write, imagine, or empathize with. I had more difficulty with the scenes involving the pre-colonial mythology of the Philippines and the Pacific Islands simply because of the time, care, and re-review of research I needed to feel comfortable sharing those parts of my background. After the “bombshells” of the publishing industry for BIPOC authors came out in the past few years, the anxiety of getting into this business only increased. It’s definitely a process that is not for the faint of heart.
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
Borrowing from the last question, LapuLapu, the Filipino warrior chief, is most renowned for killing the Spanish Conquistador and explorer Magellan. There is such reverence for him, and because colonization has destroyed so much of our history, there were very few books or texts that I could turn to. National Geographic and older library research would provide some jumping-off points. Still, I need more to feel confident that the stories my grandparents, aunties, or uncles taught in my halau’s were rooted in something tangible. I needed to step into the same ancestral lands, hear the stories, and see and smell the air and flowers. In developing his character, even if they may not be the focus or play a supporting role, I enjoyed looking more at certain traits, behavior, and thought patterns.
YABC: What is the main message or lesson you would like your reader to remember from this book?
I hope The Girl helps add a layer to my question as a young girl — what does being “likable” have to do with being a hero? Can you do good if you come from or are told you come from something terrible? Be Good? I want those who read this story to have another voice added to the chorus of us who have been “othered” or considered “unlikeable” and how choosing to own your own “labels” matters the most.
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
Oddly enough, I started my career as a Public Health major and worker. When I graduated from UC Berkeley, I thought my dream job would be to one day work for the World Health Organization, particularly for Women’s Health and Reproductive Rights and LGBTQIA advocacy.
Title: The Girl
Author: Victory Witherkeigh
Release Date: December 6, 2022
Publisher: Cinnabar Moth Publishing
Genre: YA Dark Fantasy/Horror
Age Range: 12+