Monday 18 November 2019

Join author Virginia King as she explores "When Folklore Wears a Modern Frock …" #amwriting #Folklore @selkiemoonbooks

When Folklore Wears a Modern Frock …

By Virginia King

The wisdom in folklore is ancient, but the motifs are so timeless that they can ‘slip into a modern frock’ and still resonate with readers today.

The Hero’s Journey

In all works of fiction, the hero’s journey speaks to the reader on a deep level – when the protagonist is challenged and changed by a ‘quest’ that can take many forms.
As an avid reader of folktales, I found that when I started writing my modern women’s fiction series, the hero’s journey seeped naturally into my storytelling.

After the Accident

When my husband had a terrible accident (he’s OK now!), the writing of my first novel was put on hold. To look after my stress levels (so I could look after him), I had a series of massages. As soon as the therapist put her hands on me, I knew something strange was happening. Afterwards, I woke in the middle of the night to a voice in my head, instructing me to write a series about a ‘mystical detective’. What?

A Mythical Name

I had no idea what this meant, but the voice was so insistent that I sat down at the keyboard and waited. Selkie Moon turned up – a modern thirty-something seminar presenter whose dead mother named her after Celtic folklore. The selkies are the seal people who come out of the sea under a full moon, peel off their skins and dance in human form. Selkie’s name gives her psychic gifts that her step-mother has tried to suppress.

The ‘Folklore Frock’

As soon as Selkie Moon appeared, my novel The First Lie took on mystical elements behind its modern facade.
Escaping a destructive marriage, Selkie runs away to Hawaii to start a new life. Her controlling husband and step-mother have always called her Elkie, but now Selkie reclaims her birth name, donning the ‘folklore frock’. The consequences are dramatic. Strange events start colliding with her plans – and soon she’s on a hero’s journey of self-discovery, uncovering secrets about the past tangled up in Celtic and Hawaiian folklore.

Oracles and Prophesies

In Chapter One, a voice in a dream warns that someone is trying to kill her. Then Selkie sees a woman’s face in her bathroom mirror.  I had no idea where the story was going – I just knew I had to strap myself in for the ride.
As a stranger in town, Selkie wonders who could want her dead, but in Hawaiian folklore the malihini (newcomer) is the one who heralds the truth. Is there an old lie buried in her past that is demanding to be revealed?

Mystical Mirrors

Hawaiian folklore is full of magic mirrors: faces appearing in grandma’s mirror, causing doors to slam and cups to rattle; the ritual of turning the mirror to the wall before going to bed …
After Selkie sees the face, her flatmate tells her the mirror belonged to her grandmother, Tutu:
“Tutu was a kahuna,” Wanda says. “That’s where I get my Hawaiian blood, from her. She saw things. In her mind. And in the mirror.”
“Things?” I ask
“You know. The future. Predictions. Visions.” She stops. “Now you’ve seen one.”
“I saw a face, that’s all. A face that . . . stared at me.” But the hairs on my neck are standing up.
“What do you want me to do,” Wanda asks, “call in an exorcist?”
“Hell, no. Just move the bloody thing.” Into a dumpster on the other side of the island.
“You can move it. Turn the mirror to the wall and it loses its power.”
“No way,” I say. “And I’m stuck outside in my bathrobe. How am I going to get to work?”
Seriously spooked, Selkie googles the sighting:
Someone describes levitating off her bed and almost being sucked into a mirror. She was just able to resist, and afterwards a team of ghost-busters rid her apartment of evil spirits hiding in the sculptures and statues.
This research got me wondering: Is the face in the mirror trying to lure Selkie … to the other side? Why?

Magic Objects

This snippet about sculptures inspired me to fill their shared flat with quirky ornaments. Selkie wonders if any of them could be responsible for the voice she heard:
My eyes scan the walls and dozens of eyes stare back. Wanda’s artworks, fashioned from dead fish. In garish colours with painted lips. They might ooze an excess of character but they don’t speak.

Any other possible culprits?
A naked shop dummy sits on a chair at the end of Wanda’s bed, her plastic legs akimbo. Doris. For the first few weeks I kept jumping out of my skin every time I caught sight of her. Wanda has dressed her in a Hula skirt and peppered her torso with nails, like a woman in a Dali painting. She drapes her with anything from net bags to headbands to leis. Today Doris is wearing a straw hat even though she doesn’t have a head. No head, no voice, right?

On the ledge above my bed my Shona sculpture is just a head and shoulders. I brought her with me when I took off from Sydney with two business suits and not much else. A chunk of black and silver rock from Zimbabwe, her profile is as enigmatic as ever. And as silent …

The Oracle in the Bus Shelter

Every hero needs an oracle to provide prophesies and guidance. Selkie meets the quirky bag lady who lives in a Waikiki bus shelter. Coral reads the future with her bare feet – sole to soul – and gives one-word prognostications in Hawaiian or pidgin:

Coral’s outstretched feet are pressing against my bare thighs. I close my eyes and try not to think about tinea.
“Pilikia,” she says.
Trouble. My middle name.
Later, after a crisis:
The next thing I know, I’m down in the bus shelter pouring it all out to Coral. Has she understood a word I’ve said?
When I stop, she grins, opens her mouth and speaks.
Just one word of wisdom.
I call for a delivery. As we share a family-size Hawaiian, I realise Coral really is a kahuna. It wasn’t just about filling her belly. I’d forgotten my golden rule in a crisis: food first.
Soon Selkie is running for her life, trying to make sense of a dizzying array of mystical events.
A Selkie Moon Series
After she discovers the truth behind The First Lie, Selkie’s journey of self-discovery takes her around the globe through three more novels (so far) – from Hawaii to France, Ireland and Hong Kong. She tangles with the local folklore – family secrets, missing people, an old murder, the demands of ghosts …

Laying Ghosts

The prequel to Selkie’s journey Laying Ghosts is a standalone story about the chilling events that caused her to run away to Hawaii. As this story unfolded, I was influenced by a Russian folktale, a 1700s murder ballad and the Irish concept of a ghost.
For readers interested in the folklore that inspired Laying Ghosts, I’ve written a companion collection of adult tales, Leaving Birds. 

*Giveaway is now closed.

The novels in the Selkie Moon series are numbered in order: The First Lie, The Second Path, The Third Note, The Fourth Door.

Selkie’s next adventure will take her to Chile. 

In the comments, put your suggestion for one word to create the title for Book Five:

 The Fifth …??

All commenters will receive a free e-copy of Laying Ghosts and one winner will be chosen from the comments to also win an e-copy of the multi-award-winning The First Lie.

The First Lie

The Secrets of Selkie Moon, 

Book 1

By Virginia King

Selkie Moon is a woman on the run.

Hawaii is her refuge …

Until the past comes knocking.

Thirty three years ago, Selkie Moon lost her mother – but why?

Then young Selkie began to feel things – invisible things. So her step-mother shut her in the bathroom until they were gone.

Now in a mad dash for freedom, Selkie has reclaimed her birth name and escaped her controlling family to rebuild her life in Hawaii with the help of some quirky new friends.

But her refuge begins to unravel until she’s running from something else entirely.

A voice in a dream warns: Someone is trying to kill you. At first Selkie dismisses it as just another nightmare. Then a woman’s face appears in her bathroom mirror, a mirror once owned by an old kahuna.

Entangled in local superstition and folklore, Selkie’s visions become so strange and frightening they begin to lift the lid on long-buried secrets.

What really happened on the beach thirty three years ago?

Why did Selkie's step-mother rename her Elkie?

And why won’t her father talk about it?

As her reality crumbles around her, Selkie’s instinct is to keep running. Because if she stays and begins to trust her long-forgotten psychic twinges, she’ll be forced to question every assumption her life is built upon.

And time is running out.

Thus begins a journey of self-discovery. As Selkie uncovers one secret after another, she must summon the courage and resourcefulness to survive each one.

And beyond her feelings of shock and betrayal, there may be unexpected redemption: to embrace the gift she’s forgotten, to understand the lies surrounding her childhood, to face the truth about herself and embrace the surprising new life that is calling her . . .

Pick up your copy of
The First Lie

Prefer Audio?

Laying Ghosts

The Secrets of Selkie Moon

A strange message. A deserted beach house. A shocking incident from the past …

When a text message from a long lost friend lures Selkie Moon to Crystal Cottage, the chilling events from a house-party four years earlier wrap her in ghostly fingers and turn her life upside-down.


Pick up your copy of

Laying Ghosts


Virginia King

Before Selkie Moon invaded her life, Virginia had been a teacher, an unemployed ex-teacher, the author of over 50 children's books, an audio-book producer, a workshop presenter and a prize-winning publisher. These days she lives in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney with her husband and four alpacas, where she disappears each day into Selkie Moon's latest adventure.

Connect with Virginia: WebsiteFacebookTwitter.


  1. Many thanks for hosting, Mary Anne.

  2. I have to read all of Virginia King's books now! Added them to my Wish List. What about Song? The Fifth Song.Thanks for the excellent blog post, Mary Anne.

  3. Had trouble with posting. The previous comment is mine. The Fifth Song. Kay Castaneda

    1. Hi Kay
      I've only just seen your comment. Apologies for the delay. I love the idea of a Song in the title. There's some wonderful music in Chile and the word 'song' is sending my ideas off in a wild direction. I'm not sure how long Mary Anne waits before awarding a winner, but so far your chances are looking good. :-)


See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx