Today I am so pleased to welcome Courtney Maguire to Joyfully Jay. Courtney has come to talk to us about her latest release, Blood Pact. She has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Courtney has brought some questions and answers to share!
What exactly is a youkai, anyway?
Youkai are commonly referred to as demons from Japanese mythology, though that’s not entirely accurate. The word ‘youkai’ literally translates into ‘mysterious calamity.’ In its earliest known usage, youkai was used to describe pretty much anything paranormal or unexplained and could range from the mischievous but generally harmless spirits to evil, soul-stealing monsters. As art and stories became more commodified, the image of the youkai distilled down into what you may be more familiar with from Japanese pop culture.
But, your characters are vampires, right?
Well, yes and no. When I started this series, I came into it wanting to write a vampire book. This was in the height of Twilight hysteria and audiences, including myself, were growing tired of the typical western vampire story. I also have a love and fascination with Japanese culture and history, so I thought, why not set my vampire story there? I boiled the western vampire myth down to its bare bones–immortality(ish) and thirst for blood–and thought about how those things would be interpreted through the lens of Japanese mythology. What I ended up with (I hope) was something in between western and eastern myth.
So, they’re not vampires…but they are? What’s the difference?
Like I said, the bare bones of the western vampire myth are still there. Unlike vampires, though, youkai aren’t sensitive to sunlight or garlic. Silver is a weakness in that it causes wounds that don’t heal. They are long-lived and quick healing, but not necessarily immortal. Life and death for them is based on choice. They can die due to physical trauma just like anyone else, but they go to a sort of in-between space where they have to make the conscious decision to return. Sometimes, that decision isn’t easy. They also have something similar to ‘glamour’ or ‘compulsion’ common in modern vampire myths, but it varies from youkai to youkai in method and effect. Asagi from Bloodlaced, for example, can look into someone’s eyes and see their memories and even inject images if they please while Hideyoshi from Blood Pact can make people compliant with a touch. There are a few other subtle differences, but you can read the books to find those out.
The youkai, at least in the first two books, are the heroes of the story. Aren’t they supposed to be the bad guys?
To quote one of my favorite vampires, Lestat from Interview with the Vampire, evil is a point of view. The youkai, at their core, are just people with all the same flaws, virtues, and motivations. There is no denying they are monsters and sometimes behave as such, but their actions are always rooted in these very human traits. For example, Hiro, the main protagonist of Blood Pact, has a deep fear of loss and abandonment that stems from the death of his mother and when he’s threatened with loss again, reacts violently, his emotions amplified by his youkai nature. The same scene written from the humans’ point of view would likely describe a horror movie monster but what we see is a grieving, traumatized boy trying to save someone he loves.
The shoji were closed, and I hesitated outside, Sakurai-han a dark but steady presence at my back. He didn’t speak or try to stop me. He just waited while I wrangled my overloaded emotions into some kind of control.
The shoji slid open silently, as if the house itself didn’t want to disturb the quiet. Once inside, I raised my eyes to the kamidana, a small shrine built like a miniature house set high up in the wall. The doors were closed and hung with white paper. I looked back at Sakurai-han, whose eyes were also lifted, his expression solemn. When they fell, they touched mine for the briefest moment, and his shoulders slumped before he retreated outside.
Vision blurry and mouth dry, I drifted deeper into the house. The guest rooms, usually bright and full of energy, were empty and dark. All but a few lamps had been extinguished, the smell of the burning oil acrid against the incense. Igarashi Sato stood outside Okaasan’s door, face rumpled and eyes red.
He didn’t notice me until I stepped into the light of the single lamp in the hallway. His eyes, full of hurt and sympathy, widened as they took in my appearance, hair mussed and covered in blood. He opened his mouth to speak, but something stopped him when he reached my eyes. I wondered if they were white, like his. He backed away as I moved closer and lay my hand on the door.
“I’m so sorry, Hiro.”
I swayed as my chest tightened, and I struggled to breathe. Part of me wanted to walk away, to disappear into the night where I could believe that she was all right, that I had slain the monster and her house would be safe.
I slid the door open. The only light came from a single candle next to a burning stick of incense. Okaasan lay on her back on the futon, hands folded against her chest. She’d been cleaned and changed into a white kimono, a dagger placed on her chest to ward off evil spirits.
“Okan…” I whispered her name as if she would answer, and it hung in the silence like a ghost. I dropped down to my knees next to her. Her expression was serene despite the violence that had been wrought on her. Just as beautiful as I remembered. A small bowl of water sat on the table next to her. I dipped my finger into it and leaned over to wipe it across her lips, stopping short at the sight of blood still clinging to my hands.
I couldn’t even do this for her.
A violent sob wrenched its way out of me. I fell into a bow, head pressed into the tatami. “I’m so sorry, Okan.” Tears dripped down my nose and clogged my sinuses. “I’m sorry for every time I disobeyed you. For every time I lied to you. I’m sorry for falling for a man I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry I was such a bad son. I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you.”
“This isn’t your fault, Hiro-chan.”
I lifted my head slowly to find Hanagawa standing in the doorway, leaning on the frame as if she could scarcely hold herself up. Her eyes were red and her cheeks raw from the constant stream of tears flowing over them. Even her elaborate hairstyle had been taken down, and her hair hung limp around her face. She was no longer the poised and mysterious oiran, but a girl in mourning, a bird plucked of her feathers.
What have I done?
“You were right. I shouldn’t have left.” The words came out choked, squeezing past the lump of guilt and shame in my chest.
She shook her head. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said those things. I didn’t mean—”
“I should have given him what he wanted. I was selfish—”
“No,” she said firmly. “No one should have to endure what we did from that man. He’s the monster, not you.”
She lowered herself down beside me as my body quaked with violent shivers. She draped her arm over my shoulders, stiffening when she noticed the blood on my clothes.
“You killed him…didn’t you?”
The shivers stopped. My sobs quieted, engulfing us in a loud silence.
In Hiro’s world, youkai are a supernatural story used to scare children into obedience, and to keep men out of back alleys and brothels. Until Sakurai Hideyoshi walks through his door with a fantastical tale of a samurai who had killed a thousand men and drank the blood of his enemies, a man that lived in darkness but sought beauty to keep it at bay.
A story both terrifying and romantic…and completely ridiculous.
Unless it is true.
Convinced something softer lurks behind Hideyoshi’s hard mask, Hiro follows him home. And discovers the story is real.
Only instead of the blood of his enemies, it is innocent blood taken.
Hideyoshi tells him never to return. Yet after Hiro’s mother is mortally wounded, Hiro runs back to the one being he knows with the power to save her. When Hideyoshi can’t, Hiro begs him for the next best thing: the power to avenge her.
As Hiro becomes youkai, he faces a new threat, something darker, older, and far more dangerous. With Hideyoshi at his side, Hiro must decide what he’s willing to sacrifice–and what he’s willing to do–to protect this new life before he loses everything for a second time.
If you like Bella Forrest, P. C. Cast, AJ Tipton, or Anne Rice, you will love this beautiful dark paranormal fantasy romance.
- Amazon: http://mybook.to/
- B&N: https://smarturl.it/
- Kobo: https://smarturl.it/
- City Owl: https://smarturl.it/
- Add it on Goodreads: https://tinyurl.
Love the Youkai Bloodlines Series? Keep an eye out for Blood Bound, coming in Spring 2022.
Worried you might miss it? Join Maguire’s Reader Group, Courtney’s Coven: https://tinyurl.com/
Courtney Maguire is a University of Texas graduate from Corpus Christi, Texas.
Drawn to Austin by a voracious appetite for music, she spent most of her young adult life in dark, divey venues nursing a love for the sublimely weird. A self-proclaimed fangirl with a press pass, she combined her love of music and writing as the primary contributor for Japanese music and culture blog, Project: Lixx, interviewing Japanese rock and roll icons and providing live event coverage for appearances across the country.
Her first novel, WOUNDED MARTYR, is a 2019 RWA® Golden Heart® Finalist in the Contemporary Romance: Short Category.
Courtney has brought a copy of the Yokai Bloodlines series to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Monday, August 2nd at 11:59 pm ET.
- By entering the giveaway, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
- Winners will be selected by random number. No purchase necessary to win. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning.
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- Readers may only enter once for each contest. Duplicate entries for the same giveaway will be ignored. In the event of technical problems with the blog during the contest, every effort will be made to extend the contest deadline to allow for additional entries.
- Void where prohibited by law.