KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 2 ― When Cinthia Koeksal began writing The Scarlet Omen in 2004, there was no plan of publishing it, let alone releasing a trilogy.
It was merely a way for her to cope with the passing of her mother.
But she soon realised it was a story she wanted to share with the world, considering the lack of fictional books by Malaysian authors, particularly of the young adult fantasy genre.
To her delight, The Scarlet Omen was released in 2012 to rave reviews from readers and critics alike.
It even landed a spot on Amazon Germany’s top 10 list of English books that year.
The Germany-based Malaysian author followed up with the release of sequels A Maiden’s Legacy (2014) and The Seventh Daughter (2017).
The trilogy has since gained fans from all over the world, including from India, Japan, United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia.
The Scarlet Omen trilogy centres around Anjeli Xavier, a rebellious Malaysian teenager with a sixth sense on a journey of fulfilling a 300-year-old prophecy, while living under constant scrutiny of an overprotective mother.
The protagonist comes across supernatural creatures that plead with her to save them from the vampire reign in the Valley of the Hornbills, a parallel world brimming with magic.
She struggles to maintain her sanity at first, but eventually gives in to her destiny and her calling as the Nirupita (the “appointed” in Sanskrit), battling first Suriya the Vampire, then her son Wan Terakhir, and later Suriya’s mother the Blood Witch, to free the valley.
“I wanted to see how Anjeli would turn out in the end — I wanted her to grow a little more,” the 37-year-old told Malay Mail on her decision to complete the trilogy.
For those who can’t get enough of Anjeli’s adventure will be delighted to know that Koeksal recently released The Blood Witch, a prequel to the trilogy.
The book was launched last month at the Frankurt Book Fair, the world’s largest book and publication industry event, where Malaysia recorded a sales contract of more than RM9 million.
“The story takes place 300 years before Anjeli was born.
“It charts the life of the Blood Witch before she started dealing with black magic and goes on to explain about the existence of the portals that lead from Anjeli’s world to the valley, the prophecy, and Anjeli’s role in it all,” said Koeksal, who is a Business English trainer by profession.
Interestingly, Koeksal had actually written The Blood Witch after completing The Scarlet Omen.
“I wanted to see what happened before Anjeli’s adventures — a kind of a backstory for myself — before I began writing the second and third books.
“I ended the first book in such a way that left things open for a second one which gave the possibility of a trilogy.”
Born in Kuantan, Pahang, Koeksal started writing at the age of six.
Growing up, the youngest of five siblings lived in several places in Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur and Kuching, which the “mythical Valley of the Horbills” in her books is based on.
“My three-year stay in Sarawak where I attended a convent school left tangible marks on me, both good and bad, and the magic of the land is truly palpable.
“I love Sarawak and her people and I thought the jungles of Borneo would be the perfect place to put a portal that leads to another world.
“How can you not write a story about a land with long houses, tribal head hunters, and landscapes that take your breath away?”
Furthermore, Koeksal said Malaysia, known for its pantang-larang nenek moyang (ancestral taboos), makes a great source for writing about the supernatural.
“Living away from home made me see the beauty of Malaysia from a different perspective and I wanted to share the magic with the rest of the world.
“My books are all about our culture, legends and fascinating landscapes,” said the writer, who moved to Germany after marrying her Turkish-German husband in 2001.
Koeksal’s love for her home has had such an influence on her readers, so much so she had reviewers telling her they “wanted to jump on a plane and visit Malaysia” after reading her books.
“Readers who aren’t into fantasy will enjoy the books too as they’re a good mix of both worlds — a nice picture of life, culture and old myths from Malaysia.
“There’s something for everyone especially for those who enjoy Asian stories,” she said.
But most of all, expect romance, magic, adventure, betrayal, sacrifice, and blood — “the most binding of all magical elements.”
The Blood Witch and The Scarlet Omen trilogy are available at senapublication.com.