Crystal’s Tale – A magical and thrilling children’s horror story

Oct 30, 2022

“Crystal’s Tale” which was published and released earlier this year (2022) takes its place amidst the many wonderful children’s books on the shelf. But this is a novel with a difference… “Crystal’s Tale” is a children’s horror novel written by a brilliant author, Janidu Samaranayake, who writes under the pseudonym, Auryn Miryashi.

Janidu’s novel paints the fantasy world of fairies in a whole new light. The story is so much more than just wands and spells and magic dust and magical creatures, and is more about the magic of friendship and courage and bravery. The story takes the reader on a thrilling roller coaster ride through a magical world, but it also delves into the importance of justice, and the will to never ever give up, which is a trait the author believes children should be more exposed to growing up.

Crystal’s Tale is not your typical fairytale with the typical fairy godmother who flits around in a sparkly dress going “bippity-boppity-boo”! In this novel, fairy godmothers can even be evil and bad and it teaches children to question all things apparently good and beautiful in life.

Speaking to the author, Janidu talks about how he is not quite sure how he fell in love with the craft of story-telling, but ever since he was little, he used to write. Maybe it was his way of escaping swimming classes because, by his admission, he could be a somewhat lazy child who preferred to binge watch “Soora Pappa” and “Dangaya” on national television rather than going out to do sports. As an only child, books were his escape from the real world.

Janidu’s grandmother was a literature teacher who spent most of her pension on buying him books. By the time he turned sixteen, he had finished all the books in her cupboard. Janidu read writers like Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and even Simon Nawagaththegama and Martin Wickramasinghe at a very young age. Janidu attributes his grandmother for ingraining him in reading.

Janidu contemplates that his flair for writing also comes from my father’s side, mostly because his grandfather was a writer. When he was younger, he came across numerous books, newspaper articles and text books that his grandfather had written and wondered what it must be like to be a writer. The passion for writing certainly looks like it had been passed down by family.

Janidu published his first young adult novel, “The Mystery of the 35th Floor” at the age of sixteen. It would be quite accurate if you called him an Enid Blyton fanatic throughout his childhood – and he still is! “The Magic Faraway Tree” and “The Five Find Outers” series were his best loved children’s books. When he was in his teens, he composed and sold poems to his friends. He would write blurbs and product descriptions and also wrote song lyrics for underground bands that he jammed in.

Janidu got into the genre of writing children’s horror after reading Neil Gaiman’s “Caroline”. I walked into a bookshop one day to buy “American Gods” and came out with “Coraline” instead because the front cover appealed to me. Writing “Crystal’s Tale” wasn’t easy because I learnt that when you write for children you have to be very careful with the prose that you use and the messages that you want to convey. Children’s horror is not a genre widely spoken of but it’s also a genre that you think twice about before fleshing it out on paper.

When we mention children’s horror, we may get quite a number of stern eyebrows raised at the genre. Surely horror is not for kids! Surely scary monsters and things that go bump in the night are not for children!

Yet, the Goosebumps series outsells almost every other children’s book, selling 400 million copies across the world and second only to J K Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which, incidentally, is also classified as children’s horror.

We can weave our scary stories and malignant monsters and that may worry parents. “Why,” they may ask, “is it necessary to talk about vampires, werewolves or zombies? Our kids will have nightmares reading this stuff!”

Janidu says he understands the concern. Crystal’s tale talks about evil fairy godmothers and a system in fairy land where even the good fairies keep children imprisoned for the rest of their lives, separating them from their parents, locked away where they can never go home again.

But it’s fun at the same time! It’s one of the reasons scary stories even exist. It’s the joy of being scared with a safety net, almost a literary version of a roller coaster. You can strap yourself in and go on a thrilling ride that makes your heart race; but it is safe.

“We live in a scary world,” says Janidu, “Especially for kids. There is so much that they do not understand, and they can be full of emotions that can confuse adults. They experience fear and anger, frustration and jealousy, just like the rest of us and when they are let down, for whatever reason, they have to also cope with rejection and disappointment.”

“Scary stories help kids learn how to deal with the real world. They stores are a way to acknowledge that life isn’t always easy and learn that its alright to be scared sometimes. You can see in stories by Roald Dahl, Neil Gaiman and J K Rowling that kids’ stories can be dark and that children are capable of understanding more than we give them credit for.

Janidu Samaranayake graduated from Coventry University, UK and University of Limerick, Ireland. He is originally from Colombo, Sri Lanka, but currently based in Ireland. “Crystal’s Tale” was recently published by the Jam Fruit Tree publications in 2022. This is the third children’s novel he has written and the second to be published.

by Jeremy Muller
Courtesy: Sunday Observer, 30 Oct 2022