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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Jumbee’ is the new vampire

    Valentina Martinelli/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

Local author Pamela Keyes talks about her new novel The Jumbee.
    Valentina Martinelli
    Valentina Martinelli/ Arizona Daily Wildcat Local author Pamela Keyes talks about her new novel “The Jumbee.”

    Do you enjoy “”Twilight,”” “”The Hunger Games”” or other young adult novels that leave you on the edge of your seat and dying for more? Then get ready for the next big work of suspense and romance. This October, local author Pamela Keyes is releasing a new novel, “”The Jumbee,”” and it’s already getting rave reviews.

    Pamela Keyes has spent most of her life in Tucson, but has also lived in the Virgin Islands of the Caribbean. There, she found inspiration for her latest book. Pamela says that she “”loved the culture. It was so different,”” and explains that the islanders’ beliefs have an interesting contradiction. Although the West Indians typically consider themselves Christians, they still maintain some of their traditional folklore.

    One of these interesting beliefs is the legend of “”jumbees”” — mythological spirits that are somewhat comparable to demons or zombies. Although some jumbees can be benevolent, they are usually viewed as scary, dark creatures that must be warded off through various superstitions.

    In Keyes’ novel, readers follow the story of Esti, a high school senior who has recently moved to the Virgin Islands. There, she is adjusting to a new school and pursuing her dreams as an aspiring actress. She is rehearsing for the school’s production of “”Romeo and Juliet”” when she begins to hear a mysterious voice in the theater. This elusive friend, who calls himself Alan, becomes her personal acting coach.

    From here, the locals begin to accuse Esti of befriending a jumbee, and she suddenly finds herself seeking answers to many questions. “”Is (her) secret mentor a wicked ghost? And what will it cost her — and those she loves — to unmask the truth?””

    Kirkus Book Reviews has praised “”The Jumbee,”” explaining that it is “”laced with eerie mystery and the lush scenery of the West Indies,”” and adding that it is “”perfect for readers who like their love stories served with spine-tingling suspense.”” Similarly, other online reviewers have commended “”The Jumbee”” for its originality, and the literary fans of are anxiously anticipating its arrival.

    If you like a good read, consider taking a journey of thrilling action, suspenseful romance and ancient legend. The novel will be available in bookstores and online Oct. 14.

    What inspired you to write this book?

    I saw the “”Phantom of the Opera”” — which I loved, and right after I saw that, I moved to the Virgin Islands. And I thought: (they have so many legends there, like jumbees and ghosts) how cool would it be to try to come up with that kind of plotline in the Virgin Islands using jumbees? And at that point, I couldn’t sit down quick enough.

    How was this novel influenced by Shakespeare and other stories?

    This is kind of a combination of Phantom of the Opera, Romeo and Juliet, and jumbee legends, all twisted together in a suspense romance.

    Who are some of your writing influences? You’ve mentioned that your stories compare to Stephanie Meyers’?

    I just can’t put down (Stephanie Meyers’ books). Mine have nothing to do with vampires, there are enough of those out there already, but just the whole concept of … an opposing character who’s kind of larger than life — I really like that. And it’s really appealing. That’s part of what influenced this book. In the past, I’ve also been influenced by the Harry Potter books, and future dystopia stuff like the Hunger Games. (I enjoy) science fiction and fantasy.

    What kind of audience would enjoy “”The Jumbee””?

    If you like “”Twilight,”” if you like “”The Hunger Games”” — any of the books in that genre. And “”Phantom of the Opera,”” of course. It also has a lot of Shakespeare in it, so people that like “”Romeo and Juliet.”” There’s a lot of that going on … I  really think that college students would like the book because it’s the audience I was thinking of when I was writing it. It’s my favorite genre: exciting, young adult.

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