Welcome to an Interview with Ilil Arbel. Author of The Cinnabar Box
Ilil Arbel is the author of several books, including biographies, memoirs, novels, mythology/folklore, and fantasy. She wrote short stories, articles and educational materials. Some years ago, she wrote Witchcraft
, a curriculum-enrichment book, currently available on www.pantheon.org
for the benefit of those interested in the theory behind the fiction. She contributes regularly to Encyclopedia Mythica
, an award-winning online encyclopedia of mythology and folklore.
A brief synopsis.
A tiny Cinnabar box contains the key to the water supply of an entire planet. The ecology of the planet depends on a great river that periodically overflows, much like the Nile in Egypt. Only the key’s rightful owner can restore the water supply, which has been hidden for centuries. The task needs a trained army – but for the moment, it is in the hands of thirteen-year-old Donna, who has just learned a shocking secret about herself. Donna must survive in an alien reality where magic is commonplace, and where she meets many dangerous beings she previously considered the products of fairy tales. A nightmarish trip to the terrifying Wizard Island, a ghost town that imprisons visitors in its empty houses, and encounters with an evil renegade vizier who is determined to turn the planet into a desert, are just a few of her adventures. Throughout many ordeals, Donna uses her wits and relies on two important facts. First, she must save her kidnapped aunt, whatever it takes. Second, she must never, ever break the Wicca Code!
David. What made you decide to write this book?
Ilil. The book combines three elements – Wicca, ecology, and mythology. I have always been interested in Wicca, and the more I learned, the more I realized that they were not the magic- making simpletons that appear in so many books for young readers, nor are they scary and ominous. They are the original ecologists – people who knew the worth of having balance with nature. And one day I thought – why not write a book that would combine the two aspects? And to make it more interesting, why not populate the book with “real” persons from world mythology and folklore? And that is how I started developing the theme.
David. Where did the title come from?
Ilil. The title of the series is Guardians of the Earth, which is my way of thinking of the Wicca. The Cinnabar Box is simply descriptive of the key element in the story – the tiny box that hides a big secret and cannot be opened by anyone except the rightful owner.
David. Do you always write in this genre?
Ilil. Not at all. I am rather eclectic in my choice of subjects.
David. What was your inspiration to write and when did you start?
Ilil. I started some years ago, set it aside, and then came back to it. It happens to me often… I work in quantum leaps, not in a linear fashion. As for the inspiration, I think it’s more a realization of the new generation of smart, resourceful, intelligent young girls. I wanted to write about a girl who meets the challenges life throws at her with courage and loyalty. Donna, the protagonist, does not have training in magic quite yet, but her commitment, intelligence, and love would pull her through the worst situations. She is far from perfect – she has human flaws like the rest of us – but she will rise to the occasion.
David. What was your destination to publishing? ie are you self published.
Ilil. No, The Cinnabar Box was published by the new outfit, MediaBlvd Publishing, and they plan to publish the rest of the series. With the publisher’s permission, I also put the book on Kindle.
You might want to look at the MediaBlvd Publishing information on the book at:
David. Do you have a website to share?
Ilil. I am embarrassed to confess that I have never created a website. It will be remedied soon; I plan to create one as soon as I can. And I am told I must blog as well… that scares me. What if I talk too much and bore people to death? For the moment there is plenty of information about me anyway… the Author’s Page on Amazon.com, Facebook, and Linkedin, like the rest of the world.
David. Any links to the book/books
Ilil. All my books, print or Kindle, can be purchased from Amazon:
If you wish to read my Witchcraft book, which explains the theory and history of Wicca for the same age group, it is available free of charge at Encyclopedia Mythica:
In addition, some can be purchased from http://www.barnesandnoble.com
, or they can be ordered through Barnes and Noble and Borders regular stores.
Please feel free to share an exerpt.
he girls stole into Grandmother’s tent, carrying the Cinnabar box and a written note of explanation wrapped around it. Grandmother and the animals were sound asleep on their blankets. Donna put the little packet on a clean plate on the workbench, and the girls crept out of the tent and returned to Jessamine’s to attempt the reality shift.
“Not so fast,” they heard a voice. Bartholomew was sitting on a pillow inside their tent, his straw hat pulled low on his forehead.
“Oh, no,” said Donna. “How did you manage that? We woke you up, right?”
“Not exactly. I snooped when you thought you were alone in your tent, and then pretended to sleep in mine. I knew you would be up to something. I don’t trust you, Wicca, and I am coming with you to see that you don’t mess everything up. Camellia will take the Cinnabar box to the queen.”
“It’s tremendously dangerous, Agent Bartholomew,” said Jessamine respectfully.
“Do you think I will let two insignificant Wicca make trouble without trying to save the day?”
“Thank you, Bartholomew,” said Donna. “You are a real friend.”
“Ha!” sniffed the donkey. “I just know you can’t manage without me. Besides, can you imagine how it will annoy Camellia? I can’t miss that!”
Jessamine opened a small wooden box and took out a heavy, cloth-bound notebook. “My grimoire,” she explained. “A Wicca spell book. I copy everything I learn into it. Each of us has her own grimoire. It’s much more powerful than a printed book of other people’s spells, because it’s personal and geared to our own style. I will take it with me.”
“Should we pack anything else?” asked Donna.
“What for?” scoffed Bartholomew. “Either we accomplish everything right away, or we are dead. We won’t need any equipment.”
Jessamine studied a page carefully, then tucked the book into her belt’s pouch. “Donna, I will tell you what to do, and you will follow me, repeating the words and actions exactly as I describe them. Agent Bartholomew, please do not utter a sound, because anything you say may alter the coordinates. Stand near me. We must stay in physical contact.”
She took off a ring, mounted with a small crystal ball, and slipped it on Donna’s finger. She put her arms around the donkey and the girl.
“Donna, stare at the ball. Blink as little as possible, and allow your eyes to get tired. Focus on the center of the ball.”
Small lights appeared in the ball, dancing, fleeting here and there, growing and expanding.
“Donna, create a fog in your mind. Think fog, mist, grayness.”
Gray fog materialized in the ball, easily, effortlessly, gracefully. It filled the ball.
“Donna, make the fog envelop us. Think coolness, mistiness, grayness around us. All three of us. It’s coming out of the ball to embrace us.”
The fog drifted out of the ball like a tiny tornado. It grew into a mantle of soft, swirling wind. It caressed and encircled the trio.
“Donna, create the coordinates in your mind and project them into the ball. See the numbers in the ball. 003-67-8-4. 003-67-8-4. 003-67 …”
Red, glowing numbers appeared in the ball. They shifted and moved, but were firmly planted inside the gleaming glass.
“Donna. Now. Take us there. We are following the coordinates. See us following the coordinates.”
They stood on a windswept beach, illuminated by the pale light of an early afternoon. Black tar and rank, limp seaweeds mixed in filthy shallow pools and on the wet sand. Blue-black water mirrored sunless sky. The sound of the wind mingled with the shrieks of sea-birds.
“Done,” said Jessamine flatly. “You are good at switching realities, Donna.”
Donna gazed stupidly around her, blinking and shaking. Bartholomew laughed. “Where are we?” she whispered.
“Wizards’ School Island,” said Jessamine. “That’s the Vizier’s permanent home. He studied here years ago and decided that he liked the miserable place. Wizards come here from all realities, so I guess he enjoys the company.”
“It seems deserted.”
“All activity takes place underground, and only at night. We will have to go to the school to get directions to the Vizier’s home. I know where the school is.”
They followed her into a cove lodged between rugged cliffs. A large, dark hole in the ground gaped at them. No gate, no sentry. Anyone who chose to take the risk could go down.
They descended the slippery, winding stairs. The rock walls emitted the odor of brine and seaweed, and the air became increasingly suffocating.
Finally they reached a huge, cavernous chamber cut directly into the rock. Heavy slabs of rock, serving as desks, supported many books, quantities of paper, and various writing tools, but no computers or even old-fashioned typewriters. Donna opened a book at random. It contained nothing but blank paper. Suddenly, letters leaped into the paper from nowhere, and the page blazed with fiery red and green words, written in an unfamiliar language. After a few minutes, the writing disappeared, and the page turned by itself. New words appeared on it, stayed for a short time, and vanished.
“More instruction appears on the walls at night,” said Jessamine. “The same red and green letters. It stays there all night, and the students can copy it. Then it disappears for the day.”
“Not visible ones, anyway. Here, I have found the book of locations and coordinates,” said Jessamine. “As it includes jails and current lists of prisoners, perhaps it will tell of Senior Witch Yolanda.”
“Can you read the language?”
“Yes. Here is the address of the Vizier’s home. We have to follow the path by the cove to the low hill in the west. Coordinates 52-1-6. Write it down, just in case, but I don’t think we should use the crystal ball here, we might be intercepted. We’ll have to walk, or fly. Ah, the prisoners’ list. Nothing. No official prisoners at present. Senior Witch Yolanda may be held, anyway, at the Vizier’s home.”
They left the school and walked, following the path described in the address book. The island, a dismal, flat place except for the rugged cliffs on the beach, presented an unchanging landscape.
Their destination was not far. Another hole in the ground gaped at them. “We will have to creep in carefully. The occupants are probably asleep, but they may have a sentry,” said Jessamine.
They crept down silently, treading each stair with extreme care. Reaching the bottom, they entered a room similar to the school, but smaller. A few doors opened to other rooms, furnished with plain, stone carved furniture. Whatever the Vizier did with his incredible wealth, it was not evident here. There was no sign of life, let alone Aunt Yolanda.
“She is not kept here,” said Donna sadly. “It was a wild goose chase.”
“We had to know,” said Jessamine. She opened the door to look into the last room, and suddenly flew back as if some incredible force punched her in the face. A sooty cloud drifted in. Purple lightening pulsated at its edges, and the sound of thunder rumbled through it. With chilling certainty, Donna recognized the purple face outlined in the cloudy substance. It was the same face she saw when her aunt was abducted. The face grinned viciously with its toothless dark blue mouth, and its hollow, yellow-green eyes winked at Donna, just as it did then. But this time she did not lose her consciousness. Grasping at Bartholomew and Jessamine, she visualized the coordinates of the beach she had used before to transport them to the island. 003-67-8-4. 003-67- …
They were standing on the beach. “Donna, here are the coordinates to my home. 005-98-8-2. Repeat. Transport us.”
Donna repeated, but could not continue to concentrate. She saw the purple cloud advancing. It followed them, playing with them, laughing viciously.
She tried. Palms sweating, heart beating. The cloud hovered above them, grinning, obviously enjoying their terror. Without warning, the blue mouth emitted a long, high screech. A small rock at Donna’s feet immediately exploded, sending a shower of splinters and torn seaweeds around her. Some of the material hit the water. A small whirlpool started to swirl in the dark water. It grew steadily.
“Donna, he started Sound Magic. It will grow. Concentrate on the coordinates or we will die!”
Donna’s mind blanked out. Nothing occupied it except the face of the Vizier, mocking her, paralyzing any strength she had left. The whirlpool grew. A huge foam column started forming around it. From a distance, large and small waves, coordinated like advancing soldiers, marched in unison toward the whirlpool. The growing water column fed steadily on the waves. Enormous now, it covered the sky with its swaying bulk. The darkness was torn by purple lightning. The column approached them as if walking on the water, gliding with oily ease.
“Move it, Wicca!” screamed Bartholomew, kicking her with his front hoof. “You miserable cowardly creature! Do you or don’t you want to save your aunt?”
Aunt Yolanda’s face suddenly filled Donna’s mind, replacing the Vizier’s terrifying grin. 005-98-8-2. 005-98-8-2. Smiling emerald eyes. 005-98-8-2. Always there, always supporting and loving. 005-98-8-2. 005-98- …”
They stood at the entrance to Grandmother’s tent.
“You can look now, Prime Minister. They are safe.”
“Temporarily, Your Majesty. He knows them now.”
“It’s a chance they had to take, my friend.”
“But they failed, Your Majesty.”
“I wouldn’t say that, Prime Minister. At least we know Senior Witch Yolanda is not kept at the Wizards’ School. She must be imprisoned on our planet, therefore, because he has no real power elsewhere, and we have a better chance of saving her.”
“True. And he may not think it worthwhile to pursue the girls here.”
“Your Majesty, have you noticed, just before they went, Jessamine said something about our great river having no name …”
“Yes. I am ashamed to own that this thought had never crossed my mind, Prime Minister.”
Thanks Ilil. and the very best of luck with the book.