A fast-paced, grisly, tongue-in-cheek retelling of a legend as old as time, by the author of The Evil And The Pure.
My Solar Nemesis
by Darren Dash
I could almost get sunburnt underground, my skin is that susceptible to the rays of the sun. I love getting out and about, and have travelled all over the world, to duel with my solar nemesis in dozens of different countries. Alas, I rarely come out on top in our battles, and usually spend a few days red from head to toe, slapping on aftersun (but gingerly) and vowing to never get caught out again.
But I always do.
After one of my regular scorchings, I tried to find some measure of positivity in my experiences by wondering if I might be able to milk a story from my misery. Maybe I could fashion a tale where the protagonist winds up in a similarly vulnerable state, only even worse, burnt a deep and dangerous red all over, naked and alone, lost in a foreign land, a land that holds a secret, a land that contains a monster.
The more I thought about it, the more drawn I was to the idea. It would have a David versus Goliath vibe, only the Goliath would be something savage and primordial, and my burnt and pitiful David wouldn’t even have a slingshot to his name.
For a few years I toyed absentmindedly with the story, piecing together various bits and pieces, but never actually starting. Perhaps I was afraid to confront my fears, since sunburn is such a constant, annoying factor in my life. Finally I forced myself to sit down and work it out, and the story began to flow.
I knew from the beginning that the main storyline was going to be the most basic I had ever worked on, so simple that it could be summed up thus — a naked, sunburnt guy runs into a nightmarish beast in a forest, and the pair fight to the death. The rawness was what appealed to me. After years of putting together intricate, complex plots, I wanted to run wild with a one-trick pony and just have some grisly, not-for-the-squeamish fun.
At the same time, I wanted it to be an interesting, involving read. I didn’t want anyone to leave feeling cheated or undersold. I was determined to make the characters breathe, to inject heart into the bloodshed, to encourage readers to really care about what was happening. The plot was intentionally throwaway, but I wanted the book to be one that lingered in the thoughts of those who went with it.
For that reason, Sunburn is a book of two halves. The first introduces us to three young, carefree tourists, on a road holiday in Bulgaria. They’re just starting out in life and are struggling with the transition to adulthood, trying to find the balance between friendships and relationships, between the easy life and the need to carve out a future. We get to see them argue and make love, bicker and have fun. We follow them as they let their hair down, and suffer with them as they recover from their hangovers.
Then, midway through, an innocent spot of moonlit skinny-dipping lands them in the middle of something far more deadly. The beast hits the scene, and not a single reader will pause for breath between that moment and the end. (I hope!) It becomes a fast-paced, blood-red fight to the death, where we get to find out what the trio are truly made of.
I had a lot of fun writing Sunburn, while also creating three of my all-time favourite characters. I loved spending time in their company, which made it all the more heart-wrenching when everything spiralled out of control. I hope you get as much of a kick out of the book as I did. If nothing else, hopefully it will inspire you to reapply the next time you head for the beach, to avoid ending up like the poor, dumb sap (a mirror image of my good self) at the heart of Sunburn!