Harun Shah still has the dreams, surreal awakenings that send him straight to his computer.
“They haven’t stopped,” says Shah, who began writing in 2006 after a recurring reverie where he encountered a spirit named Keonie on a beach in his native Fiji.
“I feel that someone wants me to finish a story that was never told. I still have dreams which often takes me beyond the realms of life, where I can talk to dead people and converse with animals, whether you believe it or not.”
The father of three who works as a caregiver had never written before he self-published his first book in 2008 – the first in a series titled Taming of the World.
Five years later, he’s nearly finished the second book in the series and reworked the first into an e-book and paperback novel titled Fiji: The Beginning as well as a script.
Devils, spirits and omens pepper the pages of Fiji: The Beginning, a gripping paranormal fantasy, which often blurs the line between good and evil.
It is a tale set in Momi, a small settlement hemmed in by a bay with a view of the rolling ocean.
It’s a superstitious place which shuns young women who are unable to conceive.
Shah’s protagonist Mariam is cast out from the village when people discovered she is barren.
On Amawus, the darkest night with the highest tides, she is lured by the devil to sea. Unable to conceive, she becomes his captive and remains on the island for 100 years.
History repeats itself a century later when five young friends are drawn to forbidden islands by the same high tide and dark night.
But these girls return and learn they’ve been impregnated with an evil seed.
It seems Mariam’s spirit has returned to seek her revenge and she aids the Devil’s rebirth into human form through one of the five young women. The other four bear demonic cat-like creatures.
Part horror, part fable, Shah’s story illustrate a moral never to shun anyone who is different.
To set it on the island of Fiji seemed perfect.
“There is voodoo and witch doctors and people who believe in these things,” he says.
Shah has already travelled to Fiji to scout out location for Fiji:The Beginning which he hopes to turn into a movie. His elementary school will act as the setting for Momi secondary. He’s even scouted a real witch doctor to feature in the movie.
Tasked with writing the screenplay is Rob Beare, a seasoned writer who has penned four horror/thriller screenplays and 16 scripts in total.
It was a chance meeting at the Kingfisher Pub in Maple Ridge that brought Beare and Shah together.
“What initially attracted me to it was just Harun’s passion, even before reading the book,” says Beare.
“He has this unrelenting belief. Those were things that just attracted me to him and the project itself.”
Fiji: The Beginning is the first novel Beare has adapted into a screenplay and he’s enjoyed the challenge.
Adapting any novel into a screenplay is hard cause you have to decide what you want to keep, he explains.
“We found numerous ways to combine scenes in the book and condenses it into one or two scenes in the movie,” Beare said, keeping in mind producers who always prefers fewer locations to shoot to keep costs down.
Luckily, the dialogue was mostly written. Instead, Beare worked with Shah to “amp” up certain scenes such as elaborating on how exactly a character got killed.
Beare, like Shah, is a fan of the horror genre.
“The make-up that goes into it, the sound effects. It’s an art,” he says.
“It’s an art to terrify people. Every year I go to Fright Night at Playland and I really appreciate the little things they do to evoke that fear and I try and pull from that.”
Meet the author
• Harun Shah launches Fiji: The Beginning at the Kingfisher pub in Maple Ridge on Jan. 11 at 6:30 p.m. The book is available at Black Bond Books, at Amazon or online at harunshah.net.