Wolf-Girls Blog Tour: Sarah Peacock on her story “Exiled”

As part of the ongoing Wolf-Girls Blog Tour, I’m pleased to introduce Sarah Peacock, author of “Exiled” – a tense tale of the violence and isolation that accompanies certain kinds of self-discovery. You can find Sarah’s story in the recently-published Wolf-Girls anthology. I asked Sarah if she would share with us some details pertaining to her writing process, the influence her background in archeology had on her story, and the specific nature of her protagonist’s lycanthropic transformation.

Exiled – Sarah Peacock

The basis of the story ‘Exiled’ began as a scribbled note in my journal during research for a novel I was writing. The novel is partly set in the iron Age and I was doing some research on iron age customs and traditions – I wanted to get a feel for how the characters would think and act, what their philosophy would be, and I happened to find an 11th Century Latin poem – ‘De Mirabulis Hiberniae’ that mentioned how those outlawed from the tribe would assume the form of a wolf. About the same time, I also came across the idea of the exiled ‘Cú Glas’ , which translates as grey wolf, in the stories of Cu Chulainn. The story essentially developed from that idea.

I originally trained in Archaeology and Pre-History – I have a degree in the subject – and although I didn’t end up working in that field it still influences my writing a lot. I naturally look to anthropology, folklore and history for inspiration. My all time favourite writers use the British landscape – it’s history and folklore in their work – writers such as Alan Garner and Robert Holdstock and this influences my writing in the same way. I love their sense of timelessness, of very human centred, character led stories set against a rugged landscape that is full of the traces of its ancestors. This doesn’t come out quite as much in this story but it seems to be an undercurrent in a lot of my other writing. I’m writing a set of four short stories at the moment that I’m publishing on my blog www.sarah-peacock.com that are very much inspired by this, centred around the ideas of air, water, earth and fire.

I’m a little obsessed, with certain themes and the theme of not belonging, of being different, is one of those themes. With the werewolf being a female I also got to explore what it is like to be a woman and be expected to take certain roles, behave in a certain way, and what happens if you don’t. As a teenager Cassie begins to develop her own voice, stand up for herself, refusing to fit in with the small minded expectations that the people around her have. Her anger is unleashed and so she becomes an outsider. Women, especially, aren’t supposed to get angry and, of course, women aren’t supposed to become werewolves so I quite enjoyed writing that in, along with giving her the ASBO.

Reading it now, I can see the influences behind it. I really love Martin Millar’s stuff and particularly enjoyed ‘Lonely Werewolf Girl’ and I’m also a big fan of Jeff Noon’s writing such as ‘Vurt’ so I suppose that’s where the squatting and drugs and counter culture comes in. To be honest, I haven’t really read a huge amount of werewolf fiction – I’ve read a little of kelly Armstrong’s writing and recently read Glenn Duncan’s ‘The Last Werewolf’ which I think was beautifully written.

I realise that the way Cassie transforms into a werewolf isn’t massively clear. She’s not bitten or catches a virus or anything similar so it’s not the traditional route to transformation. The transformation happens because she is different. It’s a change from within, transformed by her anger and alienation. She is exiled so becomes the grey wolf, but perhaps the potential for turning was there already – it’s ambiguous as to whether she is angry and ultimately kills because she has the nature of a werewolf or becomes a wolf as a result of her actions. I quite like that ambiguity.

I knew what the ending would be before I finished the story. I usually start writing with pages of scribbled notes and ideas and the dots get joined as I write. I’m a bit looser with short story writing and don’t plan in detail as much as I do with novel length stuff – the sheer volume of words involved in novels terrifies me so I like to plan the arc of the novel in some detail to make sure I don’t rush through the writing of the thing, and it helps with the scary middle bits. With short stories I always feel I can relax a little and play a bit more although looking back through my journal I see that I had the idea of her running off to join a group of like minded exiles, somewhere remote at the end and envisioned a scene where the exiles watch the city night unfurl before them. I don’t think I put that in in the end but I still like the idea. Re-reading the story I realise I’m still quite interested in what happens to Cassie and the other exiles so I might experiment with writing a follow up story and see where that leads.

Many thanks to Sarah for sharing her time and words with us, and for providing some additional insight into a story that – in spite of its rain-soaked grittiness – made me want to go back and visit England. You can (and should) read “Exiled” by getting a copy of Wolf-Girls, published by Hic Dragones, and stuffed with many more splendid werewolf stories (including one by me). You can read more of Sarah’s writing on her web site.