My thanks to Adrian Lilly for sponsoring Werewolf News this week with The Wolf At His Door, the first book in his trilogy of werewolf novels. Adrian and I have similar tastes in werewolves, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about building a werewolf mythology, the power of literature, and practical jokes.
Without revealing any details that might spoil the plot or prematurely reveal themes, can you talk a little about why you chose to make werewolves the featured supernatural creatures of the Runes Trilogy? Did you start off wanting to write something about werewolves, or did something about the trilogy’s story suggest lycanthropes as the right monsters for the job?
I have loved werewolves–the traditional, rip-you-to-shreds kind–since I was a kid. And, so I wrote a werewolf novel with the monstrous, half-human beasts that walk on two legs. I built the themes around the idea of that type of monster. In my werewolf world, people have varying levels of control over the werewolf: some are completely at its mercy; others control it; and others are turned just as monstrous while human. Werewolves, to me, represent that struggle, both within and without, against evil and brutality.
Do you prefer to work within the traditionally accepted canon of supernatural creature “rules” (vampires and holy water, werewolves and the full moon, etc), or do you like to invent new traits, habits and weaknesses for your monsters?
Readers have declared the trilogy a “new take” on werewolves. But, many elements are traditional: fire, decapitation, and silver remain weaknesses. The full moon plays a dominant role although not all werewolves are bound by it. I keep the traditional horror associated with werewolves, but I also give them an intellect, making them more dangerous. A werewolf virus and genetic engineering play important roles, adding to the elements that readers enjoyed as a new take, because of how I explore them. The novel is also as much mystery as horror, so I think that adds a twist as well.
You’ve written about demons, ghosts, now werewolves, and you said in a recent interview that your upcoming series The BlackBird Mysteries “will involve all manner of fantastical creatures”. Are there any creatures you’re particularly looking forward to writing about, or any that you intend to avoid?
I am a folklore and mythology nut, so nothing is off limits. In The BlackBird Mysteries (the first book is written and in editing), the main characters will face “all manner of fantastical creatures.” The fun, I hope, for the reader, will be figuring out what they are up against along with them. I’m really looking forward to visiting the gamut of mythological creatures and trying to breathe fresh life into them. I really love the concepts of Hydra and Proteus, and I think those could work well in updated versions.
Your novels and poems touch on weighty topics such as the importance of family, the ramifications of death, and the search for personal identity. Literature can help people work through these topics in their own lives. What’s something you’ve read that had a big impact on your own development as a person?
Books like Brave New World speak to me more than most books. I have this fear that we’re heading into–or may already be in the first stages of–a dystopian future. When I was a young kid, I read Kavik the Wolf Dog dozens of times. I loved that the main character was a dog and not a human at all. More often than not, poetry is what makes me stop and ponder. The Duino Elegies remains a collection of poetry I pick up time and again. I do enjoy Joyce Carol Oates’ fiction. I also really enjoy fiction like Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis. It’s so unlike what I write. I think that’s why I enjoy it.
You mention on your web site that you’re a fan of practical jokes (among other things) as the source of a good scare. What’s the most memorable practical joke you’ve perpetrated or been on the receiving end of?
I can’t recall anyone pulling a good practical joke over on me. I’m too suspicious of everyone. I’ve always been a good one to get a “jump” out of people–not the well planned out practical jokes. Once, I lived in a high-rise building, and my apartment was at the end of a long hall. Guests had to call and you could buzz them in on your phone–so I always knew when someone was coming. My friend had just seen a zombie movie, it’s important to note. Anyway, the apartment next door was empty, I knew, so I waited in the apartment with the door cracked. Just as she was about to knock on my door, I came out, moaning, “Brains.” Her scream and stream of expletives echoed up and down the long corridor, followed by my uproarious laughter. I’ve made children cry with a well-played scare during storytelling, not that I should be proud of that. I also have a niece who is petrified by clowns—my fault. On the non-scary side, I’m a jokester who can go a little overboard with things like balloons and tape from time-to-time.
Thanks again to Adrian and his novel The Wolf At His Door for sponsoring Werewolf News!