DreadPirate Westly || Interview with a werewolf

What got you into werewolves and how old were you when you discovered them?

Ooh, that’s a good question.  I’ve always had a bit of trouble figuring out when I was ‘into’ things, and when I wasn’t ‘into’ things, because there are some things that have just always been a part of who I am.
I was born with fuzzy pointed hair on my ears, and a perfect circle pressed into one of them (The one that does not have a matrix, in fact!)  My mom called me her ‘little werewolf’.  ‘Fuzzbucket’ remained a nickname she still occasionally calls me.
When I was a kid, my life was full of ‘wash your paws’, ‘get your tail in here’, and ‘people are going to think you were raised by wolves’. I was the one who could run the fastest on four legs, had an impressive wolf howl, called my friends my ‘pack’ rather than…well, whatever a group of friends is typically called by a young kid.  My time was spent knowing I was a massive dark-furred bat-winged wolf, rather than the little fleshy human body everyone else saw when they looked at me.
Finding out that there were mythical creatures who swapped back and forth between human and their ‘true’ forms was…a bit of a life changing experience for me!
The first werewolf book I remember reading was Kiss of Death  which I read until it litterally fell apart.  My friend refused to even look at the cover, but I read the transformation scene over and over again.
Werewolves: A collection of Original Stories collected by Jane Yolen and Martin Greenberg became my next favorite book.  Though, I felt the ‘Wolves in it were missing something, and I loved the story of Adek, a werewolf who protects his people, despite his ‘condition’.  I, however, mourned when he was ‘cured’ finding it to be an unfitting end to the story.
I remember my first werewolf series was the Val Sherwood series (Which, the physical books are hundreds of dollars, but I found them on Smashwords and Amazon for only a few! That was really my first foray into the books of werewolves that I loved.  The kind that, while they couldn’t control their transformation, they weren’t entirely feral after they went under, succumbing to the moon or their own emotions.
After those, I read the library out of everything they had that even remotely related to Werewolves.  I became extremely picky about my werewolf lore, and though I read everything that related to werewolves, I found that I only really enjoyed particular types.
When I was 16, my friends (“The Pack” as our mothers affectionately refereed to us as) discovered Werewolf the Apocalypse, igniting my interest all over again.  Though Vampires are my forte, Werewolves have always been there with me.

Kiss of Death

Val Sherwood, Werewolf

Werewolves, a collection of original stories

Do you share the same love of other types of shapeshifters?

Oh, very much!

If we’re talking things like Walkers (a la the Mercy Thompson series) or the other Were phenotypes, then very much!  I absolutely love big cat shapeshifters, and the rarely seen hyena shifters!  Ratkin and Corax from the White Wolf RPG are also fantastic creatures!

When I write vampires, which I do, published a book even, I write them with the ability to take on a limited array of animal forms.  This has always been one of my favorite supernatural abilities, though the way it happens between the two types of supernaturals is very different, as it means very different things to me.

Though the type of shapeshifters I love the most are the kinds that can control it sometimes, but it’s forced on them other times.  So shapeshifters like Mystique from X-men, or Beast Boy from Young Justice don’t really ping the same interest for me.

What do you think it is that attracts you to werewolves?

There’s several things that attract me to werewolves.

One of those things is shedding this skin, and running into the wilds for a while.  Become one of the beasts, powerful, strong, on fleet feet that need no shoes, with fangs and claws, you’re part of the food chain again.  And you’re not human anymore, you’re not one of Them, but have the ability to rise above physically, with so few limitations to the raw exhilaration of RUNNING, leaping, bounding.

The pure physical joy that must come from digging your claws into soft dirt, and propelling yourself through the forest that are as bright as day, past deer, past birds, past foxes, onto the plains, and howling to the Full Moon as She sings through your veins.

Another part of it, at least the way I write my ‘Wolves, is a sense of family.  It may seem strange to include something like this along with an interest in Werewolves, but, when I write Werewolves, and when I read Werewolves, I’ve noticed that the best ones have a HUGE sense of family, of Pack.  Not people that were born from th same people, or people you grew up with, but people who have the same problems you do, and will do absolutely anything to be sure that you’re alright.

When I write my werewolves, their families, birth and bite, are so, so very important to them, even in their human forms.

I suppose I envy that type of family, that type of closeness, despite everything, genders, races, socioeconomic status.  Rudyard Kipling put it best when he said “Now this is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky, and the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.  As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk, the law runneth forward and back; For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.”

Do you prefer a gory werewolf tale or a more modernised, romanticised version?

Give me the savage beasty werewolves!  Part of what attracts me most is the power, and that whole Rage a la the White Wolf series, or the huge snarly beasts of the Mercy Thompson series.  I want my werewolves to be gory, brutal, but…with the romance.  We’re not talking Twilight here, I want my werewolves to be able to rip their opponents apart, but still be able to come back to their significant others covered in gore and detritus of battle, and have them kiss their big bloody nose for being such a good puppy.

I prefer a fine line between the wolf and the human, and I like to watch the werewolves struggle with wrestling the beast inside.  I like when they lose their cool, it’s fangs and claws that they have to deal with.  So, I think the answer to this particular question would be “Yes”.  Because I like both.

What does the ideal werewolf look like in your opinion?

Well, I like my werewolves to be the ‘noble werewolf’ look.  Think, White Wolf Crinos, big, scary, claws, a muzzle full of teeth, shaggy, somewhat human, but all feral. I am picky about muzzles and tails though, Dog Soldiers did it fantastically, maintaining a natural wolf’s coloring, but keeping the head and ears intact.  They, however did not have tails.

I prefer digitgrade for the hindlegs, and I really mostly prefer it when they can walk on two legs, and use their hands if they need to, but also run about on four, using their forelimbs for running.  I go in for the big powerful sleek predator look.

Natural colors too, I’ve always liked the theory that your wolf’s pelt fur will typically match your human hair color, unless you’ve got brown hair, then you get the usual grey wolf coloration.  So if you’ve got black hair, you’ll end up a black wolf, blond, white.  Though, sometimes I throw that rule into the wind and I’ll have a werewolf who will be, say, blond, but come out as a grey wolf, or one with black hair, as a white wolf.

My werewolves’ pelts don’t always have the natural look, I have one white wolf character who has black feet.  And another who’s black with one white foot.  Why?  Because it makes it easier to tell them apart from the others when you have a large pack that you’re writing about.

That, however, isn’t to say I’m against decoration!

Or even that all of my werewolves have to be big, feral beasties!

But strength, paws/claws, wolfish faces, digitgrade legs, tails, and not too far out there fur colors make up the majority of the ‘wolves I enjoy!

Give some cinematic examples of your ideal werewolf.

The problem I currently have is there are elements I enjoy from various cinema, but none that are quite ‘there’.

For example, the werwolves in Underworld were more gargoyles, but, further on in the series they got more wolflike, which, is great.  Still no tails though.  Though, if you watch them running in the third movie you’ll see they aren’t built for four legged movement, their legs are too long, and they end up looking like frogs.

The wolves in Dog Soldiers looked fantastic, practical effects and everything!  But their bodies were not covered in much fur, which, is something that I do look for in a werewolf.

I suppose my favorite werewolves were from the Van Helsing movie with Hugh Jackman.  Bonus points for him turning into one, but, still, no tail!  But the face, claws, body, things like that, are pretty great for a CGI ‘wolf.  The ‘wolves from Twilight air fairly similar, but…once again, they’re just very large wolves with slightly more expressive faces.

Cursed had some pretty great werewolves, and if I remember correctly the first Howling was pretty good.

But none have really tickled my fancy and made me sit back and go “Yes, that is the Werewolf I’ve been waiting for!”

And I know that one of the barriers to doing a werewolf movie is that werewolves are hard to do.  Transformations are expensive, be they practical or CGI.  And you’re never going to please everyone, but I hate it when they either cheap out on the transformation, such as running behind a tree and suddenly being wolves, or it’s glittery or instant.  In my opinion, there should be some element of either suffering, or emergence of the beast.  Like a moth crawling out of its chrysalis. (Moth, because they’re fuzzier night crawlers!)

What should a werewolf NOT look like in your opinion?

NOT look like?

Mmm…I’ve always been of the opinion that the “Wolf Man” look was not the best werewolf type out there.  I don’t mean to say its wrong, but to me, it isn’t a werewolf.  To me, part of the appeal is turning into a wolf, and looking like someone with a real disorder doesn’t seem to do the wolf fantasy justice in my opinion.

And when I say look like a wolf, I mean look like a WOLF.  So the large gargoyle creatures from movies like An American Werewolf in Paris, or the first few Underworld movies aren’t the best types of werewolves to me, because I’m looking for something that roughly resembles canis lupus, fur and all.

However, if it goes too much like an anthro wolf character, fully upright, very human features, it also doesn’t feel like a werewolf to me.  There’s a very thin line between werewolf and furry to me!

Give a cinematic example of a werewolf that didn’t quite meet your expectations.

Mmm…

I think there’s chunks of this that I’ve already covered.  Like American Werewolf in Paris.  The CGI disasters of a werewolf didn’t even touch the ground in a realistic manner.

Professor Lupin from Harry Potter disappointed me.  He looked…mange-y?  And his little ‘whroo’ sort of made me sad.  Werewolves should have big, barking howls!

I’ve also never been fond of the monkey-wolf look, so the Werewolves from Buffy, who suffered from a bit of monkey wolf, were never my favorites, and the Werewolves from the first season of Teen Wolf that I saw were…lackluster at best.

I’m picky!  I need my snouts, tails, and big hulking WOLF monsters, not particularly hirsute people with bad teeth.

Stepping away from the cinematic side of things, what is your favourite werewolf novel?

Well!  Let’s see, favorite werewolf Novels?  That’s…sorta hard.  Because there’s a lot of novels I like, but then those same ones get a little…problematic.  Like I adore the first few books of the Anita Blake series, but the rest is just terrible.  I love the Mercy Thompson series, but it feels like parts of it just devolve into mushy romance and I’m not a huge fan of that.  We  won’t mention the issue with the whole females being weaker, even though Honey and Mercy seem to be battling that.

The Kitty Thompson series is fantastic, though I’m not always huge on the fully wolf-like wolves.  And there’s a few books that pretty much nothing happens.

I also tend to write erotica, myself, but I’m working on a werewolf novel that has my idea of werewolves in it, with a werewolf type that I like.  I like the big emotional turning into a wolf because you’re angry or scared type werewolves, so that’s what I tend to write.

But, if I had to pick a single werewolf novel to read for the rest of my life?  Would probably be the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.  I’ll just pretend they’re one novel.  Heh, I’m shifty.

Back to cinema, what is your favourite werewolf film?

As far as werewolf films, I think my favorite one is Dog Soldiers.  The practical effects, the laughs, the British, it’s all really fantastic.  It’s one of those that stands up to repeated watchings!

Another one that’s great for ‘On In the Background’ is Van helsing.  Yes, that Hugh Jackman one.  The hilarity of it all is great.  The EXTREME PASSIONATE performance by Richard Roxburgh about not having feelings.  O.o  Hugh Jackman’s There again, Gone Again accent, the fact that the tough as nails vampire killer was…killed by squish.  But the werewolves look good, and it’s fun to have on in the background.

Do you have any werewolf related songs to recommend?

Hmm, music.  I actually have very few Werewolf related songs that I can think of.  Most of the music I listen to evoke images of vampires for me (Except recently, I’ve been on a Five Nights at Freddy’s musical kick, meaning I have 10 songs I listen to…)

I suppose if I had to go through my history of music I’d say these fit for me:

“Animal I have Become” by Three Day’s Grace
“Demons” By Imagine Dragons
“Staring at the Sun” by The Offspring (This is because of the movie I have set to this tune)
“Tear you Apart” by She Wants Revenge
“What I’ve done” by Linkin Park
“House of the Rising Sun” as performed by The Animals also invokes that sort of werewolfy, sad, ‘I can never go home’ sort of feel as well.  But it mostly works for vampires for me.  There’s a lot of crossover.

What do you think of the way representation of werewolves has changed over the years? (In both literature and cinema.)

Werewolves have always been the ‘hard’ one to do.  A vampire just needs a pair of fangs to be a vampire, but a werewolf, to actually go a great representation of one, you really need to sit for a long time in the costume department.

I have been seeing more of the beast type werewolves, were they’re less human, and more animal, which, I think is important in a werewolf.  Because it’s about not being human, but other, that is the real draw for me.  So, I think in a lot of ways, from the sympathetic monster a la Being Human, to the hero, like Twilight Princess, down to the way werewolves look anymore, from the Wolf-man, to the gargoyle beast, to the furry ideal…yeah, they’ve changed a lot!

Tell me something that makes the werewolves in your works unique, what makes them special?

My own works?  Hm, I always try to bring something unique to what I do.  I’m very much one of those sorts of people that wants to explain everything, why does this thing work the way it does?  What’s the lore?

My werewolves have three major forms, the human, the mid, and the wolf.  They’ll shapeshift based on their emotional state, angry?  Wolf.  Too happy?  Wolf.  Scared?  Wolf.  Being born a werewolf means that you have better control of your shapeshifting because you’re used to it.  Being bitten usually means you’re pulled into that particular Pack and suddenly you’ve got a new family…and a lot of life changes to make.  There are more male werewolves than female ones, but that’s because women are typically not in a position to be bitten, and the birth rate is 50/50.

I think one of the bigger differences with my werewolves is that being male, female, gay, straight, bi, whatever, doesn’t really matter.  A lot of the the books I read, especially the erotica, have very submissive female characters, or put female characters in a place of less power. I’ve always found this very odd, because in my mind, a female wolf is another set of teeth and claws in a pack, and her personal power is not diminished by her chromosomes.  I understand some people would argue that a female wolf is smaller than a male, but, then I ask which is to be feared, the male or the female?

Very little is scarier than walking between a bear and her cubs, or a moose and it’s…mooseling (calf?).

My werewolves also tend to breed in the spring, typically amongst their pack, which is made up of bitten and born werewolves.  The werewolves take care of their pack mates, both in wolf life, and human life.  If one wolf, say, loses her job, the others will be there with ice cream and their favorite movies and pile into a group on the floor with popcorn to help them feel better, but they’ll also make sure their bills are met, they have their home, and the other things they need.  If another wolf breaks his leg, the Pack’s there to be sure he gets proper medical treatment, and that he doesn’t have to walk for that time that it’s healing.  If a werewolf in a human family is killed, the Pack will be there for the human family, because they are, by extension, Pack.  There’s a Pack fund that the alphas control.  Being alpha isn’t just about who’s the strongest, but who’s the best leader, and becoming Alpha isn’t just who can tear the other’s head off in wolf form, but who can actually hold the group together when they’re people as well.

There can be a lot of drama in a wolf pack, and Packs that have bad leaders, but typically, they’re extended families, where everyone cares about everyone else.

Full moons are celebrations, there’s a big BBQ beforehand, and everyone gets together.  There are werewolves who stay with the kids and play with the pups (Werewolf cubs are tied to the moon until they can control their shapeshifting, and aren’t invited on hunts until they’re mature enough to do it) and everyone goes for a run and plays, hunts, eats, and curls up to sleep together.

It seems like a bit of an ideal situation for me!  🙂

What are you other passions? Vampires, zombies? Body horror? Etc etc.

Oh…well, lets’ see.  I’m VERY into vampires.  They’re really the thing I like to write about the most.  But I like to write about the young ones, the ones that are just fresh with their fangs and have just crawled out of their graves and have no idea about all of these new desires and abilities.  I tend to do the same with my werewolves, prefer to write the ones that were just bitten, because that whole discovery/body horror thing just does it for me!  My favorite books often have the main character waking up just after whatever traumatic event that caused them to not be human anymore, and have no idea that it happened…and things just start going wrong from there.  They’re very old books, but one of my favorite vampire books is The Undead  by Roxanne Longstreet, which I just had to take a brief break from writing this email to say that I found those on Audible.com..

Outside of that, I’m a huge fan of the Legend of Zelda (Twilight princess for the win!  What?  You’re technically a werewolf!) and Five Nights at Freddys.  Perhaps I’m into these games a little too much, as I’m currently drawing up plans for a living room that resembles the show stage from Five Nights, and a bedroom that will look like you stepped into Hyrule.  I collect related things, figures, clothes, and the like.  Everyone thinks I’m just a little bit loopy, but I’m okay with that!

I’m actually terrified of Zombies, because…with vampires or werewolves, they have a point where you can reason with them.  They’re human, they’re capable of thinking rationally.  Zombies though, not so much.  I think it’s also why I have such a hard time with children.  Ha!

Tell us about your most recent werewolf related work.

Werewolves have always been one of my big interests, vampires though have sort of eclipsed (ha moon joke) my werewolf-y interests, probably because werewolves are less attainable.  But, with the influx of ‘shifter’ novels recently on the Kindle Direct Marketplace, it’s been a little easier to get my paws on some werewolfy goodness.

Or, terribleness.  It’s kind of a crapshoot.

Ah, let’s see, currently I have two werewolf novels in the works.

A friend of mine challenged me to write a character who has a healthy open relationship with his wife.  I’ve not seen a whole lot of works that featured healthy, happy open relationships, a lot of werewolf fiction is heavily male-dominates/protects-female mate, and I’ve always kind of loved subverting tropes, so, a happy open relationship between several adults…

And then the man is bitten by a werewolf.

I like the idea of man trying to hide the fact he’s a werewolf (Going with the old ‘but I’m a monster!’), but the woman thinking it’s him attempting to hide a male lover (He’s been pretty straight up to this point) and the shenanegans that can bring up.  I want it to be a fun, funny, warm, loving book about the importance understanding, and communication, in any relationship.  From his pack to his partners.

My werewolf novels are set in the same world as my vampire novels (I’m in the middle of the second one right now).  I have a whole supernatural world in my head, and hopefully many of the various phenotypes of supernatural will get a novel to their name.  I’ve got a page in my novel-writing-notebook for a group of poly-lesbian witches too!

The second novel I want to write is from the perspective of a young man who’s freshly bitten, and has never had anyone before, and suddenly this sort of withdrawn loner has this enforced family.  This novel will deal with anger, resentment, change, and family, in a very different way than most ‘family’ novels.

Hopefully they’ll be two very different stories, even if the original premise, a man who’s recently bitten and turned into a werewolf, is the same.  And because I enjoy writing it, plenty of sex!

Who is your favourite character within your own work and why?

My favorite character from my own writing, hm?  He’s a vampire, and his name is Westly.  It’s the name I go by online, and he’s one of the stars of my webcomic, Sacred Grounds

I’m a big fan of the type of supernaturals that don’t have it all figured out.  They’re average joes, working joe jobs, trying to get through life with this horrible condition.  He’s very human in that he’s self conscious about his vamprisim, so he does things like…tries to avoid eating.  And that leads to bigger problems down the road.  I love incredibly flawed characters, they just make my worlds so much more interesting.

He’s never really managed to grow up, a flaw I like to give a lot of my vampires.  They tend to be ‘stuck’ where they died.  He’s nearing 40, with the mind of a 18 year old.  It’s really fun to write him trying to relate to his ‘age group’ but…he just can’t.  He doesn’t relate well to other vampires, he doesn’t relate well to humans, and he’s just sort of stumbling through his existence.

Those are the kinds of characters I really like!

Sacred grounds

Do you have any big upcoming plans relating to werewolves?
Where will you be available to meet fans in the near future, if you are doing any outings or signings?
What do you think of the furry movement and how it has affected the way people perceive werewolves?
Vampires and zombies have both had some serious popularity in the last few years; what do you think needs to happen to give werewolves that same boost? (Because whatever it is we need to make it happen!)