What got you into werewolves and how old were you when you discovered them?
The first werewolf I remember seeing was in the film “House of Frankenstein”, one of the Universal movies where they tried to squeeze as many classic monsters into the story as possible. I would often visit my grandparents for a week or so over the summer holidays and one of the perks was to be allowed to stay awake for as long as I wanted, watching TV on their old black and white portable. The BBC used to show double bills of old horror and science fiction movies late at night and this doubtless helped form my taste for years to come. I would have been eight or nine at the time.
Do you share the same love of other types of shapeshifters?
To a lesser degree, yes. I’ve written stories about Selkies and various other transforming creatures over the years; there is something inherently tragic about stories of shapeshifters, going far back into folklore, very often doomed love stories.
What do you think it is that attracts you to werewolves?
Most likely the duality of their nature, the fact that they are not soul-less monsters, that they must find a way of coming to terms with what they are when they return to human form. That they remain human most of the time opens up the potential for their stories, as they could be anybody. Beyond that there is also the deep-rooted folkloric fear of the wolf added to the mix.
Do you prefer a gory werewolf tale or a more modernised, romanticised version?
The classic werewolf stories are often a balance of horror and romance, which comes directly from the usually tragic circumstances of the situation, so I think I prefer the middle ground. A werewolf that is all gore and nothing else could be just as easily replaced by a lesser monster, but at the same time I don’t really see the attraction of writing or reading a werewolf story that doesn’t at least contain the threat of danger that the wold should bring. I found the werewolves in True Blood, for example, to be quite uninteresting in this respect and have managed to avoid any grumpy-love-puppy tales so far.
What does the ideal werewolf look like in your opinion?
It should be a combination of the most dangerous parts of both man and wolf, so it should be able to stand like a man to attack and fight, but might drop to all fours to give chase. It should have hands that can open doors and tear weapons out of a man’s grip, but loaded with claws that can tear the flesh from its victim in a split second. It should be clearly neither man nor wolf alone, but something more terrifying that both combined.
Give some cinematic examples of your ideal werewolf.
Those in Van Helsing, though often far from convincing, I think had a good balance of features. There’s still not much that has surpassed the American Werewolf in London, though.
What should a werewolf NOT look like in your opinion?
The perfect example would be Teenwolf’s Dad, who was basically just a cuddly, hairy guy with sharp teeth. The same goes for creatures that are just bigger-than-normal wolves. Too close to either end of the human-lupine spectrum is rarely satisfying.
Give a cinematic example of a werewolf that didn’t quite meet your expectations.
The remake of The Wolf Man was disappointing, staying very close to the make-up of the original movie. That had been ground-breaking in its day, but I had hoped for more given the advances in the art over the years.
Stepping away from the cinematic side of things, what is your favourite werewolf novel?
I’ve never read a dedicated werewolf novel, though I do have a copy of “City Under the Moon” by Hugh Sterbakov in my to-read pile. Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series has an unusual take on werewolves that I enjoyed, though the series is primarily about vampires.
Back to cinema, what is your favourite werewolf film?
The film that sticks with me, though I haven’t watched it for a couple of decades, is “The Curse of the Werewolf” with Oliver Reed. It was the first werewolf film I saw that wasn’t one of the classic Universal films and it has an atmosphere of tragedy all through it.
Do you have any werewolf related songs to recommend?
I always think of the protagonist in Frank Zappa’s “Zomby Woof” as a werewolf, rather than anything else, so other than “Werewolves of London”, that would be my choice. Of course, I should also mention the short werewolf song I wrote for an episode of the One Hundred Word Stories Podcast “Waltzing with Werewolves”, but that is perhaps best relegated to the sands of time.
100 word stories podcast
What do you think of the way representation of werewolves has changed over the years? (In both literature and cinema.)
The single biggest change I have noticed has been the shift from the ‘lone wolf’ to the pack. This makes a lot of sense as a more accurate reflection of the natural behaviour of wolves and gives a different dynamic to the creatures, allowing a range of different stories to be told, but I think I’ve seen enough of ‘family of monster x’ situations now.
Tell me something that makes the werewolves in your works unique, what makes them special?
I don’t know that there’s anything unique about the werewolves themselves, but I like to think that I have placed them in situations that are somewhat different from the norm. In one case, for example, the werewolf is trapped in a zoo containing mythical creatures and monsters, in another she provides a non-standard approach to law and order in a frontier Western town.
What are you other passions? Vampires, zombies? Body horror? Etc etc.
In terms of writing, I often write about the passage of time and its effect on individuals and society, whether in stories about time travel or about people who are somehow dislodged in time (ancient civilisations hidden in our midst, cryogenics, etc.).
My other main creative interest is in writing music. I’m currently focused on instrumental music, but have in the past written songs about a wide range of topics, from frontal lobotomies and gay vikings to killer lollipop ladies and mad professor’s assistants.
Tell us about your most recent werewolf related work.
That would be “Freedom”, a short story written and recorded for the “Every Photo Tells…” podcast. A young woman who has been drugged and abused for years awakes in a cottage, apparently in the middle of a forest, being looked after by a man she has never met, who supports her through withdrawal from the drugs in her system. She begins to trust him, until discovering that the forest is encased in a huge glass shell from which she can’t escape and that the man has a secret that makes him more dangerous than all the men she thought she had escaped. Then the moon comes out…
Every photo tells a story
Who is your favourite character within your own work and why?
My favourite werewolf-related character would be Sheriff Clayton in my story “High Moon”. He appears to be a fairly typical spaghetti western type of no-nonsense lawman, protecting the people of his town, but he has much more to protect at home and his method of dealing with werewolves is a long way from what his deputies and townsfolk believe.
Do you have any big upcoming plans relating to werewolves?
I’m currently finishing editing my ongoing podcast story about millennium-old clan battles and ancient advanced civilisations, “Some Other Scotland”, which remains defiantly werewolf-free. Meanwhile, I have a long-term project that does involve werewolves as one part of a broad fantasy, though that will be a while off, as I have another two novels to release before then. It is likely that I’ll be revisiting werewolves in more short stories, too.
In my musical life I have a project coming up soon that is strongly vampire-related, but my existing music can be found on my website, along with links to short stories and other writing activities.
Where will you be available to meet fans in the near future, if you are doing any outings or signings?
I have nothing is planned for the immediate future along these lines, but if I do it will be circulated to my mailing list and on Twitter.
What do you think of the furry movement and how it has affected the way people perceive werewolves?
I know almost nothing of the furry movement beyond the fact that it exists, so I can’t give an informed opinion on this, but I would guess that within the public imagination, most people still think of either Lon Chaney Jr. or Twilight, depending on their generation.
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!)
Vampires got off to a great start with “Dracula”, which is still a fantastic read today and as one of the early classics of the genre had more than its fair share of iconic movies and thus became firmly embedded in the public consciousness. Zombies have, to my mind, more in common with monster movies or disaster movies that come in waves as an answer to an itch that society needs to scratch. Both of these represent some form of external evil, but werewolf stories tend to be more personal, inward-looking, making us think about ourselves.
Perhaps the werewolf has had its time, enjoying hundreds of years of oral storytelling traditions (Little Red Riding Hood, etc.), but I think it has lost some ground to other transformational characters. Of these the most famous is certainly Jekyll & Hyde, which like Dracula and Frankenstein, has been revisited in books, movies and TV shows on a regular basis. These days we also have the Hulk, which has a very large overlap with the werewolf legend. The 70’s Hulk TV show was basically a story about a man that wandered from town to town helping people in need, but always having to move along because of the monster within; it could have been a classic werewolf tale, but instead of a wolf, the man turned into an angry green giant to cash in on the success of the first Superman movie.
Maybe there is a werewolf story that will hit the zeitgeist and bring our favourite monster to the fore, but it will need something that resonates more with the world at large, as looking inwards seems to be something that society as a whole is tending to avoid these days.