What got you into werewolves and how old were you when you discovered them?
At around the age of three or so, I was thoroughly obsessed with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The cartoon, the comics, and the second live-action movie featured some rather werewolf-like mutants with some regularly and I found them pretty nifty. Not long after, I started writing (poorly) and drawing (even more poorly) about anthropomorphic wolf mutants. I first learned what a “werewolf” was through the Goosebumps horror books, which were wildly popular in the 1990s and featured several stories involving werewolves. Probably my favorite of the bunch was a “choose your own adventure” Goosebumps book where I intentionally chose story paths that ended with the reader becoming a werewolf. My two favorite cartoons of this period, Mighty Max and Road Rovers, also featured excellent werewolf episodes, though I was disappointed that these were only episodes rather than the centerpiece of the show. As I got older, I started watching werewolf horror movies though I pretty quickly realized that the vast majority were re-iterations of the same plot and almost all of them were terrible. When it came to more grownup novels, there was exactly one werewolf book in my local library – Blood and Chocolate. It wasn’t entirely my cup of tea, but I read it along with dozens of paperwork werewolf books I found at used bookstores. When the internet came to my house circa 1996, I ended up searching “werewolves” a lot and discovered a burgeoning werewolf culture online, including the likes of Goldenwolf, Jakkal, and Kyoht. There were stories galore, ranging from the good to the absolutely terrible, but still… it was enough to get my attention again. Though to be fair… it took me a very, very long time (about 15 years) to finally muster the courage to actually write something werewolf-related that I wanted to post.
Do you share the same love of other types of shapeshifters?
In my younger years, absolutely not. Despite the fact that anthropomorphic animals ruled the world of 1990s action cartoons, the lack of wolves and werewolves in any major roles was a perpetual disappointment. Perhaps the best example was when I got my hands on a TMNT comic where a very cool, well-armed cyborg cougar character was drawn with wonky canine anatomy in most panels. I liked this guy so much that I convinced myself that he was a wolf, despite referring to himself as a cat with some regularity and in some panels that seemed to be drawn by a much better artist, he was clearly a cougar. But then… that changed a bit. First of all, I came across a fantastic werepanther character by the name of Naomi as well as the infamous Prowler, a were-African Wild Dog. Both of them are the subject of a lot of great art and are fascinating characters. What I’ve actually come to appreciate about other shapeshifters is how they distinctly are not werewolves. The differences in species and anatomy create not just a very different-looking monster compared to a werewolf, but one who is different in terms of character too. While werewolves are always going to be first in my heart, I love seeing what other sorts of predatory shapeshifters others come up with. If there’s a take-away here, it’s that good characters can overcome readers’ prejudices against certain tropes and concepts.
What do you think it is that attracts you to werewolves?
As a kid, wolves were my favorite animal and werewolves seemed to be effectively “upgraded wolves,” but what specifically attracted me to werewolves rather than anthropomorphic wolves was the concept of transformation. Werewolves shed their boring human selves for powerful, predatory forms and (at least while transformed) reveled in it. There was definitely an element of escapism involved when I first became obsessed with werewolves, especially the thought of becoming one, but my tastes have matured over time. At the present time, what interests me about werewolves isn’t their perfection – it’s their imperfection. The flaws inherent in the werewolf species, whether it’s turning into a berserk monster on full moons or having paws that are unable to open up a pickle jar, are character flaws; the prime movers of the plot. These species-specific flaws are what make werewolves special and create conflicts that human characters would never have. Speaking of maturing tastes, one of the aspects of werewolves that I’ve come to appreciate since my childhood is the sheer variety of creative choices that werewolves offer to their creators. A “werewolf” can vary from a shaman born with the innate ability to painlessly shapeshift into a four legged wolf to people infected with a manmade virus that turns them permanently into ten foot tall killing machines to a man who undergoes agonizing transformation into wolfman on full moons due to a gypsy curse. If you’ve got any thematic combination of wolf, human, and transformation, you’ve got something that can be called a “werewolf.” As a writer, I absolutely love that level of flexibility within a genre and I think it’s one of werewolves’ most alluring aspects. There’s also a third but very important wonderful attribute that werewolves have: they are simultaneously human and inhuman. Regardless of their species-specific traits and flaws, werewolves are inevitably going to have some human traits at least some of the time and animalistic traits at others. In effect, a werewolf is a mirrored yet distorted image of a human and thanks to the flexibility werewolves offer to their creators, the image you can reflect in your werewolves is limited only by your imagination.
Do you prefer a gory werewolf tale or a more modernised, romanticised version?
When people compare different works in the werewolf genre, they often think of a turf war between An American Werewolf in London and Twilight. What tends to be forgotten in the scuffle is that Twilight contains a few horror elements while AWiL is effectively a romance film with a werewolf in it. I know that this is a copout, but I think that any good werewolf story needs a combination of elements from both. A romantic werewolf story really benefits from a bit of darkness so that the characters earn their happy ending. Conversely, a horror story needs a few moments of light and happiness so that the audience can catch their collective breath between all the gory violence. But I’m sidestepping the question. To get down to brass tacks, I generally favor werewolf stories of the “gory” variety. That doesn’t necessarily mean that blood and guts are needed to make a decent werewolf tale, but I have very little interest in purely “romantic” werewolf stories along the lines of Blood and Chocolate or Twilight. Though I’m not overly fond of romance in general and teenage romance in particular, the bigger issue is that I really dislike how these types of stories tend to design their werewolves. The werewolves of these sorts of romantic tales tend to be idealized hunks (or occasionally “exotic” ladies), which I don’t find all that compelling. I believe that werewolves are at their best when they’re a bit uncanny and a bit inhuman, which leads to a grittier werewolf story leaning towards the “horror” side of the genre. That said, I’m not opposed to werewolves as the subject of love stories, provided that the characters and the plot are engaging (I’ve even written a bit in the genre myself). If there’s anything that should convince werewolf horror fans that romanticism isn’t the end of the world, it’s that the only werewolf film that can call itself an “Oscar-winner” is a romance-horror.
What does the ideal werewolf look like in your opinion?
To be honest, I don’t think I really think of there being an “ideal” werewolf. I recently wrote a story called “Portraits of the Royal Family” that features a number of different types of werewolves in the same setting, varying from hulking, drooling monsters to lithe, mostly human-shaped wolfmen to regal, handsome werewolves. Every one of them is suited for a specific role in the story. I think that an “ideal” werewolf is one that is ideally suited for its narrative or artistic purpose. There are werewolf designs that are ideal for horror movies, werewolf designs ideal for something more romantic, werewolf designs ideal for supernatural alternate history thrillers; really, there are werewolves designs that are ideal for just about anything. If you see a werewolf, whether in art or fiction, give it a chance. Even if it may not be ideal as to what you like to see in werewolves, it may be ideal for the artist’s intent. Though I may not have an “ideal werewolf,” I suppose I should answer the spirit of the question. There are certain werewolf traits that I really like a lot and have used frequently in my writing. I like wolfish faces with muzzles, digitigrade legs, tails, and clawed, pawlike hands. I know that these traits aren’t always everyone’s cup of tea, so I don’t generally mention them unless they’re directly related to the story (besides, sometimes I may need a werewolf who’s flat-faced, plantigrade, tailless, and lacking claws). In general, I tend to depict my werewolves as being bigger and brawnier than a typical human, sometimes to a hulking extreme, but again, I’m definitely not opposed to depicting them as being very lithe and have done so on occasion. Since “traits” goes beyond purely cosmetic attributes, there are a few thematic traits I really like too. I’m a fan of “PermaWolves” (werewolves whose transformations last an extended period of time or are even irreversible) since it offers a lot of opportunities to explore what being a werewolf means in terms of identity. They were actually pretty common in folklore too, notably in Celtic tales where werewolves had seven year transformations. I definitely prefer werewolves capable of intelligence, perhaps even genius, and I don’t necessarily oppose werewolves who interact with the human world in ways other than just mauling hapless bystanders. Overall however, I think that what I really like the most is seeing what people can do with their werewolves. I may have some favorite traits, but ultimately, werewolves are a whole – not a sum of parts. Below are few examples that have really impressed me, despite being very different in appearance.
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6
Portraits of the Royal Family
What should a werewolf NOT look like in your opinion
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a werewolf design in cinema that have just outright impressed me in the same way that some werewolves in visual art or fiction have. The most common answer I see to this question is “Van Helsing.” While he’s cool to look at and has a really intimidating, expressive face, I find his airbrushed abs distracting and I’m not a fan of how he was animated. Van Helsing moves to quickly, bouncing off the walls, slamming into CGI Dracula, and changing back and forth. It’s hard to really appreciate the design when it doesn’t hold still long enough for us to really look at it. On the subject of good if disappointing, an American Werewolf in London is an incredible example of cinematic makeup. After the transformation scene, however, I found the final result a little underwhelming. There’s nothing wrong with a bestial, bearlike werewolf, but the David-wolf doesn’t really have the same powerful screen presence that his transforming self does. Although they might not have quite the same fame in the werewolf genre as the above two examples, I really like the
design of the werewolves in Dog Soldiers. They may not be the prettiest or most graceful, but they’re big, bestial, and really make an impression onscreen. It’s nice work for practical effects on such a tight budget. The werewolves in the live-action Chronicles of Narnia are solid designs and I really like the creepy, chanting, robe-clad werewolf in Prince Caspian. There’s also a great werewolf in Goosebumps and I love his expressions and the tattered shoes stuck on his feet. His face is very expressive too, yet still quite wolfish. The filmmakers seemed really proud of the design since he showed up quite a bit in the film. I also wanted to give an honorable mention to the Mega-Lycan of Underworld 4. Although he’s in a thoroughly bland, awful movie, but the introduction of that massive beast makes an impact and presents a danger to the otherwise largely invincible heroine. Ultimately, I think that a good werewolf design in cinema isn’t just defined by how they look, but what they do and the impact they make.
While I like tails, wolfish faces, and digitigrade legs on my werewolves, the lack of them on werewolves won’t stop me from enjoying a good story or cool piece of art. My source of complains has also been about tropes and thematic traits rather than physical features. A few years ago, I wrote a collection of werewolf essays called “Werewolf Pet Peeves” where I picked out twenty traits that I felt were either boring, overdone, in need of careful analysis, or outright broken. This list includes such trite classics as werewolves as stereotypical Native Americans, the “fight the alpha male to the death for leadership” trope, the fact that female werewolves are often conspicuously absent in the genre, and the recent obsession with telepathic werewolf packs. Several of my pet peeves are associated with various knockoffs of “The Wolfman,” once a classic tale of full moon madness, now rendered trite and predictable due to countless sequels and remakes, usually made on shoestring budgets. Although the best of these is “An American Werewolf in London,” arguably the worst of the lot (and there are many) is the very blandly titled “Werewolf” which had the dubious honor of being riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000. That said, there’s a flip side to this. When werewolf creators have a particular trait or trope they hate, they usually avoid it like the plague. That’s something I find a bit unusual, since in my opinion, the best way to deal with a trope you can’t stand is to tackle it head-on. It doesn’t take much to take a boring, worn-out trope and make it interesting. Analyze it, figure out what’s wrong with it, and take it in a new direction. That can come in the form of parody, showing what might realistically happen if werewolves were real creatures that worked that way, or even deliberately doing the exact opposite as juxtaposition. The best thing you can do about the flood of bad werewolf media is to make good werewolf media. If there’s one trait that I can say that a werewolf should absolutely never be in any shape or form, it’s “boring.” Whether that means a bland, predictable wolfman who meets a bland, predictable end from a silver bullet or a generic pseudo-Native American werewolf frolicking in the trite, utopian forest or a teenage werewolf played by a twenty five year old going through a particularly ham-fisted lycanthropic metaphor for puberty, I really don’t want to see a werewolf that I’ve already seen a thousand times. I want to be surprised, wowed, and just all around impressed. Because of the creative flexibility that werewolves offer, there’s nothing I find more irritating than a werewolf creator who just isn’t trying.
Give a cinematic example of a werewolf that didn’t quite meet your expectations.
At the bottom of the heap are the “just didn’t care” varieties from the vast array of cheap and nasty werewolf costumes from crapfests like “Howling: New Moon Rising” or the aforementioned atrocity “Werewolf.” Both of these ¬films represent the nadir of the werewolf genre and there are so many aspects of the film, from the acting and plot to the editing, sound, and lighting, are absolutely dreadful that cheap and lazy creature design is the least of many problems. Instead, I’m going to focus on werewolves who were disappointing to the point that they distracted me from an otherwise good story. The two examples that come to my mind are Remus Lupin from the Harry Potter films and any of the werewolves from MTV’s “Teen Wolf.” They were both disappointing, but for different reasons. Lupin is, of course, the infamous wereChihuahua and I’m certainly not the first person to complain about that design. He’s furless and incredibly very skinny, but these aren’t necessarily problems on their own. If anything, his skinniness makes him look more like an uncanny abomination. The issue is that Lupin is supposed to be an intimidating, terrifying monster, but what we got instead looks like a total pushover. He rarely stays still enough for us to look at him (it was hard finding screencaps that weren’t blurry) and his proportions are so odd and his limbs so unmuscular that he looks downright comedic when he’s running on all fours. In addition to having a meek, scrawny-looking design, he’s as dumb as a post and never really does anything that makes him seem like the nigh-unstoppable juggernauts that werewolves are supposed to be in the setting. If we’re supposed to be scared of Lupin, the creature designers failed spectacularly. Teen Wolf (the MTV show, not the original one with Michael J. Fox) likewise features a lackluster werewolf design. The werewolves in the setting are of the infamous “yellow-eyed vampire elf with Elvis sideburns and a widow’s peak” variety. That kind of basic makeup might be at home in a film student’s college production, which understandably doesn’t have a pile of money for special effects, but it really doesn’t belong in a show that’s trying to keep one foot in the horror genre. Unfortunately, that other foot is rooted firmly in teenage paranormal romance as defined by the likes of “Twilight” and “Blood and Chocolate.” The werewolves of “Teen Wolf” are made not to be scary, but to be the subjects of posters and glamor photos marketed to teenage girls. To everyone else (including quite a few teenage girls no doubt), it’s a very bland, uninspired design that stresses our suspension of disbelief when what are clearly normal human fingernails are shown rending metal. Just like how what a werewolf should be varies from story to story, the same goes for what a werewolf really shouldn’t be.
Stepping away from the cinema side of things, what is your favourite werewolf novel and why?
I’ve read quite a few werewolf novels over the years. For the longest time, the only werewolf novel that was available in my local library was Blood and Chocolate. It’s not the worst werewolf story in the world, but about the last plotline I wanted to read in my teenage years was a clumsy high school werewolf version of Romeo and Juliet. After I read that (twice!), I started browsing used bookstores for anything with “wolf” in the title and requesting books through interlibrary loan. There are a few that have really stood out over the years. First up is the shortest of the bunch, Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King. It’s a very basic werewolf story, the typical tale of a monster prowling on full moons and messily devouring local townsfolk (in Maine of course). Our heroes are a disabled boy and, par for the course in a King story, a middle aged alcoholic. Where it really shines, however, are the absolutely gorgeous illustrations. They’re colorful, cool to look at, and provide real depth to the story. For a contemporary, purely prose novel, I’d have to go with The Last Werewolf. The one is a case of love it or hate it, but I’m firmly in the former category. The story is incredibly nihilistic and it’s hard to sympathize with the protagonist at times, but I really liked how the author handled a lot of lycanthropic concepts – especially the werewolf’s “inner beast,” which is depicted as a subtle yet powerful second personality. It’s a rare example where I’ve really enjoyed that trope. Also, it can’t be said enough, but I really wish there were more horror stories written from the werewolf’s perspective. Last but most certainly not least, whether you’re a fan of graphic novels or not, I highly recommend The Astounding Wolf-Man. It’s a delightful mashup of superhero story and werewolf tale from Robert Kirkman, of The Walking Dead fame. It’s a delightful blend of drama, horror, and a bit of superhero camp for flavor. The protagonist, the Astounding Wolf-Man, is one of the most likeable werewolves I’ve seen in any media and a badass to boot. There’s enough variety in the story to delight fans of just about any variation of the werewolf genre.
Cycle of the werewolf
The Last Werewolf
The Astounding Wolf-Man
Back to Cinema, what is your favourite werewolf film?
I’m going to focus on just one film for this question – not because I don’t have more than one werewolf film I enjoy, but because just about every werewolf geek knows about the good films in the genre, such as An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, Ginger Snaps, and the Wolfman, among a handful of others. The only real “hidden gems” in the werewolf genre are a handful of “so bad it’s good” crapfests like the infamous Werewolf of Mystery Science Theater fame and the laughably terrible abomination known as Howling: New Moon Rising. But let’s get down to brass tacks. Overall, my favorite werewolf film has to be Dog Soldiers. As mentioned above, I think that the werewolf design is solid, but my judgment of werewolf films doesn’t begin and end with creature design. Dog Soldiers has a lot of fun elements – gore, gunplay, genre-bending, methodical cinematography, and a great sense of humor. The acting may not win any Academy Awards, but it’s good for the genre and all of the actors are obviously having a mountain of fun. The directing is very sharp and the film squeezes every dime of action out of its small budget. Not to mention that it’s one of the more realistic depictions I’ve seen of soldiers outside of the war genre. They have a great group dynamic and behave as soldiers do, with a steady stream of black humor, war stories, and the much-hallowed military tradition of grumbling. But beyond that, our heroes are a likable bunch who bring a practical approach to fighting monsters that is sadly rare in the horror genre. Instead of getting angry at the characters for making typical dumb monster movie mistakes, I can just enjoy the ride – and what a ride it is. Dog Soldiers also demonstrates one of the most important qualities I think necessary for werewolf creators – medium awareness. The characters are all familiar with common werewolf tropes and try to leverage them against the attacking monsters. It’s obvious that the filmmakers already knew what other werewolf media was out there and wanted to make something fresh.
Do you have any werewolf related songs to recommend?
Oh, but of course! I’m not much of a music connoisseur in the least, but I can think of a few. “Full Moon” by Sonata Arctica is the one that every werewolf nerd should have on their playlist. It’s a wonderful song that has a rare combination of high energy rock and fantasy-style symphonic sound with lyrics that are part horror story and part love story. All in all, it represents werewolves as I often envision them. If instrumentals are more to your style, a good werewolf-themed example is “Wolf Blood” by Adrian von Ziegler. Really, any of von Ziegler’s songs make for epic inspiration if you’re creating medieval or high fantasy werewolves. Also highly recommended is “Of Wolf and Man,” by Metallica. One of the new classics of the werewolf genre, this song is pure heavy metal that celebrates gleefully murderous, maneating werewolves. Speaking of classics, just about everyone knows “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon, a mainstay of both werewolf and Halloween playlists for decades, and it bears mentioning here. Last but not least is “Animal I Have Become” by Three Days Grace. I find it hard to imagine that you haven’t heard this one a thousand times, but if not, it’s 00s rock with a throbbing bassline, ideal for working out. As a bonus, I’d like to throw out a couple honorable mentions. First up is “Hungry like the Wolf.” While not strictly a werewolf song, it’s just too bouncily corny. If “Of Wolf and Man” is the song for head-banging bloodthirsty monsters, “Hungry like the Wolf” is the theme song of doofy hipster werewolves or the graying, 50-something lycanthropy with a beer gut. A second honorable mention goes to “Cat People” by Giorgio Moroder and David Bowie. It’s a cult hit from the 1980s written from the perspective of a wereleopard who “puts out fires with gasoline.” Campy yet melodic, it’s a dance party classic.
Do you have a particular favourite werewolf artist? What is it about their work that you love?
Just one? It’s hard enough to get down to single digits! I’m going to try to narrow myself down to five, which is hard enough as it is. First up, is Viergacht. Not only are his werewolves beautifully created and just plain cool to look at, but he has fabulous diversity in his creature design. Viergacht has drawn everything from guzzy, muzzled beasts to gorilla-like wolfmen with similian features to transforming humans showing only the beginnings of the change. He’s a great writer too and he’s made some great stories for Werewolves Versus. Speaking of great werewolf artists with equal skill as writers, next up is TeknicolorTiger. Her werewolves are a fascinating blend of human, monster, and wolf. Their bodies are fuzzy, strong and uncannily humanoid, their legs are digitigrade yet distinctly primate in origin, and their muzzled, lupine faces are highly expressive and distinctly like their human selves. They’re among my very favorite creature design and a fine example of blending human traits into werewolves to emphasize how monstrous they are. Howlitzer is another artist on the cutting edge of werewolf creature design. Some artists draw, some paint, Howlitzer werewolfs – and what werewolfing he does! His werewolves are bestial, bulky monsters with fascinatingly expressive lupine faces. Howlitzer’s werewolves are monstrous one moment, comedic the next, and evocative at another. Each picture is distinctive and his gallery is definitely worth a look. Latent-Ookami is another on my short list. Her werewolves definitely appeal to my love of enormous, fuzzy monsters. Latent-Ookami does absolutely beautiful detail work and shading, which really bring her lycanthropes to life. Special mention goes to her amazing ability to paint fur, which gives her werewolves a look that is equally majestic and monstrous. Last but not least is Paladin-Ciel. He’s an artist with a very distinctive style that blends rich color, lots of background detail, and a great sense of action. His werewolf work has been primarily focused on big, bestial female lycanthropes. At the moment, he’s working on a graphic novel epic called “Crimson Dames” and has produced quite a bit of concept art. His gallery is definitely worth a look.
Viergacht, Teknicolortiger, Howlitzer, Latent-Ookami, Paladin-Ciel
What do you think of the way representation of werewolves has changed over the years? (In both literature and cinema.)
Fair warning: I’m not much of a cultural anthropologist or folklorist, so I’m going to start off with pop culture werewolves. This isn’t going to be an in-depth history by any stretch of the imagination, but rather a quick summary and a few of my thoughts on the issue. For about the first thirty-odd years after “The Wolfman” came out in 1941, the werewolf genre could basically be said to be the Wolfman, films poking fun at the Wolfman, and a vast horde of cheap knockoffs of both. Werewolves went from a complex character that made a statement about humanity to lower-than-low budget horror monsters that looked like a hairy man with long sideburns and fangs. Things started to change just a little in the 1980s with “An American Werewolf in London” and “The Howling.” Although both movies would suffer embarrassingly bad sequels (more than half a dozen in the case of “The Howling”), there was new life in the genre. Even Stephen King got in on the act with “Cycle of the Werewolf,” which made my list of recommended werewolf books. This creative wave would inspire werewolf creators in the 1990s, which resulted in werewolves branching out of the genre and achieving just a tiny bit of – dare I say it? – mainstream popularity. Werewolf the Apocalypse took the RPG world by storm, werewolves made appearances on just every 1990s cartoon from Animaniacs to Gargoyles, and around the turn of the millennium, Goldenwolf became a celebrity on the internet by drawing werewolves. Werewolves even edged into genres where they’d never been, with Blood and Chocolate finding some success as a teenage paranormal romance. By the 2000s, began to enjoy a new popularity. Wes Craven tried his hand at making a werewolf film, Dog Soldiers made an impact completely disproportionate to their budget, and Twilight (as much as we hate it) even gave werewolves a part in a blockbuster film completely outside of the horror genre. In my opinion, the biggest change that werewolves have undergone over the course of their pop culture evolution is that they’ve begun to return to their diverse, culture-rich, folkloric roots. Werewolves in folklore were a lot of things. Sometimes they were evil monsters serving Satan, other times they were people in animal forms who were good at heart but misunderstood, and at other times they could be just about everything in between. Today, as in folklore, although werewolves as monsters is the most common depiction, it isn’t the only one. The same goes for their physical appearance, which varied far beyond just one interpretation. All in all, diversity has been a huge boon to the werewolf genre. It’s a change that I hope proves to be enduring.
Tell me something that makes the werewolves in your works unique, what makes them special?
To give a very fanciful, self-indulgent answer to that question, the most special thing about my werewolves is… everything! To explain a bit, when I think of “my werewolves,” I think of not just one variety, but several. My werewolves aren’t so much a “species” but storytelling tools to be designed specifically for the story I’m trying to tell. As a result, unless I’m writing a sequel or prequel (neither of which I write often), I generally start by figuring out the broad strokes of the werewolf species involved and what kind of setting they live in and then designing specific traits that back up the character traits and themes I want to write. Overall, I like to think that the sheer variety of my werewolf species allows my readers to look at each story with fresh eyes, rather than assuming that certain werewolf tropes are at play. To get a bit more specific, probably the most unique aspect of my werewolves, aside from the fact that I like to play fast and loose with werewolf tropes in general, is that it’s very rare for me to write werewolves in the “real world.” I like to build worlds from the ground up, which gives me the opportunity to make werewolves not just into monsters hiding under the bed, but races of beings who have made an impact on the history and culture of their worlds. They might be overlords ruling over nations, they might be everyday people trying to get by, or they might even be a marginalized social minority. The other thing that’s a bit different about my werewolves (though I’d hardly call it “unique”) is that female werewolves have been the focus of my writing. My reasoning is pretty simple. Time and time again, stories in the werewolf genre have made lycanthropy symbolic of “strong masculinity” while female werewolves (if they exist at all) are most likely to be submissive, self-loathing, and generally in a supporting role to males. This strange sort of gender division is very, very deeply buried this is in the werewolf genre, to the point that I think a lot of werewolf creators don’t even realize that they’re doing it. In my opinion, the best way to push back against poor depictions in pop culture is to offer alternatives by creating your own work.
What are you other passions? Vampires, zombies? Body horror? Etc etc.
I don’t really have any other passions in the horror genre. I’ve written two major stories with vampires featured alongside werewolves. That said, my major inspiration was that I’m not a big fan of most depictions of vampire/werewolf conflicts, which tend to put werewolves in a secondary role as dumb animals and often as the vampires’ slaves. I was into zombies as a teenager, but the zombie fad has made me largely bored with them. The biggest issue I have with zombies is that they’re just monsters, not characters. Even as monsters, they’re not all that threatening compared to the human villains. Outside of the horror genre, my biggest passion is history. But it isn’t just my passion, it’s my occupation. This is definitely a huge driving force in my work since I like to use werewolves as a history-changing catalyst. I also enjoy traveling a lot, which definitely comes in handy. Some of my readers will definitely recognize that influence and I think that just a few small details about a place can really make it stand out in a work of fiction. Talking a bit about genres, I really like historical fiction (obviously), post-apocalyptic stuff, and war stories. Needless to say, I’ve combined them all with werewolves in my own writing. Really, werewolves are a bit like good rum – they’re good on their own and they mix well with just about anything!
Tell us about your most recent werewolf related work.
I actually finished up two major stories about the same time, so I’m going to talk about both. First up is “Rougarou Roulette,” which can be found in Werewolves Versus, Issue 3: Werewolves Versus Music. The story is about Sandra, an aging nuclear power executive who overindulged in a drug called “Rougarou” that induces temporary transformation during her youth, is effectively stuck in werewolf form, and now has to take a prescription drug to take on human form. Sandra doesn’t have much of a life outside of her job, but a vacation in New Orleans puts her back in touch with her youth – and the infamous Bayou Bitch Queen, the werewolf singer she always admired. To get a bit into the world of Rougarou Roulette, the werewolves (or Loup Garou as they prefer to call themselves) are a phenomenon of Louisiana and a drug and music culture was wildly popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Where this transformation differs is that the werewolves in question are very much human – they walk around in public, talk, and even sing. That said, even if it’s primarily just a purely cosmetic change, for a lot of werewolves, they’re changing into a form that they believe is their true selves. Unfortunately, Rougarou is a drug with the side effect of occasionally turning its users quite permanently into werewolves (the titular “Rougarou Roulette”). For some, this is a happy moment that frees them from dependence on a drug and lets them embrace the identity they always wanted. For others, who were just taking the drug to enhance the feelings of a good party, it’s a terrifying change that robs them of their identity and forces them to become dependent on an expensive drug with a lot of side effects. “Portraits of the Royal Family” is the second of my most recently released stories. As with “Rougarou Roulette,” it’s another example of a setting with “normalized” werewolves. In this particular story, werewolves have very deep roots in history and culture, having served as feudal overlords, warriors, shamans, and, in the contemporary world, movie stars. Our protagonist is Melissa Thorpe, a werewolf actor and the daughter of the first female werewolf to win an Academy Award. Unfortunately for her, after getting suspended for transforming too often, she’s reduced to taking a modeling job at a university. In the process, she meets art professor Dr. Bergman, who has her own ideas of what being a werewolf is all about. The werewolves of “Portraits of the Royal Family” are the products of enchanted wolfskin belts, which anyone can wear, but those who wear them regularly, like Melissa, tend to find them far more comfortable. The belts show a lot of variety, reflecting werewolves from a number of folkloric traditions. Some are small, humanoid, and lithe, others are giant hulking masses of fur and muscle with massive, drooling jaws. Unfortunately, being a werewolf is an experience that many find addictive and once a werewolf gets attached to a particular belt, it’s next to impossible to get them to take it off. Faced with these kinds of addicts, the government can do little more than leave them in their belts and dump them on “reservations,” reducing them to nothing more than animals to be studied. Melissa’s mother is one such sad example, stuck in the same belt she wore in her Oscar-winning role and having turned from actor to pack leader of her little gang of misfit werewolves. Melissa finds herself struggling to understand her mother and what went wrong, but when given the opportunity to wear a belt nearly identical to the one worn by her mother, she can’t help but try it.
Who is your favourite character within your own work and why?
That’s a hard question! My favorite character changes all the time, depending on my mood. Every one of them is someone who I’ve had to identify with at some point to create them. It’s hard to pick just one, so I’m going to go with three – or rather two plus a much bigger sort of characterization. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to stick with characters from written work that people can go read right now. The Bayou Bitch Queen of “Rougarou Roulette” is a really off the wall character by design. She’s a drag queen of sorts, bringing a very bawdy, larger than life stage personality that encourages her fellow Loup Garou to celebrate who they are and to be unafraid of expressing themselves. Compared to most of the werewolves I’ve created, the Bayou Bitch Queen is very different: she’s lighthearted, optimistic, and nonviolent. She fights her battles with stage performance rather than fangs or firepower. But that’s also what I like about her. Not every werewolf has to be monstrous to be interesting. Werewolves in folklore weren’t always murderous or evil and there’s no reason why pop culture werewolves always have to be either. Sometimes, there’s a werewolf story that calls for a very different kind of werewolf. Aunt Broken Fang of “Learning the Family Business” is something of a flagship character of mine. She’s very nice, nurturing, grandmotherly, and loves her family so much that she has no mercy for their enemies. That might not be a bad thing except that her family are gangsters and have no shortage of rivals. Aunt Broken Fang views humans as little more than prey animals to be eaten – with the right sauce and a bed of pasta, of course. She’s usually the example I give for why sentient, willfully murderous werewolves tend to be a lot scarier than mindless full moon berserkers. Any creature with claws and teeth can eat people, but Aunt Broken Fang does so as part of her moral code (and because she enjoys the taste). Last, I’m going to go with a real wildcard. Instead of a character, I’m going to choose an entire werewolf-ruled nation: the Kaisar Republic, of “Love on the Mind,” my submission to Werewolves Versus Issue 2. While there are notable Kaisar characters in that story, the Republic as a whole and the political realities of the setting loom over the narrative. What I like about the Kaisar Republic is that it represents pretty much the absolute opposite of how I’ve seen werewolf societies depicted in settings like Werewolf the Apocalypse and Underworld – it’s an autocratic nation of smog-spewing factories, heavily armed and mechanized werewolf armies, and enough capital to economically impose their will on their vampire rivals. Werewolf societies, like werewolves, can have a lot of the same diversity in character.
Aunt Broken Fang in ‘Learning the Family Business.’
Werewolves Versus Romance
Do you have any big upcoming plans relating to werewolves?
Oh, but of course! Werewolves Versus Issue 4 is right around the corner and I’m planning another submission for that issue. The theme for Werewolves Versus Issue 4 is “Space.” Getting into the sci-fi genre is new territory for me for sure. Granted, “Space” could certainly pertain to stargazing and moon watching, but I’ve forgotten almost everything from my astronomy class in college and couldn’t likely write something with the scientific authenticity the subject deserves. I’ll leave that to better minds and focus on the kinds of absolutely bonkers settings and characters that are my specialty.
I haven’t quite gotten to the bottom of that story yet and I don’t want to say too much, since things are subject to change, but it’s going to be a story with an all-new werewolf species created in a rather gruesome fashion through heavy surgery and gene splicing. Unlike what one might expect however, these werewolves aren’t supersoldiers or covert agents – they’re crew for a cheerful, werewolf-themed space cruise company.
Where will you be available to meet other werewolf lovers and fans in the near future, if you are doing any outings or signings?
To be honest, I don’t think I have enough of a following to actually sit at a panel at a convention of some sort. That’s just too bad, because I’d love to spend a weekend talking about werewolves in a formal setting! Maybe it’s different for other folks, but for me, it’s very, very rare for the opportunity to arise to talk about werewolves in real life. They’re really not something that just comes up in casual conversation, unless you count my parents asking if I’m “still writing that weird wolf crap.”
That said, if people want to chat with me or leave feedback, I’d love to hear from them! As a writer rather than an artist, I often feel like everyone out there sees my stories and say “too long, didn’t read.” Even when I do get comments, it’s sometimes stuff like “sorry, I just faved it for the cover art” or god forbid, “I don’t have time for reading this, but you should check out my gallery!” But regardless of whether we’re talking about writers or artists, I really encourage people not just to talk to me – talk to everyone who makes cool stuff! It’s really hard when you’re creating on the internet to know if anyone is paying attention and it’s very, very fulfilling when people confirm that they are.
And besides… artists who create werewolf media tend to like werewolves. And werewolves, as mentioned, aren’t something that we get to talk about every day in the real world.
What do you think of the furry movement and do you think it has affected the way people perceive werewolves?
The werewolf genre and the furry movement have a strange, love-hate relationship. As with any kind of internet backdraft, the most combative people tend to stand out. A lot of werewolf nerds make a deliberate effort to distance themselves from the furry fandom and view being called a “furry” is just about the worst possible insult. On the other side of the spectrum, some furries view werewolves as a sub-genre of Furry Fandom, being bemused by werewolf fans’ cries of protest in a relationship that I can’t help but compare to Imperialists annexing a new colony over the pleas of its natives. There’s also a third party, of largely “mainstream” folks who may or may not slap the “furry” label on certain works of werewolf fiction. Unsurprisingly, it’s usually intended as either an insult or troll bait. And last but certainly not least, I think there’s a fourth group that’s larger than all three others and comprising both furries and non-furries – those who don’t really care about the furry label and want to enjoy the werewolves without a flame war.
Personally? After a long time of being actively being afraid of being labelled a furry, I’ve fallen in with the fourth group. No matter what you do, trolls are going to slap labels on your work. Furries, no matter how much you insist you’re not one yourself, are going to come to their own conclusions about whether or not you’re in the fandom – and some will think of all werewolves as furries, even if they don’t mean it in an offensive way. Frankly, it’s tiring and silly. Instead of fretting about it, I’ve tried to just write things and let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes, I’ve found that werewolves need to wear clothes or talk or have some other “furry” trait in order to make a narrative work. The simple fact is that I’ve made an executive decision to always choose the narrative over a label.
But let’s get out of this mess for a moment. I think that for the average person, they probably don’t really care whether or not your work is “furry,” only whether or not it’s any good. And I think that the average furry is in the same boat – just like any other viewer, they’re looking at for work first and foremost with the intent of being entertained. And here’s something else to keep in mind – furries by definition like anthropomorphic animals. Naturally, there’s a lot of furries who are also fans of the werewolf genre and vice versa. I know that furries read my work. I’m not just perfectly fine with that – I’m absolutely flattered to have the readership I do.
Really, when you boil it all down, it’s a pretty simple choice for non-furry werewolf nerds. Are you really so obsessive about what other people enjoy that you’re willing to chase your fans away?
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?
The short answer? Werewolves need to get a lot cheaper. I have no idea how that would happen aside from a large segment of the human population becoming spontaneously afflicted with lycanthropy (though in that case, people would probably be disappointed that they didn’t look “right” and demand “real” werewolves), but as it is, the process of creating werewolves on-screen is very expensive and very logistically demanding. It runs other risks – a shoddy werewolf can easily ruin an otherwise good werewolf movie and I think a lot of directors understand that’s a serious risk if they don’t have enough money for high quality special effects. All of that means that werewolf films present a lot of risks for producers and as a result, they don’t greenlight werewolf films as often. And “often” is a key word for the popularity of vampires and zombies. Like a zombie horde invading a fortress, so much media of these two monsters has been thrown at the wall of pop culture that some of it has broken through to mainstream popularity, even if a lot of it has flopped – badly. Zombies are especially notable since they’re about as mainstream as it gets with The Walking Dead being primetime TV and just about everyone from Brad Pitt to Simon Pegg getting in on the fad. But does anyone else remember the wretched Dawn of the Dead remake from Eastern Europe or Uwe Boll’s infamous House of the Dead? Even George Romeo himself faltered with the roundly mediocre Diary of the Dead and even worse Survival of the Dead. Ubiquity does not necessarily mean that a genre is better, only that there’s more content.
But then there’s a flip side to this question – we’ve seen what it’s done for zombies and vampires; what would popularity mean for the werewolf genre? To be blunt, I think it would mean that werewolves would lose some of what make them so wonderful. The last wave of modest popularity that werewolves enjoyed in film came out of efforts to duplicate Twilight. We got two “follow-the-leader” knockoffs: the roundly lackluster Red Riding Hood and Howling: Reborn, a serious contender for the title of worst werewolf movie of all time, plus an atrocious feature film for Blood and Chocolate that tried to beat the Twilight movie to the box office and fell on its face. Prior to that, there has been one other time when werewolves were popular: in the wake of “The Wolfman.” What did we get? A vast array of shoddy sequels and shameless knockoffs revolving around one creature design that seemed to get cheaper and sloppier with every bit of media until it devolved into a no-name actor who looked like he’d smeared glue on his face and then plunged his head in a tub of dryer lint. Unfortunately, this is what can happen when a monster gets popular: producers get afraid to alter the formula and fan become puritanical in demanding it. Case in point: just allowing zombies to run is a deep-rooted controversy in the genre. Is that really want we want? Where months upon months of flame wars break out over even the pettiest changes in creature design? Did we not learn anything from the infamous arguments over Worgen tails?
At the moment, I feel like the werewolf genre is in an exciting position. With Twilight fading into the mists of pop culture, there aren’t likely to be further forays into trying to turn cuddly Jacob Black ripoffs into horror monsters. Werewolves may not be popular in cinema, but they’re starting to find traction online and the field is wide open for anything you can imagine.
It’s a brand new day – get out there and create some werewolves!