Saturday, July 2, 2016

Putting the Wolf in Werewolves

Posted by: Shawna Reppert

I have a confession to make:  I used to just not get the whole werewolf thing. This is odd, I know, coming from someone about to release a steampunk Victorian detective novel in which a werewolf plays an important role. It is especially odd for someone who has a strong affinity for wolves, who used to have a wolf for a pet. (Seamus passed away years ago from natural causes. I still miss the scamp.)

I think my aversion to werewolves came from the werewolf movies of my youth. The werewolf images I grew up with were hairy mutant humanoids, devoid of the beauty and grace of real wolves. They were vicious and noisy and foamed at the mouth, and seemed devoid of the intelligence that nature gave wolves, let alone humans in wolf bodies. A far, far cry from the sexy, elegant vampires that were my favorite misunderstood fiends.

I’m not sure exactly when I finally glommed onto the ‘wolf’ part of werewolf, but it came as something of an epiphany. As a speculative fiction writer, my werewolves could be whatever I said they were.  And since I loved wolves, when my weres become wolves, they look like wolves, not creepy slavering hybrid monsters. They have all the attributes I love and admire in wolves—the strength, the nobility, the soul-deep eyes. They have the instincts and keen senses of wolves with the intelligence, personality and value system of the person they are when walking upright and defurred.

The first time a werewolf popped into my writing, I was taking a workshop from the inestimable Eric M Witchey and doing an exercise in what he calls dialogue in opposition. Basically, we were working on the subtle nuances of writing natural-seeming dialogue in a scene where the two characters want opposite things.  Since this was just an exercise, we were to either borrow or whip up characters rather than using anyone from our current work-in-progress.  The goal was to study the process by not being too emotionally attached to the result.

Anyway, for no particular reason (okay, it might have had a little bit to do with the absinthe I was drinking while staring at the vintage absinthe fountain in The Secret Society Lounge) I set a Victorian courting couple in a garden.  He was trying to get her to forgive him for standing her up at a dinner party without revealing why he was absent. She refused to forgive him unless he gave her a good excuse.  As I was writing, I had to give him a) a good reason for being absent and b) a good reason why he couldn’t reveal a). It popped into my head that he was a werewolf and the dinner party had been organized for the night of the full moon. (I gave him a pushy aunt who set up the whole thing without consulting him as to the date)

I really liked the resulting few paragraphs, but they sat on my hard drive not doing much of anything for a year or two.  Then I was at Orycon, a struggling fantasy writer listening to a steampunk panel, Phyllis Irene Radford difficulty getting enough quality submissions for a steampunk anthology she was putting together. (Quantity, she said, was not a problem) I thought I can do that.
I dusted off my Victorian couple and wrote my very first steampunk story and sold it to the very first place I submitted.  This, after struggling years to break into the fantasy market.  I decided that I liked steampunk.

(The short story, The Beast Within appears in the anthology Gears and Levers 2 and will  be soon available on Amazon as a stand-alone)

The fore-mentioned detective novel in the same universe followed, but because I had not at the time utterly turned my back on traditional publishing, it spent years getting very near-misses at from some very impressive names in traditional publishing while my fantasy career (first traditional, then hybrid, then indie) took off.  Finally, I decided I could do it better and faster myself, and started the process to release A Hunt by Moonlight indie.

My readers can look forward to many more novels with civilized and wolf-like Victorian werewolves.  I hope they enjoy the characters as much as I do.

Shawna Reppert is an award-winning author of fantasy and steampunk who keeps her readers up all night and makes them miss work deadlines.  Her fiction asks questions for which there are no easy answers while taking readers on a fine adventure that grips them heart and soul.  You can find her work on Amazon and follow her blog on her website (  You can friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter, where she posts an amazing array of geekery.  Shawna can also sometimes be found in medieval garb on a caparisoned horse, throwing javelins into innocent hay bales that never did anything to her.

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