Researching Werewolves by Jennifer Denys
A werewolf, is a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or a therianthropic hybrid wolf-like creature, either purposely or after being placed under a curse or affliction (e.g. via a bite or scratch from another werewolf).
This is wikipedia’s definition of a werewolf. A friend once asked, “How do you research werewolves?” The key thing here is that they are ‘mythical’ so an author can go with details written in legends, eg, can only be killed by a silver bullet, or they can make it up – which is brilliant news for an author. Nothing better than letting our creative sides run riot!
However, when you are writing a paranormal story with a co-author then you have to consider the views of the other writer. One of the issues that we had when writing a story about this mythical creature with my co-author, Susan Laine, was what to name it. Afterall, there are several different names for this being: werewolf, wolf shifter, lycanthrope, shapeshifter, etc. We eventually decided that the heroine, being English, would refer to the species as ‘werewolf’ (my favoured term) and the heroes, being Finnish (as was my co-writer) would call them ‘wolf shifters’. This fitted nicely in distinguishing the different cultures of the main characters – and so ‘The Last Werewolf’ was born which started in England, but the bulk of the story took place in Finland in the wonderfully named Hells Lake or Helvetinjärvi National Park.
When deciding on the setting we were aware of a number of werewolf or shifter stories had been set in America – which is great because they have a lot of backwoods for humans to secretly shift into their animal selves, but we wanted to bring our mutual European roots into our story. England – and many other European countries – are just far too populated so Finland made a great setting for this story with its thick forests, although we had to invent a hill fort secretly hidden from view in this park which is very popular.
The next thing we discussed was whether they could only change during the full moon – and felt that was too restrictive, but the full moon would be like a magnet to them!
He could feel the pull of the full moon urging him to shift, to run, to mate, but he squelched the instinct.
How they became werewolves was our next discussion and went with them being born into the species (ancestry is VERY important in our story) BUT we also included a detail from legends and had one of the characters becoming a werewolf after being bitten by another – this leads to a falling out between the heroes!
Another consideration was whether they were immortal or were we to bring in the ‘silver bullet’? We decided they had superhuman abilities, eg, could heal quickly as Leevi does later in the story, but they could be killed without the aid of any shiny bullets – and death DOES occur in this story!
But what about the shifting itself? Were they going to go through agony of a slow shift as bones lengthened and changed or an instantaneous shift? If we went with the former then what happened to the clothes? You run the risk of your human/wolf being ending up looking like ‘The Incredible Hulk’ if they haven’t got time to take their clothes off before shifting – as happens in a fight scene in the middle of our book. So we went with the instantaneous shift – but them having to master the technique. One of the characters ended up with a sock stuck on his foot (it happened to one of the bad guys, naturally!).
Someone like Leevi, who had spent his life shifting, could hold his shift long enough that any clothes he was wearing as a human would simply fall to the floor before he coalesced into a wolf.
One thing I particularly enjoyed was putting myself in their shoes – or their paws(!) – and considering what the world would be like from a different (animal) perspective.
Tero’s fur was rising as he raised his hackles. Rik tried not to be intimidated as he backed up slowly, keeping his eyes on the other wolf, not wanting to divert his attention in case he was pounced on, but keeping his instincts open to his surroundings. He could feel the light yield of the wood of the balcony beneath him, the damp swirl of the air as it blew up the valley and swept across the balcony, almost forcing him to his stomach, the wet smell of the pine trees and hanging moss as they tossed about in the storm. It felt odd to have the railing above his head. Getting used to a viewpoint from a different height was something that had always bothered him before and upset his coordination, a dexterity he badly needed now as the light was dim in the storm.
What we were able to research was real-life wolf behaviours and had fun incorporating many of these in the sex scenes, such as growling, biting, scratching – and we also included the fact that a wolf’s penis can swell during copulation and get locked inside the female for 5-30 minutes! If you are both in human form and only one of you knows you are a werewolf this can lead to some interesting explanations! LOL.
“Ahhh. That’s so good. Hell, Rik, if I didn’t know better I’d swear you just got bigger inside me.”
She chuckled hoarsely, and he thought she had just made it up, but it brought Rik up sharply, and he started to slow. Shit. It couldn’t be. But his body took over, and he couldn’t stop himself thrusting in again and again as his balls tightened.
Susan and I had a fabulous time brainstorming our story details although there were a few times it would have been good if we had fangs and claws ourselves when we disagreed on a few items – or maybe it was safer that we didn’t! If anyone is visiting Smut Manchester on 15 Nov I am giving a workshop on ‘Collaborating with a co-author: the way to make or break a friendship’ when I talk about the pros and cons of co-writing and suggest some hints and tips. If you are not able to attend check out my blog website after 15 November when I will write up my hints and tips. Jennifer-Denys blog
‘The Last Werewolf’ is available in paperbook or as an ebook from:
Summer Harrison has lost her father and believes she is the last werewolf in the world. Going through his papers, however, she discovers an old letter from Finland suggesting there’s more to the story.
Taking the initiative, Summer travels to Finland. She meets Rikhard Linna, and the two are drawn together like magnets. Even though Rik confesses to still having feelings for his ex-boyfriend, Leevi Valo, their passion burns hot. But could one man alone satisfy a ravenous wolf like Summer?
During her journey through rural Finland, Summer discovers that uncovering the truth about her wolf heritage is fraught with peril. Abducted by a group of violent separatists and imprisoned in an old fort in the wilderness, Summer learns that it might have been safer for her to stay in England as the last werewolf.
Review from Delphina Reads Too Much:
The Last Werewolf was a very different were story. Not just because of the non traditional relationship, although that is not very common. It was different because the writers really took into consideration the animal nature of a were. There were subtleties throughout this book that really made it seem more like it was about weres than it was about people who happened to have a magical ability to change once and while. I really enjoyed that about this book
I also enjoyed watching the characters struggle with who they were and who they wanted to be. Each character was very different from the other and they all had things they needed to work through or decide. Watching them do this as they dealt with the “evil” that you know has to be in any good were story was so spellbinding that I read this story in one night. I was so tired the next morning, but it was worth it.
Jennifer is a bestselling author in various genre (BDSM, contemporary, sci-fi, paranormal, with historical and fantasy in her works in progress) with several different publishers.
An Englishwoman through and through, she lives in a beautiful historical city and is game to try most things once. She’s had a tattoo done on her calf, flew down zip wires 100 feet up in the trees, and was photographed nude by a professional photographer. All of which have taken place since she turned 50!
Many of her experiences end up in her books… but you will have to read them to find out what!