Many thanks to K.D. Grace for hosting me here today! I’d like to use the space to talk about the process of putting my own stamp on the common trope of the werewolf.
The word “werewolf” conjures images of abandon, freedom, wildness, and ravenous appetites. It’s no difficult task to guess why werewolves have been such popular figures in erotic romance. When I think about what makes shifters hot, it’s that very present beast within.
What makes something popular, however, can also make it daunting. A Google search on “werewolf erotic romance” turned up more than 1.7 million results, for example. How can a writer possibly add something new?
I think the key is to find a personal point of connection.
Untamed, unbuttoned, uninhibited, completely uncivilized passion sounds sexy as hell to me, but I’m not the kind of girl who would have an easy time getting naked in the woods. I’m a rules-follower by nature, inclined to anxiety, and if I found myself in a secluded area with a hot shifter, I’d fritter away my makeout time by constantly checking for approaching park rangers.
This nervousness, it turns out, gave me a way to make werewolves my own.
Any time a paranormal story is set in something like the real world, the first task is to explain why we don’t all hear about werewolves all the time. In Not His Territory, I answered that question by pitting the anxiety I know all too well against the rugged image of a man who can become a beast. My werewolves are locked down by a rigid, legalistic Werewolf Council that spends all its effort checking for the proverbial park ranger.
My werewolves don’t shift because the full moon overcomes them. Instead, they get a “full-moon exemption” from the Council, which allows them to shift one night a month, with a 24-hour window before and after if life circumstances don’t allow observance at the technically correct time. As soon as I stumbled on that sort of detail, my story, conflict, and personal angle on werewolves fell into place for me.
My heroine needs the protection of the law, because she’s being stalked by a rogue werewolf who doesn’t care what rules he has to break to get to her. My hero embodies that law, but chafes from his own struggle against the wild nature he denies.
Writing about werewolves, for me, became a way of exploring obedience to the law. What are its limits? When is it wrong? When should instinct be trusted above reason?
Those questions grabbed me and felt personal to me. They made werewolves and all they represent specific enough for me to get hold of as a writer. And this process made me understand that one of the things I enjoy about reading werewolf story after werewolf story is seeing where other writers find their points of connection in turn.
“Big Timber’s worse than we thought. I need a pack of enforcers down here. The local alpha’s gone rogue—he’s stalking his ex-wife. And I think he’s also the one who decided to welcome my bus. An unauthorized shifter caught up with me a block from the station and tore me half to shreds. If I hadn’t taken refuge, I’d have been killed.”
No reply came from the other end of the line.
“Hello?” Raul said.
Gabriel answered this time, starting with a long sigh. “I can’t just send enforcers, Raul. You know that. We have to follow procedures. You’re the investigator. Do your job. Bring back evidence, and I’ll get a team down there.”
“I believe in procedures as much as anyone else—”
“Then you understand why it’s vital to follow them. When we let go of proper process, we become beasts. We can’t afford that, no matter the cost.”
“Can you send backup investigators?” Raul tried.
“The rest of the team’s still dealing with that situation in Missoula.”
“This is way more serious. Missoula’s werewolves are only threatening to break council law. I’m sitting on a pile of full-scale violations.”
“The population in Missoula’s larger. It gets priority.”
Raul deliberately relaxed his fingers. He’d pop the phone in half if he didn’t watch out. Already, a fine layer of fur had sprouted on the back of his hand. He’d have to be careful or the claws growing on his feet would rip Chandra’s carpet. Nothing brought out the beast in him more than a good, long talk about “procedures,” no matter how much he believed in the order the council was trying to establish.
“I think we’re in real danger of this pack seceding from governance,” Raul said, hoping a few official-sounding words would get Gabriel’s attention. “They’re already acting like they’re running an independent region. How much longer before they make it official? We need to quash this before they ally with the other rebel packs down in Wyoming.”
“Investigate, Raul, and we will act as quickly as we can.”
Damn. His legs were getting hairy too. Raul took a deep breath, counting slowly as he did. “The ex-wife is in danger, I think. Can I at least send her to Lewistown for protection?”
“Not without evidence.”
“The pack alpha’s claiming her house as his territory against her will. Can that claim even stand?”
“Don’t get involved in anything more than we asked you to, Raul. You can put the information about the ex-wife in your report.” Gabriel’s voice never wavered, remaining as urbane as ever.
At least one person in this conversation is having no trouble holding back his primal nature.
If Raul hadn’t seen the man shift at full moon, he’d wonder if Gabriel was a real werewolf at all.
After a devastating encounter with an illegally shifted werewolf, a wounded Raul Silva slumps on Chandra Williams’s doorstep, begging for refuge. As an investigator for the legalistic Werewolf Council, Raul’s been sent to look into instability in the local pack. Chandra’s presence makes him want to succeed at his mission for personal — not professional — reasons.
The Werewolf Council disapproves. Chandra is strictly off-limits for Raul according to both the traditions and laws of the werewolves. But after a life devoted to upholding principles, Raul’s instincts and desires are boiling to the surface. Can Raul resist Chandra, or will he break with everything he stands for to pursue a woman who is not his territory?
Annabeth Leong has written romance and erotica of many flavors — dark, kinky, vanilla, straight, lesbian, bi, and menage. In addition to Not His Territory, Breathless Press published her werewolf story, “The Arcadian Cure,” in its Ravaged anthology. She particularly enjoys playing off myth, legend, fairy tales, and fantastic history. She believes passionately in freedom of speech, rights for people of all sexual orientations, and freedom of religion. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island, blogs at annabethleong.blogspot.com, and tweets @AnnabethLeong
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What do you personally like most about werewolves?
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