I am thrilled to introduce Christine Johnson, author of Claire de Lune, as she shares her thoughts on wolves and werewolves.
Warning: This post contains *extremely minor* spoilers. If you’re very, very sensitive tothat sort of thing, hurry and read the book before you look at this post.
So, when Kay suggested that today’s Claire in the UK Week guest post be about my thoughts on werewolves/real wolves, I knew immediately that I wanted to write about exactly that. I’ve had a lot of opportunity to talk about why the wolves are a female-only species, and the particular lore that plot-twist engenders, but I haven’t really gotten to discuss how the pack acts in their wolf form.
A few people have commented to me that there seemed to be a lot of actual wolf behavior in Claire de Lune and they’re absolutely right. When I wrote about the wolves – especially during the scenes when the pack is together – I relied heavily on information about grey wolf behavior. In fact, it was most common for me to be working on Claire de Lune with three windows open on the computer. One word processing document for the actual novel, one Internet page with grey wolf behavior and a lunar phase calendar. For the wolf-stuff, I have several sites I really like – one has diagrams of physical postures used by wolves, a couple of others described pack interactions and behaviors. There were books and articles that were really helpful for creating a base knowledge, but for quick reference, the Internet was definitely my friend.
In Claire’s world, the werewolves communicate non-verbally when they’re in their wolf-forms, the same way that grey wolves would in the natural world. I tried to anchor the pack’s “conversations” and interactions in real wolf behavior, elaborating and embroidering from there. Ear positions, body postures, snarls and tail position stand in for dialogue tags. No one can “say” anything if the communication is non-verbal, but bared teeth or a lowered, cowering posture have just as much impact. For me, keeping the werewolf’s behavior rooted in actual wolf behavior kept the pack’s interactions and decisions feeling honest. Fitting the magic into the empty spaces made it seem smooth to me – made the Claire’s world feel internally logical and consistent, which is so critical in a paranormal novel.
Part of what makes paranormal so interesting, so evocative, is the possibility that it *could* be happening. It’s the “normal” part of paranormal. It’s not something that takes place on Kronos 9, it takes place here. With humans. It explains the mysteries and oddities that science hasn’t neatly slotted away. Paranormal novels peek at the shadows under the beds. They have a more interesting explanation for that odd, middle of the night noise on the roof. But it all starts with the real, solid, known world. And that’s what I wanted to do with the werewolves in Claire’s world. I wanted them to be a real animal species that was *more*. That was beyond. That was literally – Para. Normal.
It made sense to me that if wolves and dogs are related species that share many of the same behaviors (trufax, both of those,) then perhaps werewolves would be a sort of bridge species that would have characteristics of both wolves and humans, plus some magic thrown in, because, really, who can resist that? So, in their wolf form, they behave much as wolves do, and in their human form, they act like any other person, and the ability to switch back and forth between those forms creates the opportunity – the need – for magic, which opens the door for things like the ability to create fire from nothing, or the special talent of hearing humans who are miles and miles and miles away.
Part of writing is trusting your instincts, I think. Researching and searching and thinking until you come across something that just fits into the story, and then building around that. Stacking the next “right” stone on top of the first one until you’ve got a novel built. (Then, of course, you have to tear the whole thing down and rebuild – aka revisions – but that’s another story.) Putting real grey wolf behavior into Claire de Lune was one of those perfect stones, for me.
Thanks so much for sharing, Christine! I thought the wolf-detail in Claire de Lune was spot on and, as a wolf-lover, was really impressed. I also love the idea of werewolves as a kind of intermediary species between wolves and humans – never thought of it that way before. ♥
If you want to know more about Christine and her books, check out her website here! Also check out some of the other Claire in the UK blog tour stops – Christine has done a bunch of fab guest posts this week.