Werewolves – don’t you love them? Of course you do.
So tune in below to hear from Rachel Neumeier, the author of Black Dog, tell us all about how she designed a new kind of werewolf! Plus! – you can enter to win the book!
Read my review of: Black Dog
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Designing a new kind of werewolf, and their world
Here’s a question which very few people realize (yet) that they should be asking me: Why are your werewolves kind of demonic? Isn’t that a departure from the canonical werewolf?
The short answer to that question is: I made my werewolves (semi) demonic because my vampires are totally demonic. Or were. I killed them all off in the backstory, but they were demonic, all right.
I thought we’d had enough sexy vampires for a while, see, and decided it would be nice to go straight back to the old-fashioned vampire of horror. And your basic historical vampire was demonic. That’s why it took three days for a corpse to rise as a vampire – because the soul didn’t leave the body for three days, and until the soul was gone, the demon couldn’t enter the body.
And if the vampires were going to be demonic, then why not the werewolves, too? That would be something a little bit different from all those other werewolves in recent fiction, right? I chose to call my werewolves “ dogs” to help make it clear that they aren’t exactly like canonical werewolves.
Only my black dogs couldn’t be entirely evil, because after all one of my protagonists and most of my characters were going to be black dogs. But giving them demonic shadows that constantly push them toward violence and destruction, even though they may try to be decent people? Whoa, there’s a perfect opportunity there for character development and all kinds of conflict. You can base all kinds of stories on that.
Making my black dogs demon-touched also told me a lot about the structure of my world. Because if you have demons – like, real demons – then it makes sense for religion to play a role in resisting demonic evil. We all know that crosses are proof against vampires; it made sense to take this a good step farther. In my world, it was a real historical saint – Saint Walburga, from whose name we get Walpurgisnacht, or Walpurgis Night – who created the Pure, apparently via a real miracle, though no one in the modern day knows for sure. The Pure are born into black dog families, but they are completely free of any demonic taint; their magic is specifically used against demonic influence. This was really important in the recent war between vampires and black dogs – well, I’m getting ahead of myself, there.
Only not really, because it was that war and the destruction of the vampires that set up my basic story structure.
You may know that in paranormals and urban fantasy, there’s a distinction between “closed worlds” and “open worlds.” In closed worlds, all the magical, supernatural stuff is hidden from ordinary people. In open worlds, everyone knows about the weird supernatural stuff. It’s fairly common for an author to choose to write in a world that used to be closed and has recently become open – Charlene Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels present a good example, with ordinary people learning first about vampires and then later about shapeshifters. Another example is Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series, in which first the fey and more recently the werewolves are revealed to ordinary people, with vampires still hidden. Opening a previously closed world creates all kinds of opportunities for conflict and disaster, which is, again, great for storytelling.
My world is also like this. Of course something has to happen to open up the world, and in my case, it was the war between vampires and black dogs. Black dogs won, but it was a Pyrrhic victory and, worse (for black dogs), the war shattered the kind of magic that had hidden the weird, supernatural stuff from ordinary people. Now, even though the vampires are gone, black dogs face all kinds of new dangers – from each other, and from people who haven’t been at all thrilled to find out that for thousands of years they’ve been the unwitting prey of monsters.
This newly open world is the world faced my protagonists, Alejandro and Natividad, and their brother Miguel. And since Alejandro is a black dog, Natividad is Pure, and Miguel is an ordinary human, the challenges each of them face are a little bit different. That wasn’t a random choice, of course. It’s the choice that gives me the greatest scope for exploring this world and the unique challenges it creates for the people who live in it. I hope you enjoy exploring it, too.
Natividad is Pure, one of the rare girls born able to wield magic. Pure magic can protect humans against the supernatural evils they only half-acknowledge – the blood kin or the black dogs. In rare cases – like for Natividad’s father and older brother – Pure magic can help black dogs find the strength to control their dark powers.
But before Natividad’s mother can finish teaching her magic their enemies find them. Their entire village in the remote hills of Mexico is slaughtered by black dogs. Their parents die protecting them. Natividad and her brothers must flee across a strange country to the only possible shelter: the infamous black dogs of Dimilioc, who have sworn to protect the Pure.
In the snowy forests of Vermont they are discovered by Ezekiel Korte, despite his youth the strongest black dog at Dimilioc and the appointed pack executioner. Intrigued by Natividad he takes them to Dimilioc instead of killing them.
Now they must pass the tests of the Dimilioc Master. Alejandro must prove he can learn loyalty and control even without his sister’s Pure magic. Natividad’s twin Miguel must prove that an ordinary human can be more than a burden to be protected. And even at Dimilioc a Pure girl like Natividad cannot remain unclaimed to cause fighting and distraction. If she is to stay she must choose a black dog mate.
But, first, they must all survive the looming battle.