About today’s guest: Maggie Stiefvater
Maggie lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia, with her charmingly straight-laced husband, two small kids, two neurotic dogs, one criminally insane cat, and a 1973 Camaro named Loki.
P.S. Note from Lori: I read Maggie’s debut novel Lament and highly recommend it!
I have to admit, I don’t do werewolves.
I was never really into werewolves before I wrote SHIVER. I knew as much about them as probably the next uninformed American. That is, they busted out furdom when the full moon came out, slavered a lot, and usually involved bad make up. Just about everything I knew was informed by a teen werewolf movie I had seen when I was about nine or ten. I caught the clip of Exhibit A: Teen turning into Exhibit B: Werewolf; I think now, as an adult, that the movie wasn’t meant to be scary at all, but to me . . . well, let’s just say that I refused to go outside on nights there was a moon for a few weeks afterward.
So that was me and werewolves.
But then I was working on conceiving a bittersweet, paranormal love story, and during the course of my brainstorming, I saw a contest for lycanthropic short fiction. Though I’d never had a werewolf idea in my life, I thought it would be fun to come up with one for a couple thousand words. Well, I thought all day and came up with nothing — but that night, when I went to sleep, I dreamt about this winter wood populated by wolves, and the girl who was in love with them. Wolves who were, of course, also people.
Which was how SHIVER came to be. The thing about SHIVER that will probably annoy the heck out of many werewolf purists is that my werewolves are not very . . . were. They spend precious little time looking like both a human or a wolf. When they are a human, when it is warm, they are very, very human. And when the temperature drops and they’re forced into their wolf forms, they are very, very wolf.
The werewolves in my novel owe far less to horror and far more to the Celtic shape-shifting stories. Because I don’t do werewolves.
Wolves, on the other hand, now that’s something I can get into. And it seems to me that the legend of werewolves came about during a time when real wolves were feared. When Europe was far more sparsely populated and the beasts in the woods were a much bigger threat to livestock, children, and even lone travelers. A mythical creature that turned a human into a wolf would obviously give us something fearful and deadly.
But nowadays, when wolves are the ones hunted by us, forced into tiny corners of our map by suburbs, does a werewolf legend with a slavering wolf really speak to us? It didn’t speak to me, anyway. So my wolves are just that . . . wolves. And the threat is not that you will become a wolf and go on a killing rampage as the full moon watches up above. It’s that you will become a wolf and lose yourself; your identity, your uniqueness, all your human thoughts and accessories that make you you and form your soul. I think that’s something we can all wonder about in our homogenized culture.
It lets me explore concepts of identity and play with the idea of werewolfism as a disease and present beautifully angsty solutions that are equal parts pro and con, which, let’s face it, is what I love to do.
Plus it lets me write about wolves. Which is good. Because I don’t do werewolves.
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