Guest Post by Rachel Neumeier: Designing a New Kind of Werewolf, and Their World

Grace 29 January, 2014 Guest Posts 3 comments

Today I am delighted to welcome to my blog Rachel Neumeier with a guest post about her upcoming novel Black Dog,” which will be released by Strange Chemistry in February, 2014.

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 “black 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, too. 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.

But 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 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.

 About the Author

timthumb[1]Rachel Neumeier started writing fiction to relax when she was a graduate student and needed a hobby unrelated to her research. Prior to selling her first fantasy novel, she had published only a few articles in venues such as The American Journal of Botany. However, finding that her interests did not lie in research, Rachel left academia and began to let her hobbies take over her life instead.

She now raises and shows dogs, gardens, cooks, and occasionally finds time to read. She works part-time for a tutoring program, though she tutors far more students in Math and Chemistry than in English Composition.

About the Book

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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.


3 Responses to “Guest Post by Rachel Neumeier: Designing a New Kind of Werewolf, and Their World”

  1. jami

    Ooh, intriguing. I like how the mythology of the story evolved and that the setting is unique. I’m going to have to track this one down.

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