Jo is a talented writer with both published and forthcoming stories in numerous anthologies and magazines like The Future Fire, Crossed Genres and Interstellar Fiction. She writes mostly speculative fiction, tending towards dark fantasy.
I’ve been Twitter friend with Jo for a while, and I know she’s occupied with her dogs (the Hellhounds), swords, Welsh, and werewolves. She’s also been quizzing me and other Norwegian Twitter friends about the Norwegian odd names, so I’m quite curious about where this is heading.
I was very happy for her when she announced earlier this year that Fox Spirit Books will publish her novel “25 Ways To Kill A Werewolf” in 2014. I really look forward to this, being quite fond of these furry monsters myself. But I just had to ask Jo: Why werewolves? Here is what she answered:
Margrét approached me to do a guest blog and, in the process, asked me why I tend to write about werewolves. In the keeping with European mythology and folklore, the answer is threefold:
Back In The Good Old Days
Werewolves are one of the “big three” of horror monsters that have been used and over-used for years (the others being vampires and zombies). Arguably, they’ve been over-done to the point where the typical representation now involves being a love interest in an urban fantasy rather than a monster that wants to rip out the protagonist’s innards and feast on them.
I’m not so old school that I want all my werewolves to return to the days of mindless murder but I appreciate a range of behaviours and responses, not just simpering. I have nothing against a well-behaved werewolf, I just think that it pays to remember that they are a physically powerful person not the family pet. I write accordingly – or try to.
I find shape-shifting an impressive skill. All things considered, I’d like that to be my super power if anyone’s handing them out. I think the attraction, to paraphrase a Pratchett comment about the Librarian, is that it’s very rare to get the opportunity to leave the human race and still be alive.
There is a distinct possibility that the werewolf concept comes, at least in part, from the need to do that. More specifically, in order to get young men to do inhumane things like kill each other, war bands and warrior-cults usually involved an element of becoming a predatory animal in all but shape. The wolf was particularly common in Celtic and Germanic traditions.
So, yeah, I use mythology and fairy tales as a source of inspiration, and there are related traditions I hope to play with, too. The Scandinavian wolf-warriors were the Úlfhéðnar, but most Anglophones are more familiar with their cousins, the Berserkir. Alongside that, there are the deer and swan maiden traditions of Western Europe – that may be a remnant of female equivalent to the warrior-cults – and the selkies of Scotland. I have used something of them in a few short stories and they’re likely to turn up again.
Another reason that the whole being-human-but-not aspects of the werewolf fascinates me is because I have dogs and my little pack is a constant source of ideas, some of which actually work out.
Basically, in order to gel as a pack, humans who own dogs must learn to present information in a manner that dogs can understand (or give orders they’ll take to get them around something they’ll never grasp). Dogs, on the other hand, have to learn to think and communicate in a way that their wild cousins don’t. Dogs have learnt to read our faces, work out what we can see from our viewpoint, and that pointing isn’t about sticking out our fingers to be sniffed.
There is mounting evidence that humanity probably wouldn’t have language if they hadn’t had to learn to communicate with the wolf-cousins who eventually became the domesticated dog. In return, no-one can argue that humans have had a massive affect on the canine form and brain.
So, yeah, I like to examine the continuum between human and wolf, bridging the species gap with magic as necessary. As a result, both dogs and werewolves turn up in my work – sometimes together.
Here’s a picture of Baby-FinnHellhound with my niece and my sister, learning how to be a member of the pack – almost seven years ago!
Thank you so much, Jo! If you want to find out more about Jo, werewolves, her pack of Hellhounds, her interest in swords and her writing, check out her website: http://www.journeymouse.net