Thievery: Werewolf Parallel
On Thursdays, I invite my favourite writers to share the inspirations behind their stories. Here’s one from speculative fiction novelist Roy Gill.
Werewolf Parallel was published by Kelpies Teen/Floris Books.
Black paws on white snow…
The ground beneath your pads is hard and crisp.
Easy to slip on, so claws spread wide, but it’s firmer than the deeper drifts – more of a kickback from your hind legs – so you can go swift.
Ears twitch, eyes scan: left to right, down to the ground, then back to the horizon. White wolf to your side, almost in camouflage with the snow, but you scent-see him – know him – instantly.
Jaw open, lips taut and drawn-back, but teeth not exposed – a wolf smile.
You blink, and you both understand what that means. You run together. Heart pounding, sweet night air singing through your chest. Your feet dance, and you cover miles, racing through the trees.
This is what it means to be alive.
You draw in scent, and information leaps in your mind. Every tiny trace is a key-note of the whole it comes from. Like icons on a computer desktop, your human-self reckons, each a link to something bigger. You know that stags have passed this way, other wolves too. A mile away, a wild boar slumbers in fusty sleep, while above you a bird of prey circles. The forest exists in your mind as a brilliant landscape: not just of what is here now, but what has been, and what is on the way…
A new scent darts in: vibrant and sharp, it demands attention. It combines a sticky mess of cobwebs and the sour stink of death, and it approaches, fast.
A pinching, prickling sensation shoots down your spine. Your hackles rise –
My first novel, Daemon Parallel, began as a vivid dream about an abandoned boy, a spooky grandmother and a transformed version of Edinburgh. It turned into a story through the repeated application of questions and drafts: always moving forward to discover more. Since then, my writing process has become more methodical, and the stories and scripts I’ve completed have been constructed to a fairly detailed plan. Nonetheless, it’s the things that turn up unexpectedly en route that bring me the greatest joy: writing the dialogue and the jokes, or discovering the moments when your characters just don’t want to do what the plot demands of them. Rather like going on holiday, it’s the days you put your plans and maps aside and go off track that tend to be both the most memorable…
When writing the sequel, Werewolf Parallel, I knew that Cameron’s relationship to his wolfish alter ego would have to be a complex one. The book is mainly told from his point of view, and I had planned several scenes in which he would be wolf rather than human. I recalled a short story I read many years ago – which I’ve since completely failed to find again, but I believe was possibly by Dave Eggers – that followed a boy as he sneaked out his house and took a bike ride to see his girlfriend. The story was written in second person – addressing the reader directly as “you” – and I remembered being seduced by that unusual perspective. It felt as if you were a close camera on the action, riding alongside the boy as he set out. It seemed to me this was something I could use for my scenes – allowing the excitement of tracking alongside the wolf rather than observing at distance, but at the same time retaining a distancing effect: reminding the reader that something supernatural was occurring, and that wolf-thoughts would not necessarily have the same shape and texture as those of a human.
I loved writing those sections, although I did initially worry that same alienating effect might be flagged up in editing as problematic for the novel’s younger readers. Much later in the process, I found myself adding an extra chapter in which the second person point-of-view became a crucial way to illustrate a long-planned plot point regarding Cameron’s wolf inheritance. I don’t want to delve too deeply into that here – because SPOILERS – but at that moment I knew I’d made the right choice with the point-of-view trick I’d instinctively borrowed earlier, and everything seemed to slide into place. I felt I’d nailed the novel’s theme – and my editor evidently agreed as she kept her red pen to herself!
So I guess I’m grateful to that short story about the boy on the bike – wherever and whatever it might be…