Thursday, 30 August 2012

GUEST POST: J.K. Coi and Sarah Peacock on Wolf-Girls

Wolf-Girls: Dark Tales of Teeth, Claws and Lycogyny is a new collection of short stories about female werewolves. Edited by Hannah Kate and published by Hic Dragones, this collection features seventeen new stories about dark, dangerous and (above all) female lycanthropy.

As part of the Wolf-Girls Blog Tour, I'm happy to host a joint guest post from two of the writers, J.K. Coi and Sarah Peacock, who talk about their experiences of writing female werewolf fiction...

JK Coi is the author of 'Run Wolf' — part of Wolf Girls: Dark Tales of Teeth, Claws and Lycogyny, and the award-winning author of more than a dozen novels and short stories about dark, epically tortured characters. She also writes dark fantasy for young adults as Chloe Jacobs.

'Run Wolf' is a short story about a young female werewolf who’s been forced into the fight of her life. Kill or be killed, wolf. What’s it going to be? That’s the voice in her head, the one that won’t let up, won’t set her free, not until the sick humans’ game is over. Except that… the game is never going to be over.

I enjoyed writing this story so much, I still can’t get Gwen out of my head. Her strength and determination have inspired a greater storyline that I’m excited to start writing about soon.

But what is it that makes her such a compelling character? Why are werewolves so fascinating in fiction right now, and female werewolves in particular? Well, I think the great thing about seeing more books featuring female wolf protagonists is the fact that it’s fairly new and fresh. Sure, werewolves have been around about as long as vampires, but they’re usually male. Not all, but predominantly. And why is that? Because like vampires, werewolves are traditionally dark characters with lots of brooding badassery and baggage.

Personally, I would love to see more female werewolf characters. I think it’s about time that readers experienced strength and power from a female perspective! And you know what, I think the authors in Wolf Girls are the perfect ones to start writing those books!

Sarah Peacock's contribution to the collection is entitled 'Exiled'. Having a degree in Archaeology and Pre-history, Sarah now divides her time between writing and looking after her children. Fascinated by traditional tales of the supernatural, ‘Exiled’ was inspired by the mention of ‘cú glas’ (grey wolf) in the Ulster Cycle to describe a person wholly without ties, a foreigner, or someone who doesn’t belong.

In 'Exiled', Cassie isn't your normal everyday werewolf. But then again, I don't suppose any of the lycanthropes in 'Wolf Girls' are. For a start, they're all female. For me, the concept behind a woman transforming or becoming a werewolf is such a fascinating one to explore and one that I really enjoyed writing about.

The first time I came across a female werewolf was in the film 'Ginger Snaps' which portrays female lycanthropy as a metaphor for puberty and female sexuality. I love this film; it's one of only a few films that I can watch over and over again. The women as werewolves are strong but remain human in many ways - it says so much about being female.

In 'Exiled', Cassie's transformation is psychological. She becomes a werewolf as she discovers her own strength, finds her own voice in a culture that expects women to behave and look a certain way. As a result she becomes an outsider, she doesn't follow other's expectations and she becomes 'Cǔ Glas' – Grey Wolf. I first came across the idea of the grey wolf in an 11th Century Latin poem – I was researching a novel at the time and looking into Iron age customs and traditions. In the poem 'De Mirabulis Hiberniae' it talks about how those outlawed from the tribe would assume the form of a wolf. This is also mentioned in the stories of Cu Chulainn.

Cassie's story essentially developed from that idea. It was, at first, just a scribbled note in my journal.

The story takes the theme of not belonging and explores what happens when Cassie begins refuses to fit in with the small minded expectations that the people around her have. Her anger is unleashed and so she becomes an outsider. In our culture, Women aren't supposed to get angry and there is an extra special stigma reserved for women who are violent or kill. They are seen as the worst of the worst – a far cry from their idealised roles as care givers and nurturers.

One thing that springs to mind is that Cassie's transformation is not clear – does she change purely because she finds her voice or was the potential for turning there already? I quite like that ambiguity.

What is refreshing about the stories in Wolf Girls is that they explore these themes and more. Female lycanthropy has, at times, been taken and subverted into something to be exploited – a cartoon like portrayal of woman as wolf, but these stories veer sharply away from that and do something much more intelligent. In female lycanthropy, we as writers can explore some fascinating avenues; female sexuality, the body, violence, anger and psychology. Of course, never forgetting that a good story should always be the focus. But then again, all stories, including my own have within them, a subconscious undercurrent, something we might not be quite aware of as we write, only visible from the outside later, themes, ideas, pieces of our own psychology.

Wolf-Girls: Dark Tales of Teeth, Claws and Lycogyny is available now in paperback from the Hic Dragones website. An eBook edition is coming soon.

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