I have the honor once again to host the amazing author Clare B. Dunkle, whose book By These Ten Bones has been republished and was reviewed earlier today on the blog. Clare is here to share more about how she came to write about werewolves and a bit about the research she did.
J.K. Rowling has done me a lot of good without ever even knowing I exist. Her bestselling series made fantasy fashionable again. That trend helped me sell my first manuscript, THE HOLLOW KINGDOM, which became the first book in a trilogy. Then, as I was winding down my trilogy, I read her third book, HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN. Professor Lupin’s problems started me thinking about the sad lives of werewolves, and that inspired my book, BY THESE TEN BONES, which has just come out in paperback on February 15th.
I’m a folklore fan. For decades, I’ve read every collection of folktales I can get. And I already knew, even before starting my research, that folklore werewolves are the saddest monsters out there. Through no fault of their own, they are doomed to be killers—and not just ordinary killers. Folklore werewolves inevitably hunt down and kill the people they love most. Sometimes they kill their father and mother, but the most typical werewolf folktale involves the death of a pregnant young wife. At this point, the poor werewolf dies of heartbreak, and the locals all heave a sigh of relief: he’s dead, and we didn’t have to kill him ourselves, and at least he didn’t kill too many of us.
Thinking about these miserable creatures, I wondered: Could there be a way to save a werewolf? It would have to be very difficult because the werewolf life itself is very difficult; if it were easy, we wouldn’t have stories about werewolves at all. It would have to be something that fits the magnitude of the werewolf curse, a matter of life and death.
That question quickly captured my imagination. I began to watch in my mind a young werewolf named Paul: cut off from society, determined not to love because love leads to death, crippled by his werewolf spirit. And I began to picture, too, a heroine brave enough to help him. A girl who draws her strength from her acceptance of herself—the opposite of a werewolf’s split nature. A girl who feels safe and at home in her world—the opposite of a werewolf’s alienation. A girl who has the support of a loving family—the opposite of poor Paul, whose family has met with violent death. I’m very fond of this girl, whose name is Maddie (Madeleine). She would tell you that she’s no beauty and that she’s unremarkable in every way. But I think she’s wrong, and I can see why Paul loves her.
To make life extra tough for poor Paul, I settled him in the medieval Highlands of Scotland. Now, if you or I were to tell our friends that we’d seen a werewolf, we’d probably be laughed at. But the medieval Highlanders were ready to deal with werewolves. Highlanders believed that werewolves walk among us; also angels, devils, witches, warlocks, ghosts, water horses, and the hero-gods of old. They knew exactly how to handle the occasional problematic monster, so at one point in my book, Paul has to listen to a discussion of exactly how to handle a werewolf—three different solutions, all involving the werewolf’s immediate and painful extinction.
This book came out five years ago, before paranormal romances had their own shelves in the teen sections of bookstores. BY THESE TEN BONES could be called a paranormal romance, but I prefer to call it an old-fashioned love story. I’m very happy that BY THESE TEN BONES is out in paperback now. Paul and Maddie are two of my favorite characters. They’re very sweet together, and their story feels like an old ballad to me: a love from a long forgotten time and place.
If you would like to see Paul and Maddie’s world for yourself, please visit my website, where I’ve posted photos my husband took as we researched our way across the Highlands: http://www.claredunkle.com/Design/tbphotoindex.htm
Thank you Clare for the beautiful insight into this lovely novel.