By Tom Muzyka
Werewolves. Lesbian awakenings. Hot flashes. Three of my favorite things, and perfect reading material for a chilly autumn night. Silver Moon is the first in a soon-to-be series based around the mysterious town of Wolf’s Point and the women of a certain age who inhabit it. I spoke with the author, Catherine Lundoff, about her exploration of the Sapphic supernatural and love’s hairier side.
Tom Muzyka: Congratulations on your first novel. Could you tell me a little about your previous writing?
Catherine Lundoff: Certainly. I’ve had three short fiction collections published to date: Crave, Night’s Kiss and A Day at the Inn, A Night at the Palace and Other Stories. I’ve also edited the anthology Haunted Hearths and Sapphic Shades: Lesbian Ghost Stories and co-edited (with JoSelle Vanderhooft) Hellebore and Rue: Tales of Queer Women and Magic. Silver Moon is my first completed novel, though I have several others in progress. From a genre standpoint, most of my earlier work is erotica, with some erotic romance and some science fiction and fantasy thrown in. My more recent writing is fantasy with some romance elements. I’ve also had some short stories published in dark fantasy/horror venues. I like to experiment with different kinds of fiction and writing styles since that’s also what I like to read.
TM: Why werewolves? Is there a deeper statement on women, sexuality, and our inherent animalistic nature, or is this a pure escapist novel? What was your inspiration for writing this book? Obviously (?) you are not a werewolf, but did you draw upon any life experiences while writing Silver Moon?
CL: Nope, not a werewolf. At least not so far. <g> My inspiration came from a couple of different things. The first were the Ginger Snaps movies, which are a series of Canadian films about two sisters, one of whom becomes a werewolf. They are great movies and well worth tracking down, but they fall squarely into a trope in which menses in a young woman triggers a werewolf attack. Female werewolves are rare to begin with, and almost always young, which, contrary soul that I am, made me want to do something different.
Then there’s the physical changes that many women experience during menopause: mood swings, sudden hair growth, the sense that their bodies are in the process of transforming into something out of their control. Lycanthropy was a natural corollary once I started thinking about it. So I’d say that it’s not so much about women and sexuality as it is about women coping with major changes, internally and externally. It’s also about new beginnings. Menopause for women is often presented in pop culture as though it’s the end of everything and it’s all downhill from here. I wanted to play with the notion that it was a whole new beginning.
In addition, middle-aged female protagonists, werewolf or otherwise, are quite sparse in science fiction and fantasy, and I, for one, wanted to read about a middle-aged female protagonist. Since few other authors were writing them, I thought I’d give it a try. I do hope some of it is pure escapist fun, though as I wasn’t trying for anything extremely ponderous.
TM: Your protagonist isn’t a typical hero; she is a menopausal woman with gradually emerging questions on her sexuality. Why did you choose such an atypical character to focus on? In your experience as an author and a reader, do you think there is an audience that is interested in science-fiction and fantasy, but want the characters to be more relatable to their own lives? What has the response been so far from fans and critics?
CL: One reason, as I mentioned above, is that there are so few middle-aged female protagonists in science fiction and fantasy to begin with. I wanted to write about a different kind of character, someone who wasn’t a kickass YA heroine or typical urban fantasy babe with a tramp stamp (not that there’s anything wrong with those kinds of characters). Part of it was relatability, part of it was wanting to see a bigger range of life experiences explored in genre fiction.
When I did readings from Silver Moon back when it was a novel in progress, I got a lot of positive feedback at science fiction conventions and bookstores. People from a whole range of ages and backgrounds were interested in the final story and the characters, and that helped me get excited about finishing the book and doing more with the characters.
Do I think that the giant flood of YA heroines will be washed by a flood of older female protagonists any time soon? No, nor do I think they should be. But I do think that there has to be a balance. I was pretty pleased to see, for example, that right after Moon came out, a publisher did a call for novellas with older female protagonists and an author in the UK wrote a short story with her own spin on menopausal werewolves. I’m hoping to see a lot more older women protagonists in sf/f in the coming years. The reception for Silver Moon from both readers and reviewers has been pretty positive thus far so I’m optimistic!
TM: According to the title page, this looks to be the first novel in a series: Women of Wolf’s Point. How many books are you planning, and do you have a clear direction of where you want the series to go? Should we expect Becca and Erin’s relationship to develop? Are we going to focus on different characters in the next installment? Do you have an estimated release date for the next book?
CL: I am working on a second book, with the working title of Blood Moon, even as we speak. My current plan is that there will be three books about Becca and Erin and some of the same characters from Silver Moon. After that, we’ll see how that goes. I may discover more story as I go along (can you tell I’m a pantser?) and build from there. Yes, Becca and Erin’s relationship will develop and deepen and I think we’ll be seeing more of the other characters, including Deputy Lizzie Blackhawk and Shelly and Pete. I had so much fun writing all of them that I’m looking forward to more time in the town of Wolf’s Point and its surroundings. I’m hoping that Blood Moon will be out in 2013 but it will depend on how my writing/day job schedule looks.
TM: One of the aspects I most enjoyed about the book was the interaction between Becca and Erin. I liked that they didn’t follow a traditional romance; the relationship started as a friendship and grew throughout the novel, and was relevant to the plot instead of being its own separate plot. Becca’s uncertainty in her feelings towards Erin was also a change from the standard novel romance. Why did you decide to follow a less traditional structure for the romance, and did you find writing a less traditional romance difficult?
CL: Thank you! I wanted to write something that felt believable to me and given how I’d written Becca, I couldn’t see her going from recognizing herself as a werewolf to being immediately ready to come out. I think she’s normally pretty cautious, so this new brashness she’s developed as a werewolf will take a little time for her to get used to. Erin’s also had a long term relationship end badly so they’re both testing the waters while they decide whether or not they want to be together.
At a certain point, I also realized that I was writing a story arc that left room for them to take their time and get to know each other better. Truthfully, I haven’t written a lot of traditional romance so I don’t really have a difficulty scale to compare it to. Speaking as a reader, I have trouble relating to the kind of book where the protagonists fall madly in love after knowing each other a comparatively short time. I don’t really believe in those kinds of happy endings and I think that spills over into my writing.
TM: The mythology you created resembles some of the Hollywood stereotypes, but is mostly unique. The book tantalizingly mentions a larger magical universe, such as mentioning that there is more than one type of werewolf, and the archives of the Women’s Club which housed information on the nature of werewolves. How did you develop this mythology, and how much have you developed? Are there other things that go bump in the night besides werewolves?
CL: I came up with the notion of place-based magic as the origin for Becca’s Pack when I was contemplating the whole idea of “menopausal werewolves.” Magic was the most logical reason for there to be a Pack of middle-aged women who turned into wolves at roughly the same time and I wanted to give Becca a community to grow into. That was an easier element to set up if it didn’t start out with a violent attack; she wouldn’t immediately distrust and fear them.
An additional component is my activist history. I’ve been an activist of various kinds for many years and I wanted a way to talk about activism and community and coming out and about issues like ex-Gay ministries and their so-called “treatments.” I wanted to talk about the damage caused by these organizations without talking specifically about the real world groups. Since I didn’t see any reason for Becca’s Pack to be the only werewolves around, I introduced werewolves created through what is now considered to be the traditional method (being attacked) as the surrogates for “recovered homosexuals.”
The beauty of werewolf mythology is that there are a number of different myths about where werewolves come from, ranging from drinking rainwater from a wolf’s pawprint under a full moon to the notion of werewolves as “Hounds of God,” existing to mete out divine punishment against evil so there’s a lot to explore there. In terms of what I’ve set up in Silver Moon, there will be more about the valley’s magic in the second book as well as more about The Circle (the Pack elders) and the other type of werewolves. Wolf’s Point hasn’t revealed all its secrets to me, but yes, I suspect there are other supernatural creatures in the town and its environs. I’ve been thinking a lot about what was in the archives for the second and third books and I think the current Pack is in for some surprises.
TM: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know, about yourself or Silver Moon? Final thoughts or words of wisdom?
CL: I hope your readers will be sufficiently intrigued to want to check out my website (www.catherinelundoff.com) and associated social media. I really enjoy interacting with readers and I’m so glad to have the opportunity to do so. Apart from that, I want to thank you very much for the thoughtful interview questions. I had a great time doing this and am feeling inspired to write more about my werewolves.
Catherine Lundoff is the award-winning author of Silver Moon: A Women of Wolf’s Point Novel (Lethe Press, 2012) as well as the short story collections Night’s Kiss (Lethe Press, 2009), Crave (Lethe Press, 2007) and A Day at the Inn, A Night at the Palace and Other Stories (Lethe Press, 2011). She is the editor of Haunted Hearths and Sapphic Shades: Lesbian Ghost Stories (Lethe Press, 2008) and the co-editor, with JoSelle Vanderhooft, of the anthology Hellebore and Rue: Tales of Queer Women and Magic (Lethe Press, 2011). In her other lives, she’s a professional computer geek, the spouse of her fabulous wife and an occasional teacher of writing classes at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.