The Little Werewolf Novel that Could
Until World War Z, I’d been hearing that same thing about the zombie. And I guess it was kind of true. A lot of fun had been had, no doubt—the bulk of it on film and in the short story—but nobody’d Tolkien’d out the zombie landscape with a story that really sang. Not until Max Brooks applied his bloody pen.
However, this guy above and the public at large saying this about werewolves, it’s always kind of especially hurt. Not because they were wrong, but because, for more years than I think I really have to my name, I’ve been thinking about werewolves. In 1999 or 2000, trying to correct the fact that werewolves didn’t have their Dracula yet, and knowing full well what hubris is—but what other place is there to work from?—I wrote my first werewolf novel, Anubis, My Father, which, on reworking, became Bloodlines. However, in spite of the fact that I built it on the excellent scaffolding of The Galactic Pot-Healer, I kind of missed the mark, so didn’t even send this one out. Because the werewolf mattered too much to me. Nothing less than my absolute best would do.
So for the next dozen-plus years, I didn’t try my hand at a werewolf novel. Not because I wasn’t itching to every week, but because I was scared—scared I was going to mess it up again, that I was going to do it wrong again. I had some werewolf short-stuff come out, but werewolves never tore through the endpapers of any of my novels—not until 2013, anyway, when, after Red Moon, I nervily decided I had it together enough to give the werewolf another go.
The novel that fall was supposed to be The Lord’s Highway. It’s set down around Alpine, Texas, and is kind of built around Giant. Except I got a hundred, hundred and fifty pages into it and it started to slow down. Reason? Just like thirteen years before, I was too excited. This time I’d rolled out too many balls of thread, and, now, twenty or thirty thousand words later, those threads were tangling up with each other too much, were becoming a mess. All the storylines were hiding the werewolf, and the werewolf, that was who I was there to see.
‘Who,’ yes. Werewolves are people to me.
So, to keep those people safe, I did what I hardly ever do: I quit writing that novel. And then I last-minute wrote a short story I had on deadline, a short story about werewolves, of course—only, after I’d turned it in (to Jesse Bullington, for his Letters to Lovecraft), I could still hear it whispering to me. I could still hear it padding around outside my head’s windows. So, finally—this was 1.1.14—I had to open that file back up, see what was trying to claw its way out. A couple weeks later I finally had the first draft of my first real werewolf novel. My first werewolf novel that threatened to work, anyway.
But it still had a ways to go.
After parting ways with my longtime agent and signing on with another, that new agent, BJ Robbins, worked with me on this odd little werewolf novel Mongrels. And that took us two, three months, all told? A summer, say. A lot of reshuffling, polishing, and new integument, until finally it was ready to take to New York. Once there, it took hardly any time at all for BJ to sell it. To Kelly O’Connor at HarperCollins. Since then—months ago—I’ve been working on Mongrels with Kelly, watching this unlikely novel writhe and twist and creak into its fast new shape.
Which is to say: I’ve been keeping the lid on this news for what feels like forever already. But now it’s out in the world:
Used to, when I was twelve, fourteen, I’d have this recurring dreams about werewolves running around and around the little house we were living in, out in the country.
Turns out it maybe wasn’t a dream. I was just looking ahead, to 2016.
Hope to see you there.