A Wolf By Any Other Name

Susan Krinard on Werewolves and the Women Who Love Them

Interview by Kassia Krozser

Susan Krinard, trained as a visual artist, turned to writing when a friend – after reading a short story that Susan had written – suggested that she try her hand at romance novels. The rest, as they say, is history. Susan sold her first book, Prince of Wolves, to Bantam. Since that time, Susan’s books have made their way onto several bestseller lists and the author continues to break ground as she explores the worlds of werewolves, vampires, and ghosts – typical Susan Krinard characters.

A native Californian, Susan lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, Serge Mailloux, a dog and two cats.

Subversion: The new one is Touch of the Wolf. Can you tell us a little more about this book?

Susan Krinard: I’ve always loved writing about my race of loups-garous, or werewolves, and I’ve had an idea for some time that I wanted to create an entire werewolf “family tree,” stretching back into history. I also wanted to try a series, so I decided to set the first of this loosely based “trilogy” in Victorian England, with the remaining two books set in America in the late 1800’s.

Touch of the Wolf is the story of Braden Forster, earl of Greyburn, who has inherited his grandfather’s Cause of saving the werewolf race from extinction. Braden has devoted his entire life to the Cause, at the expense of his own happiness and the chance for love. But when his long-lost cousin Cassidy Holt arrives on his doorstep from America, his whole world, and all his assumptions, are shaken apart. Suddenly he finds that he has a heart after all, and that love may be the one threat to the Cause that he can’t fight.

“I’ve had an idea for some time that I wanted to create an entire werewolf “family tree,” stretching back into history.”

S: Touch of the Wolf is the first in a trilogy. Where will you take readers next?

SK: To New Mexico Territory in 1878. The second book, Passion of the Wolf, is Braden’s sister’s story. Her name is Rowena, and she does not want to be a werewolf. She’s fought that all her life, and has even fled England to escape an arranged marriage to another werewolf. But she doesn’t bargain on being kidnapped by a reckless rogue of hombre-lobo (Spanish for werewolf) and whisked away into the desert, where she’s going to learn a few lessons about passion and being true to herself.

S: How does this story relate to the other loup-garou titles you’ve written?

SK: The characters in this new trilogy are the ancestors of the loup-garou characters in Prince of Wolves and Prince of Shadows. Eventually, as I said above, I hope to have a whole family tree stretching into the past.

S: Which title is preferable: werewolf or loup-garou? Are there other names for this being?

SK: I use the two words interchangeably. “Werewolf” gives some readers a certain picture of a slavering, evil, cursed half-beast, which my shapeshifters are anything but! “Loup-garou” is more elegant, but as I said, I use either word. I also used “hombre lobo” in my next book, since it’s set in New Mexico.

S: You’ve set this story in England during the Victorian era – why did you choose this particular background for the book?

SK: I’ve always been fascinated by history, and felt the Victorian era hadn’t yet been overused in Romance. The more I read about the period, the more interested I became: I could show the strictures of Victorian society and how thoroughly they conflict with the earthy, “animal” passions of my werewolves. It seemed an idea setup.

S: How does one go about researching werewolves? What’s the most interesting bit of information/lore you’ve discovered?

SK: Actually, I never did really research werewolves per se. I made up my own. My werewolves aren’t cursed, can’t pass their blood onto another through a bite, can’t be killed only with silver bullets, don’t change only under a full moon. They are a separate race of beings. All my research, therefore, focused more on real wolves than on mythical werewolves. I wanted to give my shapeshifters “real wolf” qualities.

“I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of the ‘outsider’ in society, the one who doesn’t fit in, for whatever reason. A werewolf is going to have problems in our society, and so is a vampire. That’s what interests me.”

S: What is it about werewolves, vampires, ghosts – standard Susan Krinard heroes – that appeals to you? How did this trend toward “other” heroes develop?

SK: I’ve always read SF/fantasy, so it was an easy jump to write romance with some of these elements. In fact, it’s necessary for me to write something “different,” something in which I can totally escape reality. When life was painful, I escaped into books, and now I escape into my own writing and hope that it will please others as well.

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of the “outsider” in society, the one who doesn’t fit in, for whatever reason. A werewolf is going to have problems in our society, and so is a vampire. That’s what interests me.

S: How do you create heroines who are the perfect match for your out-of-the-ordinary heroes?

SK: Every hero and heroine is different in each book; I do that on purpose. I usually start out with one or the other and develop a partner who will complement and contrast with the first character, and really challenge that character in ways that will create dynamic conflict. My heroines have to be strong and not easily frightened. They can adapt to the circumstances they confront.

S: How do your stories develop – characters first, story, scenes?

SK: Idea first–werewolf, vampire, etc. Then setting–contemporary or historical, etc. THEN I do characters. The plot idea develops to some degree concurrently with the characters, as my character will determine the plot and conflict. Once I have a basic idea and have done lots of research, I write an overall synopsis, and gradually add detail to it until I have an entire 30-50 page outline.

S: You have a background in visual arts. How do you use these skills in your writing?

SK: I am very visual in my writing and in how I conceive things. I see my book as a movie and will use terms like “off-screen” to describe what’s going on. I see the action in my head as if it were on film. Sometimes I’ll find myself grimacing while I’m “playing” the villain, or looking snooty (at no one) when I’m writing an arrogant character.

S: Why did you choose to write in the romance genre?

SK: I sort of “fell” into it. I’d read a lot of SF/fantasy, but not a great deal of romance except for Georgette Heyer and Regencies. I wrote a fan story based on the TV show “Beauty and the Beast,” and a published friend read it and thought I really had a flair for romance. So I read a few books and began writing Prince of Wolves. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but somehow I had a natural feel for romance, because I’d always looked for strong relationships in my SF/fantasy reading. I sold POW within two years of completing it.

S: What type of books do you enjoy reading? Any favorites to recommend?

SK: My favorite romance author is Laura Kinsale, who doesn’t write nearly fast enough for me! I also adore Mary Balogh, and Elizabeth Thornton. I read mysteries and continue to enjoy SF/fantasy. I can’t recommend Lois McMaster Bujold highly enough; she has wonderful characters and most recently a very romantic book in A Civil Campaign. Her first book, Shards of Honor, is one of the most romantic SF novels around. I’d also recommend Sharon Lee and Steve Miller for wonderful romantic SF (they’re now published in a small-press omnibus called PARTNERS IN NECESSITY), and Catherine Asaro.

S: In addition to reading, what hobbies do you enjoy? Favorite movies, music, food?

SK: Old movies . . . I love old movies of almost every sort, especially romance and adventure. My favorite movie of the past few years was THE MASK OF ZORRO with Antonio Banderas, who somewhat influenced my hero in the next book, Tomas Alejandro Randall. I love getting out into nature, hiking, birdwatching; I am a great maker of chocolate desserts! I listen mainly to “new age” music by artists such as Raphael and Suzanne Ciani; I also love traditional classical music. I also adore animals, particularly dogs and wolves.