My Were World – Whys and Wherefores

by | March 16, 2021 |

I’m currently doing the research for the third book in my shapeshifter trilogy, Wealth Whispers. This involves reading up on bears in order to envision my hero who is a werebear. It also involves thinking more broadly about my were world.

I am enjoying the challenge of imagining characters fully in touch with their animal natures. In my series the weres are united in their desire to keep their existence unknown to humans. Now, humans have long suspected that weres exist. And stories circulate in were communities that humans have a history of torturing any creature they suspect of being a were. So, mum’s the word.

The weres are also united in their efforts to counter some of the effects of climate change. However, my stories are not strictly “cli fi” (climate fiction). They are murder mystery/romance with interconnected plots and one recurring character.

My Were World: Werewolves

The Alpha’s Edge is the prequel of the series, and Buy Me Love is Book One. They both take place in contemporary London and feature werewolves.

Because werewolves first made their appearance in the Western literary tradition over 4000 years ago, I didn’t invent an origin story for them. I simply assumed their existence.

I also worked off the rise of werewolf stories in the nineteenth century, primarily in England. These came in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, which brought environmental changes we are grappling with today. I made a nineteenth-century werewolf rampage in London part of the backstory for the two books.

See: Janine Hatter’s The Werewolf and The Nineteenth-Century EcoGothic

My were world allows for perspectives on the human world.

In Buy Me Love the heroine Zelda is a werewolf. She joins the team of Detective Chief Inspector Moses (for perfectly good plot reasons) to help investigate a spectacular murder.

At one point the team discovers that the killer is likely a woman, and they are excited. Zelda is curious about their excitement. She learns that 85-90% of convicted murderers are male. And it turns out the team recently nabbed another woman killer – the wife of a cheating husband.

Zelda thinks: “Weres don’t cheat, and weres don’t kill their mates. A sorry lot, humans. And they’re afraid of us?

Zelda’s observation on humans isn’t profound, by any means. But, at that moment, it is pertinent.

My Were World: Werepanthers

Book Two, Money for Nothing, is set in Orlando and Miami and features werepanthers of Miccosukee (Native American) origin. Both the Miccosukee and Florida panthers are native to the Everglades.

Although werepanther stories currently abound, there is no long literary tradition for them (that I know of). So, I took it upon myself to create an origin story for my weres. I chose the year 1513, when Ponce de Leon made landfall on the day called Pascua Florida ‘flowery Easter’:

“This was also the year of The Miccosukee Miracle. The White Man knew what happened in paradise when the rainy season came to its terrible climax. High funnels of wind and water, with their hollow centers, would spring up out of the ocean and fling into circular motion. He thought these tempests drove the humans into limestone caves where they cowered and prayed to Hurakan, the God of Storms, begging Him to restore their gentle trade winds. He had no idea that one tribe of humans, when the winds had gone wild, went out to honor Hurakan by hunting the sacred panther. Hurakan rewarded these brave humans by hurling down freakish forks of lightning to electrify and join skin and hide, merging predator and prey.”

Neat trick!

Lucky for my werepanthers, they were thereafter resistant to the White Man’s diseases of yellow fever and smallpox and measles. And they had no taste for the White Man’s alcohol.

As a result of their great genetics and tribal ingenuity, my werepanthers are thriving in the modern world. Plus my clever werepanther hero-heroine duo solve their part of the case that was handed off to them from London. And their good work, in turn, sets up …

My Were World: Werebears

… the action moving to Oakland, California and Osaka, Japan. I want to give my readers an around-the-world travel experience. And now I also have to solve the ever-expanding online love scam plot that started in London. (Only glimmers of ideas illuminate my currently dim imagination.)

But, oh, boy! Lumbering onto the scene are werebears. And they make me happy.

Once again, any number of werebear stories are out there these days. And once again there is no long literary tradition for them. So one of my tasks is to give them an origin story.

My Miccosuckee werepanthers escaped the lash and knife of the Spanish plundering the Caribbean for gold and slaves. They shifted to their panthers and took shelter in the Everglades.

Similarly, I imagine my werebears came into existence when both their human and bear selves became endangered. So, I’ve identified Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, as their homeland.

First, Ussuri brown bears are native to the island. And are now endangered.

Second, the Ainu, an East Asian ethnic group indigenous to Japan, are native to the island. And they, too, are now endangered.

And, guess what? The Ainu are bear worshippers!

Image: Smithsonian Magazine. No copyright infringement is intended.

I am already planning my trip to Japan ….

See also: On Writing: Stephen King Inspires

Sense of Smell – a Writing Tip

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This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen

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