A few years ago, at the suggestion—really, more like insistence—of a literary fiend (friend), I read the first book in Glen Duncan’s Werewolf trilogy, The Last Werewolf, while on a train slowly moving along the East Coast. It was cozy bliss. I lost myself so completely in Duncan’s werewolf universe that I very nearly missed my stop.
The Werewolf Trilogy is vigorous, funny, sexy and necessary at a time when so much genre fiction is drowning in melancholy vampires and self-serious teen dystopias. The books share a great deal more DNA with James Bond and the John Landis classic An American Werewolf in London than they do with any of the current vampire fiction to which they are awkwardly compared.
Now, with the publication of By Blood We Live, Glen Duncan wraps up his immersive werewolf trilogy. (Talulla Rising is the middle book in the series.) I called Duncan recently to ask him about all things werewolf and, specifically, the peculiarities of trilogies. Duncan is charming—you get the sense there is a healthy dose in him of Jacob Marlowe (the Bond-like lead character/werewolf in The Last Werewolf).
Going in, was this always going to be a trilogy? Is there more satisfaction in wrapping up a trilogy versus a single novel?
The honest-to-God’s truth is that when I began writing The Last Werewolf, until about three-quarters of the way through I was seeing it more or less as a single book. It only occurred to me quite late on in the writing that there was potential for a much larger world. I felt like I got some characters off the ground that some people might want to follow.
But in terms of the actual labor of starting a project and seeing it through—yes, I suppose it does feel like more of an achievement to have done three books which are related and which I hope satisfy what people want from a series, which is not to lose the ingredients from the first book that made readers like it, but at the same time to keep refreshing it.
You have probably answered this a thousand times before but I have to ask: Do you have any insight as to why werewolves haven’t had their vampire “moment”? Did the genre peak too early a la American Werewolf in London, The Howling, etc…?
I think what distinguishes vampires from werewolves is that vampires afford the reader a complete escape. Once a vampire becomes a vampire he or she is a vampire all the time. They offer more opportunity for complete escape in the reading experience, because their species divorce from humanity is absolute, whereas a werewolf is only a werewolf when he or she is a werewolf. For the other 29 or 30 days of the month, they are a regular person. From the writing point of view, this is much more interesting. It presents a more ticklish moral quandary, in that you have to reconcile your human life with your werewolf life. But whether readers want that in the same way that they want the traditional vampire world of wonderful clothes, and limousines and art collections…maybe that is more appealing to more readers.
[Spoiler alert: Duncan kills off his lead—and, arguably, most interesting character—Jacob Marlowe, at the end of The Last Werewolf. This would be akin to killing Katniss in the first Hunger Games book. Duncan elaborates unprompted.]
The most idiotic decision, obviously, was killing off Jake at the end of the first book. I spent many sleepless nights wishing I hadn’t done that. There was an enormous temptation [to revive him]. Once you decided that you are dealing with the supernatural, then all bets of naturalism are off. But you have to draw the line somewhere.
Did you find it easier or more difficult to start work on Tallula Rising and By Blood We Live as opposed to starting something completely new? I imagine there is tremendous pressure to wrap up a trilogy—more expectation.
The publishing clock was an enormous pressure: a book a year. I was definitely feeling it by the time I was into the third novel. But it was both terrifying and exciting to start Tallula Rising. There were a lot of false starts with that book, mainly because I had to resist the temptation to re-write Jake in a dress [as the lead, Tallula]. But once I took Tallula’s predicament seriously—which I believe you have to do regardless of whether or not you are writing about werewolves—the book became a much more creatively engaging enterprise.
Matt Lewis is a writer, cookbook author and co-owner of Baked.