Wednesday, July 11, 2012

From Snow Queen to Wolf Girl (Guest Post from Jeanette Greaves)

Today I have a special treat for you all. Hannah Kate of indie publisher Hic Dragones recently released a new anthology, Wolf-Girls. I'll be reviewing it soon, but for now I've been asked to host a guest post for the blog tour. So it's my great pleasure to introduce Jeanette Greaves, author of "The Cameron Girls", who is here today to talk a bit about how she came to writing as a profession. Sit down and have a listen. When you're done, check out the rest of the tour on the Hic Dragones website, or visit Jeanette at her blog. Now take it away, Jeanette!

My grandmother used to tell me fairy stories at bedtime, some from Grimm, some from Andersen, some that I'm sure she made up because I've never heard them before or since. She didn't tell them every night I spent at her house, but it was enough to make me long for the brilliant dreams that came afterwards. It was enough to sow the seeds of wonder and curiosity, and make me want to believe in something different, something wild and wonderful.

Thanks to my mother, who realised that I was capable, and that reading would keep me quiet, I learned to read at a very young age, and was given several books, mostly educational, but one was a beautifully illustrated story book with just one story in it. Just one.

The Snow Queen has a lot to answer for. I read it again and again. I took into my soul the idea of the female hero, the female villain. I learned and believed that women and girls were powerful beings, capable of great acts. I learned that people could change, and change again.

As I grew older, I sought more of the same, and was disappointed that there was very little out there. Female characters sought marriage, or salvation, they were victims, or bystanders. I discovered science fiction and fantasy, and sank into the arms of the genre. Joanna Russ, Anne McCaffrey and a small tribe of women writers gave me what I hungered for … women who fought, and loved, and were the architects of their own lives.

To be honest, I wasn't attracted to the paranormal. I read and enjoyed stories about vampires and werewolves when I couldn't get hold of the hard stuff, but nothing stood out for me until I read Suzy McKee Charnas' brilliantly dark and funny "Boobs" in an anthology. If you've not read it, find it. The basic story has been used many times, but never as well as in Suzy's tale. I started to look for werewolf stories. I found George RR Martin's "The Skin Trade", and this too lodged tightly in my brain. Again, if you've not read it, look for it. It terrified me, and I'm not even a werewolf. The idea of the werewolf as a victim intrigued me.

For all my love of books, I didn't write. I'd put it aside, like most people do, after primary school. We didn't write stories at secondary school, we studied other people's. With the exception of a few narrative poems which I doodled out in the sixth form common room, my well of ideas filled and filled, without every gaining an outlet. That's how things go stagnant.

I started writing by accident, riffing on funny, erotic stories for the amusement of my friends. One story escaped from me, and grew and grew. It didn't stop. It was about a female werewolf, and I was in love with my own creation. She was (is) a green eyed, red haired, short lady, by no means beautiful. She appeared in the passenger seat of my car as I was driving, and started to tell me her story. She never introduced herself, which meant that at first I had to write from her point of view, because I didn't know her name. It took two years of coaxing before she admitted to "Diana". Since then I've been writing about Diana and her friends and family. There's about a million words of it, some about wolf-girls, some about wolf-boys. I love them all the same.

"The Cameron Girls" has been rattling around for several years, and the version in Wolf-Girls is pretty much the original version. It's a Cinderella story for werewolves, set in a 21st Century where shapeshifters have come out of the closet and are very much part of modern society. The story came about because I wanted to step outside the box, to take a break from the company of werewolves, and to look at how the rest of the world was coping with the revelation that there was a small but influential group of shapeshifters living amongst them. How would the tabloids react? And how would the 'shifters themselves protect and care for those of their kind who were still alone and scared, or unaware of their powers?

When Hannah-Kate put out her call for submissions for the anthology, I wondered if my shapeshifters fit the bill. There's nothing paranormal about my werewolves, they are no more influenced by the moon than any other human, they wear silver jewellery without a care, and they are passionately interested in being a part of human society, rather than apart from it. Some of them even change into other animals than wolves. Hannah made it clear that her brief ranged wide, so I submitted two stories, and "The Cameron Girls" was accepted. It's not my first published story; that honour goes to "The Brane", a tale of rock stars and voodoo which was in Writers' Forum magazine in 2009.

Having read the Wolf-Girls anthology from cover to cover, I'm delighted to see my story in such great company, with so many different takes on the Wolf-girls theme. The mixed-author short story anthology is a brilliant book format … you're sure to find something you like, and may even find a story that you love. Go on, dive in, and don't mind the howling.

Jeanette's first job involved boiling up pig heads to make dripping. She moved on, quickly, to take a Saturday job gutting and filleting fish. She is now a vegetarian who likes to write about people being torn apart by werewolves. Never doubt the formative influence of weekend work. Read her story, along with 16 others in Wolf-Girls, out now from Hic Dragones!

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