Thursday, August 19, 2010
Interview: Jennifer Lynn Barnes - Raised by Wolves
Raised By Wolves is the story of a human teenager whose family was killed by a rabid werewolf when she was very young. Since then, she's been raised as part of the local werewolf pack, and she's actually pretty comfortable in their world--until the pack starts keeping secrets from her and she finds herself drawn into a fight for her independence-- and for justice. It's closer to Buffy than to a straight paranormal romance: lots of action, lots of sarcasm, friends who are like family, and coming of age.
Bryn is a human girl raised in a world of werewolves. She doesn’t possess their powers or strength. Is it difficult to strike that balance where Bryn is human but still capable of holding her own in a world that is predominantly male and where dominance is key and still make it believable to the reader?
When I'm writing, I never think "I have to make this believable" or "I have to make the main character strong." I think "I wonder what it would be like to grow up as the only human among a bunch of werewolves," and everything else just falls out of that. Bryn grew up knowing she was the underdog (no pun intended), and that shaped a lot of her personality. Having spent the first few years of my life in a neighborhood that was populated mostly by boys who were several years my senior, having to fight to keep up with people who are bigger and stronger than you are is something I relate to a lot.
You have a degree in cognitive science (the study of the brain and thought) and did field research living with & studying monkeys, did your research with the primates help you to create the world in Raised by Wolves?
For my research, I've spent a lot of time on Monkey Island (which is really called Cayo Santiago), and that definitely shaped the way I write werewolves. Like wolves, the monkeys I study live in large social groups, have a strict dominance hierarchy, and rely on subtle facial expressions and gestures to communicate everything from submission to threat. When you're one of the only humans on an island with a thousand monkeys, you learn to think with that kind of pack mentality, and I definitely think that influenced the world I created in Raised By Wolves.
I assume that even though you studied monkey’s you chose wolves since “were-lemurs” don’t pack the same paranormal punch ;-)
I didn't actually sit down to write a book that would let me use my experiences as a primate researcher. I didn't even realize I'd tapped into it so much until the book was finished! I wrote werewolves because I've always loved werewolves-- that I've worked with pack animals was just a lucky coincidence! That said, I definitely think there's room in the market for were-lemurs... ;)
All the female characters are very strong in this book. I hear you are a big Buffy / Joss Whedon fan – do you think BTVS has influenced this generation of writers to create more complex female characters. Since that show I feel that girls can be portrayed as tough yet vulnerable in a way that they were never allowed to be before.
Joss Whedon's TV shows are a huge influence on my writing, and Buffy is one of my all-time favorite shows. I wouldn't go as far to say that female characters weren't as complex in the pre-Buffy days, or that there were things you weren't allowed to do, but I do think that this is a generation in which expecting female characters to be complex, tough, vulnerable, capable, but flawed is becoming more and more the default. Buffy didn't give us permission to write those kind of characters--but I do think it made us expect them and it changed the way we react to stories in which those kinds of characters are missing.
I also think that Buffy (and for that matter, all of Joss's shows) is a perfect example of a belief that I hold really close to my heart, and that's that there's not just one way to write a complex female character, just like there's not just one way to be a strong woman. Joss gave us so many examples of strong female characters: not everyone has to be a Buffy; Willow, Tara, Fred, Cordy, Anya, Faith, even more minor characters like Darla, Joyce, and in later seasons, Dawn-- all were strong characters in their own right. I think there's a tendency out there for people to write a single strong female character--often one who's physically strong--but in the Buffyverse (and in Firefly and Dollhouse), there are oodles of them, and each one is unique, with different strengths and different weaknesses.
You have written only YA up to this point. Would you ever consider writing adult paranormal? May I humbly suggest *beg* a novel/short story/anything involving Callum – the pack Alpha in Raised by Wolves?
I've never actually had the impulse to write an adult book before--probably because I still don't feel like much of an adult myself (and I am beginning to suspect I never will)! That said, I love the adult characters in Raised By Wolves, and if anyone could get me to stray into that realm, it's Callum (or possibly Ali).
I know you can’t really give any hints to the next book Trial by Fire without revealing spoilers for Raised by Wolves so I’ll just ask how many books do you have planned for this series?
That's a hard question to answer. The truth is that as an author, I never know how many books I'll get to write. Most of the time, with a series, the limiting factor isn't what the author wants to write; it's what the publisher wants to publish! If the sky were the limit and I could do as many Raised By Wolves books as I wanted, I would probably do four- one for each year between the time Bryn is 15 and when she's 18. Currently, though, my publisher and I haven't discussed past book two!
As you’re writing Trial by Fire and things get more complicated – is there a character that is giving you a hard time in terms of writing? What character are you enjoying writing more about?
The hardest character for me to wrap my mind around in Trial By Fire has been Chase. In Raised By Wolves, he was a freshly turned Were, and so much of his personality was dictated by that fact. In the first few months after someone is turned, the wolf instincts really overwhelm the human ones, so a lot of what we saw of a Chase in the first book was a product of that fact. As a result, I've been struggling in book two with figuring out who Chase is independent of his wolf--who he was before he was turned, and how he changes as a person as he gets his werewolf instincts more and more under control.
As for characters that I'm really enjoying writing more about, there are two that come immediately to mind--the first is Maddy, who you meet at the end of Raised By Wolves, and who plays a big role in Trial By Fire, and the second is a new character who you'll meet in the sequel. I'm also really loving Devon, who gets to show a lot more of his alpha side in Trial By Fire, even as he persists in being the world's only metrosexual werewolf.
This month I’m co-hosting The Ultimate Reviewers Challenge – an event where book bloggers write and link as many reviews as they can (at the end they can win a prize pack which includes a signed copy of Raised by Wolves!) As an author – what do you think the importance of bloggers are in raising awareness about new books?
I think the Ultimate Reviewers Challenge is a FANTASTIC idea. I am convinced that the number one thing that propels book sales is word of mouth. When I love a book, I want all of my friends to read it. I wrap it up and give it to my brother for Christmas, I tuck it into my mom's beach bag, and I convince my college professors that they really need to give YA a try! I'm a book pusher, and I think most bloggers are like that, too. You're the kind of people who love books and love talking about books, and I think that's the driving force in this industry. Whether it's on blogs or forums, or in person over coffee, people who talk about books are the best advocates authors could ask for, and I think the way the online blogger community has exploded in the past couple of years is fantastic!
Thank you for stopping by Jennifer!
You can find Jennifer on her website: http://www.jenniferlynnbarnes.com/ or her blog http://jenlyn-b.livejournal.com/
On Twitter: @jenlynnbarnes
Buy Raised by Wolves: Raised by Wolves