Today we interview Maegan A. Stebbins author of the werewolf book Wulfgard: Knightfall. ISBN 978-0972734134 Kindle ASIN: B01ABCBMWQ. Here is the Amazon Link. I’d also like to thank the Illustrator of the book Justin R. Stebbins (who is also an author) in particular for providing some of his amazing work for this interview.
In the fantasy world of Wulfgard, Sir Tom Drake is a knight of the Achaean frontier city of Illikon. Together with his close friends and fellow soldiers, he wants only to protect his city and its people from any who would threaten them. But the Achaean Empire to which they swear loyalty is always seeking out new conflicts that put his city in danger.
When Sir Scaevius, Left Hand of the Emperor, arrives in Illikon to recruit Sir Drake to help fight the massing barbarian alliance to the North, Drake has no choice but to obey. However, he does not obey without protest, and soon he finds himself fighting not only the barbarians, but his own superiors as well. Meanwhile, strange things begin happening to him. He suffers blackouts, and at night he is plagued by terrifying nightmares. Even worse, he finds himself being stalked by horrific monsters… werewolves. Hated by his superiors, hunted by beasts and assassins, Tom Drake must fight for his home, his life, and even his mind. The events that are about to unfold will change his life, and the world, forever.
About the Author
Maegan A. Stebbins was born in Virginia in 1993 and has a bachelor’s degree in English, with minors in History and Medieval Studies. She is currently working toward her PhD in English Literature. She has been writing fiction since she was seven years old, and she has posted several stories online using the handle “Maverick-Werewolf.” Her primary interests lie in historical medieval fantasy, mythology, and paranormal fiction, especially the legends of werewolves throughout history.
About the Illustrator:
Justin Stebbins was born in Virginia in 1987 and has a bachelor’s degree in History, with minors in English and Medieval and Renaissance Studies. He has been displaying his art and writing on his personal website since he was 12, using the online handle “Saber-Scorpion.” He self-published his first novel, G4M3: Shattered Reality, in 2006, selling it through his website: www.saber-scorpion.com. He now focuses primarily on writing about his sci-fi universe Nova Refuge, and his fantasy universe Wulfgard.
Now the Interview Questions:
Question: Tell us a little bit about the realm of Wulfgard.
Answer: Wulfgard is a dark fantasy universe based very closely in real world history and mythologies from the ancient and medieval worlds. My brother and I generally call it a universe in which all legends are true. Wulfgard is the setting that certainly means the most to me of everything I have ever created. I created it alongside my siblings Justin “Saber-Scorpion” Stebbins and Ryan “Rycast” Stebbins. It’s very much a return to the classic roots of fantasy settings, while still being grounded in realism, with most mortal men going their entire lives without ever a glimpsing real magic or monsters, leaving such things terrifying and mysterious.
Within the universe, the word “Wulfgard” refers to the an ancient name for the realm of mortals. It was used during the days of the shifters, a race that could transform between man, beast, and beast-man at will. Since the strongest force in this age was the packs of wolf-shifters who roamed the land, the shifters called their realm Wulfgard (“wolf land”). Today that name is all but forgotten, and various cultures of men have their own names for the moral realm – but there are those who still remember the days of Wulfgard, and they seek to return.
Question for Justin: What inspired Wulfgard and its visual style?
Justin’s Answer: My sister and I have loved medieval fantasy since childhood, from Lord of the Rings to RPG video games based on Dungeons & Dragons. But I feel like we first started working seriously together on the ideas that would become Wulfgard while on a family vacation in 2005, when I started drawing pictures of our fantasy characters. We both disliked the direction that most fantasy art for books and games was taking, away from traditional classical style and toward a weird modern look where creatures, characters, weapons, and armor all had to look really strange and “new” – nothing like the real ancient world and its myths. With Wulfgard, we went for a more classical fantasy look, with most creature designs based directly on their mythical roots, and weapons and armor based on history. And of course I worked hard to meet Maegan’s very precise standards for what a werewolf should look like.
Question: What exactly is the Prophecy of the Six?
Answer: As of now in the series, neither Tom Drake nor his companions are aware of any kind of prophecy. But since the series itself is called The Prophecy of the Six, I kind of gave it away! The prophecy will be revealed completely in the second book of the series.
For now, I will say that all of Drake’s dream sequences are very important and contain lots of clues relating to the prophecy and its elements, and you’ll definitely be seeing the rhyme that haunts his nightmares come up again in the future:
“A man or a beast?
A blessing or a curse?
The greatest or the least?
The last or the first?”
Question: In the beginning of your book, we find werewolves clothed in hoods that can speak. This is very unusual. Please describe how your werewolf is different or special when compared to the typical one?
Answer: The speaker in the sequence is in his human form, though he is surrounded by werewolves that are in their bestial forms, lurking in the shadows. In Wulfgard, werewolves are what’s left of the race of wolf shifters from many ages ago: they were cursed by the gods and turned into monsters with split souls: half man, half wolf. Their true history is now forgotten by all but a few.
Lycanthropy is a very powerful curse, and it’s almost impossible to control – but some very powerful individuals learn how. Then there are the Six, the supposed Lords of the Werewolves, who – legend claims – retain full control over their shapeshifting ability, able to change the degree to which they transform. They might even be able to speak in their bestial forms, too… you’ll have to wait and see!
Ever since my childhood, I’ve spent pretty much my whole life researching werewolves, and the werewolves in Wulfgard are a culmination of everything I decided I liked best about werewolves in folklore and popular culture. I guess you might say the werewolves are “typical,” in the sense that they transform at the full moon and are sensitive to silver, but they have a much more robust history and inner conflict (since their souls are literally split in half, so they – in a sense – have dual personalities that are vying for control) than a lot of werewolves in some media today, especially the ones that are just cast as typical villains.
Question: What should a werewolf NOT be in your opinion?
Answer: Oh, this could be such a long answer! I’ll try to keep it reasonable, though. I used to be very picky about the visual design, but in recent years, I’ve become a bit looser. For me, a werewolf should actually look wolfish in some way, whether they transform into a wolfish-looking man or a humanoid-looking wolf – or just a wolf, as some do. A lot of werewolves you see in entertainment look more like apes, or they are virtually hairless, and some have short, thick muzzles and long, flat ears on the sides of their heads. Others are big, but they’re bony, lanky, awkward, rat-looking things. Those aren’t even werewolves to me. How could it be called a werewolf when it doesn’t look remotely like a wolf?
In terms of how they should be portrayed, I think there are a lot of different ways to tell a werewolf story, just as there are a lot of different ways to portray the werewolves themselves. But one thing a lot of stories are doing today that I find immensely frustrating is making lycanthropy into some kind of zombie plague. Instead of werewolves being intimidating monsters, they’re more like a plague of rats. Zombies already pretty much stole the “infection by bite” from werewolves, and now we’ve come full circle, with werewolves taking the place of zombies in some settings as the throwaway monster that people can kill in one shot, but there are thousands of them pouring out of every direction, to be slaughtered like cheap cannon fodder. To me, a werewolf should be a lot more powerful and a lot scarier than that, otherwise it’s honestly pretty degrading to such powerful legends – not to mention it makes for a very boring story. Zombie plagues should be left to zombies.
Question for Justin: How did you draw the art for Knightfall?
Justin’s Answer: I’ve been drawing my whole life, since I was a kid making little comic books out of construction paper. I’m self-taught; all my training comes from books, online tutorials, and practice. My primary medium has always been simple pencil and paper sketches – that’s how most of the interior art in Knightfall was drawn. I think the “rough” pencil look fits the ancient/medieval setting well. But the cover art and a couple of the interior illustrations are drawn digitally in Photoshop with a Wacom tablet. The cover for Knightfall is probably my best work to date; it’s certainly the one I spent the most time on. I wanted my sister’s first novel to be as good as I could make it. I’m still learning the art of digital painting though. My primary style – as seen in some of the Knightfall art – is comic book style, which is why I made a Wulfgard comic book called Into the North. I’ve always wanted to break into professional concept art and/or illustration as a possible career, but I haven’t gotten very far. So hey, if anyone reading this needs some art, I’m available for freelance work!
Question: What inspired you to write a werewolf book?
Answer: I really wish I could give you a straightforward answer! For almost as long as I can remember, I’ve simply loved werewolves. A lot of folklore has always fascinated me, but nothing ever spoke to me in the same way as the legend of the werewolf. I was anywhere from five to seven years old when I first became preoccupied with werewolves, and I’ve written stories about them and studied the legends ever since. I’ve pretty much built my entire life – my fiction writing and my scholarly work as an academic – around werewolves, and I couldn’t be happier that I’ve made it this far being able to do that. I often think it started with a series of dreams I had about a white werewolf with blue eyes, but then, I’m not sure where my subconscious got that werewolf from, either. So, really, I have no idea.
I’ve always wanted to be in the entertainment business, and my ultimate dream is to break into Hollywood somehow. So, whatever happens, I just want to be able to tell my own stories and help other people tell theirs – I want to be a part of the entertainment industry. That’s my primary motivation. However, another thing that has always helped keep me motivated is that, to be honest, I don’t like a lot of werewolf stories in popular culture today. When I was growing up, werewolves were very niche, and I was usually called weird for liking them so much. We’ve had a few “werewolf revivals,” so to speak, that have helped alleviate that somewhat, but I’ve never actually cared much for the stories that have come out of them. I still feel like no one has really captured everything a werewolf can be, or told a story that focuses solely on a werewolf and kept in mind that the centerpiece of their story is a werewolf, rather than something else. I want to tell a story that focuses on a werewolf protagonist and werewolves in a setting, as creatures with a rich past and depth, rather than as evil monsters – and I want to have a protagonist whose lycanthropy is an integral part of his story and his character arc, rather than a tale whose protagonist just happens to be a werewolf, and the main plot is unrelated to his curse. I think there’s a lot of depth to the idea of a werewolf character that people have yet to explore, and I’m hoping I can explore at least some of that.
Question: Who are some of your favorite authors?
Answer: This is definitely a difficult question for me, but I’m going to go with J.R.R. Tolkien and Michael Crichton. They’re very different, but I love their work, and they’ve both been enormous inspirations for me, especially The Lord of the Rings (obviously!), as well as Crichton’s novels Timeline, Prey, and Sphere, among others. Another very important author who inspired me to write is H.G. Wells, so I’d be remiss not to mention him, as well.
Question: Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
Answer: That’s a very difficult question! I love all my characters, even the ones my other favorite characters hate. I think a writer should generally like all their characters. But I can pick two favorites – picking a favorite from these two is practically impossible for me.
Tom Drake and Kye. Tom is a character I made to, essentially, encompass all my favorite aspects that a character can have, both the good and the bad. Kye, on the other hand, actually has a long and complicated history, and he is an even older character of mine than Tom.
For Tom Drake, he’s my favorite because he’s simply the kind of character I love to read about, to watch, to explore, and to share a journey with. He’s a hero through and through; he wants to protect others and always do what is right, but he’s not a perfect man. He’s got an attitude, he likes to mouth off, and he’s far too aware of how handsome he is and how incredible his feats of heroism are. In short, you might say he’s the lovable rogue, especially when you look into his background. His character begins to change and be challenged by the fate that awaits him in the end of Knightfall, as he has to come to terms with what he’s become and the truth behind his very existence.
For Kye, he’s my favorite because he’s practically the opposite. He’s a demon-kin: half demon, half human. But in Wulfgard, that makes him a lot closer to a demon than he wants to be, especially since he’s the direct son of an Archdemon. Unlike so many other demon-kin, however, Kye does not give in to the evil urges and thoughts that plague him, nor has he for his entire life. Kye’s past is long and will be explored through the series as his relationship with Tom grows, but it isn’t hard to start understanding that he’s a gentle, caring soul, despite all signs indicating he shouldn’t be. Kye isn’t quite like any other character I’ve ever created, and I’m not sure which one I’d say I’m proudest of, but at times I think Kye is one of my favorites. I’ve shaped him so carefully over the years that he, like Tom, feels like he’s a part of me, and he has been since my childhood.
Finally, one big reason I can’t pick a favorite from those two is because they almost go together. Over the course of The Prophecy of the Six, you’ll see their relationship grow into something very deep and meaningful, a sort of brotherhood between two individuals who seem like the least likely suspects to ever become friends: they’re so different, and yet so alike. I hope readers are going to enjoy Tom and Kye’s friendship as much as I enjoy writing and exploring it, because to me, it’s definitely a centerpiece of the entire series. Of all my characters, Tom and Kye are the two who make me proudest.
Question: There is a lot of medieval combat in your story. I find the idea of a werewolf facing a knight in full armor fascinating. Care to elaborate?
Answer: I adore ancient and medieval combat and military history – it’s one of the most fascinating subjects to me. I try to make sure the combat in my books is accurate, and I have consulted with several professors on the historical accuracy of the time periods and military aspects to try to keep things as realistic as possible.
I also like modern day stories (and other time periods) involving werewolves, and I’m actually working on other stories of that nature, including a series of young adult modern paranormal books. However, I’ve always thought of werewolves as being rather medieval in nature, despite the history of their legends spanning many time periods. I think werewolves are, more often than not, best suited to a story that includes knights in full armor, where the mystery of the werewolf feels much more threatening. Because, in Wulfgard, even if it comes down to a werewolf facing a knight in full armor, that knight probably still isn’t going to last long!
Question: Please explain the writing process you used for the combat scenes in the book.
Answer: I am a huge movie nerd, and I always imagine my writing as if it were a film. I approach combat scenes in two main ways: what are the characters in the scene doing and feeling, and what would an outside viewer see if they were observing this fight? The first part is integral to a book, and the second part is integral to a film, so I try to capture both. I always consider in particular what the main character in a fight scene is feeling with all of his or her senses and try to describe that, since I think that helps pull a reader into the situation – but I also don’t want to overwhelm the reader with sensations, so I try to make it something you can imagine as if you were seeing it on a silver screen, too.
Question: Please give us an overview of your self-publishing journey.
Answer: My journey is also, in part, my brother’s, simply because my brother Justin self-published two novels before me, so I had a good idea of how things worked coming into this. However, he used a printing company, whereas I self-published my novel through Amazon’s CreateSpace print-on-demand service. I’ve found the books to be easy for other people to buy that way, and they’re very high quality. Plus, I have full control of everything about them. Justin did a lot of research when self-publishing his own books, and I was there with him every step of the way for that, so I already had a good idea of what route I wanted to take with The Prophecy of the Six.
As someone who has always wanted to tell stories (and especially as someone who wants to get into the entertainment industry in general), I know I should get into the game in a different way, but for Wulfgard, I’m going to continue self-publishing. I have many other stories planned, and for some of those I’d like to get an agent and a publishing company, but Wulfgard is far too close to my heart to have anyone else involved demanding edits or providing me with illustrations and book covers. It may not be the wisest course of action in the long run, but I think self-publishing Wulfgard is what will make me happiest, since this is a story I want to tell in a very specific way, and it’s a very personal journey, even if promoting the series and getting it out there is immensely challenging.
Question: I love the name Magnus as a character. Please tell us about Magnus.
Victor Magnus is the very best friend of the protagonist, Sir Tom Drake. I’m not sure if Magnus himself would appreciate the title, but you might even think of him as Drake’s sidekick. For all of Tom’s firestorm attitude, smart mouth, and recklessly brave heroics, Magnus is the steady, level-headed opposite who stays by Tom’s side through thick and thin. He tries to get Drake to think about his actions before he leaps into them – but he doesn’t always have much success. Regardless, the two have developed a deep friendship that even the greatest challenges haven’t broken, at least so far.
Magnus is one of the most important characters in The Prophecy of the Six series, and he’ll play an even bigger role in future novels. He’s pretty much the guy you’d love to be friends with. He’s really nice, easygoing, always fun to talk to – but he can be a little naive, and he’s often too nice for his own good, which is why Drake often has to jump in to stick up for him. He’s older than Drake, but he wasn’t the firstborn son in the noble Magnus house, and he didn’t make the cut for knight training, according to his family. He became a Captain of Illikon instead, and he now commands his own force of longbowmen, being an expert archer himself. But Magnus is very wary of monsters and magic, having had some bad experiences with mages in the past. The idea of anything to do with werewolves entering his life terrifies him – and rightfully so.
Question: What can kill your werewolf or cause it to die?
Answer: Essentially, just one thing: silver. It’s very difficult to kill a werewolf in Wulfgard, and it’s almost impossible if you don’t have a lot of silver handy. Werewolves can regenerate after almost anything, which is one reason why they’re so greatly feared. For instance, if a werewolf gets impaled, he or she can still survive and practically come back to life. Werewolves can survive almost any mortal wounds, but silver negates this regeneration ability. Silver isn’t easy to fashion into a weapon, however, as it’s a very expensive, soft metal that doesn’t really hold up well. Not many people bother carrying it or even making it into weaponry anymore in Wulfgard, since monsters have become increasingly rare. This makes werewolves seem almost impossible to kill, except for an experienced and knowledgeable monster hunter, but even monster hunters themselves have become seen as unnecessary by most civilized societies.
When I first began creating my werewolves for Wulfgard, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to use the Hollywoodian idea of silver being the only weapon against a werewolf, but I decided it was, frankly, more fun that way, so my brother Justin and I worked it into the lore of the setting. All the monsters who were long ago related to the shifters are sensitive to silver, including werewolves, beastfolk, and even vampires. The gods of Men created silver as a weapon to use against the shifters during the time when the humans and the shifters fought for dominion over the mortal realm. Before the creation of silver, killing a werewolf really was considered all but impossible.
Question: How do you approach cover design?
Answer: The cover to the first installment of The Prophecy of the Six is something I’ve been conceptualizing since I was very young, so I came into this one with an idea of what I wanted. But I never could’ve finalized a design such as this one without the help of my brother, Justin R. R. “Saber-Scorpion” Stebbins, who digitially painted the cover art and drew all the illustrations.
For me, there were a few things I knew I wanted: I wanted it to feature Tom Drake in his armor, I wanted Illikon to be visible (and a castle), and I wanted the moon and a werewolf. The latter two ended up on the back cover so that the protagonist and his home city could take center stage. Although minimalist book covers generally seem to attract more attention today, I grew up browsing the fantasy book shelves that showed art of warrior protagonists, dragons, and various monsters, and I wanted the cover of my book to recapture some of that classical fantasy feel by showing the knight, the armor, the castle, and the shadow of the werewolf in the moon, rather than just a symbol or an object. The heart of this series is its protagonist, and I wanted that to be clear once someone saw the book.
Question: Tell us about the sequel to the book?
Answer: The second entry in The Prophecy of the Six series has gone through a lot of titles over the years, and I still have yet to decide on one. The sequel will pick up almost immediately where Knightfall leaves off, continuing the adventures of Tom Drake as he seeks answers about his life and what’s happening to him, all while being pursued by old – and plenty of new – enemies. You’ll find a lot of action, adventure, mystery, and maybe even some romance, as the relationships continue to build and shift among Drake’s friends. There will be much more exploration of the world in this novel, too, as Drake is now away from his home in Illikon and must stay on the run to avoid those who hunt him.
I can hardly wait to continue telling this story that I’ve waited all my life to share, and I’m very excited to get the second book out there! Finally getting to talk about The Prophecy of the Six is a dream come true for me, and I have so much more in store for everyone, including a very important secret that I can’t wait to reveal… I think it’ll be a big twist for even the most avid of werewolf fans. Thank you very much for being interested in my books and interviewing me!
WerewolfBook.com wants to thank Maegan A Stebbins Author of Wulfgard: Knightfall for taking the time to answer our questions and to the amazing illustrator and author Justin R. Stebbins. Please check out her book and follow her below: