Overview of Rampant:
Set in the small village of Cologny in the 18th Century Swiss Confederacy, Rampant tells the tale of Charles Clerval, a young man who becomes employed in the mansion of the mysterious and wealthy Scottish clan Wilson. When Charles uncovers the truth about the clan’s dark past and their reason for leaving Scotland, he finds the secret of lycanthropy’s true origins. Now he’s trapped in a den of werewolves willing to go to deadly lengths to keep their secret. Will he make it out alive?
“Joshua Werner’s tale of tragedy, heartbreak, and bloodlust is an outstanding homage to the Gothic era of horror. His literary descriptions created a realm that devoured my senses and left me hungry for more.” – Kasey Pierce, KosmicKasey.com
About the Author:
Joshua Werner is an author, illustrator, designer, and all around creative mastermind looking to infect the world with his special brand of eccentricity. He resides with his family in America’s Mitten where many have dubbed him the nickname “Frantic”, making his living by sitting awkwardly in a chair for long hours, working his right hand until it breaks open and bleeds awesomeness out onto paper. His written works can mainly be found in the horror, suspense, and adventure genres.
Now the Interview Questions:
Question: I enjoyed the poem that started the story from The Book of Highland Minstrelsy, was that your inspiration for the book?
Answer: While this poem was not the inspiration for my story, I simply had to utilize it as it fit so beautifully in with the book. I came across this while doing my research on Scotland for the book. While Rampant does not take place in Scotland, it is about a Scottish clan, harboring a number of werewolves, who were driven out of their homeland for all the deaths they had caused. This fits wonderfully with Scotland’s real history, as they had big problems with wolves killing travelers, killing livestock, and even digging up all the freshly buried bodies from the cemeteries. A long line of royalty made it a big priority to rid Scotland of wolves, and eventually they had killed every last one. The poem I open up with in the book was written in 1846 and it talks about the problems the wolves had caused in Scotland before the last of them had been hunted down.
Question: There was some mention of the Cult in the book. Can you provide some background information?
Answer: Absolutely! So traditional Scottish clans are not necessarily all related as one family. They are a kinship group, a group of families that hold a shared identity. In the case of this Wilson clan, they were given their grant of arms by the Danish Prince Wolf. The clansmen descended from Prince Wolf himself and the members of his Danish tribe, and all adopted the surname “Wilson” (or ‘Wolf’s Son’) in solidarity. Those whose bloodline descends directly from Prince Wolf himself are the werewolves. The rest of the clan make up a Cult, whose job is to keep the secret of the werewolves. They keep the werewolves in check, keep them from becoming too exposed, so as best to protect them. Every full moon the Cult does a ritualistic performance, reenacting the origin of how the first werewolves were born. They’re part historians and part fanatics. They also tend to the sheep, which the werewolves eat in their wolf form.
Question: Please explain more about the Wulver.
Answer: Lining the walls of the Wilson mansion are pieces of artwork depicting several myths and legends. Each of them plays a key part in how the first werewolves were born. The character Charles, who goes to work in the mansion as an interpreter (translating English to French and German), is fascinated by the artwork and learns a bit about each one from any clan members he finds willing to talk about them. One of the paintings is of an upright wolf, with the body of a woman covered in fur, sitting upon a rock in a stream under the full moon. Charles learns that this is depicting the Scottish folk tale about the ‘Wulver‘. The Wulver was a friendly spirit that was said to have left fish on the windowsills of the poor on the Shetland Islands. The only time anyone would ever see her is when the moon was full and they would find her sitting on a rock catching fish. This anthropomorphic wolf-woman plays a role in my origin story of the werewolves, and is a character in the Cult’s reenactment ceremony. Those who want to know the Wulver’s part in the werewolf origin story, will have to read the book to find out. 😉
Question: I was fascinated by the Norse myth of Sigmund and Sinfjotli that put on the wolf skins. Please go into more detail on the role this myth plays in your book.
Answer: While there are many variations on this myth, the one that is covered in Rampant talks about a father named Sigmund and his son Sinfjotli. While hunting in the woods they found an empty hut belonging to some hunters. When they went inside they found two very large wolf skins. These wolf skins contained a powerful magic, and the father and son found that when they wrapped the skins around their bodies they transformed into actual wolves. They soon grew addicted to the feeling of being wolves, and they stayed in the form for months at a time. But the magic was dark and it filled them with a rage, an urge to kill. When the real huntsmen returned to their hut to collect their things (and their magical wolf skins), Sigmund and Sinfjotli killed them. And then went on to kill many more people as well. Eventually their rage made them turn on each other, and they began fighting, and Sigmund bit into his son’s throat. Worried that he’d killed the boy, he pulled the skins off of both of them, transforming them back into humans. Sinfjotli survived and recovered, and they made a pact to never wear the magical skins again, and burned them.
But, in Rampant, Sigmund’s addiction was so strong that he actually couldn’t bare to part with the magical skin. He tricked his son into burning his own, but the skin that Sigmund put in the fire was actually a regular wolf skin, and he kept the real one hidden. This sacred object eventually became owned by Nordic royalty, and was passed down to Prince Wolf to aid him on his quest to expand their empire, essentially giving Prince Wolf the ability to turn into a bloodthirsty wolf by putting the skin on. Wolf’s conquests eventually took him to the Shetland Islands and then to the mainland of Scotland where he settled down and started the Wilson clan.
Question: Can you explain how your werewolf is different from the traditional one?
Answer: While my origin story for how lycanthropy began is embedded in a mix of real history and folklore, it is entirely new and entirely my own. Another thing I thought was important to address in Rampant was the difference between “bitten” and “born”. While some other werewolf fiction does go into this topic a bit, it’s one that often seems to be overlooked. Those who were born a werewolf, from the magic contained in their bloodline, transform into large feral wolves, or as the Swiss would’ve called them “Loup-Garou”, during the full moon. But those who were bitten by a werewolf transform into a sort of half-breed, maintaining their human form but with wolf-like features and covered in fur. A ‘wolf-man’ essentially, or “Homme-Loup”. In my story, the “bitten” are seen as complete abominations by the “born”, and were never meant to survive the initial attack. The clan holds a firm rule that should a person be attacked by a werewolf, they must be killed, as a half-breed would be seen as insult to their revered bloodline.
Question: Please provide some background on your process in writing the book.
Answer: Initially I knew the basic story that I wanted to tell. A young man in a village, stumbling upon a family’s terrible secret of lycanthropy. I also knew that I wanted it to take place during the same time as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein novel, and for the village to lie directly between two of the major locations in that book (Ingolstadt and Geneva) and for their to be little tie-ins that Frankenstein fans could pick up on. What was fascinating about this particular area is that in real history, it was known for having truly believed in werewolves, and there is both lore and documented history of numerous werewolf trials, where people had been tortured and killed for being thought to be werewolves. So I began researching those trials, and the area, and the time period and languages spoke, etc. From there I dove into any ancient mythology, from anywhere, that seemed to tell tales of creatures similar to werewolves. My Norse mythology research eventually led to Scottish research, but I also find that much of history linked those two locations as well. Through my research of Prince Wolf I found inspiration for crafting a tale about a Scottish clan that had been banished from their homeland. And their roots reaching back into much of the folklore I’d read about. It was an exciting process of reading, researching, taking loads of notes, and also recording my own ideas spoken rapidly out loud into my phone whenever they would strike me, day or night. It’s a miracle I was able to piece all of this together into one cohesive story, hahaha.
Question: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the werewolf in your book?
Answer: In Rampant the werewolves are strong, fast, and ruthless. Their hunger overshadows any of their lingering human emotions. They’re the perfect killers. But their weakness is the setting. Those lands had been ‘cleansed’ by hordes of superstitious people. Anyone thought to be a werewolf or associated with werewolves were guilty of witchcraft and plotting with the devil himself, and tortured and executed in front of everyone. Because of this, it simply wasn’t a safe time to be a werewolf. And the one big weakness that grows naturally was in the area as well, wolfsbane. This clan found that it could be useful though, in small doses, to keep them from becoming too strong and going off on killing sprees that could bring the people hunting for them.
Question: For any other aspiring writers including in the specific genre, please elaborate on your experience in working with Source Point Press and the process you underwent in publishing your book.
Answer: Source Point Press publishes books, comic books, and graphic novels, focusing mainly on dark genre-driven fiction like horror, sci-fi, and the occult. They accept submissions for publications at firstname.lastname@example.org and are willing to listen to all sorts of pitches. From there, each agreement is tailored specifically for that project, and the author works with the publisher who gets the book in print and distributed. As a small press, it’s important to think in smaller realistic terms, but you also might find that they surprise you, and could bring a lot of attention to your story.
Question: You are also an artist. Please give us some background on that side of your creative mind.
Answer: Yes! I actually consider myself an illustrator first, and a writer second. This is because the vast majority of my work is in the illustration world, a sort of “paintbrush for hire” and it pays my bills, while my writing comes from simply a pure desire to tell stories. I think being an artist affects my writing though, as I often create visual scenes in my head first, and then adapt the story to utilize it, because I might find an image in my mind that excites and inspires me. It also makes me detail-oriented, as I’m often thinking about what things would look like while writing, in the mindset of “if I had to draw this…” Also, I did some illustrations that are in Rampant as well, and each one was drawn as if it were a crude woodcut print from the appropriate time periods.
Question: What is your approach to cover design?
Answer: I’ve designed lots of book covers, it’s something I have a lot of fun with. Firstly, I try to establish the overall feel you want to get from the cover. Should it feel old and vintage? Or modern and clean? Should it evoke the same feeling you’d get from picking up an old pulp paperback? Etc. From there I establish the color palette that I’ll use to reflect this feeling, and then the imagery constructed for the cover is actually the last thing I decide on. In the case of Rampant, I wanted it to look like an ancient leather bound book, with a woven strip of fabric stitched to it, and an embossed gold-leaf illustration of a the rampant wolf from the Wilson coat of arms. I went for a “less is more” attempt with the imagery, so as not to state “werewolf fiction” so explicitly but instead to state “dark historical fiction”. Honestly, there are probably a dozen fun directions I could’ve taken the book cover for Rampant, but this first concept felt simple and bold, and once I’d created my first rough draft of it I knew it was missing only one thing: claw marks! That finishing touch brought that horror element back in and balanced it all out.
Question: What books have most influenced your life or work?
Answer: The first book that really inspired me to write was Solipsist by Henry Rollins. It sort of broke the rules of what a book should or shouldn’t be in my eyes, and made me realize that a book could simply be one person’s art in written words between two covers. From there I’m inspired by a lot of classic literature like Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson and a lot of supernatural tales by H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe.
Question: What was the most difficult section for you to write in the book and why?
Answer: For me it was dealing with language. My story takes place in an area that primarily speaks French and German, but I’m writing in English. And on top of that it has characters from Scotland! To make matters worse, it’s set around 1790. So it was a lot for a modern American to tackle and do respectfully and accurately, while also being careful not to be so accurate as to create text that was too dry or difficult to read. I did include a lot of phrases and sayings that I researched that suited the time period, but I still wanted to keep it a light easy read. And it was important that the reader be able to hear the Scottish accents in their head, which meant writing the accent phonetically instead of writing the spelling accurately, in the way a modern American would ‘hear’ them and differentiate their speech from the way their own sounds.
Question: What are you working on next?
Answer: Right now it’s all art-related work. I’m overseeing a lot of work done on comic books currently, and I’m also doing pencils and inks on a graphic novel right now and then am doing colors and lettering on a different graphic novel right after that. As for writing though, I have notes and basic outlines structured for a couple of ideas, but they’re currently on the back burner. One is a script for a dark murder mystery historical fiction graphic novel titled “Plague Doctors” and the other is a supernatural horror novel called “Open Casket”. I’m not sure how soon I’ll have time to work on these though, unfortunately. But hopefully sometime soon. I’ve also received some lovely requests from readers asking me to expand on the world of Rampant even further. To tell more stories of the clan and the characters I introduced. I do think that could be very fun… It could happen, you never know!
We here at Werewolfbook.com would like to thank Joshua Werner for taking the time to answer our questions. Please make sure to follow him on Twitter @Rampant Horror and at http://www.joshuawernerart.com/ and Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.