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Wolves, good friends, and winners

September 20, 2014

Unjustified Claims is now available on Amazon so that should be all of the major outlets completed. Um… let the reading begin?

I told an author friend, Edmond Manning, last night, as we both obsessed a bit over our book releases, that I was really crappy at promo. I should be out there guest-blogging and Facebooking about my new book, and I’m barely here on my own space discussing it. I run out of things to say fast. I knew I’d post again to put the Amazon link up, so what else new could I write? (Other than posting the winners of the free ebook drawing below – if you entered, check for your name. I’ll be contacting the three winners shortly.)

Well Edmond was busy with his own release. (The third of his Lost and Founds series, by the way, which are exceptional. I gave the first book King Perry a glowing review before I ever knew Edmond, and I’m halfway through The Butterfly King and loving it.) But Edmond is not only a funny guy with an amazing turn for emotion and language, he’s also very sweet. So he said, “Hey, I can do an interview for you. I’ll give you questions to answer so you can post it on your blog.” He knows I do much better answering questions than self-starting. So below is his interview for me. With a few Manning touches, of course. (Thanks, Edmond.)

“Kaje Harper is known throughout the MM world for her grounded, heartfelt romances and the authenticity she brings to real-world stories (Flattery – he likes me.). Are you prepared for her to cavort through the woods at night, snarling, drooling, and running naked? Get ready. Today she celebrates her latest triumph, the latest in the Hidden Wolves series, NAME OF BOOK HERE. (Kaje, you never mentioned the name of the book to me!)” He doesn’t actually read my werewolves, he was working off the blurbs, which is why I’m doubly grateful for the help, although not so much the naked drooling part. Unjustified Claims BTW, Edmond.

Curious readers want to know how the deviousness of her shifter mind works, so we tamed her long enough (bacon and belly rubs did the trick) to pose some questions about the nature of werewolves, the American military complex, and the Michigan pack Brandt tries to leave behind.

1. In your world-building, the pack remains homophobic and part of that is the notion that a werewolf could be “blackmailed into giving out pack secrets.” Very much a parallel to the old-school military fear of homosexuals in the armed forces. Old school homophobia. Can you talk a little more about that? Were you trying to highlight that outdated military thinking?

I wasn’t deliberately mirroring the military, or even the 1950s congressional hearings, although some similar forces are at work. My pack history reflects some of the excuses that have been made for homophobia, and some of the psychological reasons behind prejudice. There are a lot of factors that contribute to it. When I created my packs, my goal was to make it believable that they might continue to exist undetected in modern society. And with some of the choices I made about how the packs were structured, homophobia became a plausible part of it.

My wolves are somewhat longer-lived, which means that their leaders tend to be of an earlier generation than their human equivalents. They are all male, and very focused on rank and hierarchy. They are not tolerant of perceived weakness or differences, they are very paranoid, and have a strong us-versus-them attitude. Their solution to a threat is to kill it and hide the remains. They have very few offspring, and getting a mate pregnant is a cause for extreme celebration. And in real canine groups, accepting being topped by another group member is a gesture of submission, even when it doesn’t involve actual sex. All of those factors contribute to a strong and hopefully believable anti-gay bias within the pack.

2. Writing about werewolves probably has some interesting freedoms from writing a very grounded, contemporary romance. What do you like about writing stories that are paranormal?

I really enjoy writing fantasy and paranormal. Part of it is the chance to create conflicts and challenges that don’t have to be researched for realism and that can involve the MC’s emotions in new ways. (The bonds of a wolf to his pack, which in some ways parallel a mundane person’s ties to their family and their past, also add the paranormal threat of being tracked down by that family if the MC decides to leave, for example.)

The other enjoyable part is trying to make the magical world feel real. I enjoy world-building. I like to figure out how to make the characters and setting out of the realm of human experience and yet real enough to engage the reader’s emotions. Ideally, readers should feel like this fantasy world could really exist somewhere out there.

There’s fun to be had in puzzling out the logical consequences of each paranormal decision. (If shifting takes body energy, do I want them to lose weight when it happens? If a mate-bond means that mates can feel each other’s emotions, what happens when one mate dies?) Instead of hopping on the Net to do real-world research and find out an answer, I get to sit back with a drink and a cookie and invent my own.

3. Every writer wants their characters to be unique. What makes Brandt unique?

Brandt’s a guy who’s had a long, drawn out battle with his own built-in prejudices, as well as the threat of discovery by his pack. He’s not just bisexual – he could have perhaps ignored his attraction to men given the Pack consequences. But he also, early in the book, reveals that he has a lingerie kink that is most satisfying when he’s the one in the corset and heels. He’s tried to work through his fears and accept himself and what he likes, but the values he was brought up with, and the prejudices of humans as well as wolf society make it hard.

When he meets Ethan, he’s still hiding a lot of who he is. Getting kicked out of the pack didn’t let him suddenly undo all his indoctrination. Ethan is a gay man with an open mind, and as Brandt hangs around with him, he’ll slowly let down some of his walls.

4. Does this book illustrate repercussions of leaving his Michigan pack behind? Or are we finished with them?

Brandt’s pack definitely looms large in his mind, and they will show up in the book to make his life more complicated.

5. You’ve probably been asked this before. Sorry about that. But when you write, what drives you: the plot, the characters, or something else?

I’m very much about the characters, especially early in the creative process. Books first come to me in the form of one or both MCs and a setting, but I rarely know where the plot is going to go. At the same time, I do try to eventually have a real external plot happening in my stories. I want the lives of my gay MCs to happen as part of a wider story, and not as the sole focus.

6. What do you think a progressive wolf pack would look like? What old-world values would they cherish and which ones would they junk?

There are some traditions that don’t serve much purpose anymore. That includes their homophobia, their misogyny that excludes the pack wives from the decision process, their secrecy even from other packs. But until they are out to the human world safely, they need to maintain control over pack members and information. And no matter how much they come out, the bonds between pack members and their Alpha, and the military-like obedience and discipline, aren’t likely to ever change. Those are part of what being in a pack gives to the members— structure, common goals and a leader they trust. Individual wolves might be more likely to leave the packs, but those who remain will probably keep that hierarchical structure.

7. Do you see werewolves in your future work? Other paranormal leanings?

There will be at least one more book in this werewolf series. I’m also starting a mystery that I thought would be contemporary, but which has picked up a small paranormal twist. So I’m sure both paranormal and full-out fantasy will be among the things I continue to write.

8. Final question: you’re at a party. You volunteer that you wrote a book about gay werewolves. The person you’re talking with gets very, very excited. Would you rather A) she talk for the next hour about her love for gay werewolves, or B) she grills you for the next hour about the book, your relationship with werewolf stories, etc., forcing you to talk for the next hour?

That’s tough. I try not to read too many other werewolf series, to keep my world-building as personal as possible and not catch ideas. So an hour of listening to someone else talk about their concepts and favorites of other people’s wolves wouldn’t be ideal. At the same time, I’m not a big talker. But if someone asks specific questions, I’m pretty good at finding answers. So if pressed, I’ll take B. If not pressed, I’ll take a dark corner and a quiet cup of tea.

Kaje Harper, author of Life Lessons, Into Deep Waters, and The Family We Make, is proud to introduce her latest release, zzzzzz. (Oh yeah, Unjustified Claims. ) She would like to affirm she is definitely not a werewolf. She just likes to take long walks in the forest at night when there happens to be a full moon.(Not that I’m spying on anything that might happen out there either. Really. Aaron would not be pleased, and I’m not making that Alpha mad at me.)

And if you entered the drawing for the three free copies of Unjustified Claims I will be contacting the three winners:

Kim (GR message 5)
Jenn (GR message 18)
ArdentEreader (WordPress – comment 3)

If you don’t hear from me today, do get hold of me to claim your ebook. Thanks to everyone who commented.

Now it’s time to write again. (Yay! No editing! Did I say Yay?!)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ardent Ereader permalink
    September 20, 2014 4:10 pm

    Hi Kaje, Thanks VERY much for the giveaway win of Unjustified Claims! I’d love a MOBI or PRC copy. ardent(dot)ereader(at)gmail(dot)com

    • September 20, 2014 4:32 pm

      Congrats – I’ll get that to you shortly. I hope you enjoy it 😀

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