What happened to werewolves?

Werewolf image from Dark Shadows

Wikimedia still from Dark Shadows

I tell people sometimes that I did major revisions on Dreamwood. Like, rewriting it many times. But the reality is so much worse.

When I started, Dreamwood was a story about werewolves. In fact, werewolves resurrected from their teeth. (It was not a Daughter of Smoke and Bone-type resurrection by teeth, because, um, sadly this predates it by a million years. Instead it was me trying to figure out how to take the idea of the contagion of the werewolf’s bite and see what I could do by stretching it out in time, through the power of magic werewolf DNA as it were.)

Anyway, I wrote and rewrote a story where Lucy Darrington, my plucky heroine, tries to figure out who’s responsible for these wolf attacks in this remote logging settlement. Her father was away doing research on some doomed trip to South America.

Dreamwood, a rare and dangerous tree had been in the story from the beginning. But it didn’t occupy the place it does now.

One of the changes the story went through was reimagining the entire thing with different stakes, and now without any werewolves.

I was very fond of them. I’d cooked up some awesome descriptions of what they looked like, how they transformed. And I really loved their personalities and air of menace they lent to everything. In fact, I loved them so much I wrote two completely different drafts with two completely different sets of villains turning into werewolves. Determined to keep my werewolves!

The problem was that they didn’t fit into the story at all. They were not Lucy’s problem to solve. They were instead something like a volunteer project she took on. (These darn werewolves!) And solving the problem of them didn’t solve any problem she had.

This was a fundamental misunderstanding on my part about how stories work.

It was very hard to give them up. They were cool. But I believed my editor when she told me they weren’t working. (And maybe she was also thinking that by the time this book came out there’d be werewolf fatigue among readers).

So I went back, and I thought. First, I had to come to grips with the idea. And then I had to do lots of thinking. It felt unproductive. It took months. Werewolves were so frightening, I had confused them with a threat to Lucy. So I had to understand what really mattered to her. What would threaten her. What would push her to the brink.

And the answer turned out to be … a tree.