I’ve always been a fan of werewolf movies, where people expose the beast we all know is hidden beneath the protective coating of their humanity. Not just for the metaphor, exactly, but for the big, hairy creatures themselves. All tooth and claw and instinct, werewolves are faster and a damn sight scarier than any shambling zombie or self-loathing vampire I’ve ever met. The best werewolves (I’m talking The Howling, American Werewolf In London, The Wolfman, and Dog Soldiers here) evoked shivers of real terror in me. You really can’t run away from these beasts.
Somehow, in the werewolf books I’d read, that sense of primal killing fervor never seemed to translate. Of course, there have been terrific novels over the years – Wagner The Werewolf by George Reynolds, shara by Steve Wedel, Wolf’s Hour by Robert McCammon, and Darker Than You Think by Jack Williamson all come to mind. Yet, our lycanthropic friends were usually too introspective for me, too structured, too solitary. You rarely got more than a pack of them, and there was usually a romance. Nothing against a bit of werewolf love, but I’d never read what would happen if there were thousands of werewolves, and they weren’t constrained by pack law. I began to wonder what would happen if the apocalyptic writers would get hold of the lycanthropy theme. What would Brian Keene do?
Why, he’d make the lycanthropy virus airborne somehow! Let’s face it, viruses are the scariest thing out there because you can’t see them and they can kill you deader than any fictional monster. This was my jumping-off point.
I set the book in Cincinnati for two reasons. One, I live here and know the territory (even if I played a bit with geography). Two, because it’s such a politically conservative, religious city. What better place to expose the ugly creature hidden within than a place where sin is barely acknowledged.
I also wondered, as I wrote, what would happen to these evangelicals, these good Midwestern folks (and there are tons of good people in Cincinnati; I meet them every day, and I love them for their friendliness) would do when they changed back into humans. How does a man’s mind cope with the bestiality of the previous night, the killing, the rape? How do good people deal with such a thing? I had some fun with this as well. The daylight isn’t much better than the nights for our heroes, the four poor schmucks who are immune to the virus.
So, I finally got my ravaging hordes of werewolves and no-holds-barred action sequences. I made it exciting and cinematic, but I tried very hard to infuse the characters with as much humanity as possible. I didn’t want super heroes or Rambos here, just decent folk facing the beasts within. I hope I turned the werewolf genre on its furry head. I just need to be careful of the teeth.
-William D. Carl
Bestial: Werewolf Apocalypse