Thursday, December 26, 2013

William Woodall and the Last Interview Hunter

(Blogger-in-Law’s Note: Okay, so I actually started writing this introduction at the beginning of December, thinking it would be my first blog post back from NaNo...but then I ended up writing another one first. Oh, and then I updated it again with a brief post. I probably should have just rewritten the interview intro below...but that seemed like an awfully lot of work, and I did write about stuff that some of you might be interested in, so I’ll just leave it. Sorry. You deserve better.)
Authors don't tend to make this badge
their Facebook profile pic.

Hi all. I’m back now after basically checking out during the entire month of November while I was working on a project for National Novel Writing Month. Let me report off the bat that I, alas, did not complete the
50,000 word goal. I got off to a slow start and only rounded the corner to 30,000 words. It was still within my grasp, I felt, if I really worked hard...but then, right before we returned to Michigan to see family for Thanksgiving, I came down with a 24 hour bug that knocked me off my feet. At that point, I was so far behind that I couldn’t lose a single night of work, but that’s precisely what happened. I decided to just step back at that point and enjoy the little vacation going home. Still, I’ve got a 30,000 word jump start on a new murder mystery, so that’s worth something, right?

Back to normal life, and we’ve got an interview to jump us back into the blog side of things! My guest today is William Woodall. I actually read his book Cry for the Moon back in  June according to Goodreads (and we know we can trust Goodreads on such things), but one thing led to another and we weren’t able to finish our interview until recently. So usually I tell you what I thought about a book, or at least the bullet points, but it’s been six months so my memory is a bit hazy!

Ironically, if they had just let them turn him into a werewolf
first, he could have run away much faster.
I’ll tell you what I remember. First of all—and this is something we discuss in the interview—the book wasn’t what I was expecting. I knew going in that it wasn’t what most people expect and yet it still wasn’t what I was expecting. The title is vague enough but this is the first book in Woodall’s The Last Werewolf Hunter series, so you can imagine how I was a bit surprised to come across a quaint, quiet story about a twelve-year-old boy named Zach who runs away from home to avoid being turned into a werewolf. There’s no hunting to be done. Rather, the boy struggles to survive and strives to find the one relative who he thinks—right or wrong—can help him.

Even six months later, Zach’s voice remains distinct and authentic in my memory. I enjoyed my time spent with this boy, and found him to be a well-developed, genuine character. Whether you enjoy the book depends on how you feel about a relatively slow story about a determined kid trying to find his long lost uncle. Despite the series title, there’s not a lot of action. I don’t list this as a negative at all: I enjoyed Zach’s journey, in large part because I got to know Zach so well, and cared about him through his struggles and mistakes. As always, I’m going to try to give you plenty of exposure to the author so you can decide whether this book is a good choice for you or not.

Woodall’s other books, by the by, include three more Last Werewolf Hunter books (Behind Blue Eyes, More Golden Than Day, and Truesilver) as well as romance Many Waters and Nightfall from his sci-fi series, The Tyke McGrath Series. You can find him online at That’s enough background info. Let’s chat!

The right is when I read the book. The left is now.
I hate winter.
Brad: Thanks for joining me today, William. Although I just read Cry for the Moon for the first time recently (Master of the Blog's note: "recently" refers to when I first wrote this question back in June or July), I had already heard several times that the book was not what many people expected. Part of that may be the series title—The Last Werewolf Hunter—which is a bit confusing since there were certainly no werewolves hunted in this installment. Would you agree that many readers come to this book with inaccurate expectations? Why or why not?

William: I think sometimes readers come to this book expecting a bloody horror novel, which it most definitely is not.  There’s an assumption out there among many people that a book about werewolves just naturally has to be horror.  But even when the werewolf hunting does take place later on, there’s very little blood involved and almost never any actual killing.  You would have to read the series to understand how that’s possible; the only thing I’ll say is that the werewolf hunters have weapons that make it unnecessary.  Anyone who reads the whole series will understand the title perfectly, but those just beginning may be puzzled a little bit.  You won’t actually understand the rationale for the title until book three.
Similarly, I'm hoping that the upcoming
Star Wars VII reveals what the heck
a "phantom menace" is.

Brad: Ah. It’s like a “To Be Continued” tag. “Want to know why the series is named The Last Werewolf Hunter? Read ‘til Book 3 to find out!”

In your protagonist and narrator, Zach, we meet a twelve-year-old boy whose personality and voice really carry the entire book. Talk to me about writing for Zach. Was it easy to get into the head of a twelve-year-old? Is he based on anyone you know?

William: Zach has always been an easy character to write because he’s me, to all intents and purposes.  All I had to do was reach back into memory and pull some things out from my younger years and imagine what I might have said or done in those kinds of situations.  I was a teacher for several years and I like to write young characters.  I’m sure I was never half so cool or witty in reality as Zach is, but the beauty of hindsight is that you have plenty of time to think of exactly the right words.

Brad: Well, Zach rang pretty true to me, so I think that you are either very in touch with your inner child, or have a great memory! Speaking of influences, are there any other works—books, TV, film, music, whatever—that helped inspire this story?

William: It was inspired by all kinds of different things.  I guess the original germ for the story probably came from watching Teen Wolf cartoons on Saturday morning when I was a kid.  But there’s a lot of real life in the book which you wouldn’t necessarily realize.  We used to own a dog house very much like the one Zach took refuge in, for example.  There’s really a cheesecake billboard in Mount Pleasant, exactly like the one I
It's pretty, but nearly half of Americans still prefer
Pepsi Lake for some reason.
described.  There’s really such a place as Coca-Cola Lake.  I like to pull interesting little tidbits like that from true life and use them in my stories.   

Brad: Without giving too much away, can you talk to us about the series as a whole? I assume that someone hunts a werewolf at some point, which seems like it might really change the tone of this first book. How many total books are there now, or will there be when the series is done?

William: Without giving too much away, Zach really is the last werewolf hunter, the heir of an age-old prophecy about a boy with blue eyes who will break the curse forever and set the cursed people free, even those who don’t want to be set free.  There are four books right now, with more to come.  Each book explores a particular spiritual theme in the context of his struggle against the wolves.  Book One deals with his choice of whether to accept or reject evil.  Book Two deals with submitting to God’s will.  Book Three explores the question of whether the ends ever justify the means, and Book Four is mostly about having the courage of your convictions.  Zach grows up quite a bit over the course of the series and he does face some really dangerous situations later on. Cry for the Moon is very introspective and thoughtful; the other books have a lot more action.   

Brad: It’s an interesting decision to have such variety in the same series, indeed, because I would agree that the first book is indeed slower-paced, and doesn’t necessarily foreshadow more action to come. Let me talk to you author-to-author for a moment, William. I apologize if my dear blog visitors think this question rather dull. The conventional wisdom for many indie and small press authors when it comes to using real world trademarked products is to use them in a positive or neutral way. But it’s pretty clear that you really don’t care for Taco Bell! It’s a shame, because their current menu (depending on the region) would have let poor hungry Zach get a chicken burrito, bag of chips and a drink for $2! My question is, author-to-author, did you hesitate at all before going on and on about how nasty Taco Bell’s bean burritos are?

William: To be honest, I really love Taco Bell!  It’s one of my favorite fast-food chains.  Zach doesn’t even really dislike it, per se, he just doesn’t like one particular item on their menu.  But no, I really didn’t put much thought into it before having Zach give his opinions. Cry for the Moon was the very first book I ever wrote (even though it was published second), so I probably wouldn’t write it that way now.  
And so we discover that Zach is secretly a masochist,
consistently ordering his least favorite menu item
instead of countless other options.
 I was still very much a newbie author at that time and it never would have crossed my mind to think of such things. 

Brad: Then why does he always order the menu item he hates! Oh, Zach! Serious question time now. Your book is about a twelve-year-old boy who runs away from home. While his life isn’t easy, he is able to survive and even—without spoiling anything—reach a happy ending. Are you concerned at all that a child could read this book and emulate Zach’s actions? Being a runaway isn’t glamorized in the book, but it does seem like a viable option.

I'm sure none of us want a repeat of
the rash of teen runaways in 1999,
most of whom were desperate to
avoid being taken to see this movie.
William: I don’t believe kids would make a choice like that unless the situation were really desperate.  If a child ran away for anything less than excellent reason, he or she would soon go home again when they got hungry or cold.  I used to work for child protective services and dealt with runaways pretty regularly.  Never did I meet one who didn’t have a good reason.  Some of the stories they told about the things they left behind would chill your blood.  That said, I don’t believe most children would want to emulate Zach’s choice unless, like him, it was really a matter of desperation.  And in those rare cases, one could hope they might indeed find a compassionate and Godly person to help them.  Most never do, and many find monsters who will eat them alive.  But I can also hope that if an actual runaway ever read this book, he might be comforted, and possibly learn a thing or two that will help keep him alive.   

Brad: Interesting. Who would have thought Cry to the Moon might be a survival guide for runaways? Let’s talk about you now. What’s your greatest strength as an author? Your greatest weakness?

William: I think my greatest strength is creating believable and interesting characters, and possibly originality.  The two compliments I get most often from readers of the Last Werewolf Hunter series are that they love Zach because he’s so real and genuine, and also that it’s a story completely unlike anything else they’ve ever read.  Those same two things have popped up in reviews of my other books, too, so I judge those are probably my best points.  I think my greatest weakness is that I find it difficult to work with several different characters at once.  I tend to want to focus on just one or two and explore the depths of their personality while not paying as much attention to the others as I should.

Brad: Fortunately, there’s just as much room out there for stories that focus on a couple of main characters as there are for more sprawling stories with a large ensemble cast. Now, there are definitely themes of faith and Christianity running through Cry for the Moon, although I don’t consider them excessive by any means. As a believer, do you feel some sort of duty or obligation to include Christian themes in all your work, or did you simply find your faith naturally surfacing in this book?

Pastor George McVey,
whom I interviewed about his
Christian western novels, will be
pretty broken up to hear about this.
William: All my books have a Christian flavor, but I think the worst mistake Christian novelists make is trying to be preachers.  The business of a novelist is not really to explicate the Bible or exhort people to accept Christ.  That’s a preacher’s job.  As novelists, I think our part in winning the world for Christ is to show how faith plays out in the real world, to show Christianity as something beautiful and amazing, so that readers learn to desire it.  As J.R.R. Tolkien said, our job is to break their hearts with longing, because until they become conscious that something is missing, they’ll never look for it.  I do feel an obligation to include that sort of thing in everything I write, but it isn’t always obvious at first glance.

Brad: Well, that’s just rude! You come into my blog home, make use of my hospitality, eat all the cheese in the fridge, and then trash  my work! What nerve!

Of course, I’m going to have to disagree with you, especially with the idea that one can or should have the authority to decide what the “business of a novelist” ought to be. While I certainly respect your right—and the right of every author, artist, musician, etc.—to decide what your own work will comprise, whether the subject is spiritual content or anything else, I must in fact reject your preference to dictate to others the limitations or boundaries of their art. The Christian novelist is answerable to God, and, biblically, the Holy Spirit is ultimately responsible for both spiritual growth (1 Cor. 3:7) and salvation (John 6:44). My readers
There is literally never an inappropriate
time to whip out this meme.
will know that a recurring theme in my work is the charge from Christ for every single believer to be used to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19-20). I find the notion that the Holy Spirit is incapable or unwilling to use novels in this work, or that He will not lead any writer to either help illuminate Scripture or share the Gospel, perfectly preposterous. The truth of the matter is that Jesus did quite a bit of spiritual teaching through fictional storytelling, and cannot think of any reason why any novelist would be prevented from following His example.

All right then. Oh - wait. Are we still in the interview? Sorry, thought I was writing a regular blog post for a second. Let’s get back on track. Just a reminder to all of us, dear readers, we are talking to William Woodall about his book Cry for the Moon. What are you working on right now William? Anything you can share with us?

William: Right now I’m working on the sequel to Tycho, my science fiction novel, which is loosely related to The Last Werewolf Hunter by means of a few characters who appear in both.  I’ve actually been very busy this year; I’ve already published Truesilver, which is Book Four of the werewolf series, and Many Waters, which is a Christian romance and also a spin-off of the werewolf series.  I’ll probably finish at least two more books by the time the year is up.  I’m hoping to have the next werewolf novel done by Christmas.

Brad: My, my! You are a busy little bee, aren’t you? Oh guess what? It’s time for my favorite part of the interview: the part where I get to threaten my guest with death and/or bodily harm if they don’t cooperate with my questions! Woohoo! You know how this book contained no actual werewolf hunting? Well, turns out that was a mistake because I’ve recruited several friendly loup-garou (also known as werewolves) who are more than willing to attack if you don’t tell me your favorite book in the whole wide world. Discounting the Holy Scriptures, of course.

When I first asked William to choose one favorite book,
he just sent me this image.
William: It would be hard to choose, since I have so many: The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien, Perelandra by C.S. Lewis, The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, Lilith by George MacDonald.  And the list could go on a lot longer, I’m sure.

Brad: Did I mention that these loup-garou are really hungry? It’s true. They haven’t eaten in weeks and they love author. And yet you give me four when I asked for one! You’re pushing it. I don’t have to let them eat you, of course. It all depends on whether or not you name your favorite author—that’s author, singular!—for me. Go ahead. We’re waiting.

William: C.S. Lewis, of course!  I say that not just for his fiction, even though I love it.  It’s his non-fiction work on theology which has done more to shape my Christian walk than anything else I know.  I also embed a lot of theology in my novels, in the form of Zach’s thoughts about this or that subject, and that’s something I first learned from reading Perelandra.  He wrote lots of books, of course, but I would especially recommend Miracles, The Problem of Pain, The Four Loves, Surprised by Joy, Reflections on the Psalms, and The Abolition of Man.  His collected essays are excellent, also. 

I know you're probably expecting this sort of thing
based on William's weak responses to my questions,
but I guess you're wrong to assume this will
be a bloody, horror interview.
Brad: And another author walks out alive. I barely know why, though. Yeah, you managed to keep it to one author—but you also did your best to shoehorn in six additional titles! But I guess it’s a good thing because I can’t afford the increase in my insurance. Before you go, William, I always like asking indie authors what fans can do to help support you and your career. Buying your books is a given, but what else?

William: Tell other people about my books if you liked them, and if there’s a particular character or story you really enjoyed and would like to hear more about, please contact me through my website and tell me so.  I listen to those kinds of things, and in fact the book I’m writing at this very moment is the result of a request from a group of fifth graders in South Carolina.  And if you’re so inclined, take some time to pray that my work will turn out for the glory of God.

It’s a prayer that I’m sure we can all take the time to offer, and I imagine one that God will take pleasure in answering. Brad back now, and I want to thank William again for taking the time to chat with me. It took us a while to connect, but we finally got this thing out there! If you recently found yourself a new Kindle owner at Christmastime, once again you can find Cry for the Moon right here. You might also want to poke around this blog to see the many other authors I’ve interviewed and featured throughout 2013, or perhaps even try out a few of my books. Either way, this blog is a great resource for discovering talented new authors, and I’ll continue to spotlight as many as I can in 2014! Thanks as always for swinging by!

No comments:

Post a Comment