I’ve got a spectacular treat for you today Dear Readers! First is an interview with Emmy-nominated and award-winning writer Hugh Sterbakov on his new werewolf book City Under the Moon. And second, we are giving away one signed copy of the book! Woo! Hugh has sold TV and feature scripts to AMC, Paramount, Urban Entertainment, G4, Fox, SyFy and Disney, so winning a book from him would be pretty badass. Check out the interview and the giveaway details below!
Can you tell us a little about your book City Under the Moon?
There is a big story about a werewolf outbreak in Manhattan–each time the moon rises, the victims multiply exponentially, and within a few days there are hundreds, and then thousands infected victims. It’s soon discovered that this is essentially bioterrorism. The man behind it is seen on surveillance cameras, wearing a shirt that says, “find a cure.”
The mandate was to treat this as a very straight thriller, with the only exception in the realism being the werewolves themselves. So the story explores how would the military react to a sudden, exponential outbreak of werewolves, and the White House, and the top scientists in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s a science, political, and military thriller all in one. And the theme running through all of the storylines are conflicts between science and myth, force and faith, forgiveness and revenge.
My lead character is a clandestine FBI counterterror agent. For all intents and purposes, she’s an employed assassin, although she and her bosses don’t overtly speak in those terms. She’s a strategic genius, and also, by necessity, a sociopath. But she wasn’t always this way, and she grapples with her connection to the innocent girl in her past–and the monster she’s in danger of becoming. So now, these bizarre circumstances throw her into a partnership with a misanthropic teenager who hates leaving his own basement and happens to be the Internet’s foremost authority on werewolf lore. She’s seen the worst humanity has to offer, and this kid has barely seen humanity.
How does City Under the Moon differ from other novels about werewolves?
I think City Under the Moon is bigger in scope than most werewolf novels, and a more clinical approach is taken to the monsters themselves. I’m trying to follow in the footsteps of Michael Crichton. It goes without saying that I’m not taking the paranormal romance angle, although there are several extremely important love stories–in fact, the whole thing is a love story.
For me, the most exciting thing about writing City Under the Moon was to take an age-old superstition and approach it in an entirely new way. I tried to capture the horror on both personal and massive scales. One of the throughlines is about a religious woman who becomes a werewolf, and each transformation tests her faith. Another is from the point of view of a girl trapped in Manhattan, unable to escape the quarantine, and losing hope that she’s going to survive. And then, of course, there’s the president, who is facing any commander-in-chief’s worst nightmare.
What inspired you to write about werewolves?
I was eight years old when An American Werewolf in London came out, and, frankly, it ruined my life. I had a difficult childhood–I was trapped with a stepfather who was sweet in my mother’s presence, but–no pun intended–monstrous when she wasn’t around. So the concept of the transformation really stuck with me. It’s brutally terrifying, and it’s a pervasive fear in all of us. If you think about it, this popular new song “Somebody That I Used To Know” hits the exact same theme.
I know there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of werewolf stories being written nowadays, but the concept is so personal to me that I feel like I’ve brought something different to bring to the table.
What is one thing you would like people to take away from their experience of reading City Under the Moon?
I hope they enjoy their time spent with the characters, because it’s a personal story from each perspective. And I hope they’ll get a thrill from the race against the clock and the unraveling of the mystery. By the end of the novel, you’re challenged to consider the human condition and our notions of sympathy and sacrifice. I was careful not to be sanctimonious, but I think there’s enough thoughtfulness in the resolution that you’ll discover your own perspective check.
Given the amount of werewolf books and films, people feel especially drawn to werewolves, why do you think that is?
Unfortunately, I think a tremendous amount of it is purely commercial. A few werewolf stories came along that really spoke to people–to their fantasies and longings–and left them wanting more. And a lot of enterprises have swept in to try and fill that vacuum. In many respects, werewolves have become a substitute for the age-old concept of the brooding, dangerous and mysterious crush. You had James Dean, Johnny Depp and now, improbably, werewolves and vampires. And now, the monster can sweep you off your feet and bring you into a new world, where you’re finally understood and loved. So it speaks to loneliness and isolation. These are powerful emotions, and it’s truly magical when they’re shared–yet tragic when they’re exploited. This lure–and manipulation–is also deeply explored in City Under the Moon. The call of the pack is a profound temptation, and it challenges the characters’ most precious beliefs. It says a lot about each victim as you see how they react to the call of the alpha.
In my particular case, I think werewolves are a metaphor for my fear of abandonment. I’ve had loved ones turn on me (essentially transform), and became a dangerous enemies. The worst kind of enemies, because they know where to hurt you. That leaves scars, which manifested into nightmares of people turning into monsters. I still get sick to my stomach when I watch An American Werewolf in London or The Shining, because they bring me back to a place of helpless terror. That sensation is true discomfort and not entertainment, but channeling that into City Under the Moon helped me uncover a deeper horror than, I think, traditional scenes of suspense.
Who’s your favorite fictitious werewolf (other than your own)?
City Under the Moon owes a lot to the film The Wolf Man–I’m not sure folks realize how much of the very standard mythology was created by Curt Siodmak, the writer of The Wolf Man, specifically for that movie. There is no classic literary bible for these monsters in the way that Bram Stoker defined vampires in Dracula or Mary Shelley created Frankenstein. The closest you’d find is The Werewolf of Paris, but, let’s face it, that book isn’t Dracula or Frankenstein. In the case of The Wolf Man, the film is the text. So I’ll go with Lawrence Talbot, the character who becomes a werewolf in that film. My werewolf blogger has given himself the name “Lon,” after Lon Chaney, Jr., who played Lawrence Talbot.
Needless to say, the recent remake truly broke my heart. But it also inspired me to fill that vacuum.
What is your favorite werewolf book, movie and/or show?
The Wolf Man–although An American Werewolf in London sparked my fascination with werewolves. More recently, I loved the first two seasons of The Vampire Diaries. I think too many horror fans wrote that show off as a knockoff of Twilight. The storylines were rich and gothic, fast-paced and thrilling, and deeply emotional. I found myself counting the days to the next episode, and I really admired the patient development of the werewolf storyline. And come on–Ian Somerhalder was born to play a vampire. Honestly, I feel like they’ve gotten a little off-track in season three, with the ghosts and the inconsistent de-evolution of Stefan, but I’m still along for the ride.
Tell our readers why they should check out your book – in 3 words: (bwahaha)
Hundred. Thousand. Werewolves.
And finally, what other projects are you currently working on? Any goodies we should watch out for?
I wrote a film called Hell & Back that’s currently in production. It’s an R-rated animated comedy in the vein of Ghostbusters, filmed in stop-motion animation like Robot Chicken. The voice cast includes Mila Kunis, Rob Riggle and TJ Swardson. I hope that’ll come out either in the fall or next spring. I was also a writer for Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episodes I and III, which are both available on DVD, and I wrote a comic book mini-series called Freshmen, which is available in trade paperback along with its sequel, Freshmen II. These projects are vastly different in tone from City Under the Moon, but I think they all represent me very well. Other than that, I’m working on retaining my sanity as my wife and I juggle our three year-old and seven month-old daughters. Pray for me.
To enter into the giveaway all you have to do is send an email titled “City Under the Moon” to firstname.lastname@example.org telling me why you want the book. On March 22, 2011 I will pick one winner for a signed copy of City Under the Moon. US residents only.
Added note: the winner has 48 hours to respond, if they don’t within that time then the book goes to someone else, so make sure to check your email on the 22nd!
About the Author
Moonlight (aka Amanda) loves to write about, read about and learn about everything pertaining to werewolves and other supernatural beasties. She writes for top genre sites like Vampires.com and Werewolves.com. You will most likely find her huddled over a book of folklore with coffee in hand. Touch her coffee and you may lose a limb. You can stalk her via her Twitter.