FAQs for the Wolf's-own series

 

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This is the series for which I get the most questions and the most irritated emails. Readers seem to either love it or hate it, there's very little in-between. So I figured I'd compile the questions/complaints that are the most regularly asked/grumbled about and put the responses here. If you've read the series, maybe it'll help you understand something that didn't make sense to you, and if you haven't, maybe it'll help you decide whether or not to give it a try. Either way, fair warning that the answers will be riddled with spoilers, so read on at your own risk. ;)

 

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1. Is Wolf's-own a Romance?

No. Absolutely not. While it does contain a love story entwined with the plot, if you enter into this series with Romance expectations you will be disappointed. From what I gather, very disappointed. This is a character-driven Fantasy series, so the emphasis is on the growth and development of the characters, with complex plots and subplots in an original and multifaceted world. The love story often takes a backseat to any one of these elements, sometimes put on hold entirely. So if Romance is what you're after, you'd do best to not pick this one up. (Also, it's not really what one would call a healthy relationship to begin with, so maybe back away slowly. It's okay. It's not for everyone.)

2. Why are there so many points of view?

Each point of view is necessary and contributes to the reader's understanding of some element within the story. Each character only has small pieces of the broader story, making it impossible for any one character to inform the reader of what's going on entirely and why every separate piece of information is important to the more comprehensive overall arcs. And yes, there are going to be lots of times when a character's POV will have nothing whatever to do with the main love story. Again, it's a Fantasy, not a Romance.

3. WTF with the flashbacks in book one?

They're not actually flashbacks. A flashback is something that happens entirely within a character's mind and breaks into the narrative in the middle of a presently occurring event. The device used in Ghost is called alinear exposition, and each instance of it is placed directly after a "present day" scene which it will elucidate, enhancing a reader's understanding of why a character has reacted in the "present day" the way they have by showing what events in their past informed that reaction. It's a common literary device, probably more so in manga and anime, upon which Ghost was modeled.

4. Cliffhangers? Really?

Well, again, it's a Fantasy series. It's what Fantasy series do. Quite frankly, I'd suggest that anyone who's read broadly in the Fantasy genre knows how easily this series lets the reader off in terms of "OMG, you can't leave me there!" (Tolkien, anyone? Martin? Butcher? I could go on.) And the publisher has been kind enough to bundle all four books into one massive ebook for ten bucks, so there's no wait between books, and you're basically getting it all for less than the price of two ebooks anyway. So there. :p

More practically speaking, this series was written as two books, with the first split into Ghost/Weregild, and the second split into Koan/Incendiary. It may seem like a money-grab, or some kind of scam, but it's really because small presses can generally only justify a word count of about 150K for a publication to be cost-effective for them. Each of the original two books were over 300K, so it was necessary to break them up to make them even a little bit profitable for the publisher. And did I mention the bundle for ten bucks?

5. What does Weregild mean and what does it have to do with the story?

Here's the definition. You'll have to figure out its pertinence to the story yourself.

6. And Koan?

Same.

7. Why do the characters have to talk so much?

Because it's what people do? I've never been of the belief that only car chases and space battles are what make for an eventful story, and I write what I like to read. Verbal confrontations and revelations through dialogue—whether inside a character's head or outside of it—are often much more important than who's shooting at whom, and tell a reader a lot more of what they need to know. This is a character-driven series, so the characters and what they think/say/do are what's important. I never billed this series as Action-Adventure, and I don't pretend it's everyone's cup of tea, so if wall-to-wall physical action is what you're after, it's probably not yours either.

8. Okay, fine, but why does Fen have to think so much?

This one I will cop to, though I won't apologize for it. It was purposely done to expose Fen's circular thinking (smoke ringsimperfect smoke rings), how he chases himself through his own head, but never quite comes up with an answer he can grasp until much, much later. It's a byproduct of having been subjected to the insanity of others for so long, and having to shove his own thoughts through the noise.

Pay attention to Shig in books three and four. Her arc parallels Fen's very closely, but her methods of dealing with things are much healthier. Her POV in Koan/Incendiary was a purposeful juxtaposition. Shig looks crazy on the outside but is quite sane underneath it all, while Fen can pass for sane on the outside until you get inside his head.

So while yes, I have purposely subjected readers to a lot of Fen agonizing over things until he makes himself sick, there was a very good reason for it, and it all comes back again to characterizationit was important to show how Fen's mind works at the beginning so his growth by the end is evident.

9. There are so many things in the series you never explained!

There really aren't. It is a rather sprawling story, so I can understand why some breadcrumbs provided along the way might have been forgotten or just not noticed. But I promise, every single question you may have is answered somewhere in the narrative. Maybe not where you wanted it to be, but where it needed to be. I provided a glossary under duress, because I was very careful to make sure each term I used was explained and defined as a natural part of the exposition, and I didn't think a glossary was necessary. But every single term is already explained pretty much as soon as it's used, so if you're paying attention, you won't even need it.

The same applies to plots points and subplots. Every surprise! you didn't see coming (or, as was once accused, a deus ex machina, which really doesn't mean what that person apparently thought it means) was built up to using established groundwork, and in some cases actually signaled in some way beforehand, and then revealed, clarified, and used within the rules built into this world. (Seriouslythe main point of the series' overarching arc was signaled in chapter four of book one, alluded to several times throughout the story, and then came to fruition in book four. It's all there, I promise.) And if you don't think it is, feel free to write me and ask me for a reference. I'm always happy to hear from you. :)  (Well, unless you're yelling at me, in which case I'll still answer, but probably not as happily.)

10. Why is everyone so mean to Malick?

I actually love when I get this question, because it tells me I did a good job of making a character who's kind of an asshole into someone readers see as a hero to root for. In a realistic situation, though, through the eyes of someone who cares about Fen (take Joori for instance), Malick would appear to be an opportunistic user (which he is, actually), and someone from whom you would want to protect a loved one, even though Malick eventually turns out to be the best person for Fen's sanity and ability to become a whole person. The reader will be privy to that evolution, but the characters, not so much. The characters can't see inside Malick's head the way the reader can, they can't know how his attitudes and goals are changing. And let's not forget, Malick didn't exactly start out with the best, most altruistic intentions toward Fen. And those intentions took quite a long while to shift into something less selfish.

Malick's relationship with Fen was based on my observations of relationships that seem to outsiders to be "wrong" or "unhealthy" but somehow work for the people in that relationship. So it's not really that everyone's "mean" to Malickit's that the natural instinct toward someone you love is to protect them, and Malick is seen as a threat to Fen's wellbeing by those who love him.

Put yourself in Joori's positionwould you trust Malick with the brother you love more than life? And Shig—as someone who identifies so closely with Fen, but who knows very well that the way Malick approaches what's right and wrong for Shig herself is seriously off the mark, wouldn't you have a few things to say to him about his less-than-conventional methods of dealing with Fen? And while what Umeia did was a betrayal, her reasons for doing it were actually right—unlike Malick at that point, she was doing what a Temshiel was supposed to do. As far as Malick's fellow demigods, they've seen him for over  hundred years as an irresponsible, arrogant pup who was handed way more power than he should have without having to earn it. Think about that for a second. Isn't that how the Ancestors and the Jin got in trouble in the first place? As beings who actually saw that history play out, why would they think Malick would be any different?

11. Why does Fen have to be so freaking needy? Why can't he just be a cool badass?

I get this one mostly pertaining to Koan, and I have to say, if you're asking this question, it tells me you've never suffered from, nor had to watch someone else suffer from, any serious mental or emotional issues, so good for you. That might sound sarcastic, but I mean it quite sincerely. It's good that Fen's state of mind seems foreign to you, because it means you've been very fortunate in that respect, and I'm honestly glad for you. But for those who have suffered from the things Fen suffers from, or have watched someone they love suffer from them, Fen's progress (and sometimes lack thereof) is as realistic a portrayal as I was capable of making it. Someone who has lived the life Fen has lived, and been through the numerous trauma he's been through, cannot be expected to just "get over it" in the space of the three months between Weregild and Koan. Recovery from mental/emotional issues is a long and sometimes heartbreaking process, riddled with backslides and false recoveries and periods of just plain giving up, and I wanted to be as respectful to that as I possibly could be.

As far as him being needy, all I can say is there's a reason for everything in this series, and in my opinion, the revelations in Incendiary explain why Fen is who he is and why he thinks the way he does, and why he's probably more badass than anyone else in the story. If you don't get that far, well. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Maybe you didn't find him compelling enough for you to follow to the end, and that's okay! I didn't write this series to please anyone, but because it was a story that wanted to be told. That doesn't necessarily mean it's a story you'll find satisfying. There's nothing wrong with you for not enjoying it and there's nothing wrong with me for the way I wrote it. It's just our ideas of a good story didn't happen to mesh.

12. Were books three and four really necessary?

I guess it depends on what an individual considers necessary. From a characterization perspective, which is the way one approaches a character-driven story, yes, they absolutely were not only necessary but imperative. Ghost/Weregild do complete a major arc, and a reader could very happily bow out at the end of book two and go merrily on their way. But as I said earlier, the main arc of the series was built on information we receive in the beginning of book one, which we eventually find out is the main underlying motivation for Fen's character, even when he doesn't know it. So yes, in order to resolve the foundational arc of this story and these characterizations, it was necessary for Fen to be made aware of that revelation, to react to it in a way someone of his mental/emotional state would react, and then to have evolved enough that he could actually accept it.

Again, we're talking about a character-driven story, so the main point of the entire series is the characterizations. Ghost/Weregild are about Malick evolving into the person who could be what Fen needed. Koan/Incendiary are about Fen evolving into someone who could be a whole person. Leaving Fen where he was at the end of Weregild would have been, for me, unconscionable.

13. You used anachronisms!

No, I didn't. I maybe used something you thought was an anachronism, but there is no such thing as true anachronism in spec fic, since we're dealing with an invented world. And alsono, I didn't. The one I get most often is along the lines of "there were no hospitals in medieval Japan!" and actually #1the Wolf's-own world isn't medieval Japan, so there's that, but even if it were, #2—yes, there were hospitals in medieval Japan. (Also, there is actually no hospital anywhere in Wolf's-own—though there's a healing house at the end—so I don't understand why so many people seem to get annoyed enough by a hospital that's not there to actually take the time to write me to complain about it, but that's a whole other issue.)

So do be careful about getting "knocked out of" any spec fic story by what you perceive to be an anachronism. Chances are the author was very vigilant about the terms they used, and probably knows more about them than you're giving them credit for. No author is perfect, and mistakes are sometimes made that slip past even the best editors, but most authors have researched their worlds thoroughly enough that the terms they use are terms that apply correctly to the world they've created. Try to trust the author until they somehow prove you can't.

 

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If you have any questions/complaints you'd like addressed, please feel free to contact me and I'll see what I can do. But seriously—try not to yell at me? Like any author, most of the time I hover between the utmost confidence in my work and crushing insecurity, and getting an email or a link to a review that's full of sad-face emojis and angry exclamation points kind of tips the scales. Say anything you want in a review, that's what they're for, and it's been ages since I've ventured to a review site anyway, so I likely won't even see it. But if you're going to actually send me a link to yours, or hunt me down on social media and tag me with it because you disliked the story that much and felt someone needed to suffer along with you? That's kind of a dick move, so.

Anyway, I'm a writer. I promise I already suffer enough.  ;)

 

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