Tell us about your novel.
I WAS A TEENAGE WEREDEER is a comedic urban fantasy novel about Jane Doe, an eighteen-year-old shapechanger who has the psychic ability to read objects. She lives a pretty normal life until her high school rival is found dead in the woods with her brother as the primary suspect. Teaming up with the victim’s sister, an eccentric FBI agent, and the local crime lord–Jane has to solve a case which seems closed before it even began. Jane is an irreverent and wonderful character which people seem to love. It’s very much in the style of my SUPERVILLAINY SAGA books and I hope fans of them will check her out.
I was originally inspired by the classic Twin Peaks story of the murder of Laura Palmer and how everyone in the town was affected. I decided to swerve my own way, though, by creating a town of supernaturals as well as modernizing the characters. Also, unlike David Lynch, I’m perfectly capable of creating a story where the metaphysics makes sense and the plot has a conclusion. Hehe. Just kidding. I love you, David. There’s a bit of Life is Strange and the Dresden Files plus Mercy Thompson too.
What is the name of your world?
It takes place in the Unmasqued World which is the setting for both THE BRIGHT FALLS MYSTERIES SERIES and STRAIGHT OUTTA FANGTON. It’s a world where the supernatural was revealed in 2008 and the world is still dealing with the consequences. I love the idea of exploring the idea of supernaturals trying to fit into new environments and the difference between them as well as “regular” cultures given they very often do have qualities wholly different from others. Not only do humans have to create new laws to deal with supernaturals but they have to get used to losing the unlimited freedom they had while secret (which many bad guys profited from).
Basically, vampires are out and proud but the rest of the supernatural races are less accepted because they don’t have either the wealth or the publicity departments the undead do. The undead were preparing to come out since Dracula was published. Bright Falls is a bit of a “safe harbor” with several thousand shapechangers and their families living there. It’s existing uneasily with the rest of the United States, especially as the werewolves were used to ruling the other shapechangers as kings.
What makes your world special or different?
I think I WAS A TEENAGE WEREDEER is unique in that it successfully combines urban fantasy, comedy, mystery, and Young Adult fiction into one single work. It’s very much a snarky take on a lot of tropes and ideas which have come before. While the Dresden Files and Mercy Thompson have done it to an extent, I think I do it one better. Mostly, I was focused on just telling the best story I could.
Still, I’m a fantasy author first and foremost so I had a lot of fun getting into the nitty gritty of how the world worked from laws dealing with shapechangers, how the federal government coped, the supernatural “rules”, and even how the Spirit World functioned for races which regularly interacted with it. The humor in my books comes from the characters, not the world, and I take the world building very seriously.
It’s more Buffy the Vampire Slayer than farce.
How does your main character fit into this world?
Jane Doe is a woman caught between two worlds. She was born before the Reveal but is mostly a child of the 21st century that grew up with humanity knowing about supernaturals. A lot of the strange and mystical rites as well as traditions, have no bearing on her life. Her parents, by contrast, lived their entire lives with these things as something deadly serious. They also did things to protect the secrecy of shapechangers which they’re not proud of. Jane would love to just go out into the rest of the world and live a “normal” life but it’s not possible because the majority of states have “varmint laws” which would allow anyone who feels threatened by a shapechanger to shoot them.
In a way, as terrible as that sounds, events in the book give Jane the opportunity for the excitement and change she wants in her life. Jane feels guilty about it because it’s taking advantage of her friend, Emma, who has just lost her sister as well as being flippant about a tragedy.
Is there a system of magic? If so, please tell us about it. Or tell us about the technology of your world.
I devoted a lot of effort to establishing my system of magic. In the Unmasqued World, magic exists as a form of will-working where the person who masters it is able to rewrite reality at their will. However, it’s extraordinarily HARD as you might imagine and your personality determines what form your magic takes. A person who is a killer might not be able to heal others while a person who is good and compassionate might have difficulty hurting other people with sorcery.
It’s also limited by the amount of magical “oomph” a person generates. Most people only have a microscopic amount and can’t do much more than parlor tricks even if they are taught the principles of magic. Others, especially who have long magical bloodlines can do big impressive stuff. Some other wizards “cheat” and make deals with spirits, drain the energy of other people, commit human (or animal) sacrifices, or build cults around themselves.
Jane is notable for being terrible at magic but having immense potential and power. I found that funny.
What are the people who inhabit your world like?
I had a lot of fun developing the culture for shapeshifters in North America and Bright Falls in particular. My idea was they were created by most of them getting together as a matter of survival in the 17th century and building a clan-based structure. They’re a little French, a little Native American, and some Scottish thrown in for good measure. That’s in addition to being a collection of rural Michigan inhabitants. Jane is mixed race being part Odawa (Ottawa) Native American and Caucasian that comes up a few times in the story. As she says, she’s a quarter Canadian and that carries certain expectations.
The government in the United States is in a weird spot with supernaturals as they’re rich and powerful (as well as possess many proxies they control through means fair or foul) but it’s like trying to ride a dragon. Plenty of people in the government would like to destroy supernaturals as a whole. So, mostly, there’s states where supernaturals are tolerated or even encouraged like Michigan or where they’re treated as threats. One of the major characters is an FBI agent who specializes in these sorts of situations yet is out of step with the current anti-supernatural administration. No, it’s not a reference to real life. LOL.
In the STRAIGHT OUTTA FANGTON novels, the vampires have bought up Detroit and remade it into a sort of vampire Las Vegas in order to make themselves comfortable as well as more accepting to people. The shapechangers aren’t like that and have been left behind as a result. Some think they should turn Bright Falls into a tourist trap so people are less likely to break out the silver bullets and verbena.
Are there any magical creatures?
As you might guess, there’s a lot of them. In general, Bright Falls is inhabited by twelve clans of shapechangers ranging from werecats to werewolves with everything in-between. Some of them, the weredeer in particular, know magic. There’s only one vampire in the town, though, and that’s because he was banished from New Detroit for doing something unforgivable (freeing another vampire’s meal in this case).
Bright Falls is also a place built on a mystic nexus where spirits are drawn. That means it’s possible to encounter any number of supernatural monsters which are from the Spirit World. The big difference between them and shapechangers or vampires is spirits were never human in the first place so they have utterly alien moralities.
Gods are real in this world, too, though the difference between them and a spirit is really just the difference between a tiger and a house cat. Poor Jane has to deal with at least one and it’s not an experience she’d like to repeat.
Is there anything special, precious, or unique about your world’s geography or its place in the universe?
Bright Falls, Michigan is my Platonic ideal of a small town which is either going to have to change or die with the times. I spent many a night detailing its ins and outs with co-writer Michael Suttkus [Hi Michael-CTP] including shops, local personalities, landmarks, and history. Having grown up in a dying town that managed to just barely preserve itself, I had a lot of memories to draw from. I also did my best to research Michigan and get a good feeling for the state even if the central location is fictitious.
Plenty of urban fantasy series take place in the big city or supernatural variations of them but I think it’s more interesting to go the opposite route. Jane will be constantly running up to the consequences of her actions in future installments of the series. Yes, it’s a series. Three books have already been written and will hopefully all be out this year.
What are the two most interesting facts or features of your world?
I had a lot of fun with the coming of age element and the clash of cultures part of being an urban fantasy story. A lot of urban fantasy heroes are effectively superheroes (and some superheroes are urban fantasy heroes ala Blade, John Constantine, and Cassie Hack). I had a good deal of fun with the fact Jane Doe treats her desire to make a difference in her hometown with the same ethic as she would being a superhero. It’s entirely the wrong attitude to have as no one else thinks shooting or exorcising demons should be done with the same attitude as Spiderman.
It makes for an interesting contrast.
How does the landscape or geography of your world affect the plot or theme of the story?
Obviously, when you’re doing a story about shapeshifters you should make a lot of wooded areas. As mentioned, Bright Falls is a character in its own right. I had a lot of fun with taking the fairytale ideal of “the mysterious woods where anything could happen” then putting it in a modern context. There’s an interesting fact about Michigan that you really can’t go more than thirty minutes in any direction without hitting a state park or nature preserve. What do those places contain if they were, possibly, containing more than picnic areas?
Is there a religious system in place?
Jane is a character who has an ambivalent nature about religion, which bothers her because she’s supposed to be the Shaman of Bright Falls. She believes in the Spirit World because she knows it exists and it bothers her she can’t get much worked up for venerating any of them. This is in contrast to her mother and other members of the Cervid Clan as they weredeer are the spiritual leaders of shapechangers as a whole.
On the other hand, religion and various belief structures play a role in the world as a whole. Almost all gods exist in the Spirit World, even variations of them, and if they don’t then a spirit will likely take over their identity. Gods of Good, Evil, Justice, Nobility, or Pot Brownies. In such a world, they exemplify concepts and relate to humans but what does that mean for humanity and vice versa?
I have fun contrasting Jane to one of her love interests (don’t worry, she’ll make her choice soon versus it being dragged out), Alex Timmons. He has a much deeper relationship with the Spirit World and belief system but made his own faith since nothing pre-existing worked for me. Jane thinks that’s cheating.
What is one last thing you would like readers to know all about your world?
I hope to do many-many books set in the world.
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