Interview with Wolf's-own Ghost author Carole Cummings


Wolf’s-own: Ghost
Carole Cummings
(Wolf’s Own #1)
Publication date: November 4th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult, Paranormal

Untouchable. Ghost. Assassin. Mad. Fen Jacin-rei is all these and none. His mind is host to the spirits of long-dead magicians, and Fen’s fate should be one of madness and ignoble death. So how is it Fen lives, carrying out shadowy vengeance for his subjugated people and protecting the family he loves?
Kamen Malick means to find out. When Malick and his own small band of assassins ambush Fen in an alley, Malick offers Fen a choice: Join us or die.
Determined to decode the intrigue that surrounds Fen, Malick sets to unraveling the mysteries of Fen’s past. As Fen’s secrets slowly unfold, Malick finds irony a bitter thing when he discovers the one he wants is already hopelessly entangled with the one he hunts.​

Author Interview
Can you tell us a little about your latest book?

A friend and I came up with the “elevator pitch” pretty ninja assassins and the demigods who love them, which is, of course, way oversimplified, but it does work hilariously well, if you’re looking for a nutshell.
The series centers on Fen Jacin-rei, who was born Untouchable—someone who channels the spirits of his people’s Ancestors. His kind were once revered for their wisdom, but when the Ancestors went mad, so did the Untouchables. Fen, however, is accidentally saved from that fate by his twin brother and then by a man called Asai, who buys Fen from his father and takes him away to turn him into an assassin. When Fen’s mother is taken for her illegal magic, Fen ventures out on his own to find her and hunt down those who took her. Unfortunately, he runs into Malick and his small band of assassins first, and is given the ultimatum: join us or die. Angst, adventure, conspiracies and twisty plots ensue.

What inspired you to write it?
All of my stories begin with a visual that creeps up on me and spins itself into a story. Wolf’s-own came about because I had recently been reading some texts on the different Untouchable castes of Eastern cultures just before I happened upon a documentary about moons. One of the visuals used in the documentary was an artist’s conception of an alien world silhouetted by a great, fat silver moon, which was in turn flanked by a smaller red one. My mind superimposed Fen—the main protagonist of Wolf’s-own—in front of the moon, crouching on a roof, long knives in hand, and then the word Untouchable kept fluttering about its edges. The word clicked with the image and immediately took on an entirely different, more sinister meaning. The rest just… happened.

How did you come up with the idea for the cover?
The amazing Anne Cain at DSP Publications gets sole credit for that one. Ghost is written in a manga format—meaning a nonlinear timeline with occasional steps backward in time to cover backstory exposition, which serves to elucidate the “present day” exposition—and Anne Cain captured the character, the mood of the world and the style of the narration perfectly with that cover. In fact, I was lucky enough to work with Anne for all four covers of the series. My only input was squealing and flailing in glee when I saw what she’d done.

If it was made into a movie, who would you like to play the main characters?
Physically speaking, Hyun Bin (South Korean actor) has the closest I’ve found to the right look for Fen, though the fit isn’t quite perfect. And Travis Fimmel, back when he was all about the hair and the pretty, works quite well for Malick. (Mal’s a bit of an egotist.)

Is it part of a series or is it a stand-alone novel?
Ghost is book 1 of the Wolf’s-own series and is best read together with book 2 of the series, Weregild. Books 1 and 2 complete one arc, and then books 3 and 4 (Koan and Incendiary) complete another, as well as exposing and concluding the overarching plot that pulls all four books together.

Where is the novel set and why did you choose to set it there?
The world of Wolf’s-own has been compared to Medieval Japan, and it does have an Eastern “flavor” to it, but it’s not Japan or China or Korea or India, or any of our cultures. It’s its own world that, yes, does contain some affectations of, and is informed by, our world, but is not of it.
Setting it there, like most of what comes out when I write, was not a choice. The world built itself along with the characters

What is it about this genre that appeals to you so much?
Speculative Fiction, for me, is a genre in which one can create worlds and societies that can speak to our own and yet maintain their otherness enough that they can show us What Could Be. And I’m all about What Could Be.

What made you want to become an author?
Author and Writer for me are two different things. I didn’t want to become a writer—I just am. Stories build themselves in my head and compel me to write them.
Honestly, I didn’t necessarily want to become an author either. I submitted a trilogy several years back because I was looking for a tax break on writing expenses, and if you can prove you’re submitting your work for possible publication, you can claim the expenses on your taxes. I didn’t expect the publisher to even read the trilogy, let alone offer me a contract for it, but they did, so here I am.

How do you come up with character names?
It’s different for every character and every story. Sometimes they name themselves and there’s nothing I can do about it. Fen (in Wolf’s-own) was going to be Fen, damn it, and he could not have given less of a damn if I liked it. Sometimes it’s necessary for a name to have meaning, like with Wil and Dallin in the Aisling trilogy, in which case I had to hunt down names that meant what they needed to mean. Kimolijah and Bas in Blue on Black (to be released by DSP Publications in June) were just names I heard and happened to like. And Lucas and Alex in The Queen’s Librarian got their names from my friend Rosina, because she was having a bad day and I wanted to cheer her up. It all depends on the characters and the overall plot.

Name one of your all-time favourite books?
Aw, man, just one? Argh! It’s so hard to pick! Okay, I’ll have to go with Lord of the Rings, because that’s the one that started it all for me, way back when I was wee and wide-eyed.

Who, or what, inspires you?
Everything can be inspiration, if you look at it the right way and keep yourself open to it. Walking the dog and seeing a torn playing card lying in the gutter can inspire you to write a story about where it came from and how it got there. (In my case, it belonged to a kid named Emory who keeps dying and then not being dead, and the very confused Reaper whose job it is to cross him over.) Anything from cataclysmic events to loading the dishwasher can be inspiration—you just have to recognize it.

Where is your favourite place to write?
Any place I have access to a writing implement. (Although I do not say no to comfy chairs in quiet places.)

What is your favourite movie that was based on a book?
I’m one of those annoying people who rarely likes the movies made from books. They hardly ever capture what I feel are the important subtleties or the essences of the arcs. So I’m going to go with the 1982 adaptation of The Thing, which was based on the short story Who Goes There by John W. Campbell, Jr. (writing under the pseudonym Don A. Stuart). Not only because it was the apex of Kurt Russell’s lifetime achievement for hair/beard awesomeness, but because it managed to convey the driving and very human point behind the horror of the original story, which was the fear of Other and the even deeper fear that maybe we are that Other and we don’t even know it. And it managed to do all that without actually telling us that was what it was doing.

Name two of your favourite authors.
Ack! I have so many! And they change, depending on what I’m currently reading. But I guess I’d have to pick J.R.R. Tolkien, since he kind of started it all for me by letting me tag along on Bilbo’s adventures, and then persuading me to walk in Frodo’s footsteps so I could learn that “not accomplishing” is not the same thing as “failing”. And Mary Stewart, because she solidified the whole New-Take-on-Old-Concept + Fantastic Writing = Mind-opening Experience thing with the Crystal Cave series.

Tell us a random fact about yourself.
My husband and I recently acquired a service dog for our teenaged daughter. I was weirdly surprised to learn they’re not the stoic, constantly-at-attention, no-fun creatures they appear to be when they’re on duty. They’re just normal, affectionate, unconditional-love dogs who happen to behave better and who have learned particular skills. (We can’t get ours to stop bouncing, though!)

Who would play you in the movie about your life?
Ahahahahahahahahaha! That’s so funn— Oh, sorry, you were serious.
photo credit: Emma Watson 2012 Shankbone via photopin (license)
I am shockingly boring in real life. If I was interesting enough to have a movie based on me, I’d be writing memoirs. So I’m going to be entirely superficial here and go with a vanity pick. I’ve been told (by very generous souls no doubt trying to flatter me for undisclosed personal gain) that Emma Watson looks like a younger version of me, and since I wouldn’t mind being Hermione when I grow up, sure, why not, let’s say her.

Tell us an interesting fact about where you live.
I live quite close to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where some businesses offer guided ghost tours. One in particular offers a ghost tour/pub crawl. One day, I will get someone to do that with me, damn it, but so far, no luck.

What are your (writing) plans for the future?
Write, write, and write. That’s kind of it. I’ve got a new Steampunk/Fantasy novel coming out in June, several stories in the works right now, lots more planned, and I will likely continue writing Spec Fic. But the thing about stories is that they’ll be what they’ll be, so I don’t rule out anything. The only thing I can say with real conviction is that I will be writing until I can’t anymore.

Tell us one thing that's on your bucket list.
To attend a New York Rangers game at Madison Square Garden. Which has nothing to do with writing. Sorry.

Favourite myth / fairytale?
Probably the Arthurian legends. They’ve got it all—heroes, villains, misunderstood heroes that became villains, monsters, morality tales, battles, honor, romance, magic, and—best of all—hope. I mean, who doesn’t want to believe that, when we finally screw ourselves over completely, Arthur will wake up, and he and Merlin will lead us out of the darkness and back into the light?

Who/What did you want to be when you were a kid?
Yikes, let’s just tell everyone exactly how nerdy I was, am and always will be, but I wanted to be a Theology professor. Religion is a fascinating subject, responsible for so many wrongs and rights in the world, and it would take lifetimes to dissect and analyze it all, and even then I don’t think a single person could truly or fully understand it. I wanted to be able to perpetually study all its angles, with access to any materials I might need to add to my knowledge, and the best way to do that—and still make a living—I thought would be to teach it. Since that didn’t happen, and since I also have a background in Psychology, I now write about freaky religions and twisty gods and their effects on those who worship them. (There’s a kind of distorted “full circle” in that.)

Carole lives with her husband and family in Pennsylvania, USA, where she spends her time trying to find time to write. Recipient of various amateur writing awards, several of her short stories have been translated into Spanish, German, Chinese and Polish.

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