If you survived the great vampire boom of the 90s and early 2000s (Twilight, Pure Blood, The Lost Boys) you lived to tell the tale. We seem to be going through a similar thing with werewolves. All the tropes are being reexamined. Lycanthopic romance is a thing (seriously, a lot of women are hot for Lycans. It’s also big in gay erotica), legends are updated to a thoroughly modern world like Steve Morris’ Lycanthrope series (you can read the interview here), and some for a mix of humor, detective noir and horror like Johnny Lycan and the Anubis Disk. But if you never thought of Northern Ireland as werewolf territory, you need to meet Iain McLachlan.
Iain, what’s you’re story?
Well, I live south of Belfast in Northern Ireland, I was raised here and moved back home three years ago from living in London. I started writing my first book back in 2008, but work kept me away form it so it was 2017 when I went back to it with the decision ‘right, I WILL do this’ and I have not looked back. I love traveling, and apart from one, all the locations in my stories are all real and I try as best as I can, to do them justice. I love it when I get feedback from people who know the locations who tell me that they can picture exactly where the character is standing at the point in the story.
What’s the story behind The Moon Dancing series?
I have looked at the genre of ‘werewolves’ but from a scientific point of view and not a ‘myth and fantasy’ one. I spent eighteen months before I started writing volume one doing research to see if this was possible in nature, and I discovered that theoretically, DNA can change shape, but (very big but) if this was real, what we see in stories and films would take nearly eight months for a person to change into a lycanthrope, not sixty seconds! So, I did take a bit of literally licence
My story in Moon Dancing Volume one is about a pack of werewolves in modern-day Northern Ireland, they have done a very good job at hiding from modern society when (in volume one) a small pack of wolves from a different pack arrive .. and start to cause trouble.
I look at how the pack reacts to more wolves in their territory, how the police would have to investigate a series of brutal murders and the evidence that they gather and how a local journalist reports what she is seeing and discovering through her job.
The story was first going to be a trilogy but I am now looking at at least six books over the story line.
What is it about werewolves that is so fascinating? Belfast doesn’t seem like prime loup-garou territory.
I have always loved the idea of werewolves, but when I look at them in legend, I spotted major differences between central Europe and here in Ireland, for example, the witness descriptions from central Europe, drooling mouth, blood shot eyes, rage … I spotted that these were also the signs and symptoms of the disease RABIES. There has never been rabies in any of the British Isles (Ireland both north and south, and Great Britain) and the descriptions of werewolves in Irish legend were all of tales of ‘protectors’ and good tales. I found several legends that pointed to tales of the old kings of Ireland, that in times of war, would hire the clan of werewolves (or dogmen as they were also called) as bodyguards. They were known as fierce warriors and very loyal, totally different to Central Europe.
I’m always interested in who you read for fun.I get the sense you are kind of old school.
I have always loved reading, my list is varied and includes, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Keri Arthur, Patricia Briggs, Maya Angelou, David Niven, Claire Savage, Ernest Hemingway just to name a few.
Where can people learn more about you and your work?
I came across Mark l’Estrange’s werewolf story, Silver Bullet, when it was the read of the month in the Goodreads Werewolf group. (Yes, there’s a werewolf book group on Goodreads, and how does Johnny Lycan get some love?) But I digress. His latest book is Dawn of the Mummy, so he’s working his way through the Universal classic monster tropes which sounds like a damn fine plan to me.
Okay Mark, what’s your deal?
I am a civil servant and live in Kent (the garden of England) with my adorable fur babies: Jovi, Poppi, Tigger, Bambi and Gizmo, who really are my life. I presently have eight books in print (all horror), seven novels and one collection of short Christmas horror stories.
I have, just today, in fact, submitted what I hope will be my next novel to my publishers, so fingers crossed. I have called it: The Haunted House from Hell. My latest novel in print is called: Dawn of the Mummy, and is a modern-day take on those wonderful old Universal/Hammer Mummy films, that I was brought up on.
Horror has always been my thing, whether it was novels, films, documentaries, whatever, I could not-and still cannot-get enough of them. I am a complete luddite, and struggle daily with both my work and home computers, which are forever doing things I don’t want them to. But to be fair, I struggle with most things electronic, which have a tendency to just do their own thing, regardless of what I want them to do…A bit like my cats.
My latest novel is a take on some of those glorious old Mummy films of days gone by. You know, the ones where the Mummy is/was Egyptian, thousands of years old, suffered some form of horrendous death, etc, etc. As much as I enjoyed the recent films with Brendan Fraser, they were not the sort of books I would want to read, or write. These days, here are far too many publishers who make demands which, to me, seem ridiculous to the point of being insulting.
Just recently, for example, I saw an advert for a short story compilation about Mummy’s. I thought, great, let’s have a look. But the synopsis was looney tunes. They did not want the Mummy to come from Egypt, for a kick-off. The story had to have several persons of colour, and at least one member of the BGTQI fraternity, as part of the overall story, which, for me at least, had nothing to do with the concept. It came across as a potential publisher just trying to cash in on members of those groups as readers, regardless of whether they fitted in with the story. Personally, I cannot think of any of my characters as being anything other than what they are. If they happen to be a particular colour, then so be it. Likewise, if they happen to be a particular religion. As for their sexual persuasion, that just falls where it falls within the story. Anything else, I feel, becomes too contrived and detracts from the story, which should be about horror.
Sounds like you, as I do, have a fondness for the classic monster movies.
I have always wanted to write a book about a Mummy. Just like, I always wanted to write a book about Werewolves and haunted houses, because, as far as I’m concerned, they are an integral part of the horror (reading) genre. Same with Vampires (although they seem to be done to death-ha ha). I find an awful lot of horror works these days should not be classed as horror. A book/film can be horrifying without actually being a horror story. Horror used to have its own unique niche, but often now you find stories that used to be classed as thrillers, or shocking or just outright disgusting, as being lumped in under the horror tag. I used to love walking through a book shop and making a beeline for the horror section, but sadly now, such sections hardly seem to exist. I would love to think that my novels could have sat amongst some of those horror greats of the seventies and eighties, and been accepted as part of that fraternity.
You obviously dig the movies, but talk to me about literary influences.
Richard Laymon (naturally), Guy N. Smith, James Herbert, (early) Stephen King…Yes, I only read horror. Well, that’s not quite true, but the majority of what I digest does tend to come from that genre. I remember at school when our English teacher would give us a free run of the library to choose our next read, she would always sigh deeply when I chose another horror novel. I have, of course, read some of the classics: Dracula, Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde as well as various collections by the likes of: Edith Wharton, Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, and more modern authors such as Susan Hill. Plus, there are some novels which have nothing to do with-what I consider to be horror, but need to be read on their own merit, such as Catch 22 and the Handmaid’s Tale, to name just two. Also, I love a good autobiography, not to mention books about real-life serial killers…I think I have read the Diary of Jack the Ripper, no less than six times now. I tend to pick it up every other Christmas.
Where can we learn more about your work?
My books appear on two author websites: Severed Press, and Next Chapter (formally, Creativia), which, in my humble opinion, is run the way all publishers should be.
Other than that, all my books can be purchased on Amazon, although I am very excited that my publishers (Next Chapter) are in the process of sealing a deal with several large bookshop chains, as we speak. Naturally, my books are discussed on Goodreads and commented on by some lovely people from all over the world, which is really wonderful. I have absolutely no social media face at all, and fully intend to keep it that way…I mean, between writing, reading, working, and playing with my fur babies, who has time? This is one reason I appreciate it when I am asked to complete one of these interviews…It reminds me of the old days when you bought colour magazines to read interviews about your favorite authors.