Monday, December 8, 2014

Spotlight Feature: THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER by Camilla Ochlan and Bonita Gutierrez

Lucy Lowell, The Werewolf Whisperer, and her partner Xochitl Magaña are thrown into chaos when the Kyon Virus turns a disturbing number of Angelenos into Werewolf-like creatures. As the outbreak expands to epidemic proportions, Lucy’s uncanny ability to control the creatures makes her “the silver lining in our werewolf apocalypse.”
Battling their own personal demons born of family history and bad choices, the women join together in the pursuit of helping those afflicted. But all is not as it seems. Not for Lucy. Not for Xochitl. And not for a society just coming to grips with the new world order.

We discuss the book with the co-authors!

1.  What inspired the idea for The Werewolf Whisperer?

Bonita: We were both coming off writing and producing short films. I had just completed the film festival circuit for my short film Cantar when Camilla asked me to work on her short Dog Breath.

Camilla: The idea for The Werewolf Whisperer was sparked by my short film Dog Breath, a suburban ghost story. While observing the on-set dog trainer, I wondered "what if?"


2.  What was the development process like?

Camilla: I initially thought this would be a web series. I sat down and quickly wrote three episodes, which I shared with Bonita.

Bonita: Camilla and her husband fed me a seven-course meal, and Camilla gave me the episodes. I read the title and said, "Yep, we're doing this!"

Camilla: Over one summer, we had a blast completing a twelve episode first season.

Bonita: We intended on shooting it, came up with a budget and realized our imaginations had exceeded our means.

Camilla: The world of the Werewolf Whisperer had rapidly outgrown the limitations of its originally intended medium.

Bonita: So, Camilla had the bright idea of writing our web series as a novel. Coming from a film and television background, I primarily wrote scripts, screenplays. I'd never written a novel. I was scared out of my mind. But I said, "yes" anyway.


3.  Can you please describe the relationship between Lucy Lowell and Xochitl Magaña?

The way the novel is constructed, you come to fully realize how these two women, who come from completely different backgrounds, could become so close. At their core, the thing that bonds them, is their fierce loyalty and their commitment to family — and that family isn’t necessarily what you're born into, but who you choose to love.

It's rare to see authentic female friendships in the media: books, movies, TV shows. In many instances, there's some negative aspect: jealousy, manipulation, backstabbing. Women are emotional, crazy people. They are "poisonous playmates," as Julia Cameron might say. As secondary characters, they are often objectified in a sexual way. As primary characters, they are often pitted against each other. In this series, we don't do that.

Bonita: Not to say Lucy and Xochitl don't have their moments, but they always have each other's backs.

The atypical bond between Lucy and Xochitl is at the center of the story. Fighting for their lives, their sanity and their freedom, the women move through a chaotic world, plagued by creatures, heartbreak and hidden threats, with humor and courage.

Camilla: Unlike Thelma and Louise, Lucy and Xochitl are not driving off any cliffs. They are fighters. They take it on and dish it out.

The Werewolf Whisperer world lives and dies by Lucy and Xochitl's relationship.


4.  Which character would you identify with most and why?

Bonita: There are aspects of me in all of the characters, but I would have to say Xochitl because a lot of what she experiences in the book about being a person of mixed heritage — straddling a line between two worlds — is what I have experienced in some way. Obviously it’s a work of fiction, but the novel is definitely peppered with personal moments.

Camilla: For me, there is of course that aspect of wish fulfillment with Lucy, with Xochitl, with Kai. Wish I could say that. Wish I could do that. But there are certain things in Lucy that are connected with my life.


5.  Would you rather be a werewolf or a werewolf whisperer?

Well, first off "werewolf" has been deemed offensive and politically incorrect in our story, Lucy Lowell "The Werewolf Whisperer" notwithstanding. We use the three-tiered classification of Hound, Feral and Werebeast.

Camilla: I'd rather be The Werewolf Whisperer.

Bonita: I'm very conflicted. For reasons I can't go into, I'm having a hard time answering this question…too many spoilers.


6.  What was the hardest part about writing this book?

Indie publishing, promoting. Writing The Werewolf Whisperer wasn't hard. You have your days, but the writing isn't hard. The hard part is getting it out there.


7.  What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

We just want to tell a good story. So, when we hear things like this from readers: "non-stop, action packed", "a good yarn", "a thrill ride", "unexpected, not your typical werewolf story", "destined to be a classic", "really cinematic"we feel like we've done our job.

Bonita: Ultimately, we want the reader to enjoy reading the book as much as we enjoyed writing it.

Camilla: And we want them to be excited to find out what happens next.


8.  Who are some of your favorite authors?

Bonita: I gravitate toward writers (authors, playwrights, screenwriters) who create layered complex female characters and whose use of language is distinctive. Some of my favorite writers who have influenced me over the years are Shakespeare, Joss Whedon, Greg Rucka, Jane Espensen, David Mack, Kim Harrison, Philippa Gregory, Chuck Wendig, Guillermo Del Toro, Pedro Almodóvar, Maggie Stiefvater, Joe Hill, Brit Marling and of course, my husband Brent Simons.

Camilla: I was raised on a steady diet of David Eddings, Katherine Kurtz, Guy Gavriel Kay, Mercedes Lackey and Marion Zimmer Bradely. I discovered the classics in school. Anne Perry, Patrick Rothfuss, Elizabeth Peters, Neil Gaiman, Diana Gabaldon, George R.R, Martin and Jim Butcher are my go-to writers now. Not to say I'm not blown away by Cormac McCarthy. I love the work of Shane Black, Anne Biderman, Vince Gilligan, David S. Goyer, Paul Haggis and John Logan. Of course, Bonita's husband Brent Simons and his writing partner Alan Schoolcraft are rock stars in my book. I search for great stories, powerfully written and undeniably memorable.



9.  Are there any plans for a sequel to The Werewolf Whisperer?

We are planning a long-ranging series. We have outlined five books so far, but it is impossible to tell where all this will take us.


10.  And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?

Camilla: I had a great writing teacher in college, the poet Olivia Castellano, who introduced me to magical realism. It was eye opening and created a paradigm shift in my approach to storytelling.

Bonita: Storytellers like José Rivera, Guillermo Del Toro, Robert Rodriguez, Laura Esquivel and Isabel Allende have influenced stage, film and literature internationally for decades. And what I see is that Latino storytelling is going beyond just the written word and into the mainstream media. And the great thing is, audiences of all backgrounds are embracing it.

About the Authors:

Camilla Ochlan grew up on fantasy and fairy tales, finding David Eddings, Katherine Kurtz, Guy Gavriel Kay, Mercedes Lackey, Marion Zimmer Bradely early on. To the dismay of her parents, she spent her high school weekends playing Dungeons & Dragons and obsessing over Greek mythology and anything supernatural. College split her time between Theatre Arts and English Literature.
An alumna of Playhouse West in Los Angeles, Camilla still occasionally acts but focuses the majority of her time, energy and (in)sanity on writing.
Camilla's interests revolve around activities that add to her writer's toolbox — travel, the arts and voracious reading. Having earned a black belt in Kosho Shorei Ryu decades ago, she now studies FCS Kali/Eskrima. A teacher by trade, Camilla helps English language learners and enjoys teaching writing to children and adults.
Camilla lives in the hills of Los Angeles with her husband — actor, audiobook narrator and dialect coach P.J. Ochlan, two sweet rescue dogs and two rascally Abyssinian cats.

Referred to by her mother as "Sarah" (as in stage actress Sarah Bernhardt), Bonita Gutierrez found her way to the stage at the early age of 5. Not surprising to her family, she continued to study acting through high school and college, earning her BA in Theatre. Later, she moved to Los Angeles to get into "The Biz." Over the years, Bonita has played many roles from actor to producer, screenwriter to filmmaker - and now novelist.
A mixed martial artist, Bonita has a background in Jeet Kune Do Kung Fu (Bruce Lee's art), Kenpo Karate MMA and Kali Escrima. She's an avid runner, student of film and a lover of music. Apart from her love for her husband, Bonita's greatest passion is for all things Star Wars and Buffy.

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Up Next: A review of The Werewolf Whisperer

1 comment:

  1. This book sounds really cool, like it has female characters are in line with becoming feminist icons like Katniss Everdeen. Nice!