By Blood We Live, the latest installment in Glen Duncan’s Last Werewolf trilogy, goes on sale February 4th. Randon House had provided us with a Q&A with Glen Duncan about the final installment.
Q: By Blood We Live is the third and final instalment of The Last Werewolf trilogy. Did the series turn out the way that you expected or did the narrative surprise you along the way?
A: I’m very bad at planning novels. I’m very bad at planning one novel—let alone a trilogy—so the word ‘expected’ barely applies. I did know that the world I was inventing would have to get bigger with each installment, and that the third book would have to be structurally different from the first two, but beyond that I was pretty much making it up as I went along. I know this sounds very slack and unprofessional, but it’s the way I work. As a novelist I’ve got all kinds of hopeless weaknesses—but I do have good instincts, which I’ve learned to trust over the years. In this case the instinct said: Look, you’ve got existentially troubled werewolves and vampires—what could possibly go wrong? Of course readers may decide it’s gone horribly wrong, but for myself I’m very happy with the way things turned out.
Q: What is the chief argument you would make to someone disinclined to pick up a “werewolf book” as to why they would enjoy this series?
A: Would they ignore Frankenstein because they don’t care for monsters? Paradise Lost because they don’t believe in God and the Devil? A Midsummer Night’s Dream because fairies are silly? Not, obviously, that I’m putting myself in such company—but the principle holds. For a less prickly answer: Don’t be fooled by the supernatural surface. These books are about very human experiences: love, sex, death, memory, morality, betrayal, forgiveness, cruelty and compassion. One of the most satisfying reviews I’ve had was from someone who confessed that less than halfway into The Last Werewolf he forgot he was actually reading about a werewolf. Fiction is a funny business: what you end up writing about is what you’re really interested in, whatever your alleged intention. What interests me is the human condition. So far I’ve found it impossible, as a novelist, to be interested in anything else.
Q: What was the hardest part about writing the last book in the trilogy?
A: Making the publishing deadline! But creatively? Wrapping-up all the dangling storylines from the first two books (whilst wishing daily that I’d done a better job of thinking ahead instead of just trusting my wonderful instincts) without doing it at the expense of a fresh, forward-driving narrative. Getting the balance right between fidelity to long-established characters and new ones.
Q: Did it feel strange to take on the voice of a vampire for the first time in this novel? Or was it enjoyable to write from multiple perspectives in this volume? Did you have a favorite voice?
A: It didn’t feel strange at all. I’d had the idea of a very old and possibly amnesiac or senile vampire in my head for a long time (certainly before I’d ever imagined The Last Werewolf) —and since I wanted the final book in the series to be first and foremost a poignant story it was a natural fit. Moreover, it was imaginatively satisfying to get beyond the prejudiced vision of vampires established by the werewolves in the first two books, to ‘go over to the enemy’, as it were, to get the other side of the story. I relish the prospect of die-hard werewolvians surprised into sympathy for my blood-sucking old geezer.
Q: Talulla and her pack are battling a new organization called the Militi Christi. Was this group inspired by any real political or religious organizations?
A: No specific organization, just generic bone-headed religious fanaticism. Of which our world has a depressingly plentiful supply.
Q: What was it like to involve Talulla’s children in the ritual of hunting and killing humans during their transformation? Did you envision that her “cubs” would be as violent as their adult counterparts?
A: Actually, by the time I got to Talulla Rising, I was annoyed at myself for having decided to cast the books in real-world-time—because once I had the twins up and running (or rather, crawling) I wanted to get to the juvenile or adolescent werewolf experience. But I couldn’t do that without breaking the temporal rules and jumping several years into the future; an option I rejected because I judged readers already had more than enough disbelief to suspend without sticking a ‘year 2022’ date on proceedings. For such very young werewolves the narrative potential—or rather the psychological potential—is limited. But to answer your question: Yes, I’d always imagined the ‘cubs’ to be equal in ferocity to their parents. Look at human infants. They’re monsters.
Q: You’ve mentioned being very fond of “last werewolf” Jake Marlowe (we certainly agree!). Could you imagine learning more about Jake’s early experiences as a werewolf?
A: I love the idea—and Jake, after all, was an inveterate diarist. The Chronicles of Jacob Marlowe. It would be a perfect opportunity to take a mordantly humorous tour through the last couple of centuries. He could have tea with Robert Louis Stevenson. And a foursome with the Bronte sisters. I’d also love to do a novel from Madeline’s point of view. She was one of my favourite characters.
Q: Are there other supernatural characters you would consider writing about?
A: There are no characters—supernatural or otherwise—that I wouldn’t consider writing about, if they yielded books that refreshed the human mysteries, as I hope my werewolves and vampires do. The Greek gods appeal. As indeed does God. I feel I owe it to Him, since I, Lucifer…
Q: If you could have a drink with any three writers (living or dead), who would they be? What would you want to talk to them about? And what would you drink?
A: Shakespeare (ale), Byron (wine) and George Eliot (anything, as long as it afforded me the pleasure of seeing her completely smashed).