Many award winning writers have a background in Journalism, including author Steven E. Wedel. When Wedel wrote his novel Murdered by Human Wolves, he used that background to research the events that inspired the novel. I recently had a chance to talk to Wedel about his work.
Hemmingway once said that his training in journalism shaped his sparse prose style. How has your background in Journalism shaped you as a writer?
I think the biggest benefit to come from my years of journalistic writing was a stronger sense of voice. For most of those years I wrote a personal column. When you write a column, you have to be able to put your personality in the ink to entertain as well as inform, and bring your readers back for the next installment.
Speaking from personal experience, I wanted to be a writer first, then fell into Journalism and moved back into writing. Which came first for you, the desire to write fiction or to be a journalist?
Yes, this is what I did, too. I went to college 10 years after high school. At the time I’d already published a few short stories and was writing non-fiction for a national trade magazine. I was looking for a way to make money writing while I continued to hone my fiction and look for a bigger market for it. Little did I know that newspaper writing would suck up all my creativity for itself!
Your novella Murdered by Human Wolves, is a fictionalized account of a true story. Where did you get the idea for writing it?
I went to work for The Journal Record, a business newspaper in Oklahoma City, where I met Mark Clayton, the paper’s excellent photographer. He told me about Katherine Cross’s grave. From there, it was a matter of research until I found a paranormal investigator who had been researching Katherine for 10 years.
What was the process of researching the background material for that novella like?
After failing to find the grave on a couple of trips, I went to a little cafe in Guthrie, Okla., to meet with Mary Franklin, the paranormal researcher. With that interview, plus some e-mail follow-ups, I got a lot of the details you find in the story. Because of what is known and what is guessed and the whole legend that’s grown around it, the story of poor Katherine fit into the werewolf mythology I’d created in my first novel, Shara.
Years later I became a teacher in Oklahoma City. In my second year there a student asked about my books and I talked about Murdered. The next day a girl in that class came back and told me she is Katherine Cross’s great niece. She thought the connection and story was cool, but since then other members of Katherine’s family have gotten pretty upset about the existence of the book. One relative kept showing up at the school until the principal threatened to have him arrested. Sadly, from what I’d been led to believe, I thought all of Katherine’s family was either gone from the area or dead. A lot of records from that time and part of the state were destroyed in fire. Anyway, it’s a small world.
Horror is tough to classify. So many of the horror trappings are being snatched up by paranormal romance and urban fantasy. What about a story makes it horror?
Funny you should ask. I had to define horror as part of my graduate thesis. The short version of the answer I came up with is this: A tale is a horror story if the author’s primary intent is to instill in the reader a sense of fear or dread. Of course, with that definition, most of my work isn’t horror, but neither is Anne Rice’s. So, there we go.
Excuse the pun here, but what about werewolves make you want to sink your teeth into writing in that genre?
The werewolf is just such a perfect metaphor for that anti-social beast we all have somewhere inside of us. Some of us might not ever admit it, but we all have that animal instinct, that desire to howl at the moon, to run free and wild, to do nasty things to those who have wronged us. It’s also a sexual metaphor, which is where we get the Little Red Riding Hood story. Traditionally, the vampire and zombie are dead and can’t be helped even with Viagra, but the werewolf just pulses with vitality, virility, and violence. Of all the monster tropes, he is the most alive.
Are there any upcoming or recent publications that you would like to tell me about?
Most much recently. Bad Moon Books is slated to release The Prometheus Syndrome sometime this year. This is actually the first novel I ever wrote, heavily revised now that I’m better at grammar and such. It has a mad scientist, a bunch of hillbilly slaves, a zombie, a ghost, and a rock-and-roller, all set in the mid-1980s.
The big thing, though, is After Obsession, a young adult paranormal romance novel written with New York Times bestseller Carrie Jones. This one’s about a half-Navajo boy from Oklahoma who moves to Maine with his mom to live with his uncle and cousin. The cousin is becoming possessed by a local demon. The boy and his new girlfriend, a psychic healer, have to perform a Navajo exorcism. That’s a simplified plot description that focuses mostly on my input to the story. It’s told in alternating points of view, with me writing the boy’s part and Carrie writing the part of the cousin’s best friend, who becomes the boy’s girlfriend.
Where can readers find you online?
My main site is www.stevenewedel.com, but I also keep www.werewolfsaga.com. I’m also on Facebook religiously and have a Twitter account (both with the name sewedel), though I don’t use Twitter very much.
Note: Steven also has a livejournal.