Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Werewolf Blog Project: Eleven questions for Christine Johnson

In honor of National (or as national as we can make it) Werewolf Blog Day, I present an interview with Christine Johnson, author of the YA girl-werewolf novel Claire de Lune, which hits bookstores today from Simon PULSE.

Claire de Lune, if you haven’t already caught the buzz, is about sixteen-year-old Claire Benoit, who discovers 1) that she is a werewolf; 2) that a series of attacks in her town by a rogue werewolf have made suddenly sprouting fur hazardous to your health; and 3) her sometime boyfriend, the local soccer god and son of a noted lycanthropy expert, is leading the hunt without realizing he’s leading the hunt for his girlfriend. And you thought you had problems!

1. There's a lot of teen-werewolf stuff out there right now. Claire de Lune is emphatically NOT your typical teen-werewolf stuff. What makes Claire de Lune unique?

CJ: I think there are lots of unique aspects to the story. For one, in Claire’s world, all werewolves are female, and you are born a werewolf—it’s inherited matrilineally (it took me three tries to spell that correctly. Yeesh.) Anyway! Also, werewolves are a known entity. The werewolf-human relations aren’t so great, and werewolves have developed a pretty bad—and largely undeserved—reputation. Unfortunately, that means that all werewolves must keep their identities a strict secret … or risk paying the ultimate price.

2.How did you come up with your idea for the story in Claire de Lune?

CJ:I what-ifd my way into it. Seriously! My novel brainstorming is a looooong (like—weeks if not months) process of thoughts like—what if I wrote a novel about a girl werewolf? And I ponder that. And then I wonder—what if she were dating a human boy? Huh. Why would she do that? HEY! What if there were no male werewolves? And so on and so on and so on until I have a very vague plot. There’s a lot of staring off into the distance and pacing around the neighborhood and long showers during this process, too!

3. This blog is about a novel, Masks, that’s sometimes called "realistic with a twist"—it features a world that seems much like ours, except that superheroes are real and everyone has to deal with that. I've blogged about creating different aspects of this world—how transportation systems work in a world where people can fly under their own power, for example, or how different kinds of superpowers create a de facto class system among heroes. Claire de Lune's twist is that werewolves exist and everyone has to deal with that fact. How did you go about creating your world-with-a-twist?

CJ: I actually love creating real-worlds-with-a-twist. I didn’t really know I loved that until I wrote this novel, but I think it’s—in some ways—more thought-provoking than completely unique fantasy worlds. If it seems POSSIBLE that the world-with-a-twist could actually BE our world, I find that deliciously shivery.

4. All the werewolves in Claire de Lune are female. In fact, all werewolves in the book's world are female. What made you choose to make lycanthropy an all-girl occupation?

CJ: Several reasons. For one, I’d read so much fantasy where the male protagonist was the supernatural being (i.e. Twilight) or where the supernatural world was dominated by males, or the females were always trying to gain power … it seemed more interesting to me to make it an all-female society. Also, if the species is all female, but they need human males in order to continue the species, then they can’t go live some isolated, safe existence in the Himalayas or something. They have to stay connected to the human race, the human world, no matter how risky that is.

5. What did you read growing up? What do you read now? How have your experiences as a reader shaped your writing of Claire de Lune?

CJ: I read EVERYTHING growing up. I remember reading my brother’s Boy Scout magazines because I had read everything else in the house. I remember reading Clan of the Cave Bear when I was nine, because I could but I wasn’t supposed to and I wanted to know why I wasn’t supposed to. After having such a voracious appetite for books, there were times when exactly the book I was in the mood to read just didn’t exist, and I couldn’t imagine anything better than filling that empty space.

All sorts of books inspire me! Mostly I read young adult fiction these days, since that’s what I write and a) I love it and b) I want to know what‘s out there. That said, I also read a lot of stuff about sharks and A.S. Byatt novels and anything else that strikes my fancy and that I can find a few minutes to devote to reading!

6. What's your writing process like? What does a writer do all day?

CJ: My writing process changes a little bit with each manuscript I do—but generally I write the first draft pretty much straight through, and then I go back and pull it apart and start fixing individual character and plot arcs, rearranging scenes, etc. before I rebuild the whole thing.

And I have two small kids, so I’m often writing late at night, or scrambling to take advantage of a few hours of babysitting … I’m also not above putting the kids and the laptop in the car, driving until they fall asleep, and then writing while they nap in the back seat! In my ideal world, though, I have all afternoon to write, on the couch, with a Diet Coke and some dark chocolate. I don’t get that often (or almost ever) anymore, but some day the kids will be bigger and I’ll reclaim that favorite set-up of mine!

7. What was the best part of writing Claire de Lune? What was the worst part?

CJ: Finishing it was the best part. And finishing it was the worst part.

8. What surprised you most as you were working on Claire de Lune?

CJ: How real the characters became to me. At the risk of sounding insane (though all writers are at least a little crazy, right?), I found as I worked on the book and again as I’ve been working on the sequel that I’d start wondering what the characters were doing, the same way I’d wonder what my real-life friends were up to. That’s when I knew I had really gotten down deep enough into the story to make it what I wanted—to achieve the vision in my head.

9. What advice would you give to blog readers who are thinking about writing their own novels?

CJ: Write them! Seriously. Put your butt in the chair and turn out 300 or 500 or 1,000 words a day until you have a book. It’ll be a really, really bad book, since all first drafts are bad, but you can worry about fixing it later. You can’t revise until you’ve written. You can’t wait until you’re inspired to write. Go pour a cup of coffee and get started!

10. What shampoo do you use to get all that mud out of your fur?

CJ: Cheap shampoo works but it makes the fur frizzy and the chemical smell is almost unbearable. Good quality shampoo made without artificial scents is much preferable. :)

11. Last chance to tell us the one thing we should remember about Claire de Lune. What is it?

CJ: Though Claire is a werewolf, in many ways, her journey is the same as any teen’s. We all have to figure out who we are. And we all have to find a way to live with the answers, whether we like them or not. Also—remember to read it! Heh.

Thanks for having me by for a chat—I had a great time!


Christine Johnson lives in an old house in an old neighborhood of Indianapolis with her husband and kids. She likes yoga, cooking, and watching soccer. She lived in Chicago for quite a while, so it’s entirely possible she saw Trevor on the rooftops there, but if she did, she’s not telling. Also, there are probably werewolves in Indianapolis, but she’s not telling on that score, either.

For more about Claire de Lune, visit Christine’s website.

You can order Claire de Lune here.

For more of the Werewolf Blog Project, visit The Garden of Words.



  1. This is a GREAT interview! I so enjoyed learning about Christine's process. Even though I've been working on this PR tour, I didn't have a lot of time to ask the questions you did.

    And, thank you for participating! :)

  2. Thanks so much for such a fun interview! I had a blast doing it.

  3. Ah-woooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!