Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl," by Emily Pohl-Weary

Sam, a rock star in a girl band, is attacked by a large dog after a show. The bite heals quickly, but Sam's body starts undergoing changes. You'll enjoy this quick-paced paranormal with its likable, intelligent lead character.

Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl, by Emily Pohl-Weary

"At last, teen girls have their own werewolf wish fulfillment fantasy. Sam is cool, she's in a band, and yeah, she's way foxy." —Nalo Hopkinson, author of Brown Girl in the Ring and The Chaos 

"Pohl-Weary has shown that she is an unconventional and modern day hero to many young female writers." —Young People’s Press 

"An absolutely fabulous new young adult novel...The story is fast and superbly told, and the characters are likable and believable." —Cory Doctorow, New York Times best-selling author of Little Brother
Sometimes Living in the Big Apple Really Bites! Eighteen-year-old rock star Sam Lee isn’t like other girls. She’s the super-talented bass player and songwriter for an all-girl indie band and an incurable loner. Then one night after a concert in Central Park, she’s attacked by a "wild dog." Suddenly, this long-time vegetarian is craving meat—the bloodier, the better. Sam finds herself with an unbelievable secret and no one she trusts to share it. And so begin the endless lies to cover up the hairy truth...When a new girl gang appears in the city—with claws and paws—Sam suspects there’s a connection to her own inner beast. Trapped in a tug-of-war between her animal and human selves, forced to choose between the guy who sparks her carnal appetite and the one who makes her feel like a normal teenage girl, Sam has to unravel the mysteries of the werewolf world before her bandmates, the media, and her mother catch up to her.

Q& A with author Emily Pohl-Weary

Q. What were your inspirations for writing this story?
A. Some movies that inspired me are Ginger Snaps and Jennifer’s Body. I’d been reading a lot of fantasy novels and began to wonder why the monsters were always male. Are people so terrified by the prospect of ferocious girls that they can’t even conceive of them' When you think of Frankenstein or vampire/werewolf mythologies, monstrous alter-egos are often metaphors for the unleashing of violent, sexual, or taboo aspects of ourselves that we keep clamped down in polite society. In Sam Lee, I wanted to create a teen girl whose inner rage had a physical manifestation—a hairy beast—that demanded to be let out so it could play. And living in a crowded city like New York, where Sam’s surrounded at all times by human prey, would really up the ante in terms of needing to get control over herself.

Q. What kind of music/movies/books/comics strongly influenced you as a teen?
A. Sadly, in terms of music, I was the Top Ten-listening teen girl my protagonist Sam would hate. I loved Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Kate Bush, and Prince, as well as early hip hop by women like Salt-N-Pepa, Yo-Yo, MC Lyte, and Queen Latifah. My reading was more varied. I devoured fairy tales and folk tales from around the world, Nancy Drew mysteries, superhero comics with women in them (Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Storm), fantasy novels, Jane Austen, the Hernandez brothers’ Love and Rockets graphic novels, etc. After exhausting the young adult section of my local library, I moved on to adult fiction and the huge Caribbean literature collection. Earl Lovelace’s The Dragon Can’t Dance is emblazoned in my memory. So is Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman.

Q. How did the story change and evolve as you were writing it?
A. It takes me years to write a novel, and this one went through several incarnations. While I was revising Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl, a writer friend that I admire told me that really good novels consist of very personal struggles set against the backdrop of world-changing ones. That advice rattled around in my head. Originally, the novel was called Freak, the story was “smaller,” and it was more focused on the changes Sam was going through, as seen through her interactions with bandmates, boys, and paparazzi. Over several revisions, I wove in more werewolf mythology and the bigger story about the other weregirls.

Q. What was the biggest challenge in writing the character of a troubled teenage rockstar weregirl?
A. I’m not really a pet person. Specifically, I’m not a dog lover, and I had to really put myself into the head of one—or, at least, imagine how one might react to stimuli. My father and my in-laws both have dogs they adore, and I’ve always been fascinated by wolves, so I watched them and read as much as possible about their characteristics.

I’m not a musician; I’m a writer. I sang in choirs and played the violin for many years, so I had a little knowledge to draw on, but none of the business or lifestyle experience. But I could extrapolate some of the feeling of being an artist from the literary world. Both of my grandparents on my mother’s side were/are quite famous writers. I remember what it was like to be in public with them and have people hang on their every word. It’s not hard to imagine that it would be even tougher to be in the public eye and trying to keep a horrifying secret in the age of Twitter, gossip blogs, and smartphones.

Q. Do you think that Sam is actually happier as a weregirl? Would you like to be a weregirl?
A. She’s not quite there yet, but I think she will be. Like most of us normal humans, Sam’s happiness is a work in progress. We struggle to be comfortable enough with our secrets and painful experiences so they can heal and have less power over us. I think this journey toward self-confidence and acceptance is at the heart of general contentment, and our lives are about the process of attaining that as opposed to the end result of having accomplished such or the other. Now I’m getting philosophical. I’d love it if readers were to feel a little more capable of moving in the direction of self-acceptance after reading Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl.

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Meet the Author

Emily Pohl-Weary is an award-winning author, editor, arts educator, and academic. Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl, a teen novel, is forthcoming in 2013. It's her sixth book. In 2008, she founded a free writing group for inner-city youth called the Toronto Street Writers. For three years, she led a writing group for Aboriginal men living in a transition home. She's also the co-founder (with Jesse Hirsh) of the Academy of the Impossible, an innovative, community-based learning centre that focuses on writing, arts, media production, and social engagement. Her academic research deals with transformative education and how creative writing can empower people.

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