by Scott Alexander Hess – HUFF POST BOOKS
At one point I was obsessed with werewolves.
They seemed more reckless and masculine than vampires, the way they burst out of their clothing, muscles bulging (well some of them) running through the countryside facing a bone-white moon. It all thrilled me.
Ultimately I channeled that beastly, hyper-masculinity and lyrical violence into my latest novel Three Brothers but I still love a good wolf flick, including MTV’s testosterone-soakedTeen Wolf (my boyfriend’s fave).
Most recently, I tumbled across a book trailer for the novel WHEREWOLVES, by John Vamvas and Olga Montes which combines the legendary creature with a high school bullying theme. I caught up with the authors just in time for Halloween and chatted about the book, the subsequent screenplay and their dream cast for a potential film.
The book’s basic set up according to the writing team is: A group of high school seniors and their teacher, The Sarge, go on a survival training weekend and must face their biggest enemy: Themselves. A fresh take on bullying told using a fun, rapid-fire style — with edgy, layered characters and plot twists that will keep you guessing.
Scott Alexander Hess: What attracted you to the werewolf genre?
John Vamvas and Olga Montes: As lifelong horror film fans, we thought our story would best be told through the horror genre. Just like with rollercoasters, horror is popular because of the thrill-the adrenalin rush-you get from being scared. We thought our story would be more interesting were it devilishly fun. We weren’t initially planning on werewolves — they somehow just manifested. Our characters are raw, their emotions visceral, the plot and situations guttural-animalistic. Werewolves can at once be horrifying and beautiful — they’re an incarnation of primal rage, strength and beauty. The beasts presented themselves as we developed the story.
Scott Alexander Hess: What is the best werewolf book and film out there (other than yours!)?
John Vamvas and Olga Montes: We haven’t read enough werewolf novels to fairly pick one. But we are horror film buffs. Favorite werewolf movie: Though extremely difficult to choose,we’ll go with John Landis’s An American Werewolf in London. There are a lot of great werewolf films, though, (including The Wolf Man (1941 version), Silver Bullet andDog Soldiers) and we pay homage to many of them throughout the story.
Scott Alexander Hess: What inspired you to work in the bullying aspect and how does cruelty, pleasure and pain work within the narrative?
John Vamvas and Olga Montes: Apparent bullying that lead to the Columbine High School massacre, the Chardon High School massacre and other such atrocities has really marked us –especially now that we have children. We wanted to make a statement and tell a story without giving opinions, only observations. We want the reader to be left with something to think about. We present the reader with parents who serve their country, but at great cost to their children. Teachers who mean well but are riddled with their own monsters. Political events that have skewed our views of the world. Peer pressure, greed, insecurity, desensitization, it goes on. The cruelty in the story is motivated by emotional pain. One character deals with her inner turmoil by taking pleasure in inflicting physical pain upon herself — cutting. Other characters verbally abuse. Some are physically abusive and others think the cruelty is funny; unwittingly adding to the horror. Despite their lack of likability, we hope our characters’ humanity shines through, thus distorting the reader’s concept of good and bad, black and white, right and wrong. Because, what is a monster? Something that grows hair all over and howls? Could be. But the real monster is within, and when it comes out, it’s as ugly as you see it, or as it lets you see it.
Scott Alexander Hess: What’s up with the screenplay and any dream casting ideas yet?
John Vamvas and Olga Montes: WHEREWOLVES had been optioned by a production company in 2010. Though there were a lot of great people involved (including an Academy Award nominated special effects makeup artist), things fell apart in late 2011. The script is now being shopped by our U.S. literary agent, Whitt Brantley, at WBMT, Literary, Film and Television Agency. Our dream cast would include Kiefer Sutherland or Norman Reedus as Sargent Tim O’Sullivan. Taissa Farmiga as the angst-ridden teen, Doris. Vera Farmiga as her mother. And Josh Hutcherson as the tormented Jeffrey.
Wherewolves was a very unexpected, pleasant surprise. After having “met” Olga Montes through email correspondence, I was confident this novel would be a good read, but it surpassed my already high expectations.
A group of high school teenagers are taken into the woods by one of their teachers in an attempt to teach them survival skills and bonding. What they find in those woods tests their limits beyond anything they could have imagined.
This is a horror novel written in a very modern style. Because it is adapted from a screenplay, a good portion of it focuses more on the visual aspects of the story than on the characters, setting, or back story. This is not to say there isn’t character development—there is—but it goes about it in a style different than most novels I’ve read. Within the main cast of the story, John Vamvas and Olga Montes have created a group of high school students who could easily be envisioned as a part of any 2010++ teenage group. They are easy to identify with because they are rendered as realistic teens of the current generation.
Wherewolves grabs you right from the start and keeps you guessing until the end, when you realize the story has taken twists you’d never have expected.
A very enjoyable read, I give Wherewolves an emphatic 5 out of 5 stars.
First of all I want to say I really enjoyed this book. I have been working crazy all over the place shifts these past few weeks so my breaks and what little free time I have at home lately saw my eyes pointed and fixed upon my e-readers screen. This was a great YA read filled with teenaged angst, sexual tension, suspense, thrills, and chills a little for everybody. This book was adapted from a screen play and at times you can definitely tell that. I could almost see the stage directions in my minds eye (that could have been 4 years of loving drama class but who knows) I was engaged and invested from the first paragraph, this book has a lot of action throughout, peppered in with a touch of back story. I wasn’t all surprised about who the Wherewolves where when they appeared but I was interested in how they knew how to make the transformation happen. I won’t elaborate cause I don’t want to spoil it, for anyone who wants to pick up this read but the last few pages had me at a wtf just happened here moment, and like I said I loved it !!!! I could totally see this being a series and one that I would be happy to pick up and continue on with.
PS: I started to read this as a Kindle version but then HAD to switch to the real thing, so bought a hard copy. With the old school nature of the story, and the many references and homages to 1970s & 1980s horror, it seemed like the right thing to do!
Wow! What more can you ask from a horror novel?! It is action packed, terrifying, and to top it off, realistic. The dialogue…! The dialogue is slick and original. I have never ever read anything like it. The teens are so vivid you feel like they’re right there with you. You get a full visual of what they see, what they do, what they think, what they feel! The gore, the blood and guts, is sick! The reading flows smoothly with twist after twist then does a three-sixty and gives you one final twist that will make you say “WOW!”
Based on a screenplay. I can’t wait for the movie! Should be a mega blockbuster!
4.0 out of 5 stars “But the real monster is within.” May 26, 2013
By Amelia Gremelspacher TOP 500 REVIEWER
While we see a. Terrified woman running from an unknown animal. We figure it is a werewolf, given the title of the book. But let’s face it, the viciousness of a group of teenagers in the next chapters is pretty unsettling too. We know that they are from troubled homes. Many of them have had parents in the war who returned changed or not at all. O’Sullivan is a teacher who seems to have reached them, and he has unbelievably undertaken to take them on a weekend survival trip.
Right away These kids have an edge of physicality. They are willing and able to carry weapons. They do not like weakness. When things fall apart in the woods, we really do not know where to turn. My single criticism is that the kids are just enough alike that the names and identities are not easily remembered. In many places this doesn’t matter at all. And of course some of these kids we really do not mind seeing afraid.
The prose of this novel holds the story well. The plot is well manipulated. I would agree many of the talk belongs in YA, but nothing is wrong with that. . The last few pages really are a surprise, and it adds quite a dimension to the book! I am a forest coward, certainly wouldn’t read it before a hike!
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing story telling!, May 24, 2013
I picked up this book this afternoon and I was done with it in the evening. There’s been very few books that I could not put down and this is one of them.
It has action, twists and an element of every werewolf story in it. A beautiful homage to all my favorites and the artful pirouette at the end is an elegant twist!
5.0 out of 5 stars A HORROR Must Read!!!!!, May 24 2013
WHEREWOLVES was an amazing novel that propelled me from page to page. I could not put it down. The characters were extremely well described that you felt you knew each of them personally. The descriptive horror even shocked you while reading. The visuals created in your imagination were terrifying.
Definitely not a children’s book. Best for teens and adults. A very easy read lets you get lost in the story from page 1.
Story line extremely “au Courant” for todays world. The authors write with great passion for horror. Twists and turns that lead to a fantastic ending!!!!!