Coming up with ideas can be a process. Sometimes you have a setting or a character but you don’t have anything else. And it can take time to build and sometimes after years of having a germ of an idea it can take a couple weeks to come together and start to feel alive.
Back when I was going to college at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, most of my friends were those in the comic or game departments not other fashion design students. We liked D10 role playing, mostly using the old World of Darkness system. Vampire the Masquerade, Werewolf the Apocalypse, Changeling the Dreaming and their Solar, Lunar etc Chinese based game. None of our games ever lasted very long due to the fact that we were college students in art heavy programs with a lot of studios and practical work on our hands. I was in the tail end of my “morbid fear of death and dying” period. (Long story.) And was obsessively buying all the Vampire: The Masquerade books I could get my hands on. And then came semester I took Narrative Storytelling as part one of a two part English course requirements.
Claudia Holm taught the class. An energetic redhead who paced the floors and told funny stories. She wrote travelogues. As we went over the syllabus she came to the main thrust of the course, which was write a five page story in three drafts over fifteen weeks. We could write about anything we wanted, be it memoir or fiction. However, she had two personal caveats, no vampires and no ninjas. She’d seen vampires doing everything from eating pizza with the ability to go out into the sun. This was the middle of the Twilight and Naruto craze. But for me it was a bit disappointing and being somewhat of a perverse and petty nature. I decided to write a story about a werewolf instead.
She loved it. She thought it was hysterical.
So I tucked the idea away in my head, maybe a bunch of high school students who liked playing basketball and had to keep up the masquerade. Obviously this never got anywhere because I’m not really a young adult author. High school was also a miserable experience for me and I just can’t figure out how to revisit memories of things I never actually did and make it seem enjoyable. I didn’t participate in sports. I never had a boyfriend. I wasn’t part of any clique or crowd.
My friend and later roommate, Kaylynn Spears loved Werewolf: the Apocalypse and the Lunars of WoD. There was a picture in the old World of Darkness Werewolf source book of a pack of werewolves in a junkyard. They were in different forms, big answer to the chainsaw Crinos, wolf form, human. They were working on cars and just hanging out. I liked the image. Werewolves who were comfortable with each other in every form doing normal things.
When we lived together. We tended to walk to the grocery store several blocks away. Two thin, slight girls with short hair with backpacks going under an underpass of the highway and into SOMA towards the baseball stadium. We kept our eyes open for the homeless and cute corgi dogs. The best way we found to keep people from approaching us was to talk about fandom things and if the people were particularly annoying the conversation always turned to “So about werewolves.” It was entertaining to watch people who were panhandling back away very quickly. And one time, on the way back, we were behind a guy wearing a leather jacket. I think we spoke a bit too loud and spooked him because that is when I had the idea for ‘biker’ werewolves.
But the idea continued to sit in the back of my head. I stubbornly pursued a degree in fashion design and then went to work for my father at his shop not doing fashion. (Another long story.)
One of my co-workers, Jason Bailey, and I would mostly talk about our hobbies, when we were talking to each other. I had a lot of movies I liked to watch and he would in the winter work out and watch television. He knew I liked the Expendables and recommended Sons of Anarchy. SoA wasn’t my usual type of show, I had money to burn and I bought the first season. I plowed through that in a few days. I was hooked. I was getting into the second or third season when one night I was really tired and decided to put in Expendables 2. Expendables 2 isn’t as great as the original, but it still holds the ‘mercenary group with motorcycles’ idea and well, it’s over the top funny.
I got to the end and the ideas began to meld in my head. Expendables, a mercenary group that rode motorcycles, Sons of Anarchy a fictional motorcycle club, and strangely since it was the end of the Twilight period, Twilight, except, remember Claudia Holm. No Vampires! So, werewolves instead.
I think I laughed a good five minutes.
Then I opened a word file and I started thinking about what type of werewolf mercenary biker unit I would want to read about. When was it set, where would it be set. Why bikers? I’m a big fan of Star Wars. My favorite Star Wars series in the expanded universe is the X-Wing novels. The X-Wing novels are typically a bunch of whacky characters who fly the equivalent of F-16s in the distant future. They’re pilots, arrogant, cocky and really, a ton of fun. That’s the type of group I wanted. A group of characters.
I wanted it to be in the future. I didn’t want to be another urban fantasy. But, I didn’t want it to be so far in the future or the technology so far out there that if it was ever optioned for anything visual it’d require a huge amount of CGI work. I’m a firm believer in the success of low budget movies. Thus, a few centuries out from a post-apocalyptic setting. Things are getting better, but they aren’t back to pre- landscape changing, war conditions either.
I researched motorcycle clubs, wolves, werewolves and mercenary units. I put my reasoning together. Motorcycle clubs often work security. Security is something mercenaries also do. Security is important after a big war. Motorcycle clubs need territory. Wolves need territory. Werewolves need packs and a way to hide they are packs. Wolves work together to hunt and provide. Werewolves are going to have those urges. Security is a nice constructive outlet. Sturgis and the Black Hills are an important area for motorcycle clubs. I’ve actually been to the Black Hills.
For a while, a lot of the characters didn’t have gender or names because it wasn’t important to me what their gender was, it was more important what their role was and as the story evolved then the characters were given gender usually based on how funny I found the idea at the time. The only two who had specific gender in the beginning were Savannah and Gideon. I drafted a plot for a “movie” and got to the end and went. “Now wait a damn minute, where did these people come from?”
And that is when the story really started to come alive and gain a soul.
There are methods/gimmicks to writing. And I’ll admit that I used one in the Lone Prospect. I took the view of the outsider, of Gideon, and used him as a way to both drive the story and explain what is going on in the world and in the pack. A reader can relate to Gideon. Sure, he doesn’t know anything about motorcycle clubs. The reader probably doesn’t either. But they both can learn over the course of the story. And giving prospects a hard time is a time honored motorcycle club tradition. (Innocent whistling.)
There were other factors that helped this happen when it happened. There were indications to me that character driven storytelling with morally grey characters was the way the times were headed. That people want stories to uplift their moods and not more gritty, dark, shocking science fiction and fantasy. But those were hunches and my gut.
This is how stories evolve, you’re walking down the street with your friend and you see a tough dude in a motorcycle jacket and you go “psst, biker werewolves” and laugh together because you both have to write stories for an English class that don’t involve vampires or ninjas even if you both really like vampires and ninjas.
And there is a squeaky toy of doom parrot up there on a telephone wire laughing and waiting for a friend. The start of yet another great or not so great idea.