This week, I have a double whammy for you. I’ve had the pleasure to have co-hosted two Dark Fantasy Books Giveaway Events with the authors of The Werewolf Whisperer, Bonita Gutierrez and Camilla Ochlan (amongst many others hosting the events who’ll you meet soon!). Bonita and Camilla have fun writing super exciting stories. Here’s some more info about two kick-ass ladies and their books.
Bonita Gutierrez & Camilla Ochlan
You’ve written The Werewolf Whisperer books together. Is it hard to write a book with another person?
BONITA: I’m a huge fan of collaboration. I love working with a partner(s), bouncing ideas off each other, creating new stories. Camilla and I come from theater backgrounds, which gave us a good foundation for writing together. The very nature of theater is working in partnership with others to create a show. The same goes for film and television (where we’ve spent a lot of our careers). Each person has a part to play, something to contribute. Of course, there will always be points of the story to work through, differences of opinions. That just comes with the territory. But for me, the process is very exciting.
CAMILLA: I write with two different writing partners on two different series — the other one is OF CATS AND DRAGONS, a Young Adult epic fantasy. I also write solo projects. From my experience, working with a partner is great as long as your sensibilities for the project match.
WEREWOLF WHISPERER came out of the love Bonita and I share for hard-hitting urban fantasy with biting humor and world-shaking consequences. As long as the collaborators focus on the core of the story and serve the book, everything can be worked out.
The two main characters in the book, Lucy Lowell and Xochitl Magana (I’m not sure how you pronounce that first name 🙂 ), are women who complement each other. Are you those two women, are the two characters a mix of the two of you, or are they completely random characters?
BONITA: I think there’s a bit of both of us in each character. But we actually based Xochitl (pronounced Socheel or Sochee) on my experiences growing up as a person of mixed race (I’m half Mexican half Polish). Many of Xochi’s thoughts and feelings parallel my own and are deeply personal. That being said, she’s way more of a badass than I could ever hope to be.
CAMILLA: Aspects of both characters reside within me, as much as the characters sprang from my brain. But there is no everyday Lucy or Xochi walking in my shoes. I wish.
I understand Xochi’s temper, though I tend to keep that pushed far, far under the surface. I identify with Lucy’s pain most — her awkward social interactions and insecurity. But she’s evolving, becoming who she was meant to be, and I have to let her fly.
You both have backgrounds in martial arts. Does this feature heavily in the book? Would you have been able to write it without your martial arts knowledge?
CAMILLA: I have a black belt in Kosho Ryu and have dabbled in various martial arts over the years. I have a background in dance, and I studied stage movement and combat while getting my theater degree. I think having the background helps, but it is important to translate what you are seeing (in your head) to the page. That’s different even than crafting choreography, which is ultimately visual. You have to communicate the steps to your dancers or actors, and they’ll make it look good. On the page, you have to be clear enough so the reader can picture what’s going on, but not get bogged down with too much detail or technical jargon. I have used figurines to stage action sequences on checkerboards. I also focus on the consequence of the fight—if the character is hit or cut, how does that affect what’s going on?
BONITA: Like Camilla, I’ve been training off and on in martial arts for years (I have a background in Jeet Kune Do Kung Fu (Bruce Lee’s art), Kenpo Karate MMA and Kali Escrima (stick and knife fighting). It’s an essential part of my life. So, when we started writing THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER, it just felt right for the story and characters. We needed Lucy and Xochi to be formidable women who are able to handle themselves in very dangerous situations.
Though I still think we would have been able to write the series without our martial arts backgrounds, I think our training helps us create exciting, action-packed scenes that are still grounded in reality. There is something to be said for firsthand knowledge.
The books have a lot of Latino words in it (explained in a ‘lobo lexicon’ on your website). Who’s idea was that and is that because of their background?
CAMILLA: Living in L.A., Spanish is so much a part of everyday life. It was an important aspect for the tone of the piece. The city is a character, especially in book one. But we wanted to get it right, so Bonita’s dad was our best and most important resource. He is so generous. We still did a lot of research, hoping to find interesting, current language that would distinguish characters.
And then, with Kai, we wanted to bring in the Mandarin. Again, we were fortunate. My husband speaks Mandarin and helped shape the language.
BONITA: I’m not sure whose idea it was initially to have a spattering of Spanish in the book. I think we both thought it made sense for Xochi’s character. Of course, it helps having grown up around the language and having a dad who can help me with certain words I don’t know or a new colorful turn of phrase (all of which are on our website).
What is your favorite passage/dialogue in the book?
BONITA: Xochi’s “¡Híjole!” exclamations are straight out of my mouth. It’s a word I’ve adopted from my dad and can be used to express all sorts of feelings (good and bad). It’s the word that gives Xochi her flavor. Kai’s English/Mandarin/Spanish mash-ups are also a hoot. But my favorite thing to write is the banter between Lucy and Xochi. Their back-and-forth repartee helps the reader to really know the women and understand their profound friendship. Plus, it’s hilarious.
CAMILLA: There’s been a lot in the book that has made us laugh. I love Xochi’s Spanglish rants, where she’s completely aware that she’s going off the rails. My personal favorites are Lucy’s dreams. They are first person, present tense and so very, very different in tone from anything else in the books. They are like little buried treasures—just below the surface, and Lucy is completely unaware of what’s going on with all of that.
Did you do any scientific research for The Werewolf Whisperer?
CAMILLA: Yes, quite a bit of research and extrapolation. The most profound, for me, was my initial archeological research, which led me to the grave of a Paleolithic dog in Siberia. This dog was buried in the same way a human would have been buried. Now why would that be? Was the dog so greatly loved that he was like a member of the tribe? Or was he a member of the tribe? The article sparked a lot of “what ifs” for me. Beyond that, we are digging into genetic research because we want to continue in that vein of werewolf by science and not by magic.
BONITA: Funny you should ask that. We’re currently swimming in research…lots and lots of research.
Who is the target audience for your books?
BONITA: Though THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER is urban fantasy, our readers run the gambit: men, women, twenty-somethings, fifty-somethings, teachers, forensic scientists, homemakers, and even mechanics. Anyone who likes an emotionally grounded, action-packed story laced with biting humor will dig our books.
CAMILLA: I don’t know anymore. I thought the books would be for female urban fantasy readers exclusively, but we’re getting feedback that shows that the book appeals to a wide age range and to both men and women alike. I’d been told that men wouldn’t be interested in a book with two female protagonists. Whoever said that was wrong, I am happy to report.
The series is not paranormal romance. Maybe that is the expectation, but that is not the book we wrote. That will be a different series 🙂
I love the music video on your website. Can you tell me some more about it?
BONITA: The song “El Gallo Mas Feroz” was co-written especially for THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER by David Gregory Byrne and my dad, Charles Gutierrez. It’s the signature song of one of our “Big Bads” — Memo “El Gallo” Morales, gang leader of East LA’s Los Locos and Xochi’s soon-to-be ex-boyfriend.
CAMILLA: We put the video together for a Halloween takeover (shout out to the Dark Fantasy Books Facebook group), and we liked it so much, we kept it on our Soundcloud. Thank you, P.J. for putting the video together.
Do you think The Werewolf Whisperer will one day be on the big silver screen?
BONITA: Actually, I would love to see it on the small screen. We originally developed THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER as web series. We even wrote a 13-episode story arc for season one. Those scripts turned into the novel series. So, I think television would be a natural progression.
CAMILLA: I think the series would be great as a long format TV show — like SUPERNATURAL but on Netflix.
It’s been two-and-a-half years since Book 2 of the Werewolf whisperer came out. When can your fans expect Book 3 to come out? What are you working on?
CAMILLA: We are working on BLOOD & BONES (book 3) right now, but there have been a few entries into the Werewolf Whisperer canon since the release of THE ALPHA & OMEGA (book 2). We released the novellas BEAST OUT OF HELL (on Amazon) and NO BEAST SO FIERCE (exclusive to our BEASTY BITES newsletter subscribers). As we are working on book 3, we are simultaneously working on a serialized novella about the character Kai.
But you’re right; we’ve taken a little extra time with book 3. I did, however, release NIGHT’S GIFT, RADIATION, and WINTER TITHE in the OF CATS AND DRAGONS series in 2017 with Carol E. Leever. And we have three more books ready to be released this year. Plus, Bonita and I have been meaning to break another urban fantasy series, which we are very excited about too.
BONITA: So, stay tuned!
Thank you, ladies. It’s great to hear you are so busy. I recently purchased the first book of The Werewolf Whisperer and can’t wait to dive into it after hearing how much fun you put into it!
PS: Thanks, Bonita, for letting me know how to pronounce Xochitl 🙂