I "met" Joyce, who writes YA as J. Damask, on Twitter through a mutual friend and was immediately intrigued by the premise of her books. I'm thrilled that she agreed to do a guest post for me on Chinese werewolves and her books. Signal boosts and link backs encouraged!
Where to buy her books: Amazon.com
"Chinese Werewolves in the writings of Joyce Chng/J.Damask"
When Catherine Lundoff asked me to write about the Chinese werewolves in my urban fantasy series set in Singapore, I actually rummaged through my head for things to write. Many people are curious about the Lang and desire to know more about them. I often reply that they were Chinese wolves, not the typical werewolves-doomed-to-change-during-full-moon, but wolves in human bodies. Some readers have said that they are more like spirit wolves. These wolves walk side by side their human counterparts, by all means Singaporean Chinese and indistinguishable. But like wolves, leery of strangers, of the crowd and of cramped spaces. So, as I rummaged through my head, what should I write about the Chinese werewolves?
And, why Singapore? Because I was born and grew up on this island-state. I wanted to see an urban fantasy set in a familiar place. Of course, I have read about New York, London and other non-Asian places, and my heart hankers to read about a place I know. So, in 2009, I wrote the story out of a challenge to myself: write an urban fantasy novel/series set in Singapore. In actual fact, the story (and its background) had been simmering nicely in the back of my brain before I sat down to write. Nanowrimo gave me the impetus. I had also just given birth to my little girl. People thought I was nuts, writing a novel when I should be 1) resting and 2) focusing on baby girl.
I wanted to see a story about wolves who were also migrants in a foreign land. Wolves whose ancestors settled down in Nanyang (a term for Malaya for the migrant Chinese in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries) and sank roots down, carving their own niches for their packs/families. My grandparents were such migrants. The wolves too found a new home on a tropical island close to the equator. Like their human Chinese counterparts, they too have a rich culture and traditions.
Now, the wolves. I have always loved wolves and even my self-persona is a wolf. When I set out to write the novel(s), I wanted to see proper wolves, not the half-wolf, half-man raging monster made popular by Hollywood. The Lang have their own term for this monstrous state: ren lang (literally: man-wolf). For them, achieving this form twists the mind and renders the individual insane, a total antithesis to what a wolf is. The Lang, like their wild wolf cousins, desire to hunt, love their pack members and will do anything to protect pack territory. They love their freedom and green spaces so that they can run and hunt. They are also human in that they mingle with other Singaporean Chinese and work in human environments.
I like to examine the concept of duality, the idea of straddling two worlds. The main character/heroine, Jan Xu, is mother and pack leader, daughter and sister, wife and free soul. She leads the pack, and yet she is also a wife to a human man who loves her. She loves her children, and yet she has to be a purposeful and strong alpha to her pack. And she has to straddle between wolf and human – something that she struggles daily with in modern urban Singapore. A wolf would rather run and hide from the crowds and traffic.
There you go – my Chinese wolves distilled into a few paragraphs. I have high hopes for the Lang and the other non-human groups (the Myriad). Perhaps you might just see another series in the future.
Causes Catherine Lundoff Supports
The Women's Prison Book Project - provides books to incarcerated women Theater Unbound - promotes theater by women: playwrights, directors, performers...