“A shameful fact about humanity is that some people can be so ugly that no one will be friends with them. It is shameful that humans can be so cruel, and it is shameful that humans can be so ugly.”
So begins the incredible story of Myron Horowitz, a disfigured thirteen-year-old just trying to fit in at his Pennsylvania school. When a fight with a bully leaves him unconscious and naked in the wreckage of the cafeteria, Myron discovers that he is an immortal lycanthrope—a were-mammal who can transform from human to animal. He also discovers that there are others like him, and many of them want Myron dead. “People will turn into animals,” says the razor-witted narrator of this tour-de-force, “and here come ancient secrets and rivers of blood.”
I’m kicking off October with a fabulous interview and giveaway! Hal Johnson is here to tell us more about his new book, Immortal Lycanthropes. Not only has he answered my questions but he’s also providing a signed hard back copy of his book, with a sketch! So take a moment to read the interview, learn more about the book, and then enter the giveaway!
10 bonus giveaway entry points to the first person who comments with the names all the animals on the cover. Good luck!
Can you tell us a little more about Immortal Lycanthropes and what inspired you to write it?
I wish I could think of a tagline or catchphrase to summarize Immortal Lycanthropes, it would make my life so much easier. Basically it’s the story of a boy who learns that there walk among us people who can turn in to animals—or animals that can turn into people—and they believe he’s one of them. Some of them want to help him, some of them want to kill him, and all of them want to use him, and he has to figure out whom to trust and what to believe. Also, he has to avoid getting killed.
Part of the idea is that these animal-humans are immortal, and can only be killed by the teeth or claws or horns of others like them. So humans, even the Lone Ranger with his silver bullets, don’t offer much threat to these guys. The only thing they have to fear is each other, which is pretty much always the case. Whoever you are, the biggest thing you should fear is each other.
Myron Horowitz is the main character in Immortal Lycanthropes. Tell us more about his character (strengths, flaws, etc).
Myron’s got a lot of problems He’s hideously ugly, he has no friends, and he has no memory of much of his life. Frankly, just being wicked ugly would be hard enough, but put it all together and it’s a tough row to hoe.
Main characters can be tricky, because readers have to identify with them to some extent. I think people get frustrated when main characters are too strongly delineated — makes it hard for them to project themselves onto the character. Orson Scott Card once said that you can tell the main character because he’s the one who suffers the most, but sometimes it feels like you tell the main character because he’s the least eccentric character in the book. Myron’s probably surrounded for most of his book with people who are more eccentric than he is, so it might be true for him, but he’s a little eccentric. In another world, in another book, he would probably look “eccentricker.” He thinks he knows a lot, but everything he knows he learned from books, usually old books. This is his great weakness but also his great strength. If you’re too steeped in reality, the weirdness of a very weird situation can paralyze you. Myron enters some pretty weird situations, but often he thinks he understands them, because he’s having an adventure, and if there’s one thing he’s read about, it’s having an adventure.
Eventually, I think, he gets disabused of the notion that adventures are anything less then terrifying, but by that point he’s in pretty deep…
The cover is so unique. How does the cover represent the story and who’s behind the cover art?
The artist is Teagan White —I’ve never met her (although we’re Facebook friends now, which is kind of like knowing someone), she was located and chosen by the publisher. I’d actually been pushing for my old roommate, who’s a great artist, to do the cover, and I got him to mock something up and everything. But the publisher had their hearts set on someone else, and I really can’t complain, because the cover and the interior illustrations are amazing!
I’d probably love the cover even if it meant nothing, because of all the cool animal pictures (fifty points to anyone who can correctly identify all the species!), but I think it’s also really clever because while all the animals are so richly detailed, the boy in the center of the menagerie is a blank. There sure are a lot of books in which the main character tries to figure out what he is, and this one is no different; but Myron really has to figure out what he is. Is he a human? Is he an animal? What animal is he?
What are some of your favorite books? Any in particular inspire you to become an author?
All I do is read books, and occasionally write one, so it’s dangerous to ask me about books, I might go on and on. I was trying to write a book that would have blown my mind when I was thirteen. I really liked adventure stories, and Daniel Pinkwater, and (maybe a few years later) Illuminatus!, and I threw a little of all of them in there. I’d always thought the book was more or less a rip-off of Treasure Island, one of my all-time favorites, but after it was published people started pointing out how much I accidentally swiped from other books. One reviewer mentioned that the book is like a Jungle Book in reverse, with Myron being raised by humans and then hearing the call of his own kind, the animals. I was at a party last night and a friend pointed out how the middle of Immortal Lycanthropes, at the Fortress of the Id, is a lot like the part of Great Expectations at Miss Havesham’s — which is quite flattering, because that’s the good part of Great Expectations. But none of this was on purpose.
Of course, when I tell people I was ripping off Treasure Island, they look at me like I was crazy, because they don’t see it. But that’s what I was going for.
I always say that Borges was the writer that inspired me more than anyone else to be a writer. He made it look so effortless, reading him made me think I could write something, too. But in a looser sense, books have has such a large impact (almost the sole impact, I sometimes think) on my life that it’s probably inevitable I would try to write something myself. In that regard, there are thousands of books that have inspired me to write.
Are you working on any other books or writing projects?
I’m trying to finish up another book, but it’s a book I’ve been trying to write, starting and stopping and starting over, for fifteen years now, so there’s every chance I’ll fail. I have a bunch of other ideas for slightly less daunting books. I’d kind of like to be an Edgar Rice Burroughs-type writer, cranking out awesome adventures one after another. But I’m too slow, and also too afraid of repeating myself, which kind of ruins the ERB plan. Obviously I can’t simultaneously write dozens of pretty similar books and still not repeat myself; but if I could I would at last be happy.
Is there anything else you would like to say to readers or fans?
I will never betray you.
- 1 winner will receive a signed hardback copy of Immortal Lycanthropes by Hal Johnson.
- The giveaway is open to US Residents only and ends on October 24th.
- Fill out the form below to enter.
- Must be 13 or older to enter.
- Name and email must be provided and counts as 1 entry.
- Winner must respond within 48 hours.