The Wolf Among the Wild Hunt is an illustrated novella about Skythulf, neither man nor beast, who has to partake in the most dangerous hunt to get his honor back. This book is gory with metal illustrations hidden within its pages, with a rich sense of lore and mythology that appears both in passing and on page. I’m excited to host author Merc Fenn Wolfmoor to talk about how this novella came to be, including key pieces of inspiration, working with the artist, and what they’re working on next.
Crafting The Wolf Among the Wild Hunt
Where did the idea for this novella come from?
It was February (2020), it was snowing, and my at-the-time apartment had drafty windows, so between the howl of the wind and the chill, I was drifting off, and a pair of vivid scenes unfolded in my imagination: the image of a man kneeling in a prison cell before a woman dressed in white, and then after a time skip, he’s holding her on a dias and now her gown is red. The vibe was they were definitely enemies but also there was a note of tragedy.
I jotted a brief description down, but I couldn’t get the images out of my head. More threads coalesced around the initial idea, and because I was replaying The Witcher 3 DLC (Blood and Wine), and I’ve always been fascinated by the various mythology around the Wild Hunt, I was like, “Huh, maybe I should do my own version? Oooh…”
From there it kind of snowballed. I have several storyworlds I’m building, and the one I’d been toying with reworking, which involved various fae kingdoms, seemed perfect for The Wolf Among the Wild Hunt. I wrote the first draft over a four-week sprint, and it just poured out—I had such a fun time. ^-^ (Revisions took a looooot longer, and I had to rewrite large chunks of the book, but the bones of the story remained the same.)
How did you go about crafting the mythology of Skythulf’s world?
I’ve had what I dubbed “fae world” storyverse for quite some time, one of those meandering, evolving worlds that feels like it’s always been in my head, so when I realized I could set The Wolf Among the Wild Hunt in this particular storyworld, a lot of the peripheral elements were already in place: multiple fae realms that interact with a human world, magic and shapeshifters, a quasi-medieval time frame with queernorm foundations.
Once I had several of the trials within the Wild Hunt mapped out (the killer deer, the Tree, the Ash Queen, the swamps), digging into the mythology and worldbuilding around each of those was a lot of fun—I tend to default to asking myself questions like “how can this be creepy and cool?” and then noodling around ideas until something clicks. Some elements are (in my mind) homage to influential stories I grew up with. So, for example, you can probably see the nod to the Dead Marshes from Tolkien in “The Candles of the Damned.”
Part of my process in writing is to add everything, and then selectively prune and rearrange later. I am a sucker for flashbacks and long interstitial scenes that may be unrelated to anything going on in the plot, heh. So like, in the first draft, I had an entire chapter about how the Sun and the Moon were lovers-to-enemy-lesbians that was several thousand words long, and was a creation myth for Skythwulf’s people. It didn’t quite fit in that form when I began revising and sculpting the narrative flow, so I took out the long version and rewrote a briefer, condensed version that still has the important elements.
This helps me conceptualize the worldbuilding, because I get bored trying to worldbuild before writing a story; I need things to be happening, and characters to be living in this place, so I can unpeel the various layers of how stuff works and the history and whatnot. (It does tend to mean revisions are a lot of sorting through the hoard of shiny I’ve accumulated, but that’s fun for me, too—plus anything I don’t use can always be recycled in another story or storyworld, you know?)
Also I enjoy writing, it gives me joy, so producing a large amount of shiny words, scenes, stories, and contextual material, is a lot of fun, even if not everything will fit in the final work.
Did you have a favorite scene or moment to write?
Wow, so many??? I love writing quiet moments between characters, so writing scenes where Skythulf and Brennus get to just chill and bond were very satisfying for me. I also dig making shit weird and creepy and also terrifyingly pretty, so coming up with the various monsters and antagonists in the Wild Hunt was great fun.
(Although the scene in the cave near the end is my homage to the ending of the Muppet Treasure Island duel, because I adore that movie to pieces, and I may have cackled to myself quite a lot when I finally got the dialogue to work out.)
What was the process like selecting the illustrations?
Andrew Garin was incredible to work with! After I’d reached out to ask if he’d take the commission, I went through the book and selected (with difficulty, ha!) six “elements” or scenes that I thought would be cool to see illustrated. I knew I wanted at least one illustration of each of the principal characters (Skythulf, Brennus, the Cold Lady) and also wanted to give a taste of the weirdness and creepiness in the Wild Hunt. I outlined the six illustrations, with some notes on my ideas of layout and character notes, and Andrew did all the rest—when he sent me the initial sketches I may have made such sounds of glee I scared my cats! The final illustrations are basically unchanged from the initial sketches, that’s how spot on and amazing Andrew is with translating the ideas from words to images. I’m sooo happy!
Releasing The Wolf
Tell us a bit about Robot Dinosaur press. What was your experience like working with them?
So, RDP is part of a collective of indie authors (under Chipped Cup Collective), so the bulk of everything publishing this I did myself, with advice and help from friends who are much smarter and more experienced than I am! It’s been quite a learning curve but also so incredibly satisfying to see things come together. And obviously it’s not an entirely solo process! Miri Baker did a kickass editing job, Asmo knocked it out of the park with the cover art, I owe a huge debt of thanks to Sarah, RJ, Rhi, and V. for advice and support, on everything from formatting to how to get an ISBN. I adore our little collaborator group and am so excited to work with these folks again. 😀
What are you working on now?
*laughs in ten billion WIPs* >.>
Okay, well, I am slowly working on the sequel to The Wolf Among the Wild Hunt (I have outlines for three more books! we’ll get to see some more of Summer and Winter), and I’m also working on a handful of short stories, a time-loop SF novella, and revisions of an urban fantasy novel.
I’m also working on getting my second short story collection readied for a December release!
What books that are coming out or have come out are you excited for others to read?
Ada Hoffmann’s The Fallen (sequel to The Outside) came out this summer and it’s amazing, and I am sooo pumped for the last book in the trilogy (these are out from Angry Robot). Let’s see, I have dug everything Neon Hemlock has put out so far in the novella category and am vibrating with excitement to read The Secret Skin by Wendy N. Wagner and & This is How To Stay Alive by Shingai Njeri Kagunda (both out October 2021). I also highly recommend Stone and Steel by Eboni J Dunbar! Also I recently started reading Foxhunt by Rem Wigmore (Queen of Swords Press) and it’s excellent. 😀
There is so much incredible fiction out and coming out that I sometimes feel overwhelmed with how awesome the choices are. HUZZAH FOR BOOKS!
Merc Fenn Wolfmoor is a queer non-binary writer who likes dinosaurs, robots, monsters, and cookies. Their fiction has appeared in Lightspeed, Uncanny, Fireside, Nightmare, and others. Merc is also a 2016 Nebula Award finalist for their story, “This Is Not A Wardrobe Door,” which has been reprinted in PodCastle (audio), Cicada (2018), and The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017, along with translations into Chinese and Portuguese. Their debut short story collection, SO YOU WANT TO BE A ROBOT (Lethe Press, 2017), is available in paperback and ebook.
Merc is mostly found on Twitter @Merc_Wolfmoor and sometimes playing in cardboard boxes.