I recently had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of two ‘new-to-me’ authors that have an intriguing background and an interesting book that actually began life as a screenplay.
WHEREWOLVES was written as a screenplay in 2010. The couple wrote the novel, edited by award winning Canadian author/poet, Shelley A. Leedahl, to get the story out while they wait for it to hit the screens.
Together for over 20 years, John Vamvas and Olga Montes started as an acting team but soon began to write their own scripts for lack of finding two-person plays they could tour across North America.
They wrote and toured four full-length critically acclaimed plays to packed houses across Canada and the United States, including, Bad Boy, which they performed Off-Off-Broadway at New York’s Creative Place Theatre in the heart of Times Square.
WHEREWOLVES is a mature YA, new adult, horror, thriller that is available in eBook and paperback. Here’s a brief synopsis:
Using a fun, explosive style, full of new slang and fresh dialogue, WHEREWOLVES is the story of a group of high school seniors, most “military brats”, who are headed for an army-type survival weekend.
The underdogs, Jeffrey and Doris, do not want to go as they fear for their safety among the disdain and cruelty of the popular students. Sergeant Tim O’Sullivan, their teacher, as well as their dysfunctional parents pressure them into going, but it is an unforgivable act by their peers that propels the pair to go. Likewise, Elie, a student resented because of his Arab roots, is even more determined to prove himself this weekend.
In the background, a news report cautions of a wanted couple with alleged super-human strength supposedly brought on by a new drug on the streets.
In the woods, the students hike, hunt, camp, and soon act in unity as the forest brings them closer together. But does it? O’Sullivan leaves them alone for the night. The students bond, chant, tell campfire tales, and quickly lose their fears and inhibitions. HOO-AH! Though sexual tensions are high, it soon turns to violence and everything quickly turns sour.
When the kids start disappearing one after the other, the remaining begin to unwittingly “act like the natives” carving spears, ready to face whatever is out there. What has gotten into them? Amid blood-curdling growls and gruesome deaths, the story’s underlying layers are revealed. We see how misconceptions, prejudice, greed, fear, and hatred bring out the worst and best in them.
WHEREWOLVES is a thought-provoking, intense, action-packed ride loaded with plot twists that will keep you guessing: What is out there? Can it really be werewolves?
Olga and John join us today and have graciously answered some questions.
Tell us a bit about yourselves.
I'm a mother (of two), a preschool French teacher, an actress, and an avid reader of almost all genres. I dreamed of being a writer as a child and spent many high school lunch hours working on my writing with my English teacher. I have a college degree in Professional Theatre and a university degree in Spanish and French grammar and literature. I was on my way to becoming a translator/interpreter for the UN when I heard of an open audition at one of Montreal's biggest theatres. Funny, I later found out that I almost didn't get the role because the director and co-star, John Vamvas, was scared of falling in love with me and ruining the play. That was 1992. John and I have been writing and working together on stage, screen, and in life ever since.
I grew up in one of Montreal's roughest boroughs. My high school teachers always told me that I'd be in jail or dead by eighteen. All I can say is, thank God for the Arts. I'm an actor, playwright, screenwriter and now novelist. I love words, especially dialogue, and have a lot of fun coming up with new ways to say the same thing.
I now live in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec, Canada (a Montreal suburb) with Olga, our two extraordinary children, an awesome dog, and two crazy lovebirds we refer to as pterodactyls.
Give a brief description of what WHEREWOLVES is about and what genre it belongs to.
Olga and John:
WHEREWOLVES is a horror/thriller. It's about a group of high
How did you come up with the idea of high school students, consisting of mostly army brats, participating in a military survival type weekend?
Olga and John:
We knew a good chunk of the story had to take place in the woods. When we were developing the story, the characters manifested themselves as 'military brats'. We extensively researched the lifestyle and psychology of children whose parent or parents are in the military and found the general particularities of many 'military brats' to fit perfectly with our story.
WHEREWOLVES was originally written as a screenplay. How difficult was it to translate it into a book?
Olga and John:
We have written two screenplays and four critically acclaimed plays. This is our first stab at novel writing and turning a script into a novel has been a thrilling/terrifying/overwhelming challenge, to say the least.
Screenwriting is all about creating the skeleton that the actors, director, cinematographer, sound, lights, etc. will shape and make unique. This time, though, we got to be everyone, feel everyone, see and smell everything. Amazing. It took nine months of sleeplessness to come up with a first draft. We gave it to a few people to read. Some loved it. Some thought something was missing. All had corrections.
We decided to get a professional opinion and searched for an editor online. We stumbled on a Saskatoon writer/poet/editor, Shelley A. Leedahl, who was familiar with our writing style. We wrote her asking if she could edit a novel that has the film feel; meaning, our writing is intense, the dialogue is quick, the slang is fresh, and the descriptions blend with the action. The story moves, just like a movie reel. She said, "Send it over." And we did. We were confident. Maybe a little cocky—I think we were looking for a professional pat on the back. We got our manuscript back four weeks later.
We expected to find circled a few typos here, a couple of commas missing there. Ha! Ha! What we got were notes. Plenty of them ("Work harder!", "Whose POV are you in?", "This section is boring! Cut it!", etc.), and pen marks littering almost every page. Plus a detailed 20 page report. We almost cried. But all her notes were in keeping with our writing style—not hers. She was pointing us in the right direction. The task seemed daunting but we took it one page at a time. The hardest part was the narration and making sure that the changes in point of view were clear and flowed smoothly.
Soon, the task turned into an exciting challenge. And we were flying. We came up with our second (we thought final) draft and sent it back to her—still looking for that pat on the back. Two weeks later, we got more (but not as many) notes. We were, according to her, well on our way.
You co-wrote WHEREWOLVES. How difficult is it brainstorming with another writer?
Olga and John:
We have been writing together for a long time. We're at our creative best when we work together; 90% of the time we finish each other's sentences. The other 10%, ha! that's the fun part.
What was the most difficult part of writing WHEREWOLVES and how much research did you do as to how a survival type weekend would be conducted?
Olga and John:
The most difficult part, actually, was just technical; there are a lot of point of view changes in the story and we had to make sure the transitions were smooth. The story wrote itself, really. The characters spoke to us, and we just typed. We did do a lot of research, though, about the military, military brats, small towns near military bases, survival weekends, equipment, and human psychology.
What, in your opinion, about WHEREWOLVES will appeal to readers?
Olga and John:
So far, readers have really been getting a kick out of the dialogue, the edge-of-your-seat writing style, the many plot twists, and the underlying social commentary.
Do you plan any subsequent books?
Olga and John:
Yes. WHEREWOLVES stands alone but there could be a prequel and we've been developing the sequel. Both will stand alone as well yet complement the others. There's also another story Johnny came up with last summer that we've been musing about.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Olga and John:
If you're a writer: No matter how brilliant you think your writing is, hire an editor. One with experience, or at least a degree, who knows what they're doing. It will make your novel that much more brilliant.
If you're a reader: Read WHEREWOLVES. It's fast, fresh, fun, and riveting. It will get your heart pounding and have you laughing and crying at the same time. For a look at the first two chapters, visit www.wherewolvestheblog.com and let us know what you think. We love hearing from our readers.
Thanks Olga and John for joining us today and giving us a look at how a screenplay becomes a book. Plot twists and edge-of-your-seat writing does capture my attention when it comes to finding a good story.
I also wanted to note that in 2001, Olga and John were approached to star in and rewrite the short film, Things Never Said in Playa Perdida. Playa won the audience award at the New York Short Film Festival in 2002 and tied first place at the Festivalisimo festival in Montreal.
For more on Olga and John and their writing, visit their website and find them on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.
Here are what Amazon reviewers are saying about WHEREWOLF:
"5 stars. A MUST READ!"
"5 stars. It reminded me a bit of Lord of the Flies versus Silver Bullet but only way cooler."
"5 stars. Finally! A thriller that is unpredictable. A real page turner that expertly knows how to balance dialogue and description."
"Chillingly terrifying... This is one horror novel that will have you thinking long after you've finished reading."
"5 stars. Great keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat writing! Love the depth of the characters."
To tempt your reading taste buds a bit more, Olga and John are sharing an excerpt from WHEREWOLF, enjoy…
Thanks for stopping by today. Does a camping trip in the great outdoors bring visions of horror stories to mind?