Thursday, August 15, 2013

Wherewolves: Screenplay, Book, Oh My!

I recently had the pleasure of making the acquaintWW Cover - realisticance 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

school seniors, most of them military brats, who set out on a weekend survival trip with their teacher, 'The Sarge'. It is essentially a fresh take on bullying told using a rapid-fire style, new slang, and loaded with many plot twists.

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 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…

Dilly runs. The deafening beat of her panting isn’t enough to drown out the monstrous growls and trampling that rumble behind her. Though she can’t see well enough to dodge the naked branches slicing into her, the full moon’s rays help her find the path. This way, the young woman tells herself, and takes a left. Now right! Her body veers. She slams her beaten shoulder against the thick trunk of a sugar maple. Ah, fuck! The pain electrifies her cells. Like sticking a finger in a thousand volt socket. She falls to one knee. Don’t you fucking stop! Move! Move! Move! She forces herself up and implores her feet to barrel forward.

    There it is! The fallen stump that looks more like a giant claw! She makes a mad dash for it, hurtles over the trunk, lands on all fours, and snaps her head back. She gasps, “Yes!” eyes on the nest-like bundle cradled between the two lower branches of the tall yellow birch before her.

    She can hear whatever is out there tearing through the brush.

    She leans against the tree’s peeling, gray bark, and kicks at the dead leaves on the ground. Come on! she screams in her head. And at last feels the line dig into her ankle. She yanks it back hard. Click.

    A thunderous roar!

    She throws herself to the ground and in the next instant, a burlap sack swooshes over her.


    A canine screech rips through the forest.

    Dilly jolts, feels the ground, and snatches a heavy rock. She thrashes her head from side to side and strains to hear the danger, but hears only the sack’s long suspended rope creaking as it swings. She gets to her knees. A branch snaps, she spins to pitch the rock— Nothing’s there. “Breathe, girl, breathe,” she reminds herself. And inhales deeply. The prominent scent of balsam firs transports her to the weekend she spent with Brian in a cozy bed and breakfast last May. Her eyes well. Brian ... She scans the beech, spruce, and birch tree outlines, caressing her ring—its diamond lost to the forest. We should have never ... ahh ... She brushes off tears. Be strong, she compels herself. She staggers to a stand and lumbers off.

    A harrowing growl booms—her feet are in the air, her face smashes to the ground.

    “No! Nooooo!” She screams, as she’s dragged across the underbrush.

    Pebbles, leaves, and branches cut into her. Her fingernails claw a trail into the earth as she tries to grip at something—anything—that will anchor her long enough to turn over and hurl the rock she still has gripped in her hand. A trio of saplings gashes her chin and she grabs onto them, jerking to a stop.

    She fears she’ll be rent in two as she's tugged savagely. But she doesn’t let go. I’ve got to ... She tries to twist—turn my ... fucking arm ... over ...

    Light shines through from approaching high beams. Distant, but just enough of a distraction. Yes!

    She whips the rock.

    A painful yowl!

    “Fuck you!” she bellows as she scrambles to her feet and darts for the auspicious lights. She pushes her way through a thicket of juniper shrubs, waving and hollering—”Hey! Hey!”—and scarcely manages to catch herself. Shafts of light from the oncoming vehicle reveal there is nowhere to go but down. Down a ridiculously steep hill, she discovers.

    The charging footsteps close in.

    Shit! She glances over her shoulder—Fuck!—and drops to the ground. She gropes the ridge, clasps a sturdy root, and slides over the edge. Splinters stab into her hands. “Ahhhh!” she squeals—Shut up!—and hangs on. She cocks her head east to west. I need ... something ... else ... to grab on ... to.

    The thicket rattles and cracks.

    She winces. No! The rocks beneath her feet crumble. Oh my God, oh my God. Hang on. Don’t you fucking let go. Her feet dangle. The roots dig deeper into her palms. “Ahhhh!” She presses her mouth into the dirt and feels the earth above vibrate. A pebble bounces off her head.

    Beastly snorts and growls turn into sniffing and heavy panting.

    She holds her breath. Go away, go away, go away!

    The noises above her suddenly fade; all she hears is an eerie, unsettling breeze.

    Oh my God! She listens hard. They’re gone. Breathe, she reminds herself again. She inhales and looks down. The slope is too extreme. She needs another path. She waits a long moment—God help me!—and takes another mouthful of air, then musters the strength to pull herself up. Please don’t be there. Please don’t be there. Please—Fiery breath steams her forehead, and a snarl swells into a ferocious roar.

    Dilly glimpses the blur of black, indigo, royal blue below. And lets go.

Thanks for stopping by today. Does a camping trip in the great outdoors bring visions of horror stories to mind?


  1. Olga and John, thanks again for visiting with us. For me, it's always interesting finding out how a story came to be. Wishing ya'll much success.

  2. Mason - Thanks for introducing us to Olga and John.

    Olga and John - Thanks for sharing your stories. I give credit to anyone who can create stories that get young people to read, so it's very good to hear you've focused this for the YA reader. I wish you success.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.