With the same vicious imagination, blood-dark humor, and ferocious narrative energy of his bestselling novel The Last Werewolf, Glen Duncan now delivers a heroine like no other.
Grieving for her werewolf lover, Jake, whose violent death has left her alone with her own sublime monstrousness, Talulla Demetriou is pregnant and on the run, fleeing to a remote Alaskan lodge to have her child in secret. There, with her infant son in her arms, it looks as if the worst is over. Until the door bursts open and she discovers that the nightmare is only just beginning. Tormented by guilt and fuelled by rage, Talulla is suddenly plunged into a race against time to save her son. Pursued by deadly forces, including (rumor has it) the oldest living vampire on earth, the odds seem hopeless. Unless, of course, a mother's love for her child turns out to be the deadliest force of all. . .
Excerpted from Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan. Copyright © 2012 by Glen Duncan. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Q: You created such a memorable and beloved character in Jake Marlowe. Was it difficult to switch voices and start writing in Talulla’s voice?
A: It was, of course, difficult to say goodbye to Jake. I was very fond of him, not least for all the vicarious smoking, boozing, cynicism and STD-immune sex he afforded me. But the point of these novels is to keep refreshing the werewolf myth in ways that shed light on the human experience, and by the end of the first novel I felt his voice had done as much as it could; to continue in it would have been the equivalent of the band not knowing when to quit the encores. Talulla’s predicament—of someone new to the Curse and vulnerable—prised open the basic questions from a new angle, and helped keep the imaginative process vital.
Q: Have you ever written a novel primarily from a women’s perspective before? Does that change the writing process for you at all?
A: I’ve never written a novel exclusively in a woman’s voice, but an earlier novel, Love Remains (a rape story), was written partly in the voice of a female character, Chloe Palmer. The temptation is to say that it doesn’t change the writing process, since any novel worth its salt is an act of imaginative projection, but what I’ve found is that there’s something to be said for not being able to take anything for granted. I can write characters like Jake in my sleep; by and large their psychology is simply my psychology, projected into their unusual predicament. Talulla (and Chloe) on the other hand, require a process of constant imaginative self-scrutiny—is this really what a woman would do/think/say/feel?—in a way the male (Glen Duncanesque) characters don’t. If you’re lucky, the writing gets cleaner. If you’re not, the characters are simply unconvincing.
Q: Your novels raise the question of whether you are writing literary fiction, genre fiction, or a combination of both. Do you think those labels are valuable to readers? Or is it time that we moved beyond them?
A: I don’t know whether it’s time we moved beyond them. What I do know is that they don’t mean much to me anymore. To quote Wilde (for non-Wildean purposes): ‘Books are either well written or badly written. That is all.’
Q: Are there things you could explore with Talulla (a relatively new werewolf) that you couldn’t with world-weary Jake?
A: Again, there’s no point in these books if they don’t in some way refresh the basic human mysteries. In Jake’s case they were abstract, metaphysical, existential, a version of the intellectual’s question: ‘What is the truth?’ In Talulla’s they’re much more rooted in the mysterious physical and emotional realities: maternity, sexuality, morality, survival, guilt, desire; a version of the pragmatist’s question: (Never mind what the truth is): What is one going to do?
Q: Motherhood is (clearly) a major theme in the novel. To your knowledge has the concept of a pregnant werewolf or a baby werewolf ever been explored before? How do Talulla’s fears of motherhood affect her?
A: Not to my knowledge, but my knowledge is useless, because I’ve never read any werewolf narratives. I’ve watched the movies, but nothing from what I’ve seen springs to mind. Talulla’s fear in relation to maternity is a very specific one: Will she be capable of eating her own child? Which is of course a grotesquely and gothically enlarged version of what I suspect is a common fear among mothers-to-be: Will they ‘feel’ the way they ‘should’ about their children? In a world where the ‘appropriate’ response to virtually everything is commercially co-opted and aggressively peddled, it’s hardly surprising that half of us are on drugs or in therapy because we don’t think our feelings are quite what they should be.
Q: You’ve spoken of the werewolf as a metaphor for being an outsider or other. Does that metaphor start to shift in Talulla Rising?
A: I don’t think so. Talulla, like Jake, is a monster by virtue of a nature that puts her outside humanity. But like Jake (and many venerable ‘outsiders’ before him) she functions as a mirror to and commentary on the group from which she’s ostensibly excluded. And we find (surprise) she’s not so ‘other’ after all.
Q: You give us the beginnings of a vampire mythology in this novel. Do you plan to explore that further in the third volume? Will the werewolf origin story (Quinn’s book) also come back into play?
A: Yes, and yes. But I’m not issuing spoilers for my own books!
Q: You’ve always written very explicitly about sex in your novels and you said in an interview for Metro that you’re amazed that more people don’t write about sex. What do you make of the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon? Do you think that its popularity with readers who may not have previously wanted to admit they liked reading about sex will open doors across genres?
A: I don’t quite know what the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon’ is. Is it Twilight with sex? I haven’t read the Twilight books either, but if the movies are anything to go by (I’ve seen the first one) they’re sexually pretty tame. I’ve never understood why anyone would be reluctant to read books in which sex plays a significant role, any more than I can understand a reluctance to read books in which love or anger or grief or loss or compassion or creativity or the desire for meaning or a sense of absurdity (I could go on, obviously) plays a significant role. The point of literature—of all art—is to find room for everything human. It doesn’t get much more human than sex—so why leave that out? Without sex you’d lose The Bible, The Iliad, Paradise Lost, Anna Karenina, more than half of Shakespeare… And that’s before we mention Lawrence, Eliot, Joyce, Nabokov, Updike, Roth… Need I go on?
Q: Have you noticed a different reaction to this series in the various countries where it’s been published?
A: Not really. In all the territories so far it’s had a similar effect, which is to bring in some readers who think of themselves as literary (wouldn’t normally go near a book allegedly about werewolves) and other readers whose tastes would normally be self-avowedly commercial, surprised to find themselves engaged by the existential crises of lycanthropes who spend as much time smoking, drinking, shagging and philosophising as they do ripping people open and gobbling up their vital organs. So far it’s been a refreshingly (and sometimes hilariously) inclusive experience.
Q: After the third volume of this series, do you think you will continue to write more supernatural/paranormal novels? Or has your appetite been sated for the time being?
A: This isn’t my first fling with the supernatural. I, Lucifer was the approximate autobiography of the Devil, and the protagonist of Death of an Ordinary Man was a ghost. What these books have taught me is—to resort to cliché—that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Thematically I remain constant: love, death, sex, loss, compassion, cruelty, betrayal and forgiveness. I suspect that regardless of the outward form of whatever I write next (a murder story appeals at the moment) it’ll still revolve around these human perennials.
“Gorgeous. . . . Irresistible. . . . As with The Last Werewolf, Duncan writes with caustic edge and pop-culturally relevant humor. ” —Dallas Morning News
“A lusty, visceral, bloody tale. . . . This is enjoyable stuff. . . . Talulla has the wit and pluck to entertain us.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Horror fiction at its best.”—The Oregonian
“Duncan’s antihero is an apex female predator, the antithesis of Stephenie Meyer’s gothy milksop. She’s smart, confident, and a caring mother. She’s also a ferocious man-eater . . . The spectacle alone is worth the price of admission.”—NPR
“The horror genre at its best—wildly imaginative, written with wit and intelligence, wickedly entertaining.” —The Times (UK)
“Flat-out killer. . . . This harmonic hybrid delivers sweet (plot), salty (character), sour (emotional pathos), bitter (psychological probity), and umami (stylistic and linguistic panache). . . . Best described as a gleeful three-way between Raymond Chandler's entire oeuvre, Anne Rice's vampire novels and Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum. . . . A high-calorie blast. . . . Duncan delivers with intelligent humanity a monster we want to track and befriend, even knowing she would happily eat us alive.” —New York Times Book Review
“A howling good read. . . . Horrifying and humorous, imaginative and energetic.”—CNN
“Duncan is an immensely talented literary novelist, and with Talulla Rising, he has again proved you don’t have to be driving with a learner’s permit to enjoy a good vampire-versus-werewolf book. . . . Its descriptions of sex and violence—by turns hallucinatory and anatomically precise—might render Twilight fans blind and mute. Everyone else should have a blast, though.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
“In Talulla Rising, Duncan again creates an oddly engaging world defined almost exclusively by the abnormal . . . The story moves from Alaska to London to Italy to Crete, makes good use of the monsters’ special powers, offers cliff-hanging moments. . . . Duncan can be awfully entertaining.” —Bloomberg News
“A lusty, visceral, bloody tale [told in] capable, muscular prose . . . This is enjoyable stuff . . . Duncan’s werewolves are never cartoons . . . Talulla has the wit and pluck to entertain us.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“As well as being thought-provoking, it’s all great fun . . . Duncan’s writing does more than transcend genre fiction: it creeps up on it in the dead of night, rips out its heart, then eats it.”—The Guardian
“I like now and then to be reminded that I am a companion of the Wild Beast, and Glen Duncan ensures that I never forget it. He writes brilliantly of the presence of evil in its most contemporary disguise, with its heady temptations of heedless abundance, hunger, and satiety. Never again will it be possible to think of werewolves as mere metaphor. This fierce, witty, and erotic novel is full of surprises, both provocative and illuminating.” —Susanna Moore