Exclusive Interview: “Out For Blood” Author Jorie Rao
In eSpec Book’s Systema Paradoxa series, different writers have told stories about a wide variety of cryptids. But while I’ve interviewed many of these authors — including, but not limited to, Sean Patrick Hazlett, Mary Fan, and Keith R.A. DeCandido — few seem as tailor made for this series as writer Jorie Rao who admits that “Cryptids are a special interest of mine” in the following email interview about her urban fantasy novella Out For Blood (paperback, Kindle).
eSpec’s Systema Paradoxa series is all about cryptids. What cryptid is your novella, Out For Blood, all about, and why did you want to write about this particular cryptid?
My novella is about the Rougarou, which is a kind of wolf-man. It’s a distant cousin of the Loup Garou (werewolf). I’ve always been drawn to the transitory nature of werewolves and other shifters, so when choosing which cryptid to write about, picking the Rougarou was a no brainer.
It sounds like you were pretty familiar with the Rougarou, but how much research did you have to do regardless?
Cryptids are a special interest of mine. It started with the Jersey Devil lore and snowballed into a love of all urban legends. In fact, this March, I’m going to the site of the Mothman legend on a road trip.
That being the case, I actually didn’t have to do much research outside of double-checking a few bits of conflicting lore.
And then, in regards to the story you’re telling in Out For Blood, did you have the plot in mind and then found the right cryptid for it, or did you start with the cryptid and then figure out a good story for it?
I knew I wanted the story to center around family and a loss of trust. My first draft took place in the 1800s, and involved a family who passed the Rougarou curse around like a superpower, which ended up being too complicated. After that, I decided to make it modern, to remove some of the excess complications that way the Rougarou didn’t get outshone by the setting.
So then where did you get the idea for the plot of Out For Blood?
The plot came from a few places. Namely, my love of road trips. The open road, especially back country ones, have a certain gravitas and implied spookiness that lends itself to a supernatural storyline. The family stuff is ripped from real life. For instance, the relationship between Justice and Prudence is an amalgamation of the relationships I have with my own siblings.
Out For Blood sounds like it’s a horror story…
I think of it more along the lines of urban fantasy à la the TV shows Supernatural or The X-Files. A little tension, yes, but a decent amount of campy vibes, too.
Now, Out For Blood is your first published book. Though I’m willing to bet it’s not the first story you’ve written. Are there any writers who had a particularly big influence on Out For Blood, but not on anything else you’ve written?
I’d say the biggest influences comes from Patricia Briggs and Jim Butcher. I remember whenever writer’s block hit, I turned to Butcher’s old Live Journal, where he broke down how to do the scene / sequel method for writing. Between that, and the A+ character driven-narratives they both wrote, I couldn’t ask for better inspirations.
How about non-literary influences; was Out For Blood influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
I mentioned Supernatural and The X-Files earlier. The two siblings teaming up for revenge and road tripping to find monsters is fully influenced by [Supernatural‘s] Sam and Dean.
When not writing, you work as an Adjunct Writing and English Professor at Salem Community College, and work as a writing tutor at Rowan University. How do you think working with young writers may have influenced how you wrote Out For Blood?
I think that in teaching my students to allow themselves the space to write something, even if it’s a bad something, I accidentally encouraged myself to do the same. You can’t fix what isn’t there, so as long as you write, then you can rewrite.
A moment ago I asked if Out For Blood had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But to flip the script, as you kids probably don’t say anymore, do you think Out For Blood could also work as a movie, show, or game?
It could easily be a show. The monster-of-the-week format that made shows like The X-Files popular would be the perfect space to explore my characters and the new, monster filled, world they find themselves in.
And if someone wanted to make that show, who would you want them to cast as Prudence, Justice, and the other main characters?
That’s a tough one. I always pictured Prue as someone along the lines of [Panic Room‘s] Kristen Stewart. A bit gangly and awkward, but ultimately bad ass. For Justice, I envisioned [Harry Potter‘s] Emma Watson’s no-nonsense vibes.
Finally, if someone enjoys Out For Blood, what previous Systema Paradoxa novella would you suggest people read next, and why that one?
I’d recommend trying them all, but I loved Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s The Play Of Light [which you can read more about here] because it’s a fresh story with relatable characters.