I get this question a lot. So in the interest of heading off that curiosity before it floods my inbox with repeated queries, I figured I’d explain for all those secretly dying to know. Which I would guess is currently no one, based on the silence from my Contact page. I was going to put it in my FAQ for those few who might be interested, but as I was writing, I realized it was a longer story than was appropriate for that location, and I wasn’t satisfied with the shortened version. So here goes.
(Warning: Self-Indulgence Alert! The following information is solely about me and will provide no insights into anything but my thought process. Sarcasm will still be included, but if you were looking for tips on writing, art, or opinions on whatever, this week probably isn’t for you. If you choose to skip it, I won’t be insulted. Much. 😉 )
Contrary to popular speculation, the Nightwolf is not me. Well, not in the sense of a pen-name or nickname. Although, to be fair, I have used it that way before. But no, I don’t typically run around printing Nightwolf on those little red & white “My Name Is” badges. Not if I’m trying to be serious, anyway. If I want to be an anonymous jackass, sure.
Nor do I suffer from a Jekyll & Hyde situation, becoming a homicidal werewolf when the moon is full and wreaking havoc on downtown Vancouver. At least, not that I’m aware of. I haven’t seen any news articles about random wolf attacks, so I’m gonna say we’re safe.
It’s not the name of my car (popular theory #2 thanks to the windshield tag and vanity plates that scream it to the world), which has only ever been black while sporting those plates once. And I only wish I was lucky enough to have that be the translation of my name, which is Russian for “kitten”, in case you were wondering.
No, the Nightwolf is a character I created when I was 11, dreaming of owning an animation studio that rivaled Disney. The origin of the name? Well, he’s a black wolf. Brilliant, I know. But what did you expect from an 11 year old?
Originally, he had no personality, or even a gender, although I’ve always referred to him as a he. Maybe he is some version of an alter-ego….a masculine, lupine, super-hero side whose mission is to save the world from lack of creativity? Nah, more likely I was just influenced by the super beefy, anonymous, white wolf in Balto that made me want to animate. Ironically, later movies have shown that wolf to be female, but I still think it’s a dude. That’s one burly girl otherwise.
Anyway, he wasn’t a full-fledged character. As I mentioned above, he was a one-dimensional creature whose sole purpose was to announce the beginning of every movie Nightwolf Productions (the name of my fictitious studio) released. Like the castle image that opens every Disney film, or the animated lamps that herald the start of a Pixar masterpiece. And true to the nature of a logo, it was super complicated. It featured the Nightwolf standing on a cliff, backed by an impossibly large moon. He howled, then turned to face the audience, unveiling the glowing yellow eyes that are his trademark. The company name would illuminate around the edge of the moon and the movie would start. Impressive, right? But, again, did you really expect cinematic genius from an 11 year old?
Eventually he started to evolve, as I realized I wanted something decidedly less bland that would set me apart, transforming into a Living Logo, as I dubbed it. Meaning he would still grace the beginning of every movie, but be integrated into the opening sequence instead of just a static logo tacked on the front. I started to think of him as an omnipresent god of storytelling that dictated what the audience got to see. This was before Dreamworks and Pixar burst onto the scene with their ever-changing logos and subsequently shattered my hopes at originality. But it does show the first flicker of what the Nightwolf would ultimately become.
At this point in the timeline, I was around 18/19/20, and wrapped up in all the emotional drama that entailed. Testing my wings of independence and failing miserably. Trying to find my way through 4 different colleges, and about 5 different majors. Moving out again, then crawling back home with my tail between my legs when that blew up in my face too. You know, all the joys that being a young adult brings. The only constant was my dream of animating/writing/drawing/whatever-as-long-as-it-was-creative. A dream that was embodied by the Nightwolf.
Fast forward to 2005/2006 and the realization that I was short-changing one of the most important characters in my repertoire. Of all the hundreds of thousands of characters I’d created, the Nightwolf was definitely the flag-ship. And I had relegated him to the background. Doomed him to be nothing more than a pretty image without substance. But he was more than that. He did have an actual story and deserved to have it told! I decided then, that his would be the tale to launch my writing career, just as he had fanned the flames of my animation dreams so long ago. And I’d had enough questions about whether or not Nightwolf was the name of my car, by then, to irritate me into action. A girl can only repeat herself so many times before going postal on some innocent who made the mistake of asking, after all.
My first attempt was actually a poem. Why a poem? God only knows, because I don’t write poetry. Ever. And true to form, it was atrocious. But it introduced the idea that the Nightwolf was a supernatural creature that could be sought, a guardian over the realms of creativity. Sound familiar?
Round two was a marginally better written short story. It was told in first person and centered around the never-identified narrator choosing to become the Nightwolf’s anchor–a link to the “real” world that allowed him to move freely from his realm to the realm of humans. Which led me to realize that to tell his story properly, he required a partner, a woman whose identity was essentially void–Nameless. I’m not really sure exactly where the idea came from, aside from a token nod to Nemo by Nightwish and Main Title by Christophe Beck from the Elektra Soundtrack, but finally, through her, the Nightwolf had a voice.
There was only one flaw with Nameless, (ok, only one notable flaw, anyway); it was boring. Written in overly flowery prose, trying too hard for atmospheric awesomeness and completely devoid in plot. (My writing group co-founder can attest to this.) But I refused to give up on the concept. Even though several iterations and quite a few resounding “no’s” from magazines whispered that maybe it wasn’t a premise worth pursuing.
Which brings us to The Bardach.
About 42 revisions later, (including at least one complete overhaul), a massive boost in plot, a few new characters and a definitive explanation of both Nameless (aka Amyli Farenscal) and the Nightwolf, and I finally had what I was searching for–a story that was as interesting to the rest of the world as it was to me. Or so I tell myself. Please don’t burst my bubble either.
After attaining the seal of approval from my writing group partners, I sent The Bardach (also a short story, by the way, but significantly longer than Nameless) out into the world of publishing. This wasn’t my first foray into the jungle, as I’m sure you gathered, and I already had a hefty stack of rejections for my previous, admittedly weak, attempts. So I was realistic and expected nothing, while secretly hoping that this time would be the one–the time I got published.
And it was.
True to prediction, the Nightwolf paved the way for my writing career to finally get off the ground. Marginally. I remember staring at that coveted acceptance letter, unable to comprehend what it said until someone else read it for me. You’d think I’d been accepted to Harvard or won the lottery or something. But I’d finally done it. I’d published something. Which meant that at least one other person thought the Nightwolf’s story was worth reading. Not a family member, who has to like what I write out of obligation, or my writing group partners, whose encouragement is kind of the point of writing group, but an Editor. One of those notoriously fickle creatures that can single-handedly decide whether you suck as a writer or not. It was even deemed worthy enough to grace the cover of Shelter of Daylight‘s inaugural issue, an honor I’m eternally grateful for.
But The Bardach was only a small glimpse of the Nightwolf’s story, an introduction and precursor to the full-length novel I hope to finish one day. In the meantime, though, he still serves double-duty as the logo for my barely-there freelance art career and continues to grace the top of my windshield like a racing tag. So you haven’t heard the last of him. Who knows? Maybe his novel will be the one to land me on the NY Times Bestseller list. Someday. If I can ever get out of the mire of my current novel-in-progress, (which has absolutely nothing to do with the Nightwolf, just FYI).
And that, my friends, concludes the rather long-winded history behind “Nightwolf”. Succinctly put, he’s my muse. And I could’ve just said that in my FAQ, but would you really have understood what it meant without all the back-story? You probably would’ve just thought me insane, and possibly Schizophrenic, hearing voices for a personality that doesn’t exist. And that’s an impression I wasn’t keen on leaving. I have enough shades of crazy without adding Multiple Personality Disorder to the list.
(End Self-indulgence Alert. We can now return to our regularly scheduled snarkiness. )
by Kisa Whipkey
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