Behind “Elle a Vu un Loup”

My story “Elle a Vu un Loup” appeared in Weirdbook #40 at the end of last year. In the story, Alondra DeCourval travels to Mackinac Island to face a monster that has terrorized the close-knit community. You can check out the magazine at http://weirdbook-magazine.com/.

I started going to Mackinac Island as a child.  It’s a tourist island between Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas, a pretty little place where cars are banned and life is punctuated by the clip-clop of horses’ hooves.

Islands are curious places, magically speaking. So many of the traditional monsters can’t cross running water, so a monster on an island is effectively trapped.  Elementally, an island represents earth, trapped in the currents of water and air. It’s a liminal place, betwixt and between. Since Alondra uses elemental magic, I wanted to play with that.

Alondra grew up on a horse ranch. That echoes my upbringing on a cattle farm in Michigan’s lower peninsula.  I combined my memories with visiting my dad’s cousin, who bred Arabian horses on his farm.

My family first moved to what would become our farm when I was 4.  The first animals my father owned were horses. One was a saddlebred mare that he showed called Kate.  My brother and I shared a foul-tempered Shetland pony named Scamper.

I never had riding lessons. I remember riding down the railroad tracks near my grandma’s farm, but I never rode often enough that I felt in control of the pony. I only ever rode with a western saddle, when I could get Scamper to allow it, and I never had a whip. He was too old and fat to trot.

The gate to St. Ann’s Catholic Cemetery on Mackinac Island.

Alondra has a much better rapport with horses than I ever did. Despite that, I always wanted to rent a horse and ride the circumference of Mackinac Island like she does. I’ve had to settle for doing it on a bike.

The history glimpsed in the story — the battle from the War of 1812, the French fur trader whose grave had been moved several times, the auto barons’ summer mansions — is all factual.  However, although it was inspired by a place I stayed on the island, there is no Tides Inn Bed and Breakfast.

I’ve never written a werewolf story before, but I’ve always loved the Larry Talbot model of the regretful killer. I am fascinated by the old cures for lycanthropy: the wild white roses, the belt made of fur. I’m not sure what Alondra plans to do with the pelt she harvests in the old Catholic graveyard. It’s probably in a closet somewhere.

I wrote about the cemeteries on Mackinac Island in Wish You Were Here and on Cemetery Travel, so it made sense to set an Alondra story there, too.  This story wasn’t the first time she’s visited a graveyard:  that happened in “Catalyst.”  It’s not even the first time that the ghosts in a graveyard have talked to her, although that story wasn’t published until before before this one came out. It is the first Alondra story to be set in Michigan, though.

Finally, the title:  elle a vu un loup is French, obviously. Directly translated, it means she saw a wolf. It’s an old idiom for a girl who is secretly pregnant. Alondra thinks the fur trader is teasing her about becoming prey for the werewolf, but he’s actually mocking the girl from whose grave Alondra picks the roses. I liked the double meaning.

About Loren Rhoads

I'm the author of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel, as well as a space opera trilogy. I'm also co-author of a series about a succubus and her angel. In addition to blogging at CemeteryTravel.com, I blog about my morbid life at lorenrhoads.com.
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3 Responses to Behind “Elle a Vu un Loup”

  1. Interesting post! Nice memories of your childhood with your brother.

    • Loren Rhoads says:

      I’d hoped I could turn up a photo my my brother and the pony, but no luck. Someday, I have to organize my photos!

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