My next guest is Cecilia Dominic, who is both a writer and a psychologist. Her latest urban fantasy, Blood’s Shadow, deals with lycanthropy so she’s spent a lot of time reading werewolf novels and analyzing shape shifter characters. As an interesting alternative to reviewing a novel in full, she’s here with a brief analysis of one of the characters from a classic werewolf tale: Michael Gallatin from Robert R. McCammon’s The Wolf’s Hour. Welcome, Cecilia!
Thank you so much for hosting me, Jill! It’s great to be back on your blog.
Robert R. McCammon has the dubious honor of having written one of the few summer reading books I actually enjoyed, Boy’s Life, which was published in 1991. He has an amazing way with description, and the book sucked me in and made me forget I was doing something I didn’t want to do. To clarify, I have always loved to read, but I have a rebellious streak and having someone tell me to do it makes me not want to. I admit I didn’t immediately read more of his books because the horror designation stopped me.
Since I write about lycanthropes and it’s close to Halloween, I thought it would be fun to do a Character on the Couch analysis of Allied spy Michael Gallatin, aka Mikhail Gallatinov, the main character from McCammon’s The Wolf’s Hour. The book switches time periods from the present, which for the purposes of the book is during World War II, and Gallatin’s past, when he was a boy in Russia whose family is killed by the Communists and who is adopted by a band of lycanthropes living in an old abandoned castle in the deep, dark woods. Unlike my previous experience with McCammon, I approached this book with eagerness since my main character’s father was also a spy during World War II.
- If your character were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? Yes, a court order is a valid answer.
Due to the time period, which was while psychology was still in the grip of the psychoanalysts, I can see Gallatin being suggested for therapy due to difficulty forming intimate relationships within the context of a crisis of identity brought on by early trauma. At the beginning of the book, he interacts well with others but is still a literal lone wolf who has holed himself up in an abandoned church-turned-house on the Welsh coast. His relationships are business-like and always have a purpose. Even when he has an intimate night with a woman, he pushes her away after because of the danger to her and, I suspect, his own emotional state due to how many losses he’s had.
- Is the presenting problem one of the main internal or external conflicts in the book? If so, how does it present itself?
The theme of identity runs through the book and makes for an interesting sense of internal conflict. Of course in the later time settings, Gallatin has a very, “If I tell (or show) you, I’ll have to kill you” philosophy about his wolf side, and that’s how it usually works out. Even his original pack-mates, who of course make a big impression on eight-year-old Mikhail, have differing views on it. His pack leader Wiktor finds lycanthropy to be a noble condition and would spend his life as a wolf if it wouldn’t age him seven times as fast. But another pack mate Franco clings to his identity as a man and curses the day he was turned. Several times either Michael/Mikhail or someone around him asks what God thinks of lycanthropes, and he thinks about humans and wolves as having their own gods.
- It’s always interesting to see how people act when they first enter my office. Do they immediately go for my chair, hesitate before sitting anywhere, flop on the couch, etc.? What would the character do?
He would immediately go for the spot on the couch where he could see the door and look relaxed but be ready to jump up at a moment’s notice. He would also have the exit routes mapped out automatically in his mind.
- Does the character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be?
If Michael were to present to therapy, he would likely be direct about the identity conflict but keep the discussion about it at a philosophical and intellectual level. He’d probably discuss his two sides in a hypothetical sense and not reveal his secret. If he were in the present, he would likely have read all about post traumatic stress disorder and try to present with that angle to throw me off from the primary problem.
- Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next?
Michael drinks alcohol in the 1940’s time period, and it’s usually very strong stuff. I’m thinking he goes for whiskey, and he’d probably be amused by the proliferation of cocktail bars. Why do you need to mix so much stuff into good alcohol when guys like him can handle it straight? I suspect he would perhaps feel satisfied he’d kept his secret but maybe a little wistful he can’t feel safe telling anyone about it. Of course I’m focusing more on the character as he is at the beginning of the book.
Once again, I really enjoyed reading McCammon’s gorgeous descriptions and great characters, but this time I’m so glad I don’t have to be tested on it. It is a must-read for anyone who’s into werewolf and/or spy literature. Hats off to him, and happy Howl-oween to you!
What is your favorite werewolf book or movie?
More About Blood’s Shadow
Encountering werewolves can be deadly. Trying to cure them? Murder.
As the Investigator for the Lycanthrope Council, Gabriel McCord encountered his share of sticky situations in order to keep werewolf kind under the radar of discovery. Now, as the Council’s liaison to the Institute for Lycanthropic Reversal, he advocates for those who were turned werewolf against their will.
Everyone seems to be on board with the Institute’s controversial experimental process—until one of its geneticists is found lying on his desk in a pool of blood.
Gabriel races to single out a killer from a long list of suspects. Purists, who believe lycanthropy is a gift that shouldn’t be returned. Young Bloods, who want the cure for born lycanthropes as well as made. The Institute’s own very attractive psychologist, whose most precious possession has fallen into the hands of an ancient secret society bent on the destruction of werewolves.
Failure means he’ll lose his place on the Council and endanger the tenuous truce between wizard and lycanthrope. Even if he wins, he could lose his heart to a woman with deadly secrets of her own.
Happy Howloween Sale
Oct 25 – Nov 25
The Mountain’s Shadow on sale for .99
Long Shadows on sale for $1.99
More About Cecilia
Cecilia Dominic wrote her first story when she was two years old and has always had a much more interesting life inside her head than outside of it. She became a clinical psychologist because she’s fascinated by people and their stories, but she couldn’t stop writing fiction.
The first draft of her dissertation, while not fiction, was still criticized by her major professor for being written in too entertaining a style.
She made it through graduate school and got her PhD, started her own practice, and by day, she helps people cure their insomnia without using medication. By night, she blogs about wine and writes fiction she hopes will keep her readers turning the pages all night. Yes, she recognizes the conflict of interest between her two careers, so she writes and blogs under a pen name. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with one husband and two cats, which, she’s been told, is a good number of each.
So how about you? Do you have a favorite werewolf book or movie?
1981’s The Howling with Dee Wallace is the first werewolf movie I remember watching. I haven’t had the heart to re-watch it because I’m afraid it won’t live up to my memory of it. Werewolf characters I’ve loved are Lucien from Underworld: Rise of the Lycans and Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville, although I admit I’m very behind on that series.
Thank you, Cecilia, for guest blogging today!