Monday, July 7, 2008

Behind the Scenes: Howl of the Werewolf - The Abbey of the Black Monks


If you are yet to read Howl of the Werewolf (or yet to complete it) you might not want to read this post just yet. I'm not going to give anything major away, just a few small surprises.


Wandering through the wild land of Lupravia, the hero of Howl of the Werewolf comes upon the Abbey of the Black Monks, high up in the craggy uplands to the east of the country. They may choose to stay there for the night, simply seeking shelter or possibly hoping to find a cure for the curse that is afflicting them. However, if they do they soon discover the terrible truth about the Black Monks themselves.

The Black Monks have been corrupted by their even more grossly corrupted Abbot and are now half-human, half-insect monstrosities, intent on devouring our hero. There are things that resemble bipedal cockroaches, preying mantises and all manner of nasties lurking in the dungeons beneath the Abbey.

The inspirations behind the Abbey and its mutated brethren are pretty obvious, when you think about it. Apart from tying into the whole idea of various individuals having been corrupted and changed in different ways in the past, the mutation of the monks drew on such sources as films The Fly and Mimic.

The Abbey itself was based on the Italian monastery that forms the backdrop to the medieval murder mystery that is The Name of the Rose, with its hidden labyrinthine passageways. It is interesting to note that the exterior of the monastery seen in the film was constructed on a hilltop outside Rome, and was the biggest exterior set built in Europe since Cleopatra, whilst the interiors were shot at Eberbach Abbey in Germany.

This was one of those sections of the book that grew in the telling and, in part, forced the finished adventure to 515 paragraphs rather than the standard 400. By having the hero able to properly explore the dungeons the Abbey became more than just another passing encounter. In fact I had to cut some scenes from this part of the book because otherwise it was just going to be too long. So, it was farewell to the inquisitor's torture chamber, the branding iron-wielding poltergeist and the interrogation by the ghost of the vengeful inquisitor himself.

I really enjoyed writing this part of the book, which was also inspired by an entirely different idea I had for another gamebook long ago, and yet which might have pushed the boundaries of what is acceptable for a children's book.

Now that reminds me of another story, but that will have to wait until another post.

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