Shifting Furies started life as The Ghost and the Shifter, but early in the draft, I realized my friend Bobbi Holmes names her books similarly. She was absolutely fine about it, but I was a bit mortified and felt like I was inadvertently copying her titling system, so I came up with an alternative – Shifting Furies, so named because of the shapeshifter and a plot element revolving around Brianna. That’s one of the best things to have happened to the series – I stride now to be more original and striking with the names of my books, and this was a first step in that direction.
Some of my best work comes not from a place of creativity, but from a sense of flippancy. Shifting Furies is a case study of that. I don’t particularly care about shapeshifters, as I’ve mentioned before. They can be a striking figure in storytelling devices – see An American Werewolf in London or the first season of Hemlock Grove – but they’ve almost been ruined for me by being turned into a nonstop flood of alpha male types that never stray far from the shifter romance mold. “Oh, he’s a bad boy who melts for his sexy girl-next-door type? Original!”
So when I set out to write a novel about a shapeshifter, I wanted something abnormal. I had the idea in mind that it would be hunting a politician – who became the philanthropist Hammond Stroud – because of elements I liked from the original draft of The Ghost at His Back. But why was this shapeshifter hunting Stroud? Who was it – or her, as she generally identified herself?
From that stemmed a flood of possibilities, ones I didn’t really think were as impactful as they seemed to turn out. Most of the shapeshifter’s backstory ended up on the page almost by accident. I liked the idea of the various forms she assumed slowly eating away at her memories, and having her backstory be murky and clouded was a lot of fun, but I didn’t play much with it. I had a vague idea of her first shapeshifting “turn,” and ran with the idea that she was actually a wild thing, a creature of the woods that encountered a teenage girl and fell in love.
That led to the shapeshifter more or less becoming a sort of bisexual being, but with a definite emphasis towards lesbianism. None of the LGBTQ characters in my novels were by design. They all just felt natural to the characters, and so I wound up with quite a few of them – Froggy, Blake, August, the shapeshifter, and more. I don’t think of it as a political or cultural thing – after all, Garrett is almost staunchly anti-yuppie and hippie, and actively makes decisions that probably aren’t great for the environment, Stephanie is a heavily-implied Republican stalwart, and various other leanings are all represented. None of these novels are meant to deliver a message like that. These are simply characters leading lives based on the events that have happened to them, or based on who they are at their core.
Speaking of, let’s get back to Hammond Stroud, one of my surprise favorites from the novels. Hammond generally is – spoilers (skip ahead to the next paragraph if you plan on reading Shifting Furies) – a decent man. Capturing the shapeshifter isn’t an act of villainy but a simple response to the tragic events of his life. He put his trust in Garrett and Brianna, and they failed him, so he does the best he can do as his grief overwhelms him. Same goes with protecting his brother for as long as he does – Hammond doesn’t want to believe his brother is the target of the shapeshifter, because that would wreck the walls he’s built up in his own mind about who his brother really is and what he’s capable of doing. The event that transpires at the end of Hammond and Clancy’s arc is one of the darkest moments of the series because of its spiritual and philosophical implications, and in that regard, I’m hugely proud of those two characters.
I’ve always been a bit bewildered at the positive response to Shifting Furies. On Amazon, it’s stayed strong at a solid 4.8 out of 5 stars from six reviews, and on Goodreads, it’s managed a 4.64 average rating based off 14 reviews. I don’t say that to brag, but because I find it kind of crazy for a book with one huge, glaring flaw:
Brianna and Garrett essentially throw Monica – and to a lesser extent, Kel Morgan – to the wolves.
In retrospect, it’s one of the series’ most glaring plot flaws, other than the ill-advised sex subplot from Band of Fallen Princes (more on that in a few days). For those that haven’t read it, Garrett’s first encounter with the novel’s antagonist goes bad. Garrett gets his ass handed to him in a protracted fight, and as he’s getting patched up by Monica and Brianna, the three of them agree that it’s best Garrett and Brianna go on a vacation.
If you’re asking yourself right now, “Wait, what the hell?” then congratulations, you’re on my side in all this. Because it makes no damn sense.
Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that – Brianna’s basically been fighting a mental breakdown for the whole length of the novel, while Garrett needs to make a trip to Vegas to bolster his appearance as a semi-retired card player. The trip has been planned for a while, and they spend time after the fight with the shapeshifter trying to make sure the thing was gone for good. So it’s not as entirely WTF-ish as I’ve mentioned above, but the trip to Vegas after such an insane fight is weirdly out of character for these two.
But in my mind, despite my attempts to justify the trip and the additional backstory it creates for Garrett by fleshing out Blake and Froggy, his two mentors – the Vegas trip throws the story completely out of whack. It lacks the character building necessity of the Florida trip in the first novel, and it just feels like Garrett and Brianna are telling their friends, “Well, there’s a threat out there we can’t tell you about, so good luck dealing with it. Oh, we’ll bring you back something shiny too.”
But readers in general seem to like this one the best. One of my tst readers claims Smyle is the best to date, so we’ll have to wait and see on how the public at large responds to it, but for now, baffling me at least, Shifting Furies stands as the generally accepted favorite among my readers.
You’re all bananas because the actual best is going to be featured tomorrow.