Why Estonia?

The historic old town of Estonia's capital Tallinn is included in Unesco's World Heritage List. (Photo from the BBC.)

The historic old town of Estonia’s capital Tallinn is included in Unesco’s World Heritage List. (Photo from the BBC.)

Estonia? Where is it? Who has even heard of it?! Why set a story there, of all the places that you might possibly set a story?

It just so happens that Estonia, although little known to non-Estonians, has a fascinating although difficult-to-trace heritage of folklore and legends that set it apart from not only its Baltic neighbors (Latvia, Lithuania, Russia) but from almost everywhere else; traditional beliefs and practices survived in Estonia for much longer than in other regions of Europe. These traditional Estonian legends and folklore were primarily handed down via oral tradition until very recently; there were occasional references to Estonian beliefs and stories but no systematic attempt to write collect these and write them down until the 19th century. (The Brothers Grimm made their collection of stories, etc. almost 100 years before that.)

I picked up a book one day about folklore as I was researching another project and found a brief reference to the Estonian version of werewolf folklore: in Estonia, werewolves could fly and would drive away the storms that would otherwise devastate the farms and destroy the crops, resulting in starvation when winter came. They killed storm clouds and ate weather devils, not their neighbors. Because of this, werewolves were heroes, not monsters. I was shocked: Werewolves were the Good Guys?!

Because they were heroes, everyone in a village or district knew who the local werewolf was. It was an honored position. (The only other place that had an even slightly similar version of werewolf folklore is a small Italian region northeast of Venice where the werewolves are called “good walkers” and drive away witches that attempt to destroy the crops.) Estonian werewolves were so unlike their more commonly known cousins in other parts of Europe that it almost seems a shame to characterize them all with the same moniker as “werewolves.”

This distinctly Estonian version of flying heroic werewolf folklore set off fireworks in my imagination! Werewolves as heroes? In a traditional pre-modern, non-ironic culture?! This was too good an opportunity to pass by! I grabbed it and Alexei, my werewolf in 1880s Estonia, was born.

Read more about Alexei’s adventures as a werewolf in Estonia in Storm Wolf.

Photos from the Brooklyn Book Festival

"Alexei" and I as the Brooklyn Book Fair is about to open (September 2016)

“Alexei” and I as the Brooklyn Book Fair is about to open (September 2016)

It was humid–but the rain held off! The Brooklyn Book Festival 2016 is now one for the history books! “Alexei” met me at Booth #242 and then proceeded to wander the festival grounds, bringing new readers to share his adventures in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Bohemia.

Missed the festival? You can still get your copy of Storm Wolf — AND read some great new readers’ reviews here!

"Alexei" and I taking a break during the Brooklyn Book Festival (September 2016)

“Alexei” and I taking a break during the Brooklyn Book Festival (September 2016)

Brooklyn Book Festival

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I will be at the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday, September 18! Drop by Booth #242 and get your autographed copy of Storm Wolf! What have readers been sayng so far? See for yourself:

NEW REVIEWS FOR STORM WOLF:

“Morris’ werewolf isn’t a fur-coated romantic, but a refreshingly murky protagonist who’s both flawed and sympathetic; he kills innocents, but never intentionally. There are quite a few werewolf onslaughts, which the author unflinchingly portrays as bloody and brutal…. A dark supernatural outing, featuring indelible characters as sharp as wolves’ teeth.” — Kirkus Reviews

“…a unique weaving together and retelling of central and eastern European werewolf folk tales. Set in 1890, when such tales were still being told, Storm Wolf stands apart from contemporary myth and legend retellings… The magic–Alexei’s battles with storm creatures, the conjuring of a snake demon from pipe smoke, a witch’s talisman of skin stripped from a sailor–is extraordinarily well imagined and described here. Dollops of regional history and glimpses of customs and legends are fascinating.” — Blue Ink Review

“…the beginning of the book also serves to give us a thorough grounding in the setting, which is impressively fleshed out by Morris, and provide an unusual as well as detailed folkloric background for the tale. Morris has done extensive research about the folklore, customs, daily lives, and language of the people of 19th-century Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and it shows. Morris’s initial premise—that of a man who becomes a werewolf willingly to protect others—also puts a welcome and unusual spin on things.

Alexei is also a highly sympathetic, realistically flawed character who the author is clearly invested in, and this enthusiasm is infectious. Trouble seems to hound Alexei (forgive the pun), both as a result of his inner wolf and some seriously bad luck, and it’s easy to root for him to find peace with himself and the world. Morris also takes care to give us enough information about secondary characters for readers to care about what happens to them, sometimes—perhaps especially—when they are in danger of meeting bad ends.

Filled with details that make for a sincerely rendered world, peopled with characters who breathe; STORM WOLF is a thoughtfully constructed fantasy tale filled with emotion and action.” – Indie Reader