Letting the Setting Lead
by Annabeth Leong
I visited Montana several years ago, and the experience stayed with me. I loved how wide and wild the highways were, surrounded by rolling red hills, smooth and welcoming and tempting me to drive fast. Every time I stopped in a town, I was aware of the natural world pressing in on me, and of how tenuous the hold of civilization actually was against that powerful landscape.
When I started writing about werewolves, Montana came into my mind as a place that represents the collision of the primal and the civilized. It's also a place where the primal seems poised to win, and I liked that.
I plan books in different ways, but in the case of Not the Leader of the Pack, I let the setting lead me. I wanted to write a follow-up to Not His Territory, and in that book I'd made a reference to "the situation in Missoula," so I knew I wanted the next events to be set there.
Missoula, which I visited on my trip to Montana, really embodies that contradiction I was talking about. It's full of breathtaking natural features, but also houses a university and a lot of medical facilities.
Since I find places inspiring, I started by researching Missoula for several days. I looked at photographs and wrote down places that seemed interesting. As I took notes and learned about different parts of the city, I let myself daydream about things that could happen there. "This would be a nice place to take a date," or, "This would be a good place to have a fight." Then I took my favorite places and the scenes I envisioned there and built the outline around them.
I was really proud of how this came out, because I felt like the story wound up anchored in a setting in a way that's rare for me. Despite being inspired by places, my imagination doesn't tend to work visually. When I daydream and envision scenes in a story, that usually means I'm hearing dialogue. I can have an extremely long imaginary conversation, but if I'm not careful it'll wind up being at a light wooden table in a white room, between two characters with no discernible features.
The planning method I used for Not the Leader of the Pack allowed me to create a much more vivid setting than I usually manage, which meant a lot to me because I believe a werewolf book really needs to show the world around the characters.
by Annabeth Leong
When Juli Gunby left Missoula, Montana, she didn’t intend to come back. Not to her exacting alpha werewolf father, and certainly not to Neil Statham, the beta who rejected Juli’s girlish advances. Her father, as usual, has other ideas, using his dying breath to pass pack leadership to his daughter. Juli resolves to carry out her duty to her father and her pack, but the one man she wants on her side has made himself her enemy.
After years of loyal service to the pack, Neil expects to take over as alpha when his mentor dies. As good as it is to see Juli again, he knows he can’t trust her. After all, she abandoned both him and the pack years ago and never looked back. Neil determines to fight for his rightful position in the pack, even if that means going up against a woman who fills him with an overwhelming urge to mate every time she walks into the room.
Someone needs to lead, and the more Neil and Juli fight, the more they attract interference from those who would control the pack and destroy the ties between them.
My Review: July 2013 ~ Review Copies ~
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
First, I would like to thank the author Annabeth Leong for giving me this book for an honest review. I like the story to an extent, the main characters Juli and Neil, had pros and cons going for them. Neil acted like a pompous ass and Juli kept going back for more heart break from this guy. Yet, they were mates, meant to be together letting their human selves overrule their wolves. Having the council is all good, I mean I have read other were/shifter stories with councils, but this one was pathetic as telling them that they could only shift on the full moon, that is like saying cut off your natural instincts or don't be yourself or we will drug you up and/or punish you. Nope didn't like this council. There were plenty of things that made this story not what I like in a were/shifter story. It has potential to be better, but as is, its mediocre to me.
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