When I was doing kiddie theater in the mid-nineties, I rolled up and down the east coast with another actor in a van filled with sets and costumes, performing a couple of shows a day, then spending the night driving to the next town and finding a hotel within our budget; not always an easy thing to manage in the middle of nowhere.
One season, my partner and I burrowed deep into northern Pennsylvania heading toward a little town called Kane. We left the highway behind us pretty early in the trip and traveled on first secondary and then tertiary roads, the thick forest gradually looming on either side of the increasingly thin ribbon of road, trundling along behind log-laden lumber trucks. I remember thinking, my head against the glass, that the forest outside looked ominous, as if it went on forever, and one could become completely lost even a few feet in. Sucked into the dark.
Kane was at that time a tiny little town, cute. The houses were big country sprawlers, with narrow northeast porches and the school, where we were slated to perform, was a block of concrete stuck in the middle of a wide lawn.
There were sprigs of dried flowers on nearly every door. I remember that vividly. (That was our first clue that something about Kane was different).
After finally finding a place to stay, we passed out. The morning came, a gray thing, and we moved through the town, hunting for breakfast, and noticed a few more strange things about the place. There were lots of shoe stores. Selling…that’s right, shoes. And places that sold gloves. Okay, you’re saying, “So what? It’s cold in PA.” Well, then, we went to the school…the home of the Timberwolves…
…And it all came together. OBVIOUSLY, this was a town filled with werewolves.
Soon, I had it all figured out. There were the wolf people, and the deer people. The deer people were the ones in the houses with the WOLFESBANE flowers on their doors, and they were constantly fighting off the wolf people, who needed many many shoes and gloves because they were always poking through theirs with their claws when zee moon was full….
Okay, not exactly the Weight of Moonlight, but that was the seed that sprouted nearly fifteen years later, in the kids department of Barnes and Noble on the upper west side of Manhattan where I worked a few years ago.
A well-heeled lady with silver hair and excellent posture glided into the teen section and began grilling me about “the next big trend.” I started off by quoting the NY times article from a couple weeks before which tackled this very question….was it going to be werewolves or zombies? They said zombies. I told the lovely patrician that I disagreed with them; that zombies were too limited to have the staying power that werewolves could, but that the challenge would be to spin the myth away from the bloodthirsty creatures that they had always been in fiction. She asked me about the “originating myth” of the werewolf. I rattled off something that sounded half-intelligent. Then, she asked if I was a student. No, a writer. She asked if I had a werewolf book. I said no.
Then, I remembered Kane.
The next day, I began to write…about Caine, PA. The home of Mason and Mel…
Thank you, lady, wherever you are.