By Jonathan McJunkin
Andrea Cremer is an Assistant History Professor here at this “very nice liberal arts college in Saint Paul,” as her biography phrases it. She’s especially interested in the early modern period, recently teaching a course on the Gender and Sexuality of Colonial America. And when she’s not teaching, she writes about werewolves.Sexy teenage werewolves.Nightshade, a young adult novel centered on Calla Tor’s life among feuding packs and love interests, made the New York Times Bestseller list last week, at number nine for children’s chapter books.This book, the first installment in a trilogy, is the author’s first novel.”Honestly, it’s still quite surreal,” said Cremer of her immediate critical and commercial success. “I have been overwhelmed and overjoyed by the novel’s success. It has been an incredible surprise as debut novelists, like myself, usually take a while to build up a readership.”Though Nightshade stars werewolves, the characters of the novel aren’t your typical lycanthropes that savagely change to uncontrollable beasts at the full moon. Giving her werewolves a more nuanced realization and full characterization was a conscious choice, Cremer said.She drew creative inspiration from childhood memories. “I grew up in the Northwoods of Wisconsin and my childhood was spent out in the woods building forts and creating imaginary worlds with my best friend and brother,” Cremer said.”The wilderness was always magical to me and full of possibility,” Cremer said. “Werewolves as depicted in pop culture strike me as horrible amalgamations of man and beast, bringing together the worst aspects of both. I wanted to create a mythology of wolf-shifters that reflected wolves as I saw them: intelligent, graceful, social-an embodiment of freedom and the joy of wilderness.”The book has generated a large cohort of loyal fans, and glowing reviews of Nightshade are all over the blogosphere. A reviewer on one site, Chick Lit Teens, raved: “Even after I finished reading, it still lingered in my mind for weeks to come.”Cremer’s background in history may seem incompatible with fantasy writing, but the author maintains that her academic career has greatly influenced her career as a novelist.”My scholarly background directly influenced the world I built in Nightshade as I’ve re-imagined the history of witchcraft as a major site of conflict that acts as a catalyst for narrative,” Cremer said. “I draw on early modern philosophy and debates about the state of nature in order to facilitate a plot that pits fate and against free will.