Mundie Moms

Monday, February 28, 2011

Blog Stop with By These Ten Bones author Clare Dunkle

Today we have By These Ten Bones author, Clare Dunkle with us. I've quickly become a fan of Clare's works, as her books have an air of mystery, suspense and are at times a little dark. By These Ten Bones is a fascinating book with an intriguing werewolf lore set in the beautiful country of Scotland. Here's a little bit about the book-

Published by Square Fish
Re-Released on February 15th, 2011

There's hidden places all over this land-old, old places. Places with a chain for them to chain up the wolf when it's time.

A bone-chilling tale of werewolves and love, set in medieval Scotland

A mysterious young man has come to a small Highland town. His talent for wood carving soon wins the admiration of the weaver's daughter, Maddie. Fascinated by the silent carver, she sets out to gain his trust, only to find herself drawn into a terrifying secret that threatens everything she loves.

There is an evil presence in the carver's life that cannot be controlled, and Maddie watches her town fall under a shadow. One by one, people begin to die. Caught in the middle, Maddie must decide what matters most to her-and what price she is willing to pay to keep it (quoted from Goodreads).

How would you describe your book, By These Ten Bones?
I don’t think of BY THESE TEN BONES as a scary book. To me, it’s a love story with scary moments. And although it’s fantasy, the details concerning medieval Scotland have been vetted as carefully as if it were historical fiction. Maddie, the town weaver’s daughter, becomes interested in a pale, green-eyed woodcarver comes to her tiny town in the Highlands. He won’t talk to her at first, but she refuses to give up and gradually gains his trust. But when an evil creature attacks the carver and leaves him almost dead, she learns a terrifying secret about him—a secret that threatens the lives of everyone she knows. Soon people in her town begin to die, and Maddie has to decide what to do.

I love a great werewolf story. What inspired you to write a werewolf book? How is your werewolf lore unique?
When this book first came out in 2005, werewolves weren’t the celebrities they are nowadays, but J.K. Rowling had put one in her books, and reading about Professor Lupin got me thinking about how interesting werewolves can be. I had just finished dealing with goblins, dwarves, and elves, and I love monsters and magic. Werewolves seemed like a logical next step.

Two things color my interpretation of werewolf lore. First, I don’t see wolves as part of the “dark side.” To me, they’re fascinating, intelligent animals with an appeal of their own, so I have trouble associating them with the “wolf” phase of a werewolf’s life, in which he or she is completely unable to maintain control and winds up slaughtering people at random.

The second thing that colors my interpretation is a childhood dread of rabies. A rabid wolf bites a man; that man then becomes rabid and attacks his own family in his frenzy—doesn’t that sound a lot like a werewolf? And the wolf isn’t to blame here. The virus is the real killer. So my “werewolf” is a supernatural parasite traveling from host to host like a disease germ instead of being a member of the dog family. I’m more afraid of rabies germs than wolves!

What do you admire about Maddie?
I love Maddie’s confidence. When she can’t get the carver to speak to her at first, she doesn’t hang her head and wonder what’s wrong with her. She looks for clues to his problems instead. And I love her optimism. She’s ready to help anybody who needs help, and it doesn’t even occur to her that some problems might be beyond helping. I also love her comfortable relationship with her parents, which comes from my history research. Quite often, Highlanders lived their whole lives within a few hundred yards of their extended families. Maybe because they knew they would be together for a lifetime, they tended to get along, and historical Highland culture has little record of the parent-teen conflict that we assume is going to happen to everyone we know in modern America.

What author has had a huge impact on you as either a reader or/and an author?
J.R.R. Tolkien had a tremendous impact on me and my writing. I came across his works quite early: I read his books around the age of nine or ten and reread them obsessively for the next several years. I even memorized all the LORD OF THE RINGS poetry!

Tolkien’s writing is uneven, but I took a lot away from those books and those poems. Take, for instance, a verse like this one:

“Cold be hand and heart and bone,
And cold be sleep under stone:
Never more to wake on stony bed,
Never, till the Sun fails and the Moon is dead.
In the black wind the stars shall die,
and still on gold here let them lie,
till the dark lord lifts his hand
over dead sea and withered land.” (from THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, Ch. 8)

These are simple, strong words: cold, bone, sleep, stone, die, gold, hand. They combine to form images that are startling because they are so direct: black wind, dark lord, dead sea. There’s nothing flowery here at all, and that’s why it works. Tolkien, a linguist and scholar of Anglo-Saxon, understood very well how to treat the old words of our language with respect.

To this day, when I read a word like “bone,” echoes from Tolkien’s pages come back to me. I think that’s why I wanted the word “bone” in the title of BY THESE TEN BONES. But the title isn’t a quotation from Tolkien. It’s actually Shakespeare’s line, from the play HENRY VI.

What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?
I’m the glue that holds my family together and keeps our home livable and lovable. That’s a fulltime job by itself! And I love it. I also like reading and researching the next book. And daydreaming, of course—I can never get enough of that.

Since we're huge fans of paranormal books, what is one paranormal talent you'd like to have?
The old Rumpelstiltskin ability to spin straw into gold would be pretty sweet. That would keep the wolves from the door!


Thank you so much Clare for being with us today!

To learn more about By These Ten Bones please go here.

You can read a sample of the book here .

You can see what Mattie's world looks like here

To learn more about Clare and her writing, be sure to visit her site here

Be sure to stop by The Hate-Mongering Tart at:, the next stop on Clare's tour.


  1. OMGosh, it's so fun to hear about another person who memorized Tolkien's poems. Great interview!

  2. I am on my way to order this book right now. It sounds amazing! Two of my favorite elements, Scotland and werewolves, there's no way I can pass this up!

  3. Heather- I think you'll enjoy this book. Did you see Clare's pictures of Scotland on her blog? I so want to go there.

  4. Great interview, Mundies! And thanks for the link-over! <3

  5. Hi Kristin! Thank you so much! I'm looking forward to your blog stop.