When I invited the writing team and co-founders of Empyream Press how they would describe themselves. Bonita and Camila replied: We write urban fantasy on the brink. Please welcome this dynamic duo to No Wasted Ink.
Hi, Wendy. Thank you for allowing us to share our work with your readers. We’re Bonita Gutierrez and Camilla Ochlan, co-founders of Empyrean Press.
We first met each other in college in a production of Three Penny Opera. And after college (ahem…many years later), we reconnected in Los Angeles. It was during this time that we really got to know each other. We discovered that we were kindred fangirls, sharing a love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural. Deeply layered characters, biting humor, and devastating consequences are our kind of storytelling. So naturally, we wanted to work together.
Flash forward eight years, and we’re knee-deep in our third book in The Werewolf Whisperer series (There are three novellas as well).
When and why did you begin writing?
Camilla: I’ve wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Bonita: Though I always had stories in my head, I never thought about writing as a career. I was always more interested in acting. On stage, in front of the camera, that’s where my heart resided. It wasn’t until my screenwriter husband encouraged me to write my own scripts and get my own work out into the world that I entertained the idea of becoming a writer. But I don’t think I actually considered myself a writer until midway through writing our second novel, The Alpha & Omega: Book 2 of The Werewolf Whisperer. I knew we had an exciting story, and the fact that I’d helped breathe life into it, made me realize that I was actually good at this writing thing. That’s when I started calling myself an author.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
Under our Empyrean Press banner, we are finishing the third main novel in our Werewolf Whisperer series — BLOOD & BONES. We’re damn excited about this story.
Our girls Lucy and Xochi have been on quite a ride. BLOOD & BONES brings this part of their journey to a shocking conclusion. Lots of devastating consequences. But Lucy and Xochi’s story is far from over. They still have a lot of roads to travel. Be on the lookout for BLOOD & BONES in the late fall.
What inspired you to write this book?
Bonita: Camilla’s inspiration for THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER came on the set of her short film, Dog Breath. The story forming in her head involved a “werewolf apocalypse” and a cop whose special knack for training dogs turns into a bizarre knack for commanding werewolves. I thought it was an awesome idea.
Originally, THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER was conceived as a web series. We even wrote the first thirteen episodes of season one. We had every intention of shooting the series, but as the Werewolf Whisperer world grew, so did the budget. As is often the case in show biz, our imaginations had exceeded our means. But we didn’t let that get in our way. We had a story to tell, so we got to work translating the web series into a novel series.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Since our background is in theater, film and television, our writing leans toward the cinematic — visual and action-packed. We are both very interested in exploring the inner journeys of our main characters, unwinding psychology, letting them grow.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
Camilla: THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER just popped into my head. It was as if it had always been.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Evolve or die.
But really, we just want to tell a good story. So, when we hear things like this from readers: “non-stop, action packed”, “a thrill ride”, “unexpected, not your typical werewolf story”, “destined to be a classic”, “really cinematic” — we feel like we’ve done our job.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Bonita: There’s something of both of us in all our books. That being said, Xochitl Magaña is mostly based on me. I’m a person of mixed race, and that informs a big part Xochi’s character. So, peppering the story with a bit of my life experience was a no-brainer.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
Bonita: Writers of all mediums (film, television, comics, books) have influenced me at one point or another. I’m especially drawn to writers who create deeply flawed characters. I love anti-heroes. Humans are imperfect creatures. It’s what makes us interesting.
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?
Camilla: Ray Bradbury. His poetry hits me right in the heart. His stories are unforgettable.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
Our covers are designed by Christian Bentulan of Covers by Christian. For marketing purposes, we needed our covers to say “Urban Fantasy,” and an author friend of ours recommended Christian to us. But our title page’s art was designed by Bonita’s cousin, Richard “Rico” Rodriguez. The concept mashes the work of Frank Frazetta with DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man. We call it our “Vitruvian Wolf.”
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Bonita: Write and keep writing until you finish the story. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or not. Writing is re-writing and re-writing and re-writing.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
We work to push our storytelling to a deeper level, more real, more psychological. We see greater possibilities in the urban fantasy genre – beyond the expected and comfortable.
We want our books to shred the usual tropes and leave them huddled in the corner crying for mommy.
Camilla Ochlan & Bonita Gutierrez
Los Angeles, California
THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER