I’ll admit, I had never heard of Skinwalkers before researching alternative shapeshifters for my fantasy romance book. I didn’t want to use the typical romance fantasy stock characters (vampires, werewolves etc) and so thought I’d try something new. I figured with my Native American (Pequot and Cherokee) and Caribbean (St. Kitts) ancestry there would be plenty of folklore and legends to have fun with. Alas after much research I came across the Navajo Skinwalkers.
It seemed a bit nervy of me to put a romantic and erotic spin on this terrifying folklore but I just couldn’t resist. This isn’t your typical run-of-the-mill boogeyman story most cultures have. Many Native Americans secretly truly believe in the existence of Skinwalkers and shy away from discussing it, in the same way some Christians don’t want to discuss demonic spirits. They’re afraid of drawing bad attention their way.
So what are skinwalkers exactly? They’re a class of outcast, mostly male witches and practitioners of black magic. Yeah, that’s right. We’re talking corpse powder, desecration of tribal sand paintings, chanting etc and vile activity that I would rather not mention. (Well okay, cannibalism, incest, necrophilia, cemetery robberies etc). Some of the encounters and claims I read about were horrifying. How the heck could I take a folklore like this and make a light fantasy romance of it? I mean for crying out loud the violence is bad enough, but to also shapeshift into these creatures, the male witches would have to walk around naked with nothing but animal skin over their heads and shoulders. That may seem sexy to some, but for a modern-day story, that is a little hard to work with. (I took the liberty of using wolf-skin wrist cuffs instead *blush*).
What drew me to this evil folklore? I think the shamanistic aspect caught my attention (is the painting below the work of Kirby Sattler? So awesome). I love the mysticism of shamanism and what Native Americans generally stand for. The connection with animal spirits and nature and the spirituality of that connection is fascinating and mysterious. I wish I had delved more into it, but this is a light novella, meant for entertainment (and hot, steamy scenes!)
The research deeply inspired me though. I now feel compelled to write something more serious and in-depth that fully encompasses the beauty, mystery, complexity and depth of Native American Folklore.