Interview with Lauren Jankowski, Author of The Shapeshifter Chronicles
I really like the idea of people with extraordinary powers existing alongside us and I’m fascinated by the idea of a hidden culture within our own. And there are different factions of shape shifters. I have a real affection for protectors because they have a genuine love for mankind (for all its flaws), enough that they regularly give their lives protecting humans, most of whom have no idea they exist.
My love of shape shifters goes back to when I was a child. When asked what my favorite animal was, I’d always respond “All of them.” If asked what animal I’d like to be, the answer was always, “All of them.” I have always loved animals and when I first started creating characters in my mind, I swear, they could just turn into animals. It made sense in my imagination.
I love getting lost in the world in my head, especially in the current political climate. Despite my best efforts, I’ve grown extremely attached to my characters. I adore them (oh my god, the experiments especially). I find writing to be incredibly cathartic at times and also rejuvenating. This series has been with me through some incredibly dark and trying times in my life. I love following the journey these characters are on. Also, a bunch of strong badass women kicking ass and saving the world? What’s not to love about that?
The hardest part of writing the series is remembering that the reader doesn’t have all the information that I do. I can sometimes be a little too vague. Also, the different groups of shape shifters are sometimes difficult to keep track of. It’s really hard giving them all a very distinct feel because they are separate groups with separate motivations (not to mention different histories).
I wanted to talk more about Blitz. Let’s start with something simple and large: every time I look at your cover, I see a badass. What else can you tell us about her?
Ah, Blitz, I love this character so much. She’s an experiment, a 7-series and she’s wonderful and unique.
Blitz is a survivor, someone who has been to hell and back. She’s a fighter and in the series, she’s fighting against an adversary who is so much more powerful than her in every way. And she does get knocked down on occasion, but Blitz always gets right back up and continues fighting. I love writing this character because she’s always kind of . . . she doesn’t quite know where she fits in the world. Blitz doesn’t neatly fit into any one category. She lives and fights alongside protectors, but she’s definitely not a protector. In this book, she’s still kind of figuring out who she is and what attachments (if any) she feels for the shape shifters she lives with. The world puzzles her and, unlike most of the other experiments, she has no interest in attempting to blend into it.
Something I really love about the fifth book is Blitz’s interactions with Eris, the trickster. Because here you have two outsiders who are incredibly different from each other. Blitz is very stoic, unflappable, emotionless, and indifferent. Eris gives 0 fucks about anything, but she is a very emotional character (she knows how to use her emotions too). At one point, Eris says to Blitz, “Embrace your anger, whatever embers remain. Anger is a powerful tool and motivator, one that should never be disregarded.”
Blitz is both aromantic and asexual, like you! Does she experience these identities in a similar way you do? And if not, what’s different?
I had to think about this for a while because Blitz is probably the most unusual aro-ace ever. My other main character, Alex, is solidly aromantic asexual and her experience as an aro-ace lines up more with my own experience (she’s firmly aro-ace and has never identified in any other way). Blitz is a whole lot more fluid and often drifts between aro and Gray-A. So that’s quite different from my own experience.
Asexuality is almost unheard of among shape shifters. It’s even rarer than it is among humans and shape shifters who identify as ace are often given the side-eye and this is doubly true of aro-aces. So that’s another thing that makes Blitz an outsider. Every experiment falls on the ace spectrum in some way, but the Grenich Corporation (the place that experiments on shape shifters) stripped that word and identity from them. So Blitz didn’t even have the terms for her own identity and it was only when Alex brought it up that she kind of had a moment of, “Oh, okay, that seems to describe me.” Blitz also doesn’t understand the idea of taking pride in one’s identity. While Alex is proud of her identity and comfortable being open with being aro-ace, Blitz is more reserved and has no idea what it means to be proud of her identity.