About the Chanku--a note from Kate to her readers, updated in November 2010 (and please note--many of these questions are answered in Wolf Tales 12, but I don't want spoilers in this background piece):
I absolutely love immersing myself in the world of the Chanku. For those not familiar with my Wolf Tales series, Chanku are shapeshifters who originated eons ago on the rugged Himalayan steppes. Much of their history has been lost—they honestly don't know if they evolved or possibly were planted by some alien culture—what little they know of their past comes from ancient writings that were rediscovered by Anton Cheval, the "uber alpha" of the combined packs. Essentially, there's very little to go on as they discover their place in the modern world, though as the series evolves, they are beginning to learn more of their ancient history, which helps them understand their place in this ever-evolving society.
The Chanku ability to shift and knowledge of their heritage was lost over time as they emigrated away from their Tibetan birthplace and spread out about the world Now the few survivors who still carry the genetics to become Chanku live among humans, most of them unaware of their shapeshifting birthright even though they carry the DNA of this amazing species. Chanku are a matriarchal society, with the genes for shapeshifting passed from mother to child. However, the ability to shift is dependent upon certain nutrients found only in grasses native to their Tibetan birthplace. Without those nutrients, Chanku often live lives of quiet desperation, always feeling apart from human society without realizing why.
They are creatures ruled by a powerful libido that is especially potent after they shift into their wolven form, though their highly sexed natures affect them long before they ever shift. In many ways, their powerful sex drive has ruled them over the centuries, with many of the women turning to prostitution to survive, a career choice that actually works for them in many ways. Though not immune to human diseases until they actually enable their Chanku birthright through the nutrients their bodies require, they still rarely fall ill, even as humans. Once their bodies have made the change from human to chanku, they are no longer affected by human diseases—HIV/AIDS and other STDs, cancers, the common cold...none of the bugs of modern society are a danger to Chanku.
Their metamorphosis from human to Chanku is centered in a small gland unique to their kind, located near the base of the hypothalamus. Once they've had the nutrients that activate the gland, they achieve the ability to shift, their immunity to human disease and powerful telepathic abilities. In their matriarchal society, Chanku females have total control of reproduction once they gain the ability to shift, however, once they are Chanku, a female can only become pregnant while in wolf form. Some of the Chanku are telepathic even before they shift, something that increases in strength after they become Chanku. Their telepathic abilities, what they call mindtalking, are an essential part of their mating bond— a powerful mental connection that opens everything in their minds, all their memories, to their bonded mate. That powerful link lasts for life. The strength of the pack is what guides them, the bond with their mates makes them whole.
The name Chanku is, in reality, a local name for a sub-species of Tibetan wolf, Canis lupus laniger.
As far as some of the individual characters who return in book after book, Anton Cheval is my "uber alpha." In a matriarchal society, he still defers to the love of his life, Keisha Rialto, but Anton's arrogance, which is supported by his amazing intelligence and magical abilities, is balanced by his profoundly neurotic personality. He is extremely intense and often internalizes his failings with the worry that he has failed his people. He tends to forget that the other members of the pack are all capable adults, something of which his mate doesn't hesitate to remind him. Anton has appeared in most of the Wolf Tales stories, and I always look forward to writing him, especially now that he has an infant daughter to worry about. He's tall and lean, very sexy with a sort of "David Copperfield" intensity about him...he's also a hero who is older than the traditional romance hero—currently, in the series, in his mid-fifties. I love the fact Anton has all the attributes of the perfect romance hero, but he's also flawed, and filled with vulnerabilities that make him, to me, at least, an even more compelling character. He makes mistakes, but he always learns from those mistakes, and his love for his mate, his child and his packmates is unshakable.
The overlying theme of the Wolf Tales series is love—my Chanku love without regard to race, gender, or age, although my characters involved in sexual situations are obviously all above the age of consent. The characters--excluding the many children the pack now has--range in age from twenty-one to sixty-four and represent a multitude of races. Many of them have tragic or conflicted backgrounds. The one constant that connects them is that they are all Chanku. They are imbued with a native sense of honor and integrity, something that sets them apart from many humans. They are all finding their way in their new order, once they discover their true heritage. The binding force is love, and the power of love to heal. I think that's the main theme of most of my stories
I recently wrote the final story in the WOLF TALES saga--Wolf Tales 12 takes place five years after the story in Wolf Tales 11, the only one of the books with any gap in time between storylines. It's a bigger book because there is so much to say--but I can assure readers that all your questions about the Chanku will be answered, and while I imagine there are still things you'll want to learn, I'm hoping to convince my publisher that we really need a "second generation" series. Lily and little Alex, and all the other children in the growing pack have some fascinating stories to tell. Wish me luck!