[AUTHOR INTERVIEW] Interview with Martha Hunt Handler, Author of “Winter of the Wolf”

Today I have Martha Hunt Handler on the blog to talk about her book, Winter of the Wolf!

What inspired Winter of the Wolf”? (Read a more in-depth explanation here.)

I was inspired to write Winter of the Wolf following the sudden death of my best friend’s 12-year-old son. Feeling lost and ill equipped to comfort my friend, I began to journal about the experience. Not long after, I began to hear her son’s voice and he was asking me to write this book. Given the subject matter, it was a difficult and painful book to write, but he was relentless in his belief that this story needed to be told.

Did you have to do a lot of research while writing the book, or was most of the information you included things that you were already familiar with?

I did a fair amount of research for this book. I read every book on Inuit I could find, but honestly, there isn’t much out there. I also read many books on suicide. It was very important to me that I get that part right as I have had lost so many friends this way and I know how especially hard these types of deaths are on their loved ones.

What (if any) were some major changes between the original draft and the published version?

My original draft was 300,000 words! I knew it was ridiculously long, but it was my baby and I was loth to pare it down. Feeling desperate to get this book off my desk, I enlisted the help of a book coach. She had me write a paragraph about why I was writing the book – something I’d never done but clearly should have. Next I had to outline each chapter and write; 1) the triggering event, 2) how my characters would react to the trigger, and 3) what event would make the reader turn to the next chapter. This was an important exercise and it really helped me whittle down all the extraneous bits. Lastly, I had to look at every single sentence and ask myself if it moved along the plot, a character or a scene. If it didn’t, it had to go. By the time I finished all this, it was down to a perfect word count.

Were there any scenes you had to cut that you loved? If so, can you tell me anything about them?

There was so much that got cut, but I’ve got it all in a file and plan to use it so I’m not giving anything away just yet!

Why did you choose to show Sams last day as more of a flashback/memory for Bean, instead of going in chronological order, or having part of the day (the accident, etc.) open up the book?

Originally, I had Sam’s last day near the end of the book. I thought I was building suspense by having readers wondering how it had all gone down. But when I allowed a friend to read an early draft, she pleaded with me to move it forward, explaining that Sam’s death wasn’t the real mystery in the book. I’m very glad I listened to her.

What was the most surprising thing you learned while writing the book?

I was surprised how many tears I shed while writing it! When I opened myself up to hear the boy’s voice, a bunch of other voices came through to share their stories, each more heartbreaking than the last.

Why was Skips mother so dismissive to Bean when she called? Was she afraid that Skip would spiral if he talked to Bean?

I actually don’t know. I think this might be my jumping off point if I write a sequel. My gut says that all is not well at Skip’s house and that his breakdown was only partially brought on by Sam’s death. Stay tuned…

Anything else to add?

Why am I donating all my author proceeds to the Wolf Conservation Center? Glad you asked! Thanks to fairy tales and even Disney, wolves have gotten a very bad rap over the years. In truth they are a keystone species and play a vital role in our ecosystems. At the WCC (nywolf.org) our mission is to 1) educate the public about wolves, 2) advocate on behalf of wolves, and 3) act as a breeding and pre-release facility for the two most critically endangered species, which are the Mexican grey wolves and the red wolves. If you would like to see exactly why wolves are so important, please watch this enlightening video.

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Huge thanks to Martha for answering all of my questions! You can read my review of Winter of the Wolf here, and buy the book now!

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