Today, we’re excited to be kicking off the blog tour for The Wolf Chronicles by Dorothy Hearst. The first book was published by Simon & Schuster’s adult division in 2008, but over the years the series’ younger audience has grown considerably!
Book 3, Spirit of the Wolves, hits store shelves this month, but we’ve got a chance for you to win all three books in the series! Keep reading for details, but first check out this exclusive guest post from Dorothy:
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Writing the Wolf’s Eye (Nose) View
by Dorothy Hearst
When I got the idea for The Wolf Chronicles, I knew that I wanted to tell the story of how the wolf became the dog from a wolf’s point of view, but had no idea how to do so. The challenge ended up being a blessing in disguise. Writing from a wolf’s perspective made me look at the world afresh, and pushed me to develop my writing voice. =I couldn’t take anything for granted, and ended up avoiding some clichés and other first-time author mistakes I might have made. For example, I started to write “leaves blanketing the ground,” and realized that wolves don’t have blankets. So I ended up finding the phrase “a pelt of newly fallen leaves,” which was so much better.
Kaala’s voice was very strong as soon as I started writing; I knew exactly who she was and how she sounded. Yet I understood that I had to make her a believable wolf to make the story work. I also knew that I didn’t want a book that was cutesy and condescending to animals. I wanted the wolves of the Wide Valley to have complex and believable lives, thoughts, and emotions.
I started by thinking about books that portrayed animals really well. The first that came to mind was Watership Down, which I read when I was about eleven. Though I hated that the female rabbits were so passive, I loved how Adams portrayed rabbits not as cute little bunnies, but as complex characters with needs consistent with a rabbit’s life. I was also inspired by the dragons in Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books. I was enchanted with how the horses, dogs, and mythical creatures in Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books were absolutely convincing, and very real forces in the stories.
I realized that one of the things these books had in common was that the animals had very specific drives, wants, and needs that were shaped by what that sort of animal would value, and by the animal’s biology and behavior.
I did my first rounds of research into wolves’ lives, and then developed Kaala’s world view around what would be most important to a young wolf: getting enough to eat, earning a place her pack, success in the hunt, love and acceptance.
Then I turned to the specifics of how wolves perceive the world. One of the biggest challenges was anthropomorphizing the wolves enough but not too much. If I had been completely accurate in showing how wolves perceive the world, the books would have been incomprehensible to my human readers, because wolves rely so much on scent and sound. But I didn’t want the wolves to come across as people in wolf suits. To get the right balance, I just wrote and rewrote until I was happy with Kaala’s wolfness.
Once I got the wolf’s point of view, it ended up being very easy to think like a wolf, and I often felt like I was a wolf when I was writing. The only thing is that that I now often think like a wolf when I’m not in the Wide Valley and sometime growl at inappropriate moments. The wolf perspective will probably be with me for a long time.
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Inspired by the theory that it was wolves, and later dogs, that made humans the dominant species on earth by teaching mankind to hunt cooperatively and form complex societies, The Wolf Chronicles begins 14,000 years ago with Promise of the Wolves. It is told from the point of view of lovable Kaala—an outcast young wolf who has been charged with watching over humans in order to prevent them from losing touch with nature and thus destroying the world.
Before the wolves barged in the door, demanding that their story be told, Dorothy Hearst was a senior editor at Jossey-Bass, where she published books for nonprofit, public, and social change leaders. She currently lives, writes, and plays with dogs in Berkeley, California. Spirit of the Wolves, the third and final title in the Wolf Chronicles, will be released December 2. For more information, and to download free CCSS-aligned discussion questions for all three novels, visit her website.
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