Monday, October 6, 2014

Hunger Games Go Husky ... by Joanne Sundell

“The Dogs that started it all: Mine and History’s”

Like so many of you who started writing in one genre, content to “plot” along this path, confident in story and style, even rewarded with a measure of success, I had no wish and no idea to become any changeling and be spirited away from historical romance . . . but that’s exactly what happened when I crawled into my Harriet Potter Room Under the Stairs to begin my next novel. That little writing voice inside us all, became obstinate and wouldn’t shut up, and wouldn’t let me figure out any other path to plot except headlong into the wilds of YA historical fiction and fantasy!

How in the name of Katniss Everdeen, did this happen?

I’ve written multiple historical romances to include diverse heroines in a showdown with history. This requires research, lots of research. I’m accustomed to this. My characters are born out of this exercise. In fact, I’ve always relied on history to find my heroes and heroines, and then listen carefully to where they take the story. This is the exact same approach I used when I looked to the far North for the “history” of pioneer women who fought, right alongside men, for life and love on the rugged Alaska frontier. History chronicles their feats and defeats. I wanted to find my next heroine here.

But then … life interrupted.

 (2008 - Zellie and Xander)

My beloved Siberian husky, Xander, left this world and left me. I’d raised and loved seven Siberian huskies over the years, my brave Xander the last. Grief-stricken, I couldn’t concentrate on much of anything; least of all writing an historical romance set in the frozen North. Then, as if by mist and magic and living up to its namesake, my cupboard writing spot began to take on the appearance of a steamer ship bound for Nome in the early decades of the twentieth century; its walls adorned with pictures of sled dogs in harness; race routes of old across tundra and ice; frontier life in Nome and beyond; studies of the Bering Sea, and of far northeast Siberia—where the story of the Siberian husky began. I realized then and there, this is the story I need to tell: where it all began for my beloved Kraepelin, Sigmund, Curie, Mesmer, Zeb, Zellie, and Xander!

(1908 - Nome)

In that moment I wasn’t thinking genre or character or any move away from historical romance, but about what I needed to do to unearth the history of the unique Siberian husky breed. It just felt right and so I was going with it. Little did I know, in that same moment, the voice inside me whispered across arctic winds and already drew me into the story. I was easily “hooked” on this adventure since I loved my huskies and still grieve for each one. The idea of telling the story of the Chukchi dog held great appeal. It would be a way to heal, and a way to keep my beloved huskies alive in the hearts and minds of readers, I hoped.

Thus, I turned the page away from historical romance, set now on a path into the wilds of YA historical fiction and fantasy. Thank goodness I didn’t realize this, since I knew little about middle grade or upper grade minds other than what I’d seen out there for them, like Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Twilight, The Hunger Games, and Divergent. I believe I can argue, however, that mist and magic, much the same as that experienced in these iconic fantasies, showed up on my writing page whether I wanted them to or not! The actual history I unearthed about the Siberian husky is the culprit here. What I learned chilled me to the bone. Forced to free fall into fantasy, I had no choice but to give an actual accounting.

A changeling I am, spirited away to a place where Call of the Wild meets Brother Bear in an epic tale of adventure, endurance, and young love—a heroic journey tested against America’s last frontier.

Are any of you changelings like me?

Have you found yourselves—by magic or by your own hand—unexpectedly spirited away from one genre into another? I want details.


Thank you so much, Patricia, for inviting me to guest post on your busy blog. I’m honored to participate. Henceforth, you shall be known as “My Launch Blog Host!”

 My very best to you, readers all,


Joanne will be giving away one signed hardcover copy of Arctic Storm to a resident of the U.S. or Canada who leaves a comment on this post by midnight Mountain Time Tuesday, October 7th. The winner will be posted here on Wednesday, October 8th.


Now retired from nursing, Joanne Sundell finds solace in her Harriet Potter writing nook, where she devotes her time to research and the craft of writing. She and her husband split their time between the mountains of Colorado and the southern California coast, ever chasing their children and grandchildren. Joanne has six published novels to date, and has been reviewed in Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, and the Historical Novel Society. She retains membership in Women Writing the West and Western Writers of America.

Learn more about Joanne and her books on Goodreads. You can also visit the Five Star Facebook page, Husky Haven of LA, Inc., Five Sibes Siberian HuskyK-9 Facebook News and Reviews, and Mushing Radio Presents Joanne Sundell on Dog Works Radio.

ARCTIC STORM is now available through your local library, bookstore, and online, in Hardcover and Kindle: ARCTIC-STORM-on-Amazon.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sorry you lost Xander, but sounds like you've honored him well with that book.

Anonymous said...

Oh, thank you, Alex. Hey, we're both up early :-) I'm in the middle of finishing the third book in my trilogy, ARCTIC WILL. Losing Xander has left a big hole in my life, but writing him in as a character in my series ... well, it helps a lot. Thanks for being first out of the dog run this morning. My best to you, Joanne

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks so much for being here, Joanne. It's wonderful be be connected with you again. I love the idea behind your trilogy.

Anonymous said...

Thank YOU, Pat, for this opportunity to be on your wonderful Colorado blog. There's suspense involved in my series, and so I hope that qualifies me for a place here with all of you who write mystery and suspense.

Mush love,

Alice Duncan said...

You write the BEST books, Joanne! So glad you're writing again for Frontier Fiction. Sigh. Mush love and all that :-)

Anonymous said...

The Alice is in the house!

You help me write the BEST books I can, for which I'm grateful, indeed. You and I share our love for our doggies, and understand that their past struggles for survival, are ongoing.

You are the Master of Spirits in all you write, a mentor for us all :-)

Mush love and all that , always to The Alice!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

The best books are always those that come from the heart. Wishing you much success in a new genre--and yes, I recommend that writers invest their abilities in a variety of genres. I do that myself.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Jacqueline! I love your recommendation that "writers invest their abilities" in a variety of genres. Well said! I do feel a little like Benjamin Button, however, going to younger audiences :-) And much continued success to you and your books!

:-) Joanne

Sharon Ervin said...

The Muse is versatile and an inspired writer goes where led. Congratulations on being willing. It's the first requirement in every new adventure.

A.K.Andrew said...

This is such an enjoyable post, not only because I like reading about other writers prices, but because in my next novel I've been considering changing from historical fiction to present day. It is a lot of research but like you I enjoy it and love finding my characters in that. So I'm excited to hear what path I may be led down next. So glad to have found your blog.

Anonymous said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting Joanne.

Joanne - I've loved and lost pets too. It's so hard. But I think you've found a unique and memorable to keep Xander's memory. I think it's a great idea and I wish you all success.

Anonymous said...

Prose indeed, your posting, Sharon. "You make me feel like a better writer," if I may loosely quote Jack Nicholson, in As Good As It Gets. I love what you said and appreciate the support for my direction taken in ARCTIC STORM. "Being willing," is a wonderful start, and I thank you.

From my Muse to Yours,


Anonymous said...

Hi, A.K.,

It's very interesting to me, your perhaps going modern :-) with your next book. I'd love to know the first sign to you, you might become a changeling? This might sound NUTS, but I wonder if someone who enjoys writing historical novels, will find the same enjoyment in contemporaries? Let's keep in touch and keep me posted.

Glad we connected at Pat's Place,


Anonymous said...

Margot, thank you for your warm and supportive words!

I really believe I found a way to keep my dogs alive in the hearts and minds of readers, at least this is my hope. I'm not sure when and if I'll get any more huskies. The need is great to save this wonderful dog and I know I "should" rescue some in the breed. For now, it makes me feel good inside, that Zellie and Xander live on, on the printed page. Thank you for "getting it," and for checking in with Pat and me today.

Husky Hugs,


Dean K Miller said...

Hi Joanne and thanks for the wonderful post. If we didn't follow our muse (or our heart/passion) our writing wouldn't be as pure and true. I have a few different stories in my queue to write, including a YA and a paranomalish type story. I doubt I'll ever stay with one genre.

Here's to Xander's memory and fame.