Today I have the privilege of introducing author Terry Lynn Johnson and her new MG novel, ICE DOGS. Terry is a conservation officer in Whitefish Falls, Ontario, Canada, and her love of the great outdoors shines through her novels as well. She is also an experienced musher, so for anyone interested in dog sledding, this book is a must read.
A description of the book:
Lost. That’s how fourteen-year-old dogsledder Victoria Secord has felt ever since her father died. A champion musher, Victoria is independent, self-reliant, and thanks to her father, an expert in surviving the unforgiving Alaskan bush. When an injured “city boy” and a snowstorm catch Victoria and her dog team by surprise, a routine trip becomes a life-or-death trek through the frozen wilderness. As temperatures drop and food stores run out, Victoria must find a way to save them all in this high-stakes, high-adventure middle grade novel of endurance, hope, and finding your way back home.
If you are the visual type, watch the amazing trailer (which is just as awesome as the book):
Welcome to From the Mixed-Up Files, Terry! I am so excited to talk with you today about both your book and your own experiences with dog sledding!
First of all, I have to ask, what kinds of things do you do as a conservation officer in Canada? That sounds like a fascinating job!
A Conservation Officer is sometimes called a Game Warden in the States. I work outdoors enforcing Ontario’s natural resources legislation. I go on patrols in boats, canoes, snow machines, airplanes, ATV’s, and by truck. It’s a very diverse job, one day I could be tranquilizing bears, the next collecting DNA from a moose kill site.
Wow. I can see why you write about the wilderness, since you get to experience it up close every day. Is there anything in your book, ICE DOGS, that was based on your job or your own mushing experiences? Did you have to do a lot of book research as well?
Most of the events in the story I have had personal experience with. I don’t want to give spoilers here – but honestly, some of those experiences I’d rather not have had! One thing I did specifically for the story was drink twig tea and chew on the inner bark of trees. I also forced my husband to do it with me so I can watch his reaction. He’s a good sport.
That twig tea and bark chew sounds disgusting. I’m glad I only have to experience it through your writing. I also loved experiencing Victoria’s special relationship with her dogs, particularly her lead dog, Bean. Can you share with us some of your experiences with your team?
Most of the moments that stick in my mind involve just being with the dogs. My dogs were such characters and fun to watch as they learned. Seeing them think and respond to problems we came across on the trails, that was the best part for me. And I’ll never forget those quiet morning runs – the sled skimming hard trails, being surrounded by hoar frost-covered branches that sparkled like diamonds as the sun rose. Those mornings fill up my soul.
I love your vivid description of the winter wilderness. Your book is full of them, too. I especially loved the way you described the snow and its effect on the surroundings (and the people and animals, too). Any advice for the writers out there on ways to capture the setting in your writing?
An early version of Ice Dogs went out to agents and the feedback I got from one agent suggested that setting is a character and this story would benefit from a little more description and layers. That turned out to be great advice because after I revised, I found my agent Caryn Wiseman from ABLA. How to do it? What works for me every time is to go snowshoeing. Whenever I have trouble with a manuscript, that always seems to bring me back to centre. Though, that might not work for everyone. I’ve heard some writers think of their best scenes in the shower.
It’s clear you spend a lot of time outdoors! Have you ever been lost while mushing?
I did get lost one day for a few hours in heavy snow. This is the experience that my premise came from for the book. For me, my lead dog knew the way at a fork in the trail, and I trusted him. For Victoria, unfortunately she must go through the situation of what could have happened…
And I know your readers will love going on the adventure with Victoria. (I did.) To be honest, reading your book made me me want to take up dog sledding. Do you have any advice for those who are interested in learning more about mushing and wilderness survival training?
Outward Bound is a good place to start. I used to run dogs with them, so I know the quality of their instructors. They teach winter survival, take you out on trips, and have fun doing it. Another fantastic place to research dogsledding opportunities in your area is www.sleddogcentral.com.
Thank you so much for coming on the blog and sharing your experiences and your book, Terry!
And don’t forget, ICE DOGS will be releasing February 4th, so add it to your wish list now. Readers, as a special bonus, Terry is offering an autographed hardcover copy of her book, ICE DOGS, as well as some matching doggy bag swag! Enter below for a chance to be the lucky winner. The winner will be announced on January 30, 2014.
Elissa Cruz is currently experiencing the snow in her own home state of Utah. She is not a fan of the cold. You can learn more about her than you ever wanted to by visiting her website at www.elissacruz.com.