In the UK our wilderness is reasonably safe, we might get midged and people regularly fall off things but there are no predators scarier than us.
So Penny, how did you research the setting for your story? Did you go where there are BEARS?
Thank you so much for inviting me to visit and babble from the comfy chair! All large animals have the potential to be dangerous, not just predators. Cows are herbivores and they squish people into jelly all the time. Well, maybe not all the time, but it does happen. Interestingly enough, roughly 85% of a black bear’s diet is vegetation, not meat.
I’ve only been where there’s bears once in my life, and it was fairly memorable. As a teenager, my Venture crew (a kind of coed boy scouting) went on an eighty mile hike in the mountains of New Mexico. Black bears, mountain lions, snakes, we were going into the wild. (I also almost stepped on a rattlesnake, but that’s another story.)
We were lectured by a ranger on how to backpack in bear country safely before we were allowed to go out on the trail for our week-long adventure. He said as long as we hung all of our ‘smellables’ high in a tree in a special bag at night–and kept our hiking backpacks away from our tents–the bears wouldn’t come into our campsite and we’d be fine.
Provided we didn’t get between a mama bear and her cub. If that happened, all bets were off.
I had done very little to get in shape and completely ignored the fact I was going from sea level to mountains. It rained on us almost the entire time. I froze. My backpack was a sodden sixty pounds. So pudgy, footsore, out-of-shape me was huffing and puffing about fifty feet behind everyone else–viciously hating everything–when suddenly the entire crew screamed and ran back down the trail toward me.
There was a bear. They’d turned the corner and a three hundred pound black bear was thirty feet away, hanging out in the middle of the narrow mountain trail. We got into a protective huddle, waved our walking sticks and shouted–but the bear didn’t move. She was looking at something. Something farther up the mountain and behind us.
This wasn’t any random bear. It was a mama bear. I think we all realized we had managed to do one of the two things we were told specifically not to do at the same moment.
Being dramatic teenagers, we thought we were all going to die. We ran backward in a terror-huddle until her cub was ahead of us. I’m not ashamed to say the yelling took on a very shrill, desperate edge. Even from the boys.
Thankfully, the cub decided we were too loud and too weird to be around and scooted to mama, who turned and ambled down the mountain. They were both out of sight in seconds and barely made noise when they moved through the dense undergrowth. Squirrels in a city park are noisier. It wasn’t until they’d gone that we realized not a single person had thought to take a picture. They blended in so well we might’ve walked past fifty bears and not noticed them. Let me tell you, we went onward with a close eye on the brush!
I drew on that experience a lot for this story. Bears will leave people alone unless they associate people with food or are threatened. The bears in this particular area got three chances. If they were tearing up campsites (because they’d learned people=food) then they’d get a yellow ear tag and released somewhere else. If they did it again, they got another yellow ear tag.
After two tries–if they persisted in approaching people–then they were considered a nuisance bear and would be shot. Because by then they had no fear of people and could be very aggressive and dangerous.
But they’d learned the lack of fear from people carelessly leaving food out, which ties directly into my book and the opposing viewpoints of the two main characters about how to manage the wilderness area they both love.
Can you tell me a little about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?
I used to be a farrier, but I had to give it up due to an old injury in my elbow. Right now I’m focusing on writing. It’s working out for me so far. I read constantly and have an ever-increasing list of movies and tv shows I adore, and adore to analyze.
When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?
I brew my own beer. I drink a wide variety of other beer too, but it’s fun to brew my own. My Not Quite Shakespeare story takes place in a pub, and my beta reader said I managed to make a description of drinking beer as sensual as someone getting a blow job! At the time, she was drinking the chocolate stout I’d brewed as inspiration for that scene.
What are you reading?
At this very moment I’m rereading the third book in the Black Tide Rising series, Islands of Rage and Hope by John Ringo. It’s my favorite zombie series right now. I read a lot of things that aren’t romance, but I did just finish Angel Martinez’s scifi romance Prisoner 374215 which was a brutal and brilliant portrayal of a man caught up in an intergalactic war. I loved it.
In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation or character?
I usually have situation. For Winter’s Risk, I wanted to challenge myself by taking a trope and burying it under well-rounded characterization and witty dialogue. So I picked ‘huddling for warmth’ and decided a park ranger should be one character…and who would a park ranger have a natural conflict with? An enthusiastic environmentalist! Two seconds later, Alex and Martin stepped onto the page.
Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them? Do you have a crisp mental picture of them or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?
They absolutely do not arrive fully fledged. I wish that were the case. I need my characters to do certain things to move the plot along, but they have to have a personal reason for doing it besides to move the plot along. The plot has to move because of the choices they make, not the other way around. Discovering the reasons behind the choices is how I develop my characters into realistic people. Alex has a deeply personal reason to loath Martin’s interference with the trail system Alex wanted to install.
Is there any genre you would love to write, ditto one you would avoid like a rattlesnake?
I love romance, of course. A close second would be science fiction and fantasy. I keep threatening to write a zombie apocalypse book. There’s not really a genre I’d avoid. If I had an idea for a story, I’d write it.
Do you find there to be a lot of structural differences between a relationship driven story and one where the romance is a sub plot?
As Kipling says, ‘There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, and every single one of them is right’.
There’s far more than sixty-nine ways to structure a book. WWZ is a hundred short stories. The Book Thief is narrated by Death. The Giver employs the absence of color to illustrate a futuristic society and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children depends on old photography tricks to bring the story to life. First person, third person, flashbacks, voice-over–the choices are endless. The point of a story is you tell the reader a story. It always has a beginning, a middle, and an end. No matter what the genre.
So, no, I don’t think there is much difference structuring a romance. Perhaps that’s just me. I liked how I could really sink my teeth into this question!
Villains are incredibly important in fiction since they challenge the main protagonists and give them something to contend with beyond the tension of a developing relationship. The cruel sea. The serial killer. The society itself. Your hero’s inner demons. What sort of villains do you prize?
Oh lordy, it depends on the story. All of the above? I just had a wild thought about a serial killer on the Titanic…. I love the hero’s inner demons. I want my main character to work through something huge and change as a person (hopefully into a better person). But what if the inner demons win? What if they come out on the other side a worse person? Cute little Anakin Skywalker grew up to be Darth Vader. But I blame the Jedi temple–and am getting off the subject.
What are you working on at the moment?
I always have several things going at once. Right now my favorite thing is a science fiction/romance about prisoners at a mining facility in the Von Ryan belt. Our plucky hero is plotting to hitch a ride to freedom by sneaking aboard a colony ship, except he doesn’t know the colony ship has been targeted by terrorists.
Could we please have an excerpt of something?
Absolutely. I’m giving away a copy at the end of my blog tour to a lucky reader who comments on any of the posts at any of the stops. Only one entry per person per blog will be counted! A complete list of tour stops is posted at my blog. Comments are eligible until July 21th.
Veteran park ranger Alexander Doyle is tracking a nuisance bear when he runs across obnoxious environmentalist Martin Ramirez. He and Martin have clashed before, when Martin and the protestors under his leadership ended a plan to expand the network of paved trails and improve accessibility. Given a choice, Alex would rather face the bear.
When the dangerous grizzly attacks them and Martin is gravely wounded, his only chance of survival is Alex’s determination to keep him alive through the night. But they’re stranded miles from any hope of rescue with the year’s first snowstorm coming in fast.
Alex’s lip lifted in a sneer. Fancy finding him all the way out here. For a moment he forgot he was trailing a bear that had already killed two people. He called out to the other man.
“It’s a little out of the way for a protest, don’t you think?”
He was gratified to see Martin jolt and drop his expensive camera. Pity he had a strap around his neck, and it didn’t plunge all the way to the bottom.
“What the hell?” Martin spun around and snapped right back, recognizing him immediately. “Doyle, it’s a free country. I can hike and take pictures if I want to.” He sounded rather petulant for a man pushing fifty, but he still acted like it was the 60s. Go flower power and all that crap.
Alex rubbed his shoulders against the tree, idly scratching his back. “I’m not after you, you big twat. Have you seen a grizzly? Two yellow tags?” He didn’t expect Martin to do something as civilized as help him, and he wasn’t disappointed.
Martin paused, considered his answer, and then jutted his chin out and glared. Alex had two decades of experience dealing with tourists, summertime volunteers, cheating boyfriends, and random idiots. Like the idiot standing in front of him. He knew he was about to hear a lie even before Martin answered like sugar wouldn’t melt in his mouth.
“No sir, Mr. Ranger, sir,” he said sweetly. “I haven’t seen anything bigger than a bird all day. Can I assist you further, Mr. Ranger, sir?”
“Don’t fuck with me,” Alex snarled, and walked to meet him on the edge of the . He could still see the girl’s mangled body if he closed his eyes. He jabbed a finger toward Martin’s chest, disgusted that he had ever bothered to ogle him from the treeline. It just wasn’t fair that someone so useless could have such a nice ass. Martin looked down at his finger and raised one perfect eyebrow.
“I don’t have time for your bleeding heart—”
The sharp crack of a stick breaking in the forest interrupted him.
“Shut up,” Alex growled, even though Martin wasn’t talking at that moment. He wheeled around to face the woods, rifle ready. “Just shut up. It’s here.”
The next stop on the tour is The Hat Party on July 1st. There will be witty banter and a picture of me in a very cool hat, so don’t miss it! http://raineotierneyhatparty.blogspot.com/?zx=727ad04cfdf657de
Elin, thank you again for hosting me. I enjoyed the view from the comfy chair!
Penny Hudson lives in the Midwest with her husband, ancient dog, and a pair of scheming cats who are nearly always doing something they shouldn’t. Since they’re called Basement Cat and his Minion, it’s probably to be expected.
When she’s not writing, she occupies herself playing with fire and home brewing delicious beers and ciders. Stouts, porters, and barley wines have been particularly successful favorites, but the cider experiments remain inconclusive.
The “fire” is contained in a forge next to her anvil. She deals with stress—usually brought on by characters being difficult or wort refusing to ferment—by beating on steel. She makes bottle openers and hoof picks, along with assorted other smaller projects as a hobby. Yes, she’s even made knives, and no, she has no desire to ever beat out a giant Merlin-sword. The blacksmithing is a holdover from her years as a farrier and the home brewing is just because… it seemed like a good idea at the time.
She blogs at http://www.anypennyhudson.blogspot.com/ and tweets @AnyPennyH and will babble about favorite books, TV shows, and movies to a slightly unhealthy degree. If any of that speaks to you on a spiritual level, drop her a line, she rarely bites.
My twitter: @AnyPennyH