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Dorothy Hearst | Running With the Wolves

September 24, 2011

Dorothy HearstSECRETS OF THE WOLVESI really never thought I’d write a book about talking wolves.  I was going to write Very Serious Literature That Wins Prizes.  I had it all planned out, and had been trying for many years to write this Very Serious Literature.   Then one day, when I was sitting in my recliner recovering from a sore neck and minding my own business, the wolves barged into my apartment insisting that I was the one to tell their story.  They wouldn’t leave me alone. They sat under my desk at work, followed me as I walked around San Francisco, crawled onto the bed when I was trying to sleep. Soon I found myself immersed in the Wide Valley and in the life of Kaala, a young wolf living 14,000 years ago.  The wolves took over more and more of my life until I eventually quit my job to play with them.

SECRETS OF THE WOLVES is the second book in The Wolf Chronicles trilogy, which tells the story of how the wolf became the dog from the wolf’s point of view.  It’s based on the theory of wolf-human coevolution (the idea that wolves, and later dogs, helped make us the dominant species on the planet).  Young Kaala is the narrator.  In the first book, Promise of the Wolves, Kaala is fighting to stay alive and earn her place in the Swift River pack when she saves the life of a human child, breaking the rules of the Wide Valley that prohibit contact with humans.  Adventures ensue. In SECRETS OF THE WOLVES, Kaala is dealing with the consequences of her actions.  She must ensure that the wolves and humans of the Wide Valley live together without fighting.  In the process, she takes the first steps on her road to becoming a leader.  Her companions are her packmates, her human girl, and a very obnoxious raven.  Kaala also has her first taste in romance in SECRETS OF THE WOLVES, as two suitors–her best friend and a wolf from a rival pack–vie for her affections.

But what I wanted to share with you here on Fresh Fiction is how the wolves have changed me. It would have been easy to say no to the wolves–I had a good job and a busy life, and writing a whole novel seemed like an incredibly difficult task.  But the wolves were persistent, so I agreed to enter their world.  And in order to run with the wolves, I had to let go of the serious, dutiful side of myself that always did what it was supposed to do.   Don’t get me wrong. I worked as hard on writing as I’d worked on anything in my life, but I had to find a different way.  I found myself traveling to Yellowstone to watch wolves in the wild, going to France to look at ancient cave paintings, wrestling babysitting huskies in the Alps, getting my picture taken with wolves and wolfdogs–all things I never would have allowed myself to do and experience if not for the wolves.

I found new ways of working, too.  My list-making and previously effective corporate work habits took me only so far.  My lists turned into index cards and scraps of paper strewn around my apartment (on the walls, on the table, on the futon, on the floor being napped upon by visiting dogs) and giant pieces of paper covered with flowcharts and squiggly lines.

As my work habits opened up, so did the rest of my life. I see the world in a different way now.  I go forward into things I used to fear and say “yes,” when I would have previously said “no.”   The wolves did that for me.

In SECRETS OF THE WOLVES, Kaala finds herself challenged by enemies that are stronger than she is, a world that is dangerous and unforgiving, and her own self-doubt.  She also finds herself  supported by her sturdy companions and own feisty nature.  Part of my own journey in running with Kaala and her pack is finding Kaala’s indomitable nature in myself.  As she continues her journey, I hope to continue mine.

Thanks so much to Fresh Fiction for allowing me to share the wolves!

Dorothy Hearst

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