People are often surprised when they find out how much research I do for fantasy books such as Wolves of The Beyond. They think it's fantasy, so anything goes. But I have to convince the reader that these are real wolves if I am going to dare him or her to plunge in and join their adventure. I have to know and really understand the natural history of a wolf before I can depart into the fantastical.
With Wolves of The Beyond I began with all kinds of books. I consulted titles ranging from beautiful photographic essays for the coffee table to highly technical works written by behavioral scientists specializing in wolf biology, behavior, ecology, and evolutionary history. And then I found a fantastic video game, the first ever video game I've played in my life. It's an ingenious role-playing game called Wolf Quest, designed by the Minnesota Zoo. In this game you become a virtual wolf living in Yellowstone National Park. The first step is to customize your wolf. You name it, choose its gender and the color of its pelt. And then you begin to live like a wolf. You follow scent trails and go on hunts. You learn how to be wary of elk that are fully healthy because they can deliver mortal wounds. You learn that grizzlies are not a direct threat to wolves, but will stand guard over carcasses. There are pack rallies and all sorts of wolf-ish things to do. But the point is to survive.
Not because I was a bad wolf, but because I am a lousy video game player. I truly think in real life I would be a better wolf than in cyberspace. .
Here are a few of the books that I found very helpful for my research:
- Of Wolves and Men by Barry Holstun Lopez
- The Way of The Wolf by l. David Mech
- Wolves : Behavior. Ecology, and Conservation, Edited by David Mech and Luigi Botiani
- Wolves & Their Relatives by Erik Stopps & Dagmar Fertl
But it wasn’t all books. I live two blocks away from the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. Judith Chupaska, the curator in the department of mammology, was so helpful. She invited me to come over and examine the wolf skeletons in their laboratories and explained so much to me about wolf anatomy, in particular their teeth and jaws! There is no substitute for talking to an expert.
Go to photo gallery to see me at the museum.
Also I visited Wolf Hollow a wolf refuge and conservation organization in Ispwich , Massachusetts and met up close and personal Weeble, a seven year old male wolf. See this under videos.
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