It is a bit ironic that a desert dweller who is almost allergic to cold such as myself is totally fascinated with Alaska. I developed a distant love affair with the 'frozen north land' at an early age reading Jack London's wonderful tales and the true life adventures of Bud and Constance Helmericks who homesteaded in what was then just a territory. In a very odd coincidence, shortly before Snowblind was published, I learned that Mr. Helmericks had just passed away and also found he had lived Tucson for some time. If I had learned of that a bit sooner, I would have contrived to meet him and talk with him and his wife about their early impact on me as an impressionable kid of ten or so!
The toy husky pup on the left came from the Iditarod on-line store and I gave one away in a drawing when the story first came out and kept another for myself! The pic on the right is an Alaskan Malamute, not a great shot but clearly shows the wolf-link of the breed. There are several breeds of 'huskies' and malamutes--the Alaskan, the Siberian and some others. Also many other breeds are used by various mushers, many not traditional but some seem to adapt very well. Many of the Siberians and related Samoyeds have blue eyes, a trait shared with many of the Austalian Shepherds, by an odd coincidence since they are very different dogs!
Doing a story about the mushers and their wonderful dogs had been nibbling at the back of my mind for some time. Once I had embarked on the whole canine cupids notion featuring different breeds of dogs as the matchmakers for unlikely gay couples, I started to think about a tale involving the lead team of a group of sled dogs. As part of my reserach, I watched the Disney movie Iron Will (which I recommend highly! It's a bit stark in spots for kiddos but a very moving and in the end a 'feel good' story.) I ordered some books and other information from the Iditarod website too. (http://www.iditarod.com/) It's a great source of info and they sell some neat things with the proceeds going to support "the last great race." I follow it every year on line and several of the lady mushers are huge heroines of mine such as the late Susan Butcher and Allie Zirkle who came in second this year, just an hour behind the winner--and considering the distance and days involved --over 1000 miles!!--that is a 'close' finish.
And the rest prehaps is history. As I said in a note in the book, I know there are inaccuracies and not all for the sake of the story but I did try to make it as accurate and authentic as I could. I will never see the big one live, I am sure, but I've run that course in many dreams and lived the idea vicariously with Dylan and Grey!
Then I 'saw' the opening scene with Dylan exercising sixteen of his pack. That was written first. Then all at once Grey appeared, disembarking from a plane into the cold world so different from his native southern Californnia. The rest just unwound in a fast chase across the frozen world of mushers and our northern-most state.