I hope you all are doing well. Today I’m extremely thrilled to be featuring Wolf activist and now a debut author ; Martha Hunt Handler on my blog for a conversation surrounding her book, titled – Winter of the Wolf. Here she talks about her inspiration, books she has been loving recently and her experience with spirituality, which quite refreshingly is a major theme of this YA novel.
Winter of the Wolf is out now (as of 7th July, 2020) so make sure to check it out and shower lots of love on it. Another amazing thing that I need to point out is that according to the Author’s page, all book sales proceeds received by the author will go to the Wolf Conservation Center (nywolf.org) and I think that’s really great. More information and relevant links will be at the end of the post. Stay tuned and enjoy the interview.
Q: If you had to describe Winter of the Wolf in only five words, what would they be?
Spiritual, mystery, journey of self-discovery.
Q: You’ve been into so many professions- environmental consultant, magazine columnist, etc And now you’re an advocate for wolves at the Wolf Conservation Center. That’s really impressive! How much has being into all these fields influenced your writing process? Would you say that it has influenced your book in any way?
In hindsight, I can see that each profession was a stepping stone to my being a fiction writer and a wolf advocate. As an environmental consultant, I was writing technical papers which helped me better understand the negative impact our actions were having on our planet. It also allowed me to become a much stronger writer. When I wrote my magazine column, I was free to write on any topic that I found interesting and amusing. The feedback I received from that experience gave me the confidence to try my hand at fiction. In my novel, Winter of the Wolf, I was able to incorporate everything that was important to me, from my spiritual beliefs to my beliefs about the after-life, to my environmental concerns, which was wonderfully satisfying.
Q: At what point in your life did you realize that you wanted to be a writer? Is it something you’ve dreamed about since you were a kid or has it been a recent development?
I wrote my first book when I was seven. I remember proudly showing it to my dad and telling him I was going to be a writer when I grew up. He said I’d never be able to support myself as a fiction writer. I was crushed but I believed him. I regret that I listened to him, rather than following my heart!
Q: What are some of your favorite books? Any underrated recommendations for our readers?
I just finished two non-fiction books I loved by Glennon Doyle: Love Warrior and Untamed. I think these are especially important for teen girls to read. Ms. Doyle’s an extraordinary writer who is remarkably candid about her sexuality, alcoholism, bulimia, and mental illnesses. But the most compelling lesson she teaches is to trust your “knowing,” or your gut reaction to situations. Girls (and women) are told, via adults, social media, etc., that they have to “fit” in and “not make waves,” which causes them to second guess their instincts and consequently make bad choices.
I believe we are all born knowing where our talents and interests lie, but then someone says
something to us like, “You don’t have a head for numbers,” or “You don’t have any artistic talents,” and you listen to them instead of believing in your own knowing. This is a theme in my novel, also, as the protagonist follows her knowing, even when everyone around her thinks she’s crazy.
Q: As per my understanding, spirituality is a major theme of the book. You don’t see a blend of mystery and spirituality in YA literature very often. What inspired you to write this story? Is spirituality something very dear to your heart? Tell us about your understanding of spirituality maybe?
From a young age, I could literally hear nature speaking to me and I could see souls that had passed on. When I would mention this to friends, they’d tell me I was nuts, but my mom and one friend believed and encouraged me. When you are gifted with this perspective early in life, you can’t help but become spiritual because you feel our interconnectedness with everything on the planet and also with souls who’ve passed on. The way we grieve has always perplexed me as I see death as nothing more than a transition. This idea of going from a place of grief to one of
gratitude, after a loved one dies, is another important storyline in my novel. So, while the death of my best friend’s 12-year-old son inspired the story, it was also a perfect opportunity for me to put into story form all of the ideas that are so important to me. My protagonist, Bean, is the fictionalized and idealized version of myself as a teen. I only wish I’d accepted my own
knowing and been as courageous as her.
Q : Can you share any of your favorite passages/quotes from the book?
“Remembering this conversation makes me want to scream on so many levels. First of all, I guess I should have asked Sam how he thought I’d get his body all the way to Ohio. But since we were talking theoretically, I figured it didn’t matter. He was just a boy making his wishes known. Right
Sam? And what about all the shit you needed to teach me? Do you honestly think you’ve already taught me everything I need to know? Because I can promise you, you didn’t. I don’t know shit about anything. In fact, I feel like I know less than I did before you died. And if you had nothing
to do with your death, as I’m praying is the case, then I’m sorry for lashing out at you. But instead of feeling sad, I mostly feel mad, and my anger is directed at you. How could you be gone? How could you have left me?”
Q: Are you planning to publish more books in the future? Any projects you are working on?
Definitely! Right now I’m torn between writing a sequel to my novel or going in a completely different direction and writing a fun memoir (lots of crazy things have happened to me over the years!) What will help me decide between the two is the feedback I receive from Winter of the Wolf.
Q: This is a non-book related question but readers would love to know how you are maintaining positivity in these really tough times. Any tips for people who are struggling to be productive in quarantine?
My extended family formed a Covid-19 book group. There are 18 of us and we range in age from 11 years old to 81 years young. Our first book was Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. It’s jam-packed with so much information that we only read 4 chapters a week. It was incredibly eye-opening and made us all realize that the history we learned in school was more fiction than anything else because it always made the white guys look like the good guys. Next, we are reading Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes. In between books we are watching and critiquing movies in the same genre. Thus far we’ve watched Black Klansman and The Hate U Give. It’s been an amazing experience. In the past, my book clubs were very homogeneous so we didn’t have much to discuss or debate, but this group is very diverse so our Zoom discussions have been lively and interesting. We’re all so into it that we’ve decided we are going to keep going well after our quarantine ends.
Winter of the Wolf
An exploration in grief, suicide, spiritualism, and Inuit culture, Winter of the Wolf follows Bean, an empathic and spiritually evolved fifteen-year-old, who is determined to unravel the mystery of her brother Sam’s death. Though all evidence points to a suicide, her heart and intuition compel her to dig deeper. With help from her friend Julie, they retrace Sam’s steps, delve into his Inuit beliefs, and reconnect with their spiritual beliefs to uncover clues beyond material understanding.
More about the author
Martha Hunt Handler grew up in northern Illinois dreaming about wolves and has always understood that her role in this lifetime is to tell stories and be a voice for nature. She has been an environmental consultant, a magazine columnist, an actress, and a polar explorer, among other occupations. She has also driven across the country in an 18-wheeler and been a grand-prize winner of The Newlywed Game. Soon after she and her family relocated from Los Angeles to South Salem, New York, she began to hear wolves in her backyard. This was the start of her twenty-plus-year career as an advocate for wolves at the Wolf Conservation Center, where she currently serves as Board President. When not up near the wolves and her rescue pups, she can be found in New York City with her husband and four adult children. This is her first novel but definitely not her last.