Seth Kantner Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Seth Kantner

Seth Kantner

An interview with Seth Kantner

Seth Kantner answers questions about his extraordinary first novel set in rugged, uncharted North West Alaska.

Whenever we think of "Great Alaskan Novels," we invariably think of Jack London. Did his writings influence you in Ordinary Wolves?
Very much so. Part of the reason I became a writer was Jack. He said when you spat or pissed it crackled and froze before it hit the ground. It never did that when I was a kid, reading Jack––it got to 78 below one time and it never did that! But the whole world believed it did because of London. Later, much later, I realized his descriptions of the cold and north were very good. Plus he wrote and lived and drank a lot––things I could at least relate somewhat to.

How authentic do you think the popular image of Alaska as the wild, rugged, uncharted West is?
Depends on your perspective––in the Brooks Range in a storm in midwinter, you could say it's pretty rugged. But a lot of folks come in the summer and fall; they have GPSs and often now satellite phones. For $3.95 they can buy detailed USGS maps of every bend in every slough. Alaska, that I knew as a kid, is gone; the land is still here but planes fly over it relentlessly—from my perspective—carrying everything that Americans have too.

Was it hard to imagine Cutuk’s outlook as a kid who had never seen a city?
It was when I was writing it. I wish I had taken notes—the city is so nonsensical and strange when you're not used to all that modern white-people stuff and ways. I was frustrated writing it because I've changed and could not remember all the ways it really felt. At least as strongly as I wanted to.

The depiction of the killing of animals could be seen as harsh or hard to read. How would you respond to that?
Not very well—every time someone goes shopping they kill animals. People need to learn and feel more about the world, not less. That's my perspective, of course. The old story: life is about death, too, so why cover your eyes from it?

How long does an igloo typically last?
Maybe 40 years at the very top. The one I was born and raised in is falling down. I'm 38. But if you kept living in it, it would be in better shape. Igloos don't like you leaving. They mold, get damp, porcupine move in and dig holes.

Why did you decide to include the chapters told from the wolves’ perspective? Do you feel you’re anthropomorphizing or something else?
Oh probably. I like other perspectives—trees standing around rooted while humans brush past, ignoring them in their search for place and roots! The wolves were there from the beginning, and in my book that way too.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Overstory
    The Overstory
    by Richard Powers
    Many glowing adjectives can be used to describe a novel by Richard Powers: brilliant, moving, ...
  • Book Jacket: American Histories
    American Histories
    by John E. Wideman
    In American Histories, a collection of 21 short stories, John Edgar Wideman draws America's present ...
  • Book Jacket: I Found My Tribe
    I Found My Tribe
    by Ruth Fitzmaurice
    Ruth O'Neill was only 28 when she married film director Simon Fitzmaurice in 2004. Changing her...
  • Book Jacket: The Art of the Wasted Day
    The Art of the Wasted Day
    by Patricia Hampl
    Patricia Hampl wants you to know that daydreaming is not a waste of a day. Nor is spending time ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Girl Who Smiled Beads
    by Clemantine Wamariya & Elizabeth Weil

    A riveting story of survival, and the power of stories to save us.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Leavers

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

One of the most anticipated books of 2017--now in paperback!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T E H N Clothes

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.