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: Vita Nostra
    Vita Nostra
    by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko
    Vita Nostra by Ukrainian authors Sergey and Marina Dyachenko is one of those novels that defies ...
  • Book Jacket: And The Ocean Was Our Sky
    And The Ocean Was Our Sky
    by Patrick Ness
    Patrick Ness has developed a reputation for experimental literature executed well, and his latest, ...
  • Book Jacket: Let It Bang
    Let It Bang
    by RJ Young
    Every interracial love story is an exercise in complications. R.J. Young and Lizzie Stafford's ...
  • Book Jacket: A Spark of Light
    A Spark of Light
    by Jodi Picoult
    The central premise of A Spark of Light involves a gunman holding hostages within the confines of a ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Unsheltered
by Barbara Kingsolver

A timely novel that explores the human capacity for resiliency and compassion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Kinship of Secrets
    by Eugenia Kim

    Two sisters grow up bound by family but separated by war; inspired by a true story.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Paris Echo
    by Sebastian Faulks

    A story of resistance, complicity, and an unlikely, transformative friendship.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Severance

Severance by Ling Ma

An offbeat, wryly funny, apocalyptic satire that is featured on more than twenty 2018 "Must Read" lists!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I Ain't O U T F L S

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.