The First Kate Shugak Novel

[third of the MIC blogs]


Second StarMy two first published novels were science fiction, Second Star and A Handful of Stars, about Star Svensdotter, an off-Earther building a habitat at Ellfive and a mining colony in the Asteroid Belt. I had a third novel planned for the series but I was exhausted from the research required to make nuts-and-bolts science fiction sound credible, so I decided to take a rest from sf by writing a crime novel.

It’s not as nuts as it sounds. I mean, it wasn’t like I was going to publish it or anything. It was just for practice, to keep my writing muscle exercised while I took some time off from the Star novels. I’d been reading a lot of crime fiction novels, Ellis Peters, P.D. James, Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller, Sara Paretsky, and I thought, “I wonder if I could write a crime novel.”

wrangell-eliasI set parameters. I couldn’t do any research, if I couldn’t find it between my own ears or in the Alaska Almanac Book of Facts I couldn’t use it. The Park is based on the Wrangell-St. Elias Park because I’d just been there, helping my aunt move down to Cordova. The heroine would be an Aleut because I was raised with Aleuts, and she was a woman because I am, too, and it’s always easier to write in the voice of your own gender.

In short, this was the lazy woman’s way to write a mystery.

I was housesitting for a friend on the Big Island at the time, and I wrote at a card table on his lanai. Five months later, I had about 300 manuscript pages, imaginatively titled “Mystery.” It wasn’t awful, so instead of deleting it I put it on a floppy disk and went to work on Red Planet Run, the third novel in the Star series.

acolddayformurder.thumbnailA couple of years later I sold the first Star book and my editor at the time said, “So, what else have you got?”

Chatter Kate Shugak

8 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I have followed the Kate Shugak series from the beginning and love them all, especially Whisper to the Blood, which ends one story arc. I only have one question –

    Since the series started in 1992, and Kate got Mutt as a puppy something like 18 months before the first book, won’t she be up against the realization that Mutt is getting on in years? Cue Kipling on “Giving your heart to a dog to tear.” Because once Kate lets someone inside her shell and then loses them, she does not take it at all well.


  2. No, she sure doesn’t. I’ve thought about this some, but not to worry yet. Mutt’s half gray wolf. In the wild gray wolves live as long as 10 years, and in captivity sometimes twice as long.
    As of Whisper to the Blood, Mutt’s not quite nine years old, she gets plenty of exercise chasing down perps, and she has a very healthy diet, organic and free range. She’ll be around for a while.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I just found you through Goodreads Mystery Week, on a recommendation from another author. I have spent the last hour searching through my library only to find they have the middle chunk of Kate’s series. Bad form for them, but it prompted me to go over to Amazon, where I’m about to buy the first in that series. I have high hopes. I’ve also picked up the first in Star’s series. If your website is any indication, I expect I’ll be sucked into two wonderful worlds.


  4. “I had a third novel planned for the series but I was exhausted from the research required to make nuts-and-bolts science fiction sound credible, so I decided to take a rest from sf by writing a crime novel. …”

    Heh. How we in SF lost you. Darn.

    I started reading you with the Star Svensdotter books, back in the day, and corresponded with you re Klondike in Space (I’m a mining guy). I should dig out my copies and reread.

    On a completely different subject, the LA Festival of Books and Dino Hall, across the street:
    "What big teeth you have...."
    It’s truly impressive. As is the whole museum. Plus, you can walk over from the festival hotel on campus. An Alaskan would NOT like driving in LA!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: