Friday, January 13, 2023

Q&A with Alice Henderson



Alice Henderson is the author of the new suspense novel A Ghost of Caribou. It's the third in her Alex Carter series, which also includes A Blizzard of Polar Bears and A Solitude of Wolverines. Henderson also is a wildlife researcher, geographic information system specialist and bioacoustician.


Q: This is your third Alex Carter mystery--why did you choose the mountain caribou as her focus this time?

A: In each of the books, I wanted to shed light on species that are in a dangerous decline. The mountain caribou population has been plummeting, and we just lost our last remaining herd in the lower 48 in 2019.

Mountain caribou are different from barren ground caribou, which is what most people picture when they hear the word "caribou."


Barren ground caribou roam in Arctic locations like Alaska and the Yukon. But mountain caribou occupy a very different niche. They move between valleys and steep mountain slopes, surviving through the winter by eating tree-hanging lichen that grows in old growth forests.


Mountain caribou use their large shovel-like hooves and the tall snowpack to reach the lichen. But with climate change reducing the height of snowpack and the clearcutting of old growth forest decimating their habitat, populations of mountain caribou are falling steeply.


Q: What do you see as the right balance between mystery and nature as you work on your novels?


A: Fiction is a great avenue for weaving in fascinating facts about nature. I strive to tell a suspenseful tale full of mystery and action and then work in interesting facts about different species. I think it's important not to bog down the narrative with long, dry sections of scientific facts, so I work to integrate these interesting tidbits about nature into an engaging part of the plot itself.


Q: How would you describe the dynamic between your characters Alex and Casey?


A: I think Casey and Alex have a lot in common. They are very focused on seeing justice done. For Alex, she wants to see endangered species protected from extinction, and Casey wants to right terrible wrongs that he sees being done to human communities.


Both lead rather solitary lives, going where their work takes them, yet find kindred spirits in each other in the form of their compassion and dedication. They have each other's backs.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the novel?


A: My hope is that readers will enjoy the action and suspense and also fall in love with these imperiled animals and take some action to help them, even something small like writing a letter to their representatives or talking to their friends and family about what can be done to help wildlife.


In the back of all of my Alex Carter novels, I have sections where readers can read more about the species and learn about volunteer programs and nonprofit organizations that aid in their conservation.


Q: What are you working on now?

A: I just turned in the fourth Alex Carter novel. It's called A Prowl of Jaguars. In it, Alex is tasked with finding out if any endangered jaguars are using a remote wildlife sanctuary in New Mexico, but she comes under threat from a violent militia group.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Nature can be a powerful source of inspiration and solace. We may think of winter as being too cold to spend a lot of time outside. It's certainly a good time to huddle under a blanket and read those books that have been stacked and waiting on your bedside table.


But it's also a great time to get out in nature. The stars are particularly brilliant, with vivid constellations like Orion shining down on us. And snow provides a great opportunity to look for tracks of your local wildlife. Go outside after a fresh snowfall and see who came by the night before -- foxes, flying squirrels, raccoons, rabbits, all sorts of wonderful creatures.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Alice Henderson.

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