I'm very excited to welcome Wesley Banks, author of Hope in Every Raindrop, to the blog today.
I love dogs and have to say this novel looks quite intriguing :)
How to Research Dogs for Fiction (And How I Created an Entirely New Breed)
by Wesley Banks
One of my favorite aspects of writing Hope In Every Raindrop was creating a fictional breed of dogs: the Carolina Gray.
It all started in 2007 when I visited a man named Don Anderson in the small town of Bishopville, South Carolina about a rare breed of dogs called Carolina Dogs. I left Dr. Anderson’s 1000 plus acre farm that day with one of the most intelligent dogs I’ve ever owned.
Her name was Pace, and I could go on for hours about her. But right now I want to talk about what started the idea for Hope In Every Raindrop.
As I was playing with the puppies that day, Dr. Anderson was excitedly explaining everything he knew about a breed he had found in the wilds of Lynches River. They could out swim a lab because of the increased webbing on their paws, they had greater blood scent than any hound he had ever seen, and they could run for hours on end. In fact, twice a year a gentleman from Alaska would fly down to pick up 1-2 dogs from the new litters.
My attention was piqued, but Dr. Anderson kept on talking and I never got the story behind Alaska. That is, until I made it up in 2010 when my wife and I took a 2 week honeymoon there.
Dogsledding in Alaska.
We did a lot of cool things on our trip to Alaska. By far though, the coolest was taking a helicopter ride to a remote glacier where we learned to dogsled.
I watched the dogs in the distance as the helicopter landed. Each of them was tethered by a rope or chain to their own individual dog house, which was nothing more than 3 ft x 3 ft white box flipped upside down with one side missing.
Over the next couple hours we spent time with one musher and his team. We learned terms like Gee (turn right), Haw (turn left), Whoa (stop), Hike (go), and Easy (slow down).
We rode in the sled (also known as a basket) and helped rig the dogs, discovering the neck line, tug line, tow line, and other pieces of rigging.
As the dogs ran the musher explained to us how each pair of dogs had a specific purpose. The dogs closest to the sled were the wheel dogs, and they needed to be strong and steadfast. The team dogs were the collection of dogs just in front of them, they were the fuel. The swing dogs were the two dogs just behind the leader and were responsible for keeping the team in line during turns. And lastly was the lead dog (or sometimes a pair of lead dogs).
Not all sled dogs are huskies.
After several miles sledding over the glaciers we returned and the musher told us about the dogs. The first thing I asked was, “Are Siberian or Alaskan Huskies better sled dogs?” Everyone knows that Huskies are the ultimate sled dogs, right? Wrong.
There were two pure bred huskies, but the other eight were a mix of Samoyed, Canadian Eskimo, Chinook, Alaskan Malamute, and even Wolf.
As I looked around at the literally hundreds of sled dogs it got me thinking. What if one of these is a Carolina Dog? What if there’s one from Dr. Anderson. And that’s where one of the core ideas for Hope In Every Raindrop was born.
Truth in fiction.
Having owned a Carolina Dog, and gone dogsledding I had a huge head start in the research department.
I know this isn’t the conventional method of doing research. I’ve talked to many authors and they spend days or weeks contacting people for interviews, email questions, and so on. But going forward I think I’m going to live by one principle: some of the best fiction writing can come from taking an experienced truth and just altering it slightly.
Hope in Every Raindrop
“Small towns have big stories.”
That was a lesson Katie’s father taught her years ago. A lesson she’s taken to heart. And right now, Katie is desperate for a big story.
Reeling from the recent loss of her father and with her agent breathing down her neck for the next book, the twenty-one-year-old writer picks a spot on the map and finds herself bound for a middle-of-nowhere town called Bishopville, South Carolina.
Taking a chance on the words of a local grocer, Katie stumbles upon a rare breed of dogs raised by the town doctor and his nephew Kyle. The only problem? Kyle isn’t interested in telling stories—especially not to a big-city girl who can’t seem to sit still. In an attempt to win him over as the clock winds down, Katie finds herself immersed in Kyle’s world, doing everything but writing.
When inspiration finally strikes, Katie is faced with an unforeseen catastrophe and a truth she can no longer ignore. While she has come to love the dogs, the real story may be about Kyle Walker.
About the Author
Wesley Banks was born in 1983 and grew up on the west coast of Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Civil Engineering. After spending over 7 years building movable bridges from Florida to Washington he decided to focus on his true passion: writing.
Wesley recently moved from Florida to Oregon to get back to the great outdoors that he’s love so much. He lives with his wife Lindsey, and his two dogs Linkin and Story. Most of his time these days is spent writing, with as much rock climbing, hiking, or skiing as they can fit in.