SOUTHERN APPALACHIAN WOLVES

imgresThere are no wolves in the southern Appalachians.  There probably haven’t been in over a century.

They do, however, make a guest appearance in my most recent novel, Blizzard.  In the book, I think I adequately explain their presence.  What’s more interesting, perhaps, is how the animals made their way into the story in the first place.

It started in Germany. 

Near my wife’s hometown in the Mosel River Valley of Germany, there’s a castle, Burg Arras, that overlooks the river.  The castle was constructed around 1100, and probably rebuilt a couple of times since then.  Still, the “bones” of the castle remain with its thick stone walls, dungeon and battlements.

It’s not a “show” castle like many along the Rhine and Mosel.  It’s visited mostly by Germans, not foreign tourists.  It sits atop a heavily forested hill about a mile back from the river.

You can drive most of the way to the castle, but the last tenth-of-a-mile is a fairly steep hike on foot through dense woods.

Whenever my wife and I made a trip to Germany so she could spend time with her family, we’d make a point of visiting the castle and enjoying coffee and Kuchen (cake) in front of Burg Arras’s massive stone fireplace.

On our climbs up to the castle, I often envisioned a scene in my mind.  It’s a dark winter night in the Middle Ages, the snow lies deep in the dense forest surrounding the castle, and the howls of wolves ride an icy Siberian wind. 

The flicker of wind-blown torches cuts through the trees as a desperate band of peasants, pursued by a wolf pack, thrashes through the thick snow toward the sanctuary of Burg Arras. 

The heavy wooden doors of the castle, outlined by the glow of cressets on either side, beckon them to safety.  Will they make it?

I don’t know.  But I did know there was a good story there.  I just never got around to writing it.

Until now.  Except it’s not set in medieval times and it doesn’t involve a castle in Germany (which then would have been part of the Roman Empire.)  My imagined scene from the Dark Ages got transformed into a couple of chapters in Blizzard, ones cast in contemporary times with wolves in the southern Appalachians.

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