Dana Stabenow - A Visit (2-16-12)

Dana Stabenow was in town today, and she stopped in to visit with us to celebrate the release of her 19th Kate Shugak novel, Restless in the Grave. It's also notable because Kate meets Liam Campbell, the star of one of Dana's other series, for the first time.As a native of Alaska, Dana has had to weather a few winters there. Do Alaskans ever get "cabin fever"? After she stopped laughing, she said, "That's why so many Alaskans go to Hawaii in the winter!" And since she's not one of the ones heading to Hawaii, that's why Dana watches the Youtube video of "Boat Drinks" done to the Jimmy Buffet tune. But is the real nature of the Alaskan winter changing where she lives? "I'm no scientist," she said, but then went on to tell about how the winters lately have been so different and bizarre, e.g., four Chinooks (unseasonably warm winds) so far this winter. One Alaskan village has fallen into the sea and been rebuilt four times. That had Dana digressing to tell us that the hunter/gatherer culture of Alaska had no concept of private property or permanent encampments. Western influences settled the nomadic people, such as the group that inhabited the unfortunate village that fell into the sea.

Has Dana ever been asked to tone down her opinions or political viewpoint? She laughed and said that people have come up to her and said they hated her books and would never read another, but no, no one has told her to stuff her politics. Furthermore, she said, "I reserve the right to state my opinion in any book with my name on the cover."

Dana seemed surprised that people found humor in her books. She has sometimes much later re-read a passage from one of her books and found it funny, but she doesn't intentionally place humor in her stories. Humor, she said, "either happens or it doesn't; if you force it, it will show."

Surely she had one funny story about flying over Alaska. Well ... there was the time she caught a ride on a small plane that was giving some tourists a scenic tour. ("They probably had never ridden in anything smaller than a 757," she said.) The pilot jammed both feet on the rudder, folded his arms and leaned back to give the tourists his spiel. If the tourists worried about the pitching and yawing the plane did, we're not sure it was allayed any when Dana leaned over and told them that they were lucky they had a pilot who could fly the plane and talk at the same time.

Early in Dana's career she wrote science fiction, and she still loves the genre. "Star Trek" and "Star Wars," we suggested? Yes, and -- she almost, but not quite, squealed* -- the new "Battlestar Galactica."

So what about the brave new world of technology and social media? Does she have qualms about being in front of the computer so much? It's how she writes her books, she said. She has to discipline herself to break away from tweeting and FB-ing to write. No worries there, since her mother had instilled in her the "Great Protestant Work Ethic."

The Alaskan culture Dana depicts so well in her books seems to share characteristics with other cultures. "People are way more similar than different," she said. Families are families with their attendant drama and caring.

Finally, this is for those of you who have viewed the link she provided to the "[Stuff] people in Anchorage (never) say" video on Youtube. The "Ace's game" refers to a semi-pro hockey team, currently with a winning record. She said she gets asked that a lot. (Here's the address if you want to know more about what people in Anchorage (never) say: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpL6C0YZUYc.)

* Frankly, Dana does not seem like the squealing type.