Tuesday, February 13, 2018

So Your Character is From Alaska ... Featuring K.T. Munson @ Creating Worlds with Words

It's time for this week's So Your Character is ... Post! This is a weekly segment where I interview lovely volunteers from around the world to give you a firsthand account of being a citizen of their respective country or having a disability. I'm hoping to encourage international diversity, break stereotypes, and give writers a crash course on how to write a character from these different places on our planet. If you haven't checked out last week's  So Your Character is from the West Coast United States ... be sure to hop on over there and give it a read!

Disclaimer: The content below may be culturally shocking to some. Each of these posts is as uncensored as possible to preserve the authenticity of the cultures of each of the interviewees.

(None of the Images are Mine)

I write under the pen name K.T. Munson and am an independent author. I am a multi-genre author but my loves are fantasy, science fiction, and romance. I was born and raised in the last frontier, the great state of Alaska. I live in the largest city Anchorage, which has more than half of the state’s population.  

What do you feel is unique to your country? Landmarks? Celebrations?
Alaska is known for its Alaskan pride--so much that we actually have a state holiday called ‘Alaska Day.’ Technically we have a second one as well ‘Seward’s Day’ but it isn’t as well known. Being the second youngest state - the 49th state of the union - Alaska is the only state that doesn’t share a land border with any of the other states. Furthermore, our capital is closer to Seattle, WA than Anchorage (the largest city) and cannot be driven to. 

Alaska is known for its mountains, they are everywhere. The best-known landmark is Mt. McKinley--the tallest peak in North America. However, to Alaskans the mountain is known as Denali. It is the third tallest mountain in the world. Denali overlooks the Denali National Park. 

Sun setting over Denali in the Denali National Park, AK.
A big festival is Fur Rondy (Anchorage Fur Rendezvous Winter Festival) which is a 10-day winter event and was based on the fur trade (for history buffs at the time Fur Rondy started in the 1930s fur was the third most valuable industry in Alaska). It is also known for skiing, Iditarod, snow machining (Iron Dog), and the gold rush. Fishing is a huge deal in Alaska but I’ll touch on that later. I’ll also touch on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.  

Fur Rondy
Tell me about your country's environment. What are some of your favorite places?
Alaska’s environment varies depending on where you are in the state. It is most known for its scenic winter and summer pictures. I absolutely love Denali National Park. It is my favorite place to go camping and hiking. During the fall I participate in substance hunting for Caribou. 

Byer’s River in Denali National Park, AK.
In the winter, if you are lucky enough, you might experience the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). In the winter time, I much prefer to be at home, curled up with a good book and hot cocoa.

Tell me about your country's food. What are some of your favorite dishes?
Being a substance hunter means that I live off of the land. I do grow food (zucchini is the best) and gather it (blueberries), but more importantly every year my family and I go hunting. We hunt for moose, caribou, and duck. I also fish. Fresh Alaskan Salmon can’t be beat, especially when it is smoked. Every year I pickle moose heart--just like pickled bologna in the Midwest! Duck a l'Orange is fantastic with wild duck freshly shot. Instead of beef, I’ve had Mooseburger most of my life. Instead of pot roasts, it was moose or caribou roasts. The list goes on and on. Before you fret, we do have regular grocery stores like Target, Costco, and Walmart. 

Opening day for duck hunting - Mallard Duck - in Big Lake, AK.
The most famous of the dishes here besides smoked salmon is the local ‘reindeer sausage’ or ‘reindeer dogs.’ They are fantastic and a must eat. There are a lot of native dishes that are also well known but try at your own risk. Two that I’ve eaten are Eskimo Ice Cream and Muktuk. 

Tell me about any different speech patterns in your country. Slang? Idioms? Words for things such as “biscuits” instead of “cookies”?
Alaska is very proud of its Native Alaskan culture and there are many places it is used, from mountains to places to street names and even animals. Some of the native languages include Athabaskan-Tlingit and Inuit-Yupik (Eskimo-Aleut). For example there is a warm wind that blows through in winter that we call Chinook. Another is Mukluks which are fur boots. 

We don’t have counties in Alaska - instead, we have boroughs. There are nineteen and most are quite large: North Slope Borough is the size of the state of Minnesota and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley Borough (known locally as ‘the Mat-Su’ or ‘the valley’) is the size of West Virginia. There are areas of Alaska that can’t be reached by road - we call this the Bush. 

During the summer fishing is a huge deal. There is either line finishing or dipnetting (using a huge net attached to a pole off of a boat or the shore). Some of this happens down on the Homer Spit (known by locals as just ‘the spit’) is a miles long sandbar that juts out into the Kachemak Bay from the town of Homer and where locals and visitors camp, fish, and comb the beach. For those that partake, they may use an Ulu (oo-loo) which is a uniquely shaped knife. 

Describe briefly a regular day in your country.
Well, that entirely depends on the time of year - so I’m going to break this into ‘winter’ regular day and ‘summer’ regular day. We don’t really have four seasons--just winter, post-winter, summer, pre-winter. There are also differences by region. For example south coastal where our capital is located has weather like Seattle, WA. Alaska’s third largest city by population is Fairbanks and located in interior Alaska--the temperatures vary from -40 in the winter to 90 degrees in the summertime. 

Here is what to expect in Anchorage:
Winter: Snow all morning at 40 degrees Fahrenheit and by the end of the day it is 0 degrees Fahrenheit. There is between 5-7 hours of day light depending on how close we are to the winter solstice. Be careful of moose running around in the fall during rutting season. Also if there is lots of snow they like to walk down the road. 

After two days of snowfall in 2014 (first snowfall of the winter) in Anchorage, AK.
Summer: The temperature is between 50 and 80 degrees. It rains intermittently but mostly sun. There is anywhere between 19-22 hours throughout the summer months; on summer solstice most of the state experiences day long sunlight. Moose and bears are active throughout the state.

How does your country compare to others, especially the States since my audience is primarily American? Environmentally? Politically? Culturally?
When you look up a ‘Map of the United States’ into google you usually get a map that shows Alaska as this adorable little state off to the left next to Hawaii. That isn’t even close. If you cut Alaska in half, Texas would be the THIRD largest state. That being said Alaska’s a very low populated state--largest state and usually falls within the lowest population wise. Perhaps this is due to the face that it has weather that is closer to northern Montana and parts of Canada. 

Hatchers Pass, AK

Politically Alaska is known for being very Republican. Alaska is very much a melting pot but there is a Native Alaskan group, very similar to the Native American’s in the lower 48. It is a resource-rich state known for its fishing, natural gas, and oil industries. Since Alaska is nine hours from 90% of the industrialized world, it is a major cargo hub. Tourism obviously also plays a role. It is important to note that Anchorage doesn’t have a sales tax. 

Briefly describe three of your country’s historical events that you feel are important.
When Alaska was purchased in the 1800s by Secretary of State William H. Seward it was a territory of the United States. At the time that it was purchased those that opposed the purchase called it Seward’s Folly. We actually have a restaurant in Anchorage with this name. In 1959, Alaska officially became the 49th state of the union, beating out Hawaii by a few months. Alaska’s flag is the big dipper on blue and yellow. 

Celebration of 100 years of Anchorage being a city in downtown Anchorage.
Every year Alaska hosts the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Iditarod for short, which is a cross-state dog sledding event. Dog teams, usually of sixteen dogs, are led by a musher. It always ends in Nome and takes 8-15 days depending on the start location (weather dependent). If you’ve ever seen Balto you get the gist of it. Its tradition stems from the serum run to Nome and has morphed into the longest sled dog race in the world. Another lesser known one is the Yukon Quest, which goes from Fairbanks, AK to Whitehorse, Yukon (reversing every other year) and is about the same distance. 

What are some stereotypes about your country that irk you? What media portrays your country badly be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
I can’t even remember how many reality TV shows Alaska has. A few that come to mind are Deadliest Catch, Alaskan Bush People, Ice Road Truckers, and Life Below Zero. Like with most of these they are a little over the top but contain truthful information. For example, in Deadliest Catch Dutch Harbor is a real place and commercial fishing is very dangerous, especially in the Bering Sea. Life Below Zero shows what it can be like to survive off of the land and again a little over the top at times does show what it is like in the Bush (within reason). That being said I personally can’t stand any of them.

There are only a few Hollywood movies I’ve seen that claims to have Alaska. One is The Proposal and that wasn’t even in Alaska. It was just supposed to represent Sitka, Alaska. Nice try, but no. The Fourth Kind was ‘set’ in Alaska but filmed in Canada. I heard The Guardian was also shot in Alaska, but I can’t confirm if that was true or not. I believe it was supposed to be the island of Kodiak and may have actually been.

When I couldn’t think of anything else for the last question I looked up ‘What characters is Alaska best known for’ and I ended up with Chilly Willy (cartoon penguin). Alaska does not have penguins. So that defies logic unless he was born in the zoo... 

What media portrays your country well be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
Documentaries are your best bet. A good one is the NOVA documentary on The Alaska Pipeline. It really shows a lot about Alaska’s history and environment. It is one hour and covers the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. 

I’m in the middle of reading The Snow Child written by Eowyn Ivey, who is also from Alaska, and am so far very impressed. Being a lifelong Alaskan means I usually don’t read a lot of books about Alaska because most of them get it wrong. 

Who are your top three favorite characters native to your country in books, movies, or shows?
I sadly don’t have a lot of choices here. However, I can pick one easily. 
William ‘Will’ Riker from Star Trek: The Next Generation is from Alaska. Actually I believe he is specifically from Valdez, Alaska. 

I’m just going to leave it at that. The other characters I can think of living in Alaska for a time but weren’t from there. Anyone have a favorite fictional character? 

Thank you, K.T., for this very informative post! Come back next week for a post about NEw England!

Are you interested in participating in this project? Check out the tips archive to see which countries have been filled and if you're from a different country, shoot me an email at howellvictoriagrace(a)gmail(dot)com. I'm especially looking for Cuba, Venezuela, Switzerland, Kenya, Iraq, and Egypt.

Do you have any characters from Alaska? Did this inspire you to write an Alaskan character or set a book in Alaska? Are from this or been to this country and you have further input? Feel free to share! Do you have any questions for K.T.? Be sure to thank her!

You may also like:

No comments:

Post a Comment