Shards of ICE
This is it! Today is the day that my new book ICE makes its way out into the world. That this day has arrived is monumental to me. And I am filled with a sort of placid joy that is beyond my ability to describe.
ICE isn't my first book. It won't be my last book. But it is a book that is very dear to my heart. And it will always be special to me.
This story has been inside me for a long time. It was born of a fairy tale and then grew into a love story and an adventure. It is the sum of many pieces, influences, experiences... many shards of ICE.
First Shard: The Fairy Tale
It started with once upon a time... a fairy tale called East of the Sun and West of the Moon. I found the tale in the Curious George & Friends bookstore in Harvard Square on my way home from my day job. I was working in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for a company called Target Analysis Group (now Blackbaud) that helps nonprofits. On my way home from work every day, I always did a circuit of the bookstores: Harvard Book Store, Pandemonium Books, Harvard Coop, and Curious George. It was the best walk home imaginable.
On this day, I discovered a picture book filled with gorgeous illustrations by P. J. Lynch. I fell in love with his paintings of a majestic polar bear and a fearless heroine. But there was one moment in particular that caught my imagination and stuck:
"Next Thursday evening came the White Bear to fetch her, and she got upon his back with her bundle and off they went. When they had gone part of the way, the White Bear said, 'Are you afraid?'
"No! She wasn't."
And so that is where it began: the image of a girl on a polar bear denying all fear.
Second Shard: The Arctic
It grew into a quest across the frozen North. I wanted my fearless girl to be a modern-day Arctic research scientist living at her father's research station in northernmost Alaska. And so I immersed myself in studying that icy world.
I buried myself in stacks of research books: polar bear books, explorer memoirs, field guides... I poured over A Naturalist's Guide to the Arctic by E. C. Pielou. I tracked the GPS readings of David Hempleman-Adams's journey in his memoir Walking on Thin Ice. I studied the SAS Survival Guide, How to Stay Alive in the Woods, How to Survive on Land and Sea, The Survival Handbook... and dozens of books with luscious photographs of polar bears and arctic foxes and caribou and beluga whales.
I am not a good traveler in real life. I like to be home, and I am not very brave. But while I was researching ICE, I was able to dream that I was in this world of ice deserts and rippling auroras and sights so incredible that they are real-life magic.
I bought a map of the Arctic at the Globe Corner Bookstore and spread it across the floor. From there, I plotted Cassie's path over the ice, across the tundra, and through the boreal forest... and I journeyed with her.
When I exhausted all the books I could find locally, I spent two days in Canada sequestered inside a Chapters/Indigo pouring over all of their Arctic books -- and then hauling my favorites back with me across the border.
When I ran through those books, I peppered my college friend Jim with rock-climbing questions and my friends Kate, Kira, Jay, and Emily and my mother with random medical questions. With my husband, I watched every Arctic documentary I could find over and over until I dreamed about ice mirages and whiteouts.
I even bought an Inupiaq-English dictionary, North Slope Barrow dialect. I remember walking into Schoenhof's Foreign Books, asking for it, and having them magically produce it from the back room. I took that to be a sign: this book was meant to be.
Third Shard: The Bears
Once, in the middle of drafts, my husband and I took a trip to San Diego. We spent a day at the zoo, and I remember standing in front of the polar bear exhibit, watching the bears walk and swim and dive and live.
I stood there for two hours.
When a baby polar bear was born at the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence, they set up a webcam. I wrote one entire draft with the webcam open on my computer. As I wrote about my Bear, I watched the real bears. My little ursine muses.
My husband bought me a stuffed animal polar bear that I perched on my desk while I worked on this book. I'd hug it for inspiration.
Fourth Shard: People
Every day during the writing of ICE, I emailed back and forth with a writer-friend of mine, Amy, who was working on her own novel at the same time. We cheered each other on. I treasured those emails. Another friend of mine, Rick, encouraged me too, and on my birthday my friend Dave sent me a gorgeous book of polar bear photographs. They (and many of my other friends) understood how much this mattered to me.
I met author Thomas Sullivan (Sully) while I was writing this book, and we'd email back and forth about writing technique. And I remember talking with Keith R. A. DeCandido about polar bears while he worked on his own book featuring polar bears.
And then there were two of my writing heroes: Tamora Pierce and Bruce Coville. I'd met them at Boskone (a Boston area science fiction and fantasy convention) after years of loving their books. They both read early versions of ICE, and they believed in me and in this story.
I can't begin to describe how much it meant to have writers who helped shaped my childhood read my words.
Later, my agent and my editor added wonderful touches that brought the final draft to life. And then the amazing team at Simon & Schuster made it into a real book, complete with beautiful artwork on the cover by Cliff Nielsen -- art that so perfectly reflects my characters that he might as well have scooped the image directly from my mind.
Fifth Shard: Love
Writing this book was a labor of love. I love polar bears. I love fairy tales. And I love fearless girls who cannot be stopped. But most of all, I wrote this book as a love letter to my husband. Beyond the ice and the bears and the everything, ICE is about true love, the kind of love where you face the world as a team... the kind where you'd go east of the sun and west of the moon for each other.
I may have written the words, but this book is about both of us. Not in the details. Not in the plot or the personalities or the setting. But in the book's heart -- in the belief that true love isn't something that appears in a single, shiny moment on a ballroom floor. True love is a journey, not a moment. It's something that grows and something that causes you to grow.
I pour the best of myself into every story I write. But into this one, I also poured the best of us.
And now it's a book. In the world. Wow.
To those of you who do me the honor of reading it, I hope this story brings you as much joy as it has brought me.
To those of you who were with me on the journey... thank you.