While most of us think of snowy weather as the time to curl up with books and avoid the outdoors until spring, Kristin Knight Pace, author of This Much Country, does the exact opposite. She hooks up her dogs, packs her sled and goes out for runs. Thanks to Grand Central Publishing, I was able to read an early review copy and chat with Kristin about her book and experiences living in Alaska.
CG: You go through an incredible journey in This Much Country –from a young girl struggling with incredible grief and betrayal to a woman who runs a long distance sled dog race. Did you imagine when you were younger ever doing something like this, and what made you want to write about your experience?
KP: When I was younger I always imagined doing something extraordinary with my life. I was always different – very tall, red hair, loud – and decided to embrace being different. I wanted to be so different, in fact, that I could be untouchable. I wanted to do things that nobody else did. That nobody else could relate to. Because then I would have accomplishments that nobody could judge or even talk about. I’d have accomplishments that nobody could take away from me.
CG: What books are you loving this year or most looking forward to reading?
KP: I positively loved Educated by Tara Westover. I could not put it down. Both she and Jeannette Walls have this amazing ability to make you say, out loud, at the end of every chapter, “How did she even survive?” But she did! Not only did she survive, she thrived. I love stories about people, especially women, beating the odds.
As for what I’m most looking forward to reading, I saw a review right beside a review of my book in Publisher’s Weekly that grabbed me –Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Palmer. It looks thrilling as hell and I can’t wait to read it!
CG: Can you remember the moment you knew you wanted to run the Iditarod? How did you feel in that moment?
KP: Yes, I remember that moment very clearly. The moment I knew I wanted to run the Iditarod was the moment I realized I could run the Iditarod. I stood there watching the mushers in the checkpoint of Nikolai and realized, in watching them, that I had the know-how and the experience, and it was within reach. So everything in me said, “You have to do this!”
CG: When reading This Much Country, I developed such an attachment to your dogs. What is it like to have that kind of bond with your dogs?
KP: My relationship with my dogs is incredibly personal and familial. We talk, we have conversations, we have struggles and triumphs together. We work together. Some days I feel like a mom and some days I feel like a coach, seeing the potential in a dog and then creating an opportunity for him or her to shine, and then feeling enormously proud when they step up and hit it out of the park. There is nothing more satisfying than that moment when you witness the lightbulb go off for them and see the pride they have, the extra spring in their step. It’s overwhelming. That’s what makes you keep coming back to this incredibly difficult sport.
CG: Do you have any advice for other women and girls looking to do something challenging that is traditionally seen as a “men’s” activity or sport?
KP: Thankfully, mushing is not seen as traditionally a men’s activity or sport. That’s one of the most amazing things about it. In my book, I write about how we have a slogan here that says, “Alaska: Where men are men and women win the Iditarod,” and in general in Alaska, or at least in my experience of Alaska, women shoulder the hard work (and are expected to) just like the men. The incredibly harsh conditions here basically mandate that. No matter who you are, man or woman, you have to be made of a particular kind of grit and toughness to survive here. I find that so refreshing. People expect you to be able to do it, so you can do it.
So with that, I would say to women and girls looking to do something challenging – disregard how that challenging activity is traditionally seen. If it’s something you feel you need to do or you want to do (or in my case, you have to do) put the blinders on and get to work. Who cares what anyone else thinks of you. You’re doing this for yourself. And then, once you accomplish it, whatever it is, you get to carry that satisfaction, that earned satisfaction, with you for the rest of your life. And nobody can take that from you. You’re untouchable.
Praise for This Much Country by Kristin Knight Pace:
“Pace is candid about life in the frozen north, and her self-awareness makes this a worthy addition to the outdoor adventure genre.”―Publisher’s Weekly
“Kristin Knight Pace is an adventurer not because of her experience in the wild, dogsledding across the tundra, but because of her fearless approach to life. A bad marriage, a failed business, a betrayal – none of this keeps her from pursuing her Alaska dream. A brave story, beautifully told.”
―Leigh Newman, author of Still Points North