An Interview with Alice Henderson

  • By Tara Laskowski
  • May 14, 2024

The novelist talks eco-thrillers, wildlife research, and saving the world one step at a time.

An Interview with Alice Henderson

Alice Henderson’s love of wild places inspired her popular Alex Carter thriller series, which begins with A Solitude of Wolverines, as well as the dystopian sci-fi Skyfire Saga trilogy that warns of the devastating consequences of ignoring climate change.

A dedicated researcher, Henderson designs wildlife corridors and builds habitat-suitability and species-distribution models. She has surveyed for the presence of grizzlies, wolves, spotted owls, wolverines, jaguars, endangered bats, and more. She has also written media tie-in novels, including official novels for the TV shows “Supernatural” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” And while working at LucasArts, she wrote material for several Star Wars videogames.

Henderson’s love of writing action-packed fiction and promoting environmental activism has made her one of the most popular environmental-thriller authors publishing today.

The books in your Alex Carter series are billed as environmental thrillers. For people who don’t know, what is an environmental thriller? 

Environmental thrillers are suspenseful novels that often take place in rugged outdoor settings and address what is going on in our natural world with endangered ecosystems and species. My series follows the adventures of Alex Carter, a wildlife biologist. From poachers infiltrating the sanctuaries she works on, to forces who want to clear-cut the old-growth forests she’s fighting to protect, to saboteurs who want to prevent her from revealing dark truths, Alex must fight and think her way out of a host of dangerous situations. Each book also addresses the plight of a different imperiled species, with a lot of action, suspense, and informative science so that readers can learn more about each species and the diverse ecosystems they live in.

Besides being heart-pumping thrillers, your books also touch a lot on wildlife and conservation issues. I feel like I learn something whenever I read your novels! What draws you to these topics?

Thank you! I’ve long been concerned about extinction and the myriad threats and obstacles that wildlife faces today. As a kid, I wanted to join a Greenpeace ship on an expedition to save whales, but being only 6, I instead volunteered at the local wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center and did odd jobs to earn money to send to wildlife nonprofits. In college, I studied subjects like biogeography, zoology, climatology, and more. Now, as a wildlife researcher, I use bioacoustics, remote cameras, and a host of mapping skills to do species-presence surveys, habitat analysis, and more. And as a writer, I wanted to create a suspenseful series of books that would address these environmental and wildlife concerns in a page-turning way and which might inspire readers to speak out and help wildlife.

How much, if at all, is Alex Carter based on you and your experiences?

There’s a lot of me in Alex. We both love to tinker with machines, and I, too, studied the martial art Jeet Kune Do, in which Alex is proficient. And of course, we both love wildlife. I got the idea for the series while undertaking a species-presence survey in the hopes of finding wolves, wolverines, grizzlies, and other species on a wildlife sanctuary in the Rocky Mountains. The remote locations where I do wildlife work really lend themselves to suspense, and I realized they would be excellent settings for thrillers. Like Alex, I am very passionate about preserving species, and I want to bring every tool I have to this effort to help imperiled ecosystems and wildlife, from my writing to my research to speaking out.

What’s been the most challenging parts of writing these books?

I strive to have accurate science in my books so that readers can really dive into what makes these species unique. Balancing those scientific descriptions with action, so that the narrative is never bogged down, has been an interesting challenge that I’ve enjoyed meeting. I also want to express a message of hope in these novels. We hear a lot of dark and depressing messaging about the climate crisis and species extinction, and I very much want to get across the idea that there is still time, and that there are actions we can all take that will help. So figuring out ways to turn that doom-and-gloom narrative we hear so often into something positive has been another challenging aspect to these novels, one I care very much about.

What are some of your favorite aspects of wildlife work that you’ve been able to include in your books?

I’ve spent time in the wilds of Montana setting out remote cameras in the hopes of photographing wolverines on them. I was delighted to be able to work that experience into my novel A Solitude of Wolverines, as well as fascinating facts about the lives of wolverines. I also loved writing A Blizzard of Polar Bears and spent months in the Canadian Arctic researching the novel. Likewise with the mountain caribou, I’ve spent much time in the gorgeous rainforests of Washington state. I’m currently helping with a collar-camera study for barren-ground caribou, where I review footage recorded on small cameras placed around caribou necks and categorize the caribou’s behavior. So writing A Ghost of Caribou was definitely a labor of love, and I worked that collar-camera aspect into it.

Call to action! If readers want to know more about how they can help with conservation issues, where should they start?

Project Drawdown is an amazing resource for a number of things we can all do to help with the climate crisis, not just in our own personal lives, but in our communities and on local and federal levels. And if readers would like to help researchers with wildlife projects, SciStarter and Zooniverse are great places to find all manner of projects you can volunteer with, including ones you can do from your home computer. Even just a few minutes a day can help!

What’s next for Alex?

The fourth book in the Alex Carter series, The Vanishing Kind, will be released in March 2025 and is set in New Mexico. In it, Alex encounters anti-immigrant vigilantes, rugged terrain, and threatening intruders in search of a sleek and powerful, furtive animal: the jaguar. Readers can visit my website to read more about the series and to sign up for my author newsletter, which includes my latest publishing news, green tips, interesting wildlife facts, and even conservation and wildlife volunteer opportunities.

Tara Laskowski lives in Virginia and is the author of award-winning suspense novels. Her latest book, The Weekend Retreat, won the 2024 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel.

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