I’m often asked
how much of Thirst is real, and each
time I’m delighted with the question because it means I’ve done my job!
My story ideas
are inspired by newspaper headlines, real life events over which I overlay a
simple question of “what if”. For Thirst, it was the Columbia River
Treaty, a remarkable agreement between Canada and the United States signed in
the sixties, that stirred my imagination. The treaty is an exemplary model of
international co-operation, and so are the more recent agreements on joint
U.S.-Canada security that arose in large part because of 9/11.
have changed and with less than ten years left in the treaty’s term, people on
both sides of the border want the treaty renegotiated with environmentalists,
Native American Tribes, Canadian First Nations and residents of the Columbia
River Valley pushing to have their voices heard. So far, the peaceful process
has barely made a blip on the newsworthiness radar, but what if it changed?
What if slow simmering tension erupted into violence?
They often say
that truth is stranger than fiction, and the intriguing history of British
Columbia’s Slocan Valley, an idyllic location just north of the Montana border provides
a rich background for Thirst that I
could never have imagined. The Valley has long been considered a sanctuary for
those seeking refuge or solitude including the Russian Doukhobors, American
draft dodgers and war veterans alike, but it has also been at the heart of
violent Sons of Freedom protests and a silver rush that drew thousands of
Much more than a
realistic scenario in a good location is needed though for a believable story –
characters are a key element. I work to
create characters who might be people you encounter in your every day lives,
and I want their actions to seem reasonable. Whether it is revenge, greed, or
something as basic as the need to protect ourselves, motives drive us forward
and dictate our actions. So, in Thirst
I ask a second question: What would it take for someone to kill or turn their
back on their ethics or values?
While our values
and beliefs hold us to a certain behaviour, there is more to each of us,
aspects of our personality that contribute to our actions. How do we explain why someone might run into
a burning building while everyone runs out, for example? You might expect
bravery from a firefighter, but often it’s a stranger passing-by who will fight
to save a victim from a burning car or house, an action they later explain as instinct
in a split second decision made without thought of their own safety. Most of us
don’t know exactly how we will react to a situation until we’re faced with
I’ve had readers
say that they feel for one character or another in Thirst, that they aren’t sure what they would have done in the same
situation. That’s where I want to be – in the gray area, that uncomfortable
spot between right and wrong where we all find ourselves from time-to-time,
those spots where a single clear answer isn’t available.
I’ve raised the
stakes of course, to make those decisions even more difficult, especially for
my RCMP officer Nathan Taylor, but no one gets off easy. Geologist Alex Graham makes more than her
share of choices in tough situations, and so does Dr. Eric Keenan, and just
like real life, some of those choices are wrong.
For me, this is
what makes writing interesting and why I’ve chosen to write suspense thrillers.
They give me the room to explore the world around me and meet fascinating
characters on complex journeys. I can well imagine sitting down over dinner
with Alex Graham and having her share this story while I sit on the edge of my
chair, wine glass in hand. I can’t wait for her next adventure!
Brief bio and
links for Katherine Prairie
Katherine, a geologist and IT specialist,
stepped away from the international petroleum industry to follow her passion
for writing. An avid traveller with an insatiable curiosity, you never know
where you’ll find her next! But most days, she’s in Vancouver, Canada quietly
plotting murder and mayhem under the watchful eye of a cat. She is an
award-winning presenter and the author of the thriller THIRST.