Jack London wrote “Call of the Wild” and the Kindle version is free! London, of course, is an icon! How in the world can we mere mortals, who charge money for our books, compete with icons whose ebooks are free? If you’re a consumer, and you’re looking for a dog story, why would you buy my book (“Dog Among Wolves”) when you can get Jack London’s free of charge? This is a problem I pondered while I wrote my book.
Obviously I can’t compete with Jack London head on. That would be suicide, but maybe I can offer readers something he failed to offer. I read his book carefully and asked myself, “What are his strengths and what are his weaknesses?” Perhaps my book can be strong where his is weak. Well! I don’t have to tell you that London is an outstanding story-teller! He does, however, have a weakness: he is a horrible fact checker.
For example, Buck (the star of the “Call of the Wild”) is supposedly three times larger than the average sled dog or wolf. Buck weighs around 140 pounds. Anyone who has done some homework on dogs and wolves knows that the typical adult male grey wolf weighs in at about 130 pounds. A husky can easily weigh 150 pounds. Buck’s size, by wolf or sled dog standards, isn’t really anything to write home about.
So the great Jack London screwed up! Imagine that! However, his faux pas provides an opportunity for a mere mortal author like myself. I can distinguish my book’s story by making my animal characters more true to life. Before completing my book, I did quite a load of research on dogs, wolves, bears, elks, etc Admittedly, for the sake of drama, I took some liberties, but for the most part, I tried to keep my animals as realistic as possible.
One other thing I noticed about London: He has Buck see the world as a human would. Dogs don’t really see the world as much as they smell and hear the world. To make my book more realistic, I have my main character, Max, smelling and hearing as well as seeing. For the most part, I want my readers to feel like they’re inside a dog’s head and not the head of a humanized dog.
Rudyard Kipling, who needs no introduction, also is a great story-teller but a horrible fact checker. “The Jungle Book” has a few flaws. For one, Mowgli’s wolf parents are not the leaders (the alpha pair) of the wolf pack. In the real world, only the alpha pair is allowed to mate and have cubs. When Mowgli reaches puberty, his parents, and Shere Kan the tiger should be dead. Wolves only live an average of seven years, and tigers live an average of 10 years. Kipling also humanizes his animal characters. There is nothing wrong with this, but if you are going to compete with an icon like Kipling, it pays to offer readers something different.
I am no Jack London, nor am I a Rudyard Kipling, but I am a Mike Jackson, and Mike Jackson checks his facts and tries to give the reader a more realistic experience. .