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I got the idea for my latest tale, The Turnagain Arm, after hearing a train whistle coming up from the river while I was walking my dog Clancy early in the morning. Later, I heard another whistle to end the day. It was fall and the night was crisp and chilly, and the whistle lingered in the air long after the train had moved past us.
I wanted to write a story about what my Polar Night vampire Aleksei Nechayev was up to before the events of that book and after his human experiences as a Russian soldier in World War I. When I read that the Alaskan Railroad construction began in 1914 and reached its peak in 1917, the same year Aleksei became a vampire, my interest peaked. When I then learned that the Trans-Siberian railway from Aleksei's home of St. Petersburg to the far east town of Vladivostok was completed in 1916, I knew I had the beginnings of my story. Suddenly it became crystal clear how Aleksei left the ravages of World War I in the Russian West for a new start in Alaska, as freighters regularly went from Vladivostok to the Western United States and to the Alaskan territory. Like the day that gave me this idea, the story begins and ends with the haunting whistle of a train.
While researching the time period and the area, I found this great video put out by the Alaska Film Archives showing early footage of the rail's construction, which started in a tent camp that is now the city of Anchorage.
There are also great historical photos of the early days of the railroad camps, such as this picture of two women who ran their own waffle house. I was so intrigued by the thought of two women running their own business in those days that I created a character who ran a waffle stand of her own.
About thirty miles south of Anchorage was the most difficult stretch of the railroad's construction, the area known as the Turnagain Arm. The tracks had to be constructed at the base of steep vertical cliffs that ended in the body of water that gave the area its name.
This is what the tracks at Turnagain look like in the present day, so it's impossible to imagine how difficult and dangerous it must have been to construct them back in the 19-teens.
Unfortunately for them, the vampire named Aleksei Nechayev finds himself drawn to the saloon as well. And the workers who call the camp home soon learn that the brutal conditions of the Alaskan wilderness are nothing compared to the danger they face now.
Want to take a trip to The Turnagain Arm? Find the novella on Amazon Kindle and on Goodreads