Exclusive Interview With "Martha Hunt Handler"
Martha Hunt Handler sees magic at work everywhere around her. She doesn’t believe in coincidences, only co-incidents: things that we hear, see or feel that help remind our soul of its path. She appreciates the phrase, “Grow or Wilt,” and thinks that’s what we’re all here for – to continually expand our hearts and minds as we navigate our way through the plethora of experiences we are presented with for this purpose.
Raised in Northern Illinois, Handler began to see wolves in her dreams from a very early age. Always a nature girl, she spent her free time either swimming in a lake or roaming around in the Enchanted Forrest near her home. It was there she first heard nature speaking to her; asking for help while promising guidance in this endeavor. After earning a degree in environmental conservation at UC Boulder, she worked as an environmental consultant in D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles.
While in a bar in Cozumel, Mexico she magically met the love of my life, Rich. They had four children in five years, and in her rare moments of solitude began to write creative pieces, which she found immensely soul fulfilling. When her family moved to New York in 1996, another serendipitous/magical moment occurred when she heard wolves howling. Curious, since they’d been wiped out of New York state more than 100 years prior, she ventured into the woods behind her house and found three grey wolves in a large enclosure. She soon learned that these wolves were to be the initial ambassadors for the Wolf Conservation Center (nywolf.org), a non-profit that was being formed. She immediately jumped on board, literally (she’s now Board President), to help them fulfill their mission of education and as a breeding and pre-release facility for the two most critically endangered wolf species in North America.
With her adult children now grown and flown, Handler is able to focus on pursing those passions that most pull at her heartstrings: wolves and writing. She spends weekdays in Tribeca, New York and weekends near the wolves in South Salem, New York. Her first novel, Winter of the Wolf, was published by Greenleaf in July, 2020.
You have a very strong connection to nature -- can you share how that inspired you to become an author.
I grew up in rural, northern Illinois. By the time I was four years old I was allowed to wander alone in the woods behind our house. It was here that I distinctly began to hear the individual voices of the plants and animals. When I grew up and learned that others were not able to hear these voices, I started to understand that my role in this lifetime was to speak on their behalf and tell their stories. As an adult I became an environmental consultant; however, writing technical papers on environmental issues never quite made my heart sing. But in my 40’s, when I began to write this novel, I felt like I finally had a perfect platform. Winter of the Wolf was my opportunity to speak about the connection we should all feel to the natural world as stewards of planet Earth.
Tell us about your journey to write Winter of the Wolf.
In 2001, my best friend Gretchen called to tell me that she’d found her 12-year-old son Brendan hanging from a belt. Thanks to our mothers, we’d both been brought up with very spiritual beliefs. We believed that souls, as energy, don’t die, they simply transform. We also believed that we are here in this lifetime to learn, and that when we learn or experience what we are supposed to, we move on. But Brendan’s death left us both completely shattered. We couldn’t imagine what he’d learned in his short lifetime. To deal with my feelings and how inadequate I felt as a friend, I started to regularly journal. Four months later I began to hear Brendan’s voice loud and clear in my head, and he was telling me that I needed to write a novel and that my journal entries were the beginning. It sounded crazy at first, but Brendan was adamant and relentless. So, Brendan was the catalyst, however, my novel doesn’t follow his life except for the way he died, which I won’t go into because it’s a mystery!
Winter of the Wolf comes from some very personal events that you experienced, was it hard to share those with your readers or did you find it healing?
It was both healing and extremely difficult. I’ve always been comfortable around death and understood that it is part of the wheel of life. But to write about suicides in the way I had to for this book meant doing quite a bit of research. Specifically, I had to interview a lot of people who had loved ones die from a suicide. So, on the one hand, it was wonderful to shed light on a topic (death) we sadly shy away from, but it was painful to sit with so many people who’d lost loved ones to suicide and ask them to explain their feelings to me, because suicides are not like other deaths, they bring with them a heavy level of judgement and guilt.
One of the primary topics in your book is the power of intuition. Can you explain why this is such a valuable asset?
Intuition is our superpower. It’s the most valuable asset we have and yet so many of us aren’t open to it. I was lucky because my mother would always say, “What does your gut say?” She let me know that the answers to most of my questions lie within me. Those nagging feelings, goose bumps, illogical fears, hunches, etc. are trying to tell us something. It’s wrong to ignore them or push them down. Instead listen to them and act accordingly and you’ll be amazed how right they are. One of my favorite books is The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker. Read it and it literally might save your life!
What do you feel you learned from the process of writing the novel?
I learned that you have to commit and show up on a regular basis. Because I’d never written fiction before and had no confidence in my talent or ability in this area, I didn’t take my writing serious for many years. I’d write where and when I could, but I hadn’t admitted to anyone what I was doing. When I finally shared some chapters with a few friends who I learned were also trying to write books, and I heard them praise my work, I started to take my writing practice more seriously. I rented an office and showed up every day from the time I dropped my kids at the bus stop until I had to go retrieve them. This made a huge difference. My muse knew where to find me.
What are the messages you want people to take away from your book?
Intuition is our superpower; believe in it and act on it.
Moving from a place of grief to one of gratitude when a love one passes over by remembering and cherishing all you shared with that soul and learned from them, rather than dwelling on a future with them that was never promised.
Believing in signs. Our loved ones are near us always and are very willing to show us signs of their presence, but you have to be open to receive them.
Our interconnections to all souls on the planet, including everything in nature.
Moving away from judgement and into a place of understanding when people don’t behave how you expect them to.
Seeing the world from a spiritual perspective will allow you to better understand the cycle of life and better accept the world around you.
Tell us about your work at the Wolf Conservation Center.
Ever since I was a young child, I’d had a male black wolf appear in my dreams as a teacher, always showing me things I otherwise would have missed. So, I knew wolves were my totem animal. And then, when my family moved from Los Angeles to South Salem, New York in 1996, I began to hear wolves howling several times a day. This made no sense because wolves had been missing from the New York landscape for nearly 100 years. Deciding I needed to investigate, I went walking into the woods behind our house. I soon came across an enclosure with a couple of wolves. I then met the young woman who would soon be the founder of the Wolf Conservation Center (nywolf.org) and she asked if I’d like to help her, and I jumped on board – literally and figuratively. It has definitely been a dream come true to work on behalf of an animal that has provided me with so much insight over the years.
The mission of the WCC is threefold:
Educate the public about the vital role wolves play in our ecosystems,
Advocate on their behalf, and
Participate in the breeding and pre-release of the two most critically endangered wolf species in North America (Mexican grey wolves and red wolves).
What are you working on now, and what can we expect from you next?
Based on the amazing feedback I’ve gotten about Winter of the Wolf, I’m going to start writing a prequel and a sequel!
For more information, visit https://marthahunthandler.com.