You're right, Alaska's a very small state, except geographically, I often say that we have zero degrees of separation up here, meaning everybody seems to know everybody. Think of us as a 650,000 square mile village!
So, yes, I have met Sarah Palin, though it might be an exaggeration to say we know each other. I remember the encounter, but I'm sure she does not.
It was in 2008 when she was running for governor. My boss at the time was a Palin supporter. I shook hands and exchanged pleased-to-meetchas with her when we met her plan at the Anchorage airport. So, if that qualifies as 'knowing' the former governor, put me on the list!
She has not responded, so I don't know if she's aware of it or not. Seems fairly likely since, as noted above, Alaska is basically America's largest small town.
I didn't have it reviewed expressly for libel risk, though, as you note, a couple of lawyers advised me on various aspects of the story. And my very experienced agent read it from cover to cover.
As far as techniques for avoiding libel, I made it abundantly clear in the text of the story that Helen Mercer is *not* Sarah Palin. Helen is from Chukchi; Sarah is from Wasilia. Helen is identified as Alaska's second woman governor; Sarah was the first. Helen's husband races dogs; Sarah's husband races snowmobiles; Helen was in the Alaska Legislature before being elected governor; Sarah was never in the Legislature; and so on -- there are other biographical differences, but probably too many to list.
And the most important difference: Sarah Palin has never been involved in a murder case!
Funny you should mention that. As you may recall, Tina Fey did an amazing impression of Palin during the 2008 presidential race. At one point, Fey-as-Palin said, "I can see Russia from my house."
Hilarious, and absolutely sounds like Palin, even if she never said it.
Which takes me to my point: I still run into people from outside Alaska who are of the firm belief that Palin really did say it! They are shocked and a little disappointed to hear it was only a send-up on Saturday Night Live!
Good question! Legally, you can; politically, probably not!
You have my permission to use my responses.
Me too! I'll have to find a way!
Thanks again for the great questions, and for your interest in the Nathan books!