Adam’s Stepsons follows Dr. Heimann as he designs the perfect soldiers for the United America’s in their war against the Martian colonies. What was your inspiration for the setup to this interesting science fiction story?
At the time I wrote the kernel of the story, I was working in a used bookstore and devouring all the short stories and novels by Phillip K Dick and Robert Heinlein that I could lay hands on. I was (and still am) fascinated by questions of “what is reality?” but I was (and still am) also intrigued by the question “who am I?” not only in terms of shared realities and perceptions but also ethnicities, religions, and personal relationships within the family. The sense of self is inextricably bound with community and history; my own family history, for example, is filled with generation after generation of soldier in nearly every major conflict since the 1680s. So I knew that I wanted the story of Dr. Heimann and his clones to take place during a military conflict of some sort. The US made it to the Moon first, so I figured any Moon Base would be set up by a future version of the US. But the rising powers of India and China would necessarily lead to competition and colonial expansion elsewhere in space. So I based the UAAF on the Moon, India on the ISS, and China (basically) on Mars. But something has gone wrong, as it usually does, and that sets off the conflict.
I should point out that, when I initially plotted the story and sketched out the characters, Dolly the Sheep hadn’t been announced, Battlestar Galactica was a late ’70s TV show starring Lorne Greene, and “The Clone Wars” still consisted of a single line spoken by Obi-Wan Kenobi. So as much as I’d love to say that I got the idea for soldier clones from the current zeitgeist, the underlying premise of Adam’s Stepsons actually predates the trend. My high school library had beat-up copies of Nancy Freedman’s Joshua, Son of None, and Ben Bova’s The Multiple Man, so it’s likely I internalized elements from those stories and subconsciously reproduced them in my own story.
Dr. Heimann and one of his cloned soldiers, Seth, have an intriguing relationship that becomes very deep. What were the driving ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?
Dr. Heimann prides himself on his scientific bent of mind, but he struggles to cope to grips with the fact that he basically has no family left, and as Seth grows and begins to develop a real emotional attachment, the doctor desperately tries to push away the feelings he had for the person Seth is clone of. Meanwhile Seth has been trained (“brainwashed,” as the doctor puts it) to be an efficient killing machine, and his need for order compels him to seek out and eliminate anything unknown or unreasonable. Yet he, himself, can’t help feeling strong conflicting emotions, first toward the doctor and then toward his fellow clones. Both characters are driven to discover, deep down, who they really are as people, outside their rigid societal roles as scientist and soldier. Dr. Heimann knows that Seth is not his real son, but can’t help treating his stepson’s clone familiarly because it reminds him of what he has lost. Seth has been “programmed” not to think of anything other than army orders, but he can’t shake the sense that there is more to who he is as a person. Finding out he is a clone, and who his “brothers” are, is the trigger for the final confrontation.
Science fiction has always asked the ‘what if’ questions, but I feel that your novel went a step further. What were some ideals you used in building your story?
My original intention was to investigate not just the “what if” of human cloning (i.e., how would this be done? how would the clones grow physically and mentally?) but also the “what is self?” to a cloned human being. The scientists argue that personality is partly inherited and partly environmental; so if you were to make several different clones of one person and then controlled the information input, they would all become the same person. But personality also consists of emotional attachments made with other human beings on a deeper social level. Human beings are social animals; we need other humans to survive and thrive, and without others we have no clear sense of who we are and what our purpose is. So in order to examine this in a futuristic setting like a clone facility on the Moon, I needed to have a reason for making clones in the first place, plus other people who would provide the clones with that social environment. Once that was established, the real question became “Is what we’re doing morally ethical?” The military paying for the clones display classic cognitive dissonance, by using people they claim are not really people but know they actually are, in order to win what they call a morally righteous war but actually is destroying their entire society. Yet the General clearly also feels a sense of internal conflict, feeling obligated to protect every member under his command, including the clones, and also knowing through his friendship with Dr. Heimann who the clone really is and how this might affect his friend. Ultimately, I was interested in making sure none of the characters were typical “scifi” stereotypes, that they had ideals but were deeply flawed people, and ultimately would find themselves trying to make the best of what basically could turn out to be a lose-lose situation in the end.
What is the next book that you’re working on and when will it be available?
Right now I have a couple of projects I’m working on in various stages, but the one most closely related to Adam’s Stepsons is a metaphysical science fiction series set mostly on Mars. The first book is called Bringer of Light; a crew of ethnically diverse and somewhat misfit asteroid hunters recovers an extra solar object from beyond the solar system, experiences physical and spiritual changes, and ultimately becomes the new leaders of the united Mars colonies as they break away from the old political chaos of Earth and form a new society. The story combines hard science with various mystical systems of belief, ethnic and religious sense of self and identity, and international/interspacial political intrigue. I’m about a third the way through the initial draft; the aim is to finish writing by the end of summer 2017, and have an edited, polished manuscript done by spring 2018. The next two books (Defenders of Aeropagus and Return to Omphales) have already been outlined and plotted.
Dr. Johann Heimann designed the perfect soldiers: superhuman in strength and intelligence, immune to sickness and disease, programmed to lead the United Americas to a quick victory in the Mars Colony War. But Heimann didn’t anticipate the military’s unrealistic demands, or his own emotional responses to his creations. And now Number Six is calling him “Father”! What exactly is going on during the clones’ personality imprinting cycle? As Heimann starts his investigation, Number Six grows in confidence and self-awareness…and both discover the project hides a secret even Heimann, himself, doesn’t suspect…
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Angie Brown, A Jim Crow Romance was originally written by Lillian Jones Horace 68 years ago. What inspiration did you find in this book that made you want to publish an annotated scholarly edition?
I am certain that most of my admiration stems from my appreciation for Horace, the African American southern woman writer, who remained true to her commitment to write “creatively but constructively.” Before I began conducting research on Horace and her writings, she and the archival material treating her life and works were largely overlooked by scholars.
The protagonists she created all exemplify the kind of determination that Horace herself demonstrated throughout her life.
I wanted to create an annotated scholarly edition to help Angie Brown find its way into the literary canon, where students and scholars of African American literature could weigh in on its value.
Angie Brown is a strong women that is finding her path through troubled times. What are some things you admire about her character?
I admire Angie’s determination, practicality, openness to learning, friendly nature, and commitment to progress.
What kind of research did you do for this novel and Lillian Jones Horace?
I conducted extensive archival research to better understand Horace and the characters she created. A comprehensive list of the repositories I visited appears in my first book-length publication on Horace titled, Recovering Five Generations Hence: The Life and Writing of Lillian Jones Horace (2013). I have been researching and writing about Horace since 2003. Her papers are held in the Fort Worth Public Library, Fort Worth, TX.
I understand you contacted some of the Horace family for this book. What were their reactions to you pursuing this 100 year old story?
I contacted her niece and two of her great nieces. Her great niece, who remembered her well, knew that Lillian Horace was a respected educator, but she had no idea that Horace had written two historic novels. Most of what I shared with her and other family members about Lillian Horace was new to them.
Do you have any other books in the works?
Yes. I am working on an edited version of Lillian Horace’s diary, and a book project comparing and contracting the trajectory of Horace’s life and works to those of her younger and more popular southern African American contemporary, Zora Neale Hurston.
“Angie Brown is a romance migration novel set in the Jim Crow era. Angie, the protagonist, determines to embrace all life has to offer despite the social restrictions facing young black southern women like her. Angie holds fast to her desire to find financial success, personal fulfillment, and true love, but she does not achieve her dreams alone, nor do they unfold in the same place. From Belle, her confidant; to Betty Yates, the teacher; to Chester, the pool hall owner; women and men from various social stations in life and different places share nuggets of wisdom with Angie. With their love and support, she overcomes tragedy, welcomes fresh possibilities, climbs the social ladder, and opens her heart to love. Angie’s progressive journey reflects the migratory trek of many African American Southerners of the Jim Crow era, who left the South for greater educational and economic opportunity. Her quest leads her from a small segregated community to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and eventually to the Midwest, including St. Louis, Missouri, Chicago, and Southern Illinois. As Angie travels from place to place, she gradually comes into her own and learns key life lessons. Angie learns that struggle is universal. While doing domestic work, she discovers that whites, who live on “The Other Side,” also experience pain, suffering, and grave disappointment. Love eludes white women, too, and they, too, face gender discrimination. Having overcome her fair share of personal losses, Angie reaches across racial lines to console Gloria, a member of the Parker family, for whom Angie does domestic work. Her experience with the Parker’s is juxtaposed to her dealings with the Mungers, a rich, Northern white family she meets. Although the Mungers are kind to Angie, she learns that life beyond the South is not perfect. Yes, she and other blacks face less virulent forms of racism outside the South, but economic stability and educational opportunity are not easily achieved.”
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A Small Bronze Gift Called Mirror follows Lydia who is a sixteen-year-old girl living at a boarding school when the headmaster of the school forces Lydia to compete in a mirror contest. What was the inspiration for this very imaginative story?
A quote from Plato’s Apology of Sokrates served as my inspiration for my story:
“something divine and spiritual comes to me, (…) I have had this from my childhood; it is a sort of voice that comes to me, and when it comes it always holds me back from what I am thinking of doing, but never urges me forward.” – Plato’s Apology of Sokrates- 31d. What if we could not only hear this divine and spiritual voice, but also give it a face? Would we be satisfied with the image? Would it be what we imagined it to be or would it be what others expect it to be?
Lydia is a strong-willed, independent teen who takes matters into her own hands. What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?
Like most characters of the story, Lydia has many challenges to overcome and a difficult task to carry. She faces a lot of issues that people today struggle with. That require many morals and values like self-respect, compassion, altruism and justice. Lydia is a strong-willed young girl, who changes and develops these values as she grows up.
The story has a wonderfully unique take on magic mirrors that’s different from the fairy tale version. How did this idea come to you and how did you develop it into a story?
From the beginning I wanted somebody for Lydia to talk to, because it’s not easy for a child to be left grow up alone. This resulted in the creation of Phoebus, who could prove to be a true friend or an enemy. I tried to show how difficult it is for us today to protect ourselves from bad influences. That’s why the reflections in the mirrors are often shaped by how we perceive ourselves through the manipulation of the others.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
Currently I’m writing another mystery novel about two very different people, which have nothing in common until they bump on each other. It will be available as soon as the English translation is finished.
“A small bronze gift called “Mirror” follows the story of Lydia, who is forced to go on the run at the age of 6 when her mother is murdered. Protected by her grandmother, Lydia’s life is shrouded in mystery, compounded by the small bronze gift she was given and which she calls ‘mirror’.
At the age of 12, Lydia is left in the care of Mrs. M, and is given a place at a school filled with unusual characters. When she arrives there Lydia discovers that all the children have the same ‘mirror’ as she does. But it’s when she starts to learn how to use it that the real story unfolds and she must undertake a remarkable journey.”
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Fathering the Fatherless is a short, non-fiction story detailing the struggles a man has in terms of understanding and becoming a father. Why was this an important book for you to write?
I wrote the book because my Pastor struck a cord inside of me when he asked me to pray for fatherless spirit. I was like wait, there are hardly any books on this as far as I know. And then within 5 months I wrote most of what is in Fathering the Fatherless. From that I noticed I fell under this pattern of statistics and I needed to change so my children would live a healthier and better life and that I would become the father God called and made me to be. If you look at the first chapter, Statistics of a Fatherless Home, and look at whats going on in this world you can see what I mean.
What is one misconception that you think people have about fatherless families?
Well, writing this book was from the heart as a man growing up without a father I feel I missed out in so much as a child and as a father I lost out on how a father really should be and how to father.
You speak from your own personal point of view in this story. Was there anything difficult for you to write about?
It was hard to talk about me as a father and not having a father as I was growing up.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from your book?
I hope everyone will grow and learn from the book and strive to do a better job and teach others how to be a better father.
“Fathering the Fatherless deals with Fatherlessness and what it does to children and The choices we make in there life. What we can do as a dad to fix it.And do better for our Children to come to know they have a father that loves them and wont leave them, You & God.”
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Return to Babylon begins with Orfeo and Clarice returning from the New World and their battle with the Spartans to settle into a somewhat peaceful life. How did you decide where to start the fifth book in the Orfeo saga?
I think it is a central theme of my books that you never know who emerges as an enemy, and you cannot pick a good time to confront a problem. Book 5 starts out by Cyrus being bored, and he assumes he will make a business trip to Babylon and see old friends. The trip does not go as planned, and he ends up being held as a slave and carted off.
I realized that I had taken the series to the New World but I had not been further east. When I was a rug dealer I remember my time in Afghanistan, before the revolution. I really enjoyed every trip to Afghanistan I took. The people were friendly, the food was great, there were all kinds of wonderful cultural things there. When writing I did my best to forget what was going on in that country now, and tried to capture what it must have been like in the Bronze Age.
My favorite character was Cyrus, a young and eager apprentice who begins to learn the ins and outs of spy craft. Did you have a favorite character you liked to write for?
For book 5 Cyrus emerged as the main character. The name gives it away. I modeled him after Cyrus the Great (600-530 BC). Of course Cyrus was a character from a later age, but I know that history regards him as a pragmatic ruler and a peacemaker. That is just the kind of ruler the region needs today. My character, being younger, is not so constrained as Orfeo and Clarice. Cyrus is not a Wanderer, and he leaves less of a footprint than the other characters (after all he is a good spy). I liked this about Cyrus, in a way he is something like Zurga would have been as a young man. In another way Cyrus would find his place at the end of the book, and he would have no need to wander even if he wanted to.
Return to Babylon is an action-packed story that explores the dynamics between different kingdoms. How did you set out creating the dynamic between the kingdoms? Did you outline it or was it organic?
I had to outline book 5 more than the other books. The difference is that for ancient Greece and Mesopotamia relatively more is known about their history. The area of Afghanistan is less known, and in a way this made the plot more difficult. I did not have names dates and events to hang my story on. I had to rely on the histories of the later empires that existed in Afghanistan. The rugged country made it hard to control. There were many petty kings, and bandits could be a problem.
Where does book six in the series, The Slave Boy, take readers?
I have a story arc planned around Orfeo and Clarice. I will use Cyrus in later books, but in some ways this book was a one off. I am really interested in the transfer of power. It is not so much that the older generation trains the next generation. It is more that the older generation is there after the adventure is over to help point out what lessons were learned.
After the conquest of Babylon the victors installed the daughter of the former king as ruler of that city state. Zinaida is now beginning to feel stirrings of divinity, and seeks vengeance upon the coalition who put her on the throne. One by one surrounding kings are removed. This time there will be no grand coalition to challenge the might of Babylon. The battle will be in the shadows. Zinaida has sent spies to locate Zurga, and she is greatly concerned that he cannot be found. After an attempt on his life, Orfeo and Clarice decide to go directly to Mesopotamia in an attempt to prevent harm coming to their adopted city of Pylos.
The wild card in the equation is a small city not one hundredth the size of Babylon which is located in the lower Tigris. Can the ruler of Araka be persuaded to take on the might of Babylon? Daryush, now ruler of a small kingdom, also decides to meet the threat in an unconventional way. He trains a young apprentice named Cyrus in spycraft. Can smoke and mirrors overcome raw power?”
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Physical follows two women, Fatima who has given birth to twins in London and Kiki who finds herself stuck and alone in Northern Italy after her boyfriend leaves her for an ‘upgrade’. What was the inspiration for the setup to this engaging novel?
This novel was inspired by a wine-fueled conversation between two close female friends discussing the past five years of their lives. Like in the book, one had given birth not too long ago, and the other one had recently been ditched by a long-term boyfriend. Both were distraught at the sharp decline of their self-esteem and loss of their identity in a matter of months. They exchanged passionate words of rage and desperation which grew more caustic the more they drunk. Just before collapsing from alcohol intoxication, they homed on actionable lessons from their almost opposite yet very similar experiences: desire was still ablaze inside them; sex continued to matter; and whatever else slightly alien seemed to be hijacking their lives, they deserved to seek physical fulfillment. The rest, is fiction.
Emotions run high in this book and you can truly feel where these women are coming from in their midlife crises. What were some themes you used when developing your characters?
On the side of Kiki, I was eager to explore ways in which a middle-aged female could cope with rejection including the weight of factors such as aging, the yearn for children, and the clash with societal pressures and surrounding family and friends. Of course, I also wanted to look at the role of sexuality and how it changes with age, and whether physical desire can remain determining even as mature life becomes more complicated.
On the side of Fatima, I focused on the potential result of taking away freedom and independence from a successful middle-aged woman, trapping her in a new ‘silent’ world. I wanted to push Fatima to the edge and see where she would run to re-find herself, and how much she would risk to regain happiness. I toyed with betrayal and whether it could be therapeutic and serve a purpose, as well as with a mother’s/wife’s guilt for her own selfishness versus her right to want fulfilment of all kinds including physical. I wanted Fatima to consider whether love means total trust and what trust actually means.
I felt that Kiki was sabotaging herself a lot through the story. Do you think this is reflective of her character as a whole or is this just a phase she’s going through?
Kiki is a woman of a different time. Full of ideas and ideals. Passionate and righteous but who has never been allowed to believe in herself too much. She would like to leave Italy but doesn’t find the courage. She would like to step out of her parents’ influence but loves them too much. She knows she’s very different from her friends but not sure she could do without them. She’s deep down uncertain of what she wants from men, but at times feels pressured she should follow every female’s ideal of marriage. She’s a strong doubter with a good heart for whom things finally work out. We need more Kikis in the world, for sure.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Morte a Pisa: LIPS, LIGHT & LYRE will be out in June. It is a thin book with a trio of reflective short-stories around female death following a weekend in Pisa. The next full-length novel will be Caro M, where a lover misses her beloved Caro M after being abandoned; a wife is steered through her divorce from husband Caro M by her sweetheart psychiatrist; and a young girl has landed a fairy tale wedding to groom Caro M that soon becomes a nightmare her cousin wants to help fix. Naturally, someone somewhere will be the end of Caro M…
In a small town in northern Italy, Kiki feels worthless and angry when her longtime partner finds a new cool girl to ride on another decade of easy existence. Meanwhile in trendy London, Fátima, the wife of Kiki’s best friend, is losing her selfhood after giving birth to twins and being made redundant. Both heroines are determined to rebuild the passion and impunity of their youth, vitalising desires that will bring them to risk everything…
Themes covered in the novel include rejection, identity, betrayal, freedom and the right to happiness. The tone is humorous on the face of distress, often rejoicing in the terror of lives out of control.”
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In the final installment of the Lisen of Solsta trilogy, Blooded takes us on a gruesome journey as we learn how Lisen will affect the future of the Garlan people. When writing the first book in the series did you know where you would end up in this third book or did it come about organically?
Fractured and Tainted had been written, rewritten and re-formed at least 3 or 4 times. I had a plan for where it was going to go, a plan that would provide redemption for Lisen. Or so I thought. Then the friend, to whom I tell everything, said–after hearing my idea for the finale–“but how does Nalin feel about that?” Boom. Lisen’s redemption would lean on Nalin’s painful sacrifice, something I hadn’t seen until this friend pointed it out. Back to the drawing board. During the year I spent re-forming and rewriting Tainted, I made notes, 11 pages single spaced, to find the story that would bring closure to the series. No organization by plot points whatsoever; the notes were organized based on the date I entered them into the file. Once Tainted was complete, I put the notes together in the order they occurred in the story, then wrote them out on 4 x 6 cards for each scene. I had 57 cards at that point. By the time I finished the first draft, I had 94. I did, however, have the ending when Lisen and Korin are finally alone together all prepared well in advance, including the little bit at the end about the fairy tales (which I had word for word). So, the short answer is yes, it came about organically because I had no idea where I was going when I wrote the first two books.
The cover art for your three books are very well done. What decisions went into the art direction for the covers?
My cover artist, Aidana WillowRaven of WillowRaven Illustration and Design, is brilliant, and she definitely knows her stuff. She has taught me a lot about the art of the cover. We began with book II because I’d already created a cover for book I, and I was about to publish II. The process began with bringing Lisen to life. We worked back and forth for quite a while. The plan was to show her pouch through the material of the gown she’s wearing. We worked through several drafts of that. Then we came to the mutual decision that in order for the cloth the gown was made of to be transparent enough to see the pouch, it would end up showing things we thought inappropriate for a YA book. So the pouch disappeared behind the gown. It was a pity, but on the other hand, it leaves some of it up to the reader to fill in for him/herself.
After finishing up the cover for Tainted, we turned to replace my cover of Fractured. My desire was always to show a pivotal moment from the book. For Tainted, it seemed natural to show Lisen up on the top of the mesa after the Farii. For Fractured, the moment she falls apart after running from the chaos in Halorin was an obvious choice. For Blooded, I originally wanted the Garlan throne. Aidana loves slipping into alien worlds, and I had described the throne in the book specifically for her to have fun with. She informed me, in her experienced opinion, that with the covers of the first two books being set outside with a character in them, we needed to guard the brand and stick with that formula. I hated losing the throne (though it does remain in the book), but she was right. So the moment I chose was the one where Lisen and Korin must part after the blood bath in the Khared. (If you look closely, you can see Lisen’s eyes are black because she’s still blind.) This put both Korin and Pharaoh on the cover with Lisen. My artist definitely had a great deal of fun with Pharaoh. Korin was a challenge to be sure. I had some very definite ideas, as did she, but we got through it, and that cover is my favorite.
What were some things you wanted to clear up or wrap up in this final book in the series?
One important thread was what would happen to Lisen and Korin’s baby and whether or not they would finally find each other. The other was Lorain. The first was easy; the second, not so much. I knew what I had to do, but not how to set that up. Then the idea of a truly treasonous act rose up before me as a gift, with a little inspiration from Game of Thrones.
Was there anything that you didn’t have time to get to or wanted to leave open ended?
What I wanted to explore but had no place for in a YA trilogy was who would Lisen be (along with the other major characters) as she grew into her role as Empir. So when I finished Blooded and sent it off to Amazon, I sat back wondering what to work on next. I have several barely touched projects I could have turned to, but Lisen called. Rinli called. And it was at that juncture that I returned to Garla and Lisen 15 years on.
What is the next book that you’re working on? A continuation of the Lisen of Solsta series or a new series?
Yes, the Lisen saga continues. The first book, Protector of Thristas, is already finished and available. It begins 15 years on and follows the relationship between Lisen and Rinli. Let me tell you, a 15-year-out Rinli was an interesting character to place into the mix, and her two younger siblings are complex beings as well. And how has Korin reconciled his two roles–captain of the Guard and Empir-spouse? I answered most of my own questions that hinged on “what next?” and then, at the very end, created one hell of corner to paint myself out of in the book or books that will follow. I hesitate to commit to one or two as the “one” book I’m working on now grows longer and longer and will likely end up broken into two books. But this will conclude the story for me. I have an ending that I find satisfying and look forward to sharing it with others to see what they think.
“From the award-winning author of Fractured and Tainted comes Blooded, the finale to the Lisen of Solsta trilogy. After committing an act that terrifies her in its calculated coldness, and losing Korin, her valued companion, as a result, Lisen shuts down emotionally, allowing her to perform her duties as the Empir of Garla. But the arrival of a child, an abduction culminating in captivity and a drug called gryl provide Lisen with new insights, and faced with a civil war, she opens up to startling perceptions which offer a unique solution to the conflict.
Will Korin relent and reveal the secret he’s kept from her? Will Lisen come to forgive herself for her self-perceived sins? Will she recover the sense of family support that she once felt on Earth? Will she ever feel anything but alone again? Or will the nightmare of reality overwhelm her as the story concludes in this final volume? In a story that brings traitors to justice and two opposing lands to an inevitable confrontation, Blooded completes the Lisen of Solsta trilogy.”
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In Book II of the Lisen of Solsta series, Tainted takes readers back to the land of Garla and introduces us to the dangerous land of Thristas. What was the inspiration for these fantastically imagined worlds?
Truthfully, I based them on my home of Southern California with the cooler areas to the west of the mountains and the desert to the east. My picture was more of Rome or Greece at the height of their power than of some middle European medieval land, and the white-marble and columned Avaret Keep exemplifies the architectural feel I was looking for. When it came to Thristas, I love the desert. Lisen’s response of awe as she and Korin come through the Pass and she sees Thristas for the first time expresses my feelings about the deserts of California. Most people see deserts as dry, sterile places, but they teem with life–both animal and plant life. My inspiration was to show the breadth and depth of this life and its influence on a people who had lived there for many generations, establishing a culture separate from Garla’s and giving their lives a meaning dependent on no one save themselves.
Lisen develops as a dynamic, heroic character, constantly fighting her surroundings and learning more about herself. How did you tackle character development in this story that is different from book 1?
Lisen is, of course, a work in progress. It is absolutely essential that she struggle to find who she is in this mess that she sees as her life. All bets are off for her. It’s do or die, and as she begins to realize that she cannot win without cheating and that she must win in order to fulfill her mother’s hope for her, she also recognizes that she must find a way to become a person who she isn’t quite yet. I loved exploring her hidden spaces and corners, seeking out the fortitude within her to make it possible for her to do what she does at the end of the book. And when the degree of her ferocity came to me one day driving home from the grocery store in the guise of that moment when she cuts off her braids and then tells Nalin she never was a hermit, I knew I’d found the Lisen she needed to find on her journey.
There is a holiday in this story called Evenday/Evennight. How did you come up with this idea and develop it in your story?
You will note that in Garla, they call it Evenday because they live and work under the light of the sun. On the other hand, the Thristans call it Evennight because the center of their lives, the time conducive to productivity, is in the dark, away from the searing heat of that very light the Garlans worship. This day on earth is called the vernal equinox, and I saw the Thristans as being closer to nature and therefore more likely to attach a more spiritual importance to it than the Garlans. Hence their centering of an entire ritual around it, while the Garlans celebrate it more casually. A lot of the Thristan culture revolves around something akin to the nature-centered cultures of our own world, including Wicca.
Where does the third book in the Lisen of Solsta series take readers?
Two major questions remain. What happens to Korin and the special “package” he carries away from Lisen and Avaret at the end of Tainted? And what the heck are they going to do about the unstoppable Lorain? Lisen has seen Thristas for herself and is apparently the first Empir to have done so, and that alone puts her in a unique position in her dealings with Thristas as their “Protector.” I think, however, that the most fascinating aspect that opened itself up to me for inquiry was how the miracle of child-bearing might affect a man. I explored and hopefully resolved the questions and conflicts raised by the events in the first two books by digging deeper into both Garlan and Thristan culture and by opening up the possibilities for redemption for Lisen but only if she can accept the fact that as Empir she has responsibilities that sometimes require desperate and even cruel measures to fulfill them.
“In Fractured, Lisen Holt, Valley girl, beach lover, learned she doesn’t belong on Earth. Re-adapting to Garla, the place of her birth, proved difficult, but the greater challenge was learning that she is the Heir-Empir and must confront her brother for the throne. Witnessing her only friend’s murder, defending her own life with forbidden power, and succumbing to possession by her friend’s soul left Lisen fractured, with little hope she’d ever recover.
The story grows darker in Tainted with Lisen and her guardian companion, Korin, traveling to the great desert of Thristas. They hope to find safety in the anonymity of the barren wilderness, out of the range of Garlan spies. There, Lisen learns the ways of Thristas and its fierce people who view Garla’s Empir as a tyrant. In an effort to prove their sincerity, Lisen and Korin participate in the Farii, the spring fertility ritual which changes everything for Lisen. She returns to Garla with a brilliant but damning plan that she believes will ensure her victory against her brother.”
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Defiance on Indian Creek is an enthralling story that follows a smart and courageous young girl on the eve of the Revolutionary war. What was the inspiration for the setup to this young adult novel?
I discovered the real Mary Shirley in a box of family genealogy documents I received from my uncle. As I researched an incident that took place when she was an eighteen-year-old mother of a two-year-old son, I knew her story had to be told. I realized Mary had to acquire tenacity and survival skills well before this event and, therefore,Defiance on Indian Creek, begins the series right before her thirteenth birthday on Indian Creek in now, Monroe County, West Virginia.
Defiance on Indian Creek takes a quiet frontier family and brings them to the forefront against an increasingly dangerous time in history. What research did you do to maintain the accuracy of that moment in history?
My online research of New River history revealed names, places, and leads to additional information. I printed articles, slid them into plastic coversheets, and placed them into large three-ring binders with dividers. I even used calendars. These calendars were marked with historic events of the time and place, along with the fictional plot line. Yes, I’m OCD, and the day I discovered Scrivener was a happy day.
I felt that the relationship between Mary and her father was deep and intriguing. What was the inspiration for their relationship and how did it develop as you wrote?
The close bond between Mary and her papa came naturally for me. I was blessed to have a “Daddy’s girl” bond with my own father. I plotted the story to include the mistaken judgments and rash conclusions all teen girls experience. Mary’s disbelief in her papa’s actions fueled her defiance. I raised three close-in-age daughters to adulthood and experienced these clashes. Most teens really do love their parents but don’t let on.
Defiance on Indian Creek is book one in the Dangerous Loyalties series. Where does book two take readers and when will it be available?
Mary’s recent emotional trauma worsens when the family flees Indian Creek ahead of angry men who are seeking Papa’s life. But they’re not taking Daniel Boone’s trail to Kentucky territory. They’re traversing the old hunter’s path to the rough-manned, frontier forts along the Clinch River—until they cross the Cumberland Gap—then they’re at the mercy of God to Fort Boonesborough. I’m hoping for a summer 2017 release date for book two.
“Emotionally riveting adventure, survival, and precarious family relationships are weaved into this teen historical about Mary Shirley–a brave, tenacious thirteen-year-old girl who lives on the remote frontier of West Virginia in 1775 at the onset of the American Revolutionary War.
Cooped up in a dimly lighted cabin with her seven siblings and Momma, Mary dreams of a peaceful future with friends and suitors. But she’s worried about her family’s survival.
When Papa returns home with news that the Indians have agreed to stay away from the Western settlements, Mary breathes a sigh of relief. But when he speaks of pending revolutionary war against Britain, declares his loyalty to King George III, and plans to move to Kentucky territory, Mary is confused and afraid.
She discovers mysterious surveys with riddles and a hidden box in the barn that contains secret documents. When she witnesses Papa betray a patriot neighbor at a nearby fort and later reads a disturbing letter that implicates him as a traitorous spy, Mary is ashamed of him. He is endangering the family, and she must find a way to change his mind. Her emotional struggles lead to lost trust and acts of defiance.
When Papa returns deathly ill from a survey job and asks Mary to deliver a lifesaving dispatch, she balks. Is loyalty to Papa more important than loyalty to the revolutionary cause? Lives are in danger no matter what choice she makes.”
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Proud American is a biography about your journey through life in South Texas; from migrant worker to US solider and then US Border Patrol agent. What was the inspiration behind creating such a thoughtful memoir of your life?
My mother passed away in the summer of 2015. After her passing, I fell into a depression because I felt truly alone in the world. Being the only child of a single parent can do that to a person. I had my wife and kids with me but I still felt utterly alone, and I couldn’t shake it off.
My wife kept pushing me to discuss my thoughts and feelings, but I could not muster up the strength. I didn’t know how to discuss what I was experiencing. My wife suggested that I write my feelings down. For years, my wife has been telling me that she believes I’m a good writer. For years, I’ve been ignoring her compliments.
One night after dinner, she brought a letter to me. She handed me a piece of paper and asked me to open it. When I did, I saw that it was a letter I had written to her eight years ago. Eight years ago was when my wife and I first started dating, and one night she asked me over the phone, why I had joined the Army. I wrote her a letter and poured everything out on paper. It opened up the floodgates for me. That letter is now the first chapter of my book.
Do you remember what your idea of ‘America’ was as a child?
Because I began working at the age of seven, my idea of ‘America’ was that of tough living. It is hard for one to realize so young that his or her childhood is nothing like that of other kids. We were dirt poor and I had the full workload of an adult at the age of ten.
In time though, everything around me was a constant reminder of what else was possible in ‘America’. I knew there were better ways to make a living. At such a young age, I wanted to learn how to pursue my thoughts or dreams of a better life. I didn’t have time to dream of the next best toy or fun activity. I spent all my childhood dreaming and thinking of how to break my family cycle of picking crops for a living.
How did your outlook of ‘America’ change after your time in the US Army?
I must say that in many ways, the Army actually spoiled me. Although it increased my awareness of the harshness of life and the many challenges that it can impose on a person, it also continued to show me all the many possibilities available should one choose to work hard to achieve a desired goal. This only enhanced what I already believed as a kid. More so, I also learned of all the harsh realities of life and how people in other countries are in a far worse state than most of us here can ever possibly imagine or understand. I knew, after my military service, that we lived in the greatest country in the world. Even with all our faults and deficiencies, there is no comparison.
Being the son of a Mexican immigrant, was it hard for you to decide to become an agent in the US Border Patrol?
My decision to join the US Border Patrol was actually a fairly easy one. I was looking for something that would allow me to continue my government service. It’s important to note that my grandfather had never talked to us about his encounters with the US Border Patrol and thus played no role in my decision.
It wasn’t until after I had become an agent that I realized how my decision had impacted the entire family. It was a strange feeling and continues to be a delicate subject since I still have family that lives in Mexico and have not been able to visit them because of the dangers a visit from me would pose on them and even on me. With the violent cartel threat just across the border, it will be years before I can see my family again.
What is one stereotype that you think many Americans have of Mexican immigrants?
At this point in time, immigration has become a great issue for our country. With that said, the moment one begins to speak about immigration it is quickly considered to be a topic of Mexican immigrants and the ‘negative’ impact they have on our society.
I am an American Citizen by birth, but I do come from a Mexican Immigrant family and am now a Border Patrol Agent. I have to deal with criminals from every background one can possibly think of. As a federal agent, I don’t merely deal with immigration issues. I also deal with the issue of human trafficking and narcotics trafficking. In essence, I’m caught in the middle of the transaction.
I say this because in any transaction, there is a person providing a product and a person purchasing or demanding that product. I have to process undocumented individuals for deportation while at the same time prosecute the US Citizens that are committing the trafficking.
What role do you feel Mexican-Americans play in bridging the gap between these two countries?
I think we must all play the role of actual educators by way of providing facts and not opinions or emotional outbursts. I wrote a story in the book of an incident that happened to me while on the job as a Border Patrol Agent. The gentleman I encountered truly believed that he was above me simply because of my appearance and name tag. I chose to educate him and not escalate the situation with an emotional outburst. After that interaction, I earned the gentleman’s respect and he earned mine by showing me that he had learned the error in his thinking.
I’m a combat veteran who now has to deport people of my own Mexican Nationality because I have chosen to continue serving my country, the United States of America. And yet, I still have to educate people every single day of my patriotism and the struggles I’ve had to overcome in order to achieve the stability I now have.
Education is key.
“Being the only child of a single mother, Sergio was raised by his maternal grandparents in a South Texas region better known as the Rio Grande Valley. This memoir details the upbringing of a poor Migrant worker of Mexican descent having to pick crops for a living since the age of seven. As a way to break from the family cycle of picking crops and depending on government welfare programs, he joined the United States Army and served ten years active duty. He deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina shortly after the Bosnian War only to find and deal with the aftermath of the genocide that took place there and be caught in the middle of several attacks. His experiences in Bosnia ultimately led to experiencing signs and symptoms related to PTSD. After completing ten years of military service, Sergio joined the U.S. Border Patrol. Being of Mexican descent, having family in south Texas, and in Mexico gave way to new issues of having to counter threats against his family and ill-willed opinions of him for arresting and deporting “his own kind.””
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