American River: Confluence follows three families as they find a way to come together to celebrate life, art, and diversity. What direction did you take in this book that was different from the first two books?
I’ve always thought of a trilogy as being similar to the Sonata form in music—a musical structure consisting of three sections: the exposition (in which the main ideas are introduced), the development (in which those ideas are examined and explored) and the recapitulation (or resolution in which the main themes culminate in a conclusion). In this musical form, there might also be an introduction (or prologue) and a coda (or epilogue).
Because music is one of the main components of my writing, I had in mind the Sonata form as I developed the American River story.
Book One, American River: Tributaries, introduces the story of the three immigrant families and involves the reader in their struggles to overcome prejudice and to follow their dreams and ambitions. But it ends with a tragedy that further separates the characters from each other.
Book Two, American River: Currents, further explores the issue of discrimination and the struggle to overcome both external prejudice and internal delusions. Swept away by their passions, the characters find themselves flailing and unable to navigate the deep waters that threaten to destroy their dreams.
I knew that Book Three, American River: Confuence, would be about a resolution of some of the issues that my characters face, but they would also discover that in order to realize their unique destinies they would have to find a way to work together toward a common goal.
You are able to bring to light many perspectives on social issues without inserting your own opinion on the reader. What was the balance for you in discussing these topics?
A recent review posted by Literary Titan states: “O’Connor’s work involves a host of social issues—sexuality, politics, race relations—all disguised in what [first] seems to be a book about artists pursuing their passions.” Each of my characters has a particular role to play that reveals the social issues that affect them. They don’t all have the same views which allows them to interact with each other and voice their opinions. I wanted to help the reader understand that there are always at least two sides to an argument, so my characters represent different points of view as they attempt to navigate the rocky shoals of confrontation with each other. A discerning reader will likely be able to figure out where my sympathies lie, but I wanted an opposition to play off of. The characters end up debating the issues and the readers can decide who gives the most persuasive argument.
There are many characters and plots that run through the trilogy of books. Were you able to accomplish everything you set out to?
I doubt that most writers are able to accomplish everything that they’d like to include in a story. I had to make some pretty painful cuts during the many revisions, but I wanted to be sure that the story moved along and that the flow was not needlessly interrupted. In the end, I think I was able to address many of the problems that I hoped to cover—racism, sexual identity, mental health, political conflicts, women’s liberation, cultural differences—and to give the reader a lot to think about.
Do you plan on continuing the story of these families in another series or are you moving on to a new story in your next book?
I actually have an outline for three more books in the American River series subtitled Whitewater, Reflections, and Water Music. I thought it would be exciting to follow the thread of the character’s lives through another decade and see what they encountered. Maybe someday I’ll get to that.
But meanwhile, I’ve started another series of what I’m calling “psychic cli-fi.” I’ve been in touch with Dan Bloom, a climate activist and blogger who actually coined the term “cli-fi” for a new genre of “climate-fiction.”
For the past thirty years, I’ve researched psychic phenomena and I have a number of contacts in that area of interest. I’m also very disturbed about the rapid rate of climate disruption as warming temperatures upset the balance of nature. And I’m also concerned about what global warming will mean for our cultural treasures—works of art and architecture and their preservation in the face of social and meteorological upheavals.
So, with that in mind I’m working on a series of psychic novels that will address the issues of fracking, water resources, the spread of infectious diseases, climate-induced migration and other similar problems. My main character is a psychic medium who in the first book is called upon to work with a very skeptical PI who is an ex-FBI art crimes investigator. Again, the deep line that separates the world view of the two main characters will allow me to explore each of their views on a variety of topics that I believe are important—the nature of time, the impact of climate disruption, and the significance of our cultural heritage.
Book three of the American River Trilogy begins with the three families—the McPhalans, the Morales, and the Ashidas—in turmoil. Following Owen McPhalan’s death, his daughter Kate has inherited Mockingbird Valley Ranch only to discover that the once profitable family business is no longer sustainable. Desperate to find a way to save Mockingbird, she struggles to formulate a plan. But she hasn’t counted on the wrath of Dan Papadakis, Owen’s former campaign manager, who is working behind the scenes to undermine her efforts.
American River: Confluence is the culmination of a compelling historical drama about the lives, loves, triumphs and sacrifices of the descendants of three immigrant families who settled along California’s American River, and who are called upon to put aside a decade full of grievances and betrayals to try to save the history and legacy of their ancestral home.
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A woman destroyed his ability to trust. A man destroyed her ability to care. Can love unlock their fear and heal their wounded hearts?
His marriage over and his career in jeopardy, Trevor Donaldson seeks sanctuary at the Diamond D Ranch in Arizona. After gunning down the man who shot his partner, the accusations hanging over his head, the hounding media, and his own inner turmoil keep him awake at night.
Ketra Weston sought sanctuary at the Diamond D to escape the ugly backlash she suffered after a violent assault following a Good Samaritan act gone wrong. Time at the ranch promises to provide the peace and anonymity she needs to help her heal.
Trevor and Ketra are careful to keep their distance from one another. Trevor’s contempt for women, after his failed marriage, and Ketra’s skittishness after here brutal attack, leave them both wary of the opposite sex. But, everything changes when Trevor discovers that their lives are intertwined and he learns that her past just might hold the key to his exoneration.
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Beyond Sun and Shadows is a sweeping tale set on an Australian cattle station in 1948 and follows the lives of a small community as their lives are thrown into turmoil by unforeseen circumstances. The setup to this novel is unique and vivid. What were some influences that motivated you to write this story?
This novel is about my own experiences as I have explained in the note in first pages.
My father took me and my brother with him away from boarding colleges out to Roy Hill Station, south of Nullagine in the outback of Western Aust. to Roy Hill station (named Row hill station in the story). That place now belongs to Gina Reinhardt with her copper mines all around. I mentioned that I altered the names in the story. We stayed there and worked for some years until I went To Ethel Creek station down the track to help the Managers wife and children; and my Dad and Brother were moved north to Waterloo Station, near the Northern Territory border. Later on I joined them there. When finding a Lump on my back I was flown to Wyndham on the coast to have it removed. After being there for some weeks, as in my biography, I flew to Darwin and started work there as a clerk
with the Government for over two years.
Everything I wrote included myself (as Lea) and my family. All the story of the station and helping the shearers, mustering, The wet season, and animals are true, as were the staff of aboriginal workers and us going to their camp. We watched them dance and joined in with them clicking sticks in time. One old man Bindi the gardener, used to press his trousers under his mattress.
Some of the characters are from stations I went to during those few years. The main parts of fiction was the two young men who were murdered and the escaped prisoners who turned up there. A few of the events were fiction, but the characters I met there and at other stations were as I found them , except the head shearer who wrote poetry, but all the poetry written in there is mine. The local dialogue is true as it’s written. Many of the things the young daughter and her friend did and felt were my experiences.
This book has a diverse cast of characters. What character was your favorite to write for?
Favourite characters were many – Chipper (not his name), that mailman was fiction, the funny Chinese cook, and the little boy Eric whom I looked after (his name was Micheal). Everything I wrote about Wyndham did happen and were true, even the song they sang. The young girl who lived with her father, the weatherman, was my actual friend there.
I felt that the books themes seem to be humankind’s connection to the land and the pioneering spirit of the Australian people. What do you hope readers take away from your book?
I really hope that people reading my story will understand and realize this is the real outback country, and how the people of the outback come across. Not false or artificial, but as I described them. Their life is is in this land and most of them become part of the free spirit of the country with it red plains and spinifex whirling into the sky as willy willy’s do. Even my poetry in the book symbolizes the land and it inhabitants. I have written many story poems about the outback, the trees, the animals, pioneers and ordinary bush people. Some are humorous, some sad.
An epic adventure story set on the coast and inland, detailing life in Western Australia in 1948 on a sheep and cattle station. This is real outback living where dramatic events can occur and unforgotten shadows effect the everyday lives of others. When the meatworks were in Wyndham, escaped prisoners strike terror… a family and a stockman with unhappy pasts… the mailman finds a strange body on the road… an accident in windy weather… a shearer with talent… a tragic death daunts natives… a minister’s plane crashes… cattle rustlers cause a stampede… three girls lost in the mountain range discover the past… and even love alters lives…
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