The opening to both of my Native American Historical romance novels, THROUGH THE FIRE and RED BIRD’S SONG were inspired by dreams, as were some of the subsequent scenes in them. I also encountered several of the key secondary characters in that mystical realm. Behind these stories lies an immense wealth of research. Boggles the mind how much work went into them (into all my stories, really). I have shelves of books and piles of manuscripts given to me by historians, old journals, etc, heaped here and there in my house. Now, of course, there are all the online sources too, but back in the day, there weren’t. And I began this research fifteen plus years ago.
Apart from all of these non-fiction sources, I’ve read very little NA based fiction. And I’d already written Red Bird’s Song before I got around to seeing the superb 1992 film, The Last of the Mohicans. Granted I loved the movie, but never set out to reproduce it in any of my novels, only to say that they have that sort of flavor.
My admiration for Native American peopleand their culture is a long-standing one, as is my profound regret at the horrific treatment they suffered at the hands of Western man. In my stories, I aim to depict both points of view with varying the shades of grey. No one group is ever all bad or good–people are people the world over.
I tire of some readers telling me my hero, if he’s a warrior, wouldn’t do this or that. First, he doesn’t have to fit a Native American cookie cutter mold. He’s an individual. And yes, I consulted historians, anthropologists, archeologists, reenactors and even some of the Shawnee themselves before and during the writing of these stories, so I had a good idea what comprised traditional behavior for that era, and there’s no one size fits all for warriors. It just all depended.
Bear in mind that Eastern Woodland warriors intermingled heavily with the whites, or could have, through trade, acting as guides…not to mention the inevitable warfare and captive situations that threw the two groups together. Many warriors spoke at least some English and possessed an awareness of Western ways. Again, to various degrees. Some were educated. The eloquence of their words are with us still, at least in those instances where they’ve been preserved.
Back to the interaction, remember, the first settlers to the New World arrived in the late 1500′s (think Roanoke Island and The Lost Colony), and Jamestown was established in the early 1600′s. So, Eastern Woodland Tribes had a lot of experience with Europeans by the time period my stories take place. Unlike western and Plains tribes, some of whom hadn’t even seen whites until the mid 1800′s. Makes an enormous difference.
I’m at work on the sequel to Through the Fire, a story that also builds on the history of Red Bird’s Song and follows closely on its heels time wise.