1.What was your inspiration to write Brightwing?
Every writer is searching for the untold story. I wanted to write a book solely from the criminal point of view, where every character is more or less bad, where the hero is defined by being not quite as reprehensible as the cop-killing, sociopathic rapist. For the duration of the book, the moral compass is skewed. I wanted to give the reader an unexpected set of new, uncomfortable definitions of right and wrong, and have them completely accept those terns by the end of the book. (Of course, I wanted to write an exciting adventure story and passionate love story, too!)
Brightwing is also a paean to Florida. The state itself is a character in its own right – a multi-faceted character, protagonist and antagonist both. I was born in Florida. I love it, and it drives me crazy – you know those kind of relationships! It is a very strange state, with a disturbing mix of the modern and the primitive. The oddest things happen in Florida, and people just shrug them off. The three main characters are archetypes of the three primary forces battling in Florida. Lucy of course represents Florida's history, its heritage, its endangered environment. Edgar is the modern Northerner, the Outsider, who comes to Florida cocksure and ends up assimilated. And Mallory reflects the emotionless, inhuman dangers intrinsic to Florida. You know, I think the thing I love most about Florida (perversely enough) is that it is one of the few developed places where you think about the possibility of being eaten every time you leave the house. Sure, other places have cougars and bears and sharks and alligators, but only in Florida does everyone seem constantly (but cheerfully) braced for attack.
2.Were you familiar with the Tequesta before writing? What kind of research did you do?
I've always been interested in Florida's pre-history. I'm an avid amateur fossil-hunter, and Florida is a perfect place for Pliocene and Pleistocene fossils (think mammoths, saber-toothed cats, giant sloths.) I've spent a lot of time underwater looking for their remains. Humans overlapped the giant mammals for a few thousand years, so I've also found occasional beads and tools from extinct Florida tribes.
I did tons of research to make sure I got the details right. Not a lot is known about the Tequesta – they died out by the 18th century – but I made sure everything was as accurate as possible, given limited facts, and that anything I had to create was plausible. I researched primitive tool-making methods, native, medicinal and poisonous plants of Florida, tracking, hunting – everything the Tequesta would have had to do to survive, and all of the things Lucy Brightwing is still doing. And of course, I've also spent a lot of time in wild Florida!
3. Are the legends real or did you make them up for the sake of your book?
The few Spanish who had contact with the Tequesta left some reports – they probably did preserve the bones of important people; like many other indigenous southeastern cultures they drank the “black drink” (a highly caffeinated brew of yaupon holly, which they drank in great quantity and then vomited); and they are said to have practiced human sacrifice. (The last is certainly possible, but the Spanish were known for saying people practiced human sacrifice or cannibalism to justify the desire to conquer and convert them.)
But most of the current knowledge of the Tequesta comes from archaeological evidence, and as far as I know, none of their legends survive. I took what I knew, and then read as many other Native American stories and legends as I could find, to create stories unique to the Tequesta that were fictitious, but believable. As far as the Tequesta-Seminole alliance, well... that's also fictitious, but plausible. Most of the Tequesta probably died of disease, and some were likely sent to Cuba. But what if the survivors retreated into the swamps? What if they hid in the Everglades until the Creek tribes fled there, seeking refuge? It is easy to hide in the swamps (well, hard to survive, but hard to be found.) The Creek (who, with assorted other groups, became the Seminole) did remarkably well in the swamps, and probably because of their inhospitable home, are known as the only tribe that was never conquered. In my reimagining, they had a little help when they first arrived.
4. As a former deputy sheriff, I'm sure you've seen all kinds of criminals. Are Lucy, Mallory, & Edgar based on anyone?
I came across some pretty foul people in my law enforcement days, but none of them were nearly as slick as Edgar, sick as Mallory or smart as Lucy. For the most part, criminals are a sorry lot – not nearly interesting enough to star in a novel. (At least, that's true for the ones who get caught. There are a few master criminals out there, but you rarely find them handcuffed in the back of cruisers.) Of course, most people need tweaking before they're novel-ready! Mallory and Edgar have elements of people I know – but I'm not telling who.
5. Are there things that you must have while you're writing (i.e. certain music, foods, clothing, etc.)?
The only thing I need when I write is solitude. Sometimes I can peck out a line or two while my son narrates a Chuggington adventure. (He has an amazing capacity for uninterrupted speech. His nickname is Buster, but I sometimes call him Filibuster.) But for the most part I have to wait until everyone is asleep to write. I owe every book I've written (except Under the Green Hill) to my son's nap time.
6. What can we expect from you next in this genre?
Right now I'm working on a paranormal romantic thriller with a great lead couple – a cannibal, and a deputy from a wealthy background “slumming” in the law enforcement world – who engage in Nick-and-Nora banter as they hunt killers and thwart a plan for world domination.
I'm very pleased with my self-publishing experiment with Brightwing, but I'd love to move into traditional publishing with my next adult work. (My children's books are all traditionally published.) My adored agent only represents children's books, so eventually I'll be looking for an agent to represent my adult fiction.
Thanks so much for having me on Bound and Determined!
Thank you, Sullivan for the interview and for the giveaway below!
Giveaway time!Sullivan has generously offered to give each person who comments below an eBook copy of Brightwing! All you have to do is leave your email address in the comments section! How easy & awesome is that?!?! Comments will be closed on November 4, 2011.
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