Hi Lucia St. Clair Robson, you’ve written four books about America’s tribal people, (RIDE THE WIND, WALK IN MY SOUL, GHOST WARRIOR and LIGHT A DISTANT FIRE), one about a woman seeking revenge in feudal Japan (TOKAIDO ROAD), one about an indentured servant in 17th Century Maryland (MARY’S LAND), one about the American revolution (SHADOW PATRIOTS), one about famous frontier character Sarah Bowman (FEARLESS) and one about the Mexican revolution (LAST TRAIN FROM CUERNAVACA).
Your novels’ strong central female characters are the only thing I find in common, except an obvious empathy with history and tribal peoples.
Q. How did your interest in tribal people develop?
ROBSON – When neighborhood kids played cowboys and Indians I always wanted to be an Indian. I made many bows and arrows from the hibiscus hedge in the front yard. Never thought I’d write about Indians though.
As a librarian in Maryland I happened to read a short article on Cynthia Ann and Quanah Parker (Cynthia Ann’s son) in the Time/Life Great Chiefs volume. When I met a DelRey editor at a science fiction convention in Baltimore I mentioned the story to him. He encouraged me write Ride the Wind, which I thought was a ridiculous idea. I didn’t know anything about Comanches, or anything about writing a novel either. But the deeper I got into their history the more fascinated I became.
(Cynthia Ann was captured by Comanches in 1836, at Fort Parker, her family’s outpost in Central Texas. She married a Comanche man and had children, one of them Quanah Parker. She was recaptured by white men but was unhappy and died a few years later).
Walk in My Soul, about Cherokee Tiana Rogers, was a chapter cut from WIND. For the third novel (Light a Distant Fire) I wanted to write about Osceola of the Seminoles, a hero of mine since I was a kid. Author Jeanne Williams suggested I write about Lozen of the Chiricahua Apaches (Ghost Warrior) every time I saw her at Western Writers’ conferences.
When I did some reading about Lozen I could see why Jeanne suggested her. Her life was more compelling and adventurous that anything I could make up.
Q. Since you wrote Ride the Wind (published 1982) other authors have written (non-fiction) accounts of Cynthia Ann’s life. Have you read them, can you judge the accuracy of these accounts?
A. I haven’t read the newer accounts of Cynthia Ann and Quanah’s story. I know new information has come to light, (but) I can’t go back and change Ride the Wind now anyway. Plus, there’s always so much to read in order to write the next book. Mary’s Land has the most bibliography cards — 335 sources.
(Readers: The Western Writers of America gave Lucia the Spur Award for Ride the Wind and it also made the New York Times Best Seller List and was included in the 100 best westerns of the 20th century).
Q. You began Ride the Wind with Cynthia Ann’s capture, which included some horrific killing and a suggested rape. Was it difficult to make the Comanche sympathetic when you were so truthful about Comanche warfare?
A. I figured if I didn’t show the raid on Ft. Parker as it was described by the fort’s residents, I’d be doing them an injustice.
But yes, I did worry a lot that the Comanches would be angry at me. It’s a tribute to Quanah’s descendents that they’ve been very kind and receptive. I’m welcomed at their gatherings, and Ron Parker opens his emails to me with “Nami,” sister. It was a tremendous honor to be included in the family portrait taken at the Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock, TX, a few years ago.
A. Toshiro Mifune. I became a fan of Samurai movies when I was in college in the early ’60’s. During Peace Corps training in 1964 I went to a theater on a rare afternoon off to see Mifune-san in Chushingura, the famous story of the revenge of the 47 ronin. The movie was 3 1/2 hours long and I sat through it twice. It changed my life. When I had a chance to live in Japan in 1970 I took it, and got to visit the temple where the 47’s ashes are enshrined.
Q. Your Amazon author’s page said you began your adult life as a Maryland librarian. Did you always want to write?
A. I never aspired to write one book, much less nine. After getting a BA in Sociology, my adult life started with a stint in the Peace Corps. Then I taught third grade in Brooklyn, NY., worked in libraries (without an MLS) in Florida and South Carolina. I held those last two jobs for part of my six years as an Army wife. In 1974 I earned my MLS and went to work as a librarian in the public library system in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Quit my day job at the end of 1981 to write full time. Ride the Wind wouldn’t hit book stores for seven more months, but I had an advance for Walk in My Soul, based on the proposal and outline. I figured I could live for most of a year on the first part of the advance.
Q. You’ve said you’re afraid you will be regarded as a romance writer. Why would you be apprehensive about that?
A. All my books have romance in them. It makes the world go ’round, after all. But in my experience it seems many people assume any female novelist is a romance writer. The problem in my case is that someone who buys one of my books expecting something romantic will be hit early on with mayhem. My advice to beginning writers is, “Start with a massacre. You don’t need snappy dialogue and plot development there.” (Kidding, of course, but that is how I approached WIND and FIRE and GHOST WARRIOR. TOKAIDO started with a murder in a brothel.
In the other books the mayhem comes a little later on. Another reason people assume (Robson’s novels) are romances is that many of the covers feature a beautiful young woman who, by the way, is never the image I had in mind. But as my guy Brian used to say, “Lots of little children don’t have covers to complain about.”
One reason for the beautiful women on the covers is when I started writing, the current statistic was that women bought 70% of fiction. I don’t know if that’s true now or even if it was then, but that was the perception. The covers were designed to appeal to women.
Q. How do you research your books and how long does it usually take?
A. As mentioned before, I do a lot of library research for each story, and I always travel to the places about which I’m writing. Each book takes from two to five years because writing doesn’t come easily for me and the research is time-consuming. The information is organized by subjects, with cross-referencing, like the old library card catalogs. I even found an antique oak, 24-drawer card catalog that holds 4×6 cards. It’s a prized possession.
Each book has its own drawers full of index cards… tens of thousands of them I would imagine. Never counted them though.
Q. The publishing world has dramatically changed since Ride the Wind was published? Writers are now self-publishing and we have ebooks. Do you have any thoughts on this?
A. We all know that technology has changed publishing as it has music and art and so many other aspects of our society. My take on it is to use it to advantage. If no one wants the contemporary novel I’m working on now I’ll put it out myself.
I’ve also gotten the rights to some of my titles and my guy Brian Daley’s too and have put them out in hard copy and as e-books. As for e-books, they’re another source of revenue for writers. I don’t have an e-reader and never will, but as a librarian and a writer, I’m happy to see people reading in whatever format they choose
Q. Which book is your favorite?
A. That’s like asking which child is one’s favorite. But I will confess that Tokaido was the most fun to write and certainly the most fun to research. I was able to return to Japan 18 years after I had lived there and travel all over the country.
Q. What are you working on now?
A. I’m working on a contemporary novel that I started 16 years ago and put away because, honestly, it was terrible. But it’s had time to marinate, and I think it’s much better now. My mother has been after me to finish it for all these years. Hint: It’s about an incubus, with a bit of a mystery story entwined. I hope it’s at least a little funny, but no one’s read this draft yet to tell me if it is or not.
To reach Lucia, got to her website at http://www.luciastclairrobson.com, or buy her books at amazon.com, http://www.amazon.com/Lucia-St.-Clair-Robson/e/B000AQ3XXA/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0