Riding the wind with Lucia St Clair Robson
Lucia St Clair Robson is the author of all these books:
Light a Distant Fire
Ride the Wind
The Tokaido Road
Walk In My Soul
Last Train from Cuernavaca
Not bad for someone who never set out to write!
Her writing talent is amazing, her description and character building is second to none. If you have never read anything by Lucia then I would advise you to get to your library quick and order her back catalogue.
What initially got you interested in the story of the Native Americans?
I happened across the story of the capture of Cynthia Ann Parker, and mentioned it to an editor I met at a science fiction conference in 1979. He persuaded me to try my hand at writing it. Once I started researching the story and really got into it, I was hooked.
You have had some amazing inside access to the history and the people – was this hard to achieve?
The access to the information I had for the first three stories– about the Comanches, the Cherokees, and the Seminoles—came mostly from books and other materials I got through interlibrary loan. I took a LOT of notes on 4×6 cards and set up my own version of a library subject catalogue drawer. I also travelled to the places I was writing about so I could get the lay of the land, and find those small local historical museums and book stores.
I can only imagine it must be hard to let outsiders in when the past has been so full of lies?
A very astute observation. In 1980 I called one of the Parker family elders to ask some questions, but she wasn’t very helpful. She explained that she had helped a writer before, introducing him to the tribe’s elders. But when his book came out it was so full of errors that she lost face. So I didn’t use any of the Comanche descendants as sources of information. I’ve gotten to know them since the book came out.
I was told that Barak Obama recently offered up quite a large sum of money to basically apologise about the past treatment of the people, what do you think of this?
This is the first I’ve heard of it. I checked and what I found is that Indians are raising money for Obama’s campaign, not getting money from him. And they rank him as #2 in the eight best presidents for dealing with Indians.
There is much confusion about the politically correct term to use for a Native American – what do you prefer to use yourself?
I used the term Native Americans for years until I realized the people themselves use the word Indians… at least the ones I know do. Indians are very pragmatic people and the ones I’ve met aren’t bothered by political correctness. Comanche, for example, is not a Comanche word. It comes from the Ute word, Komantsia meaning “Enemies” or “They who are always against us.” The Comanches’ name for themselves is Numunu, but the ones I know go with Comanche. And really, it is catchier than Numunu.
Ride the wind is truly up there as one of my all time favourite books ever. The story you told of Peta Nacona and Naduah reduced me to tears. For those that don’t know about them and the story of Cynthia Ann please tell us a little:
Cynthia Ann was captured by Comanches when she was nine and grew up with the tribe. She married Nocona; leader of the band called Wanderers, and had three children. She was recaptured along with her infant daughter, and returned to her Anglo family, but by all reports longed to return to her people and Comanche family. Her son, Quanah, was the last Comanche chief to surrender.
Quanah Parker went on to have a lot of children, 15 if I am correct?
Are there many still fighting for justice?
The Comanches I know, mostly members of the Parker family, are very patriotic. I would bet that a higher ratio of them serve in the military than any other ethnic group. And they open every powwow and event with a colour guard to honour their military veterans. I haven’t heard any of them express concern about past injustices or fighting the government.
Ride the wind would make the most epic historical and romantic film, are there any plans to have this made into a film?
WIND has been optioned a few times, and many people have expressed interest, but none have followed through. A producer contacted me about it last year, so we’ll see if he can move Hollywood off the dime.
Who would you like to see play the leads of Peta and Naduah?
People have been casting WIND as a movie since 1981, before it was even published. At that time Sissy Spacek was the one suggested. As years passed, Daryl Hannah’s name came up. Personally, I’d like to see an unknown play Naduah. And there are some gorgeous Indian actors now who would be great as Nocona.
What made you decide to become a writer?
I didn’t decide to become a writer. I was herded into it. That Science Fiction editor from Del Rey kept calling me at work until I finally started researching and sent in the first six chapters. A Ballantine editor read them, called me at work, and offered me a contract. Nothing like a contract, a deadline and an advance to make one decide to become a writer.
Please describe your writing process?
I try to write every day, but have no set schedule. When writing historical fiction, the reading and note taking and staring into space can be as important as the writing and I have to do a lot of that. Life has an inconvenient way of intruding though, so I’m very slow.
As a writer, where do you draw your inspiration?
From the people I write about. They’re a very inspiring lot.
What other authors do you admire?
Since history provides the story and ending for historical fiction, I like to read mysteries to see how they manage plotting. John D. McDonald is my favourite for character development. And P.G. Wodehouse is great for dialogue and an easy-going style.
What books have most influenced your life the most?
As a kid I loved The Sword and the Stone by T.H. White. It gave me the notion that history could be fun and funny and fascinating.
For any budding authors out there – what advice can you offer them?
Don’t talk about it. Don’t squander energy telling your friends and family all about it. Just do it. There are many more ways to get published now than there used to be.
What do you think of the current trend for eBooks and eBook publishing?
I don’t own an e-reader and never will, but any format that gets people reading is fine with me.
You were also a Peace Corps Volunteer; please tell us a little of what this entails?
My two Peace Corps partners and I lived in a poor neighbourhood in a small Venezuelan town for 20 months. We lived “on the economy” and worked with the neighbourhood’s Development Committee on projects they wanted to do. We also got people enthused about clearing overgrown land to use for a sports program that became very popular.
You have lived in numerous places, where is your favourite place on earth?
Earth is my favourite place on earth. I couldn’t narrow it down to one location, although I am fond of my quirky, riverfront community. It’s very quiet and a great place for a writer.
When not writing what do you do?
Read, do crossword puzzles, work in the yard, sew, and since I live in an old house, I’m constantly fixing it up. And I travel whenever I get the chance. (Okay, I like to go on-line with facebook).
What does the future hold in store for your writing?
I can barely keep up with the present. I don’t think about the future. After all, I never expected to be a writer, so it still doesn’t seem real to me.
For anyone interested in learning more about the history of Native Americans – what books/websites would you suggest?
That depends on what Indian nation people are interested in. Otherwise, the sites are too numerous to list. I know the Comanches have a museum and website, and I’m sure the other tribes do too.
Do you think the world will ever go back to respecting nature properly again?
The world (meaning humanity) has never respected nature. The Indians did better than most, but even the earliest immigrants who crossed the Bering Strait wiped out a lot of the New World fauna.
You recently spoke at The Daughters of the American Revolution, how did that go?
I enjoy speaking to and with the D.A.R. because they “get” history. They’re a wonderful audience. Today the Regent of the group I spoke to last night emailed me a copy of the piece she wrote for those who weren’t there. It begins, “Our speaker last night, Lucia St. Clair Robson, was nothing short of extraordinary.” So I guess I did alright.
You can find out more about Lucia and her writing at her website: