What is the working title of your book?
Iím calling it The Earth is all that Lasts
Where did the idea come from?
I think the seed of the idea germinated while I was reading James Fennimore Cooperís The Deerslayer. I have always been fascinated and in love with Native American culture, history and myth, and especially how that culture was changed by the incursion of the Europeans. After I read Deerslayer I began to wonder why there arenít more books like this, books about the frontier that respect native culture, books that a boy like I was could fall in love with. I began to think about Indians and asking them to appear to me in some way that I could understand so that maybe a story would emerge. And it did.
What genre does your book fall under?
Probably literary fiction, but perhaps young adult. I was thinking about writing a YA novel from the get go.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I prefer not to color the readerís (or my own) portraits of my characters ahead of time by associating them with famous faces. I like to keep my characters blurry.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
With just an old family bible to guide him, a white boy raised by Sioux Indians embarks upon a quest to find his origins and discover his name across Wyoming, Nebraska and Kansas in 1872.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The first draft took about fourteen months. But I had already written the first 1000 words on Twitter as a writing exercise and there was a gap of almost a year between that and the actual long-hand draft.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I think the book that comes closest is Cormac McCarthyís The Crossing. Part of the inspiration came from my dear friend Andrew Wilson, a writer, who, upon reading a few pages said ďItís Cormac McCarthy for boys. Thatís what Iím going for. But The Earth is all that Lasts is a classic heroís quest in the mold of Joseph Campbell. So in that way I could compare the book to hundreds of such stories from The Odyssey to Cold Mountain.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Well, a big part of it was Fennimore-Cooper. I love his Natty Bumpo, his transformation to Deerslayer and then to Hawkeye. My main character, the young scout Hawthorn, was created very much with Hawkeye in mind. In fact, until I wrote that last sentence I never saw the phonetic connection between the two names. Fascinating. The subconscious mind is amazing. All these things swirl and swirl and some of them coalesce. Itís like making planets from stars.
What else about your book might pique the readerís interest?
Hawthorn, though genetically white, is spiritually an Indian. His Sioux father is a great warrior and holy man called Old Rainbow who raised Hawthorn as his own son, with no prejudice. Hawthorn is not just an accomplished warrior, heís also a Wolf Dreamer, which is a sort of prophet and a very exalted role in the tribe. A central theme is identity of course, but at the core of story is a struggle between two world views Ė that of Manifest Destiny and the subjugation that that entails and the ecological humility harmony represented by Native cultures. All this is set against the backdrop of a post-Civil War America. So itís historical and there are elements of a Western, but itís also a story about the meaning of family.
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