One of the things I LOVE about the world of books and authors is that I get to meet some pretty amazing people. People from all walks of life, people who passionately share their interests through their writing.
Today, I'd like to introduce you to Lars, and his passion for history as his spins his tales from a revolution.
Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?
I've been writing since I was in grade school, and expected to be a writer since I was quite young. My mother was a freelance reporter throughout my childhood, and it was a relatively natural thing to my mind that one should sit before a keyboard and pour out what came to mind.
I was spurred into writing novels, though, by a conversation with a friend who had gone to school in the Carolinas, and who liked to mention all of the amazing things that happened there during the Revolution. As I was (like most people) largely ignorant of events of the Revolution beyond the Boston-New York-Philadelphia region, I started looking for good historical fiction to explore that time and place.
I didn't find much at all, and what I did find, I was pretty well convinced I could improve upon. So I did, and have continued to do so for the past five years. My plan at this point is to write one novel for each of the original thirteen Colonies, plus a few more (Vermont, West Florida and Nova Scotia have already found homes in my series).
The books are each separate and free-standing, as there's little opportunity to make a believable continuous character across the span of territory encompassed, but there will be occasional points of contact between them for the sharp-eyed reader to enjoy.
Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing?
Like many writers, I have a day job, and being a parent to six daughters keeps me quite busy, as well. I do set aside at least one month out of the year to create a new novel, and I spend a fair amount of time throughout the rest of the year doing the more demanding work of a novelist – editing, promotion, and the like.
Could you tell us a little about your newest novel?
The Smoke grew out of my curiosity over the collision between our Revolution – essentially a civil war between transplanted Europeans – and the pre-existing Native American cultures. My research led
I wondered what the world of the Haudenosaunee looked like, smelled like and felt like, and how best to convey that to a modern reader. Viewing the culture of the Skarure (Tuscarora) through the eyes of a bewildered and lost Colonial militiaman offered a wonderful vehicle for that exploration, and his experiences let me immerse myself – and my readers – in that lost world.
What is the message behind the story? Was it something you specifically wrote a story around or did it develop as your characters came to life?
When I worked with exchange students, we had a mantra that we often used to navigate the cultural divides that sometimes led to conflict between students and host families: "It's not right or wrong, just different."
This same thought animated my examination of the contrasts between the Colonial culture and that of the Skarure. I was able to show readers a great deal about how these people ate, played, loved, grieved, and lived, and I think it's clear to anyone reading that their approach wasn't "wrong" in any way – although it was often wildly different from the Colonial lifestyles of the time, or our modern cultural norms.
Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow?
I have as an outline the historical events that took place in the times and places about which I write, but beyond that, my characters drive my stories. Once I come to know them (and they generally take form quite quickly), all I have to do is see how they'll react to – or drive – the events around them. My characters often do things that I do not see coming, but which, in retrospect, are completely necessary to the shape of the overall story. If I were to try to outline the story ahead of time, I would miss out on those surprises – and they're half the fun of writing.
That moment when a character first takes a deep breath, stands up and says to me, "I'm going that way, why don't you tag along?" – well, that's when I know I've got a story going.
What is the time span in your novel, weeks, months, years? How much research went into it?
I am sometimes embarrassed to admit how quickly I write. Most of my novels take me less than a month to draft from the first word to the last, although there is always at least some degree or another of editing and fine-tuning to do. I do a great deal of research both before and during the writing process, often devouring whole books and theses in a single sitting in order to immerse myself in my characters' worlds.
The wealth of resources available online is simply staggering, although I often have to work pretty hard to make sense of what I find. I've found myself deciphering 18th-century Spanish naval reports – in the original Spanish – or handwritten journals and letters of the period I'm learning about. (Just as today, different writers have widely varying skills in penmanship!) Many of the primary and close secondary sources that I consult have a definite agenda, and I need to filter carefully for that as I read.
Could you tell us how you go about your research, how you ‘catalogue’ information to make it all work?
Generally, I research individual pieces of information as I need them, and keep track of particularly useful sources in a notes document, as I go. This process is imperfect – there was a source for 18th-century French lullabies that I made use of in The Prize that I then lost track of, to my chagrin. I would have loved to have shared that with my readers, to enrich their experience of the scene where they appear, but I have been frustrated at every attempt to re-discover it.
How does this book differ from what you have written in the past?
This is the first book in which I explore a distinctly non-European view of the Revolution. It's entirely too easy to think of that conflict in very simplistic terms: Colonists (good) versus British (bad), end of story. The fact of the matter is that there were people whose sympathies and interests lay all over the philosophical map, and many of them were entirely outside of the Colonists/British divide. This book was the first in which I explored the sometimes less-than-admirable aspects of the Colonists' actions in the course of the Revolution, and though the events I described might be unfamiliar to us today, they helped to shape the complexity of our modern nation.
Too, this book let me really dig into the mythology of a very different culture from that which we see in our everyday, Judaeo-Christian worldview. I was able to take an almost anthropological look at the ways in which that mythology drove the actions and motivations of the Skarure, while still focusing on how it would have seemed to my characters. It was a fascinating book to write!
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Write. Sit down and do it, whether you're driven to spend time every day of the year, or can scratch the itch through something like the National Novel Writing Month – but get started.
After you've written, give your work to somebody else to edit it. We are too close to our own work to be able to catch the flaws – whether huge plot holes or minor typos – and we must rely on somebody else to do this crucial work with us. Do not skip editing. Too many otherwise potentially wonderful works are rendered unreadable because of poor or nonexistent editing.
Strongly consider self-publishing – it's never been easier to overcome the barriers between you and your readers. Do put forth the effort (or money, if you don't have the necessary skillset yourself) to make your cover and content look their best, but don't wait for the approval of some agent or publisher to get your work in front of your audience.
Do the necessary work to make sure that you are reaching your audience. Whether you are traditionally published or self-published, as a new author, you will be nearly 100% responsible for getting the word out about your book. Study what others have done, consult your ever-growing circle of author friends, and anticipate that writing and editing and producing your book was the easy part of the process.
Listen carefully to the feedback you get from your readers and critics, and bear it in mind when you go back to the beginning of this list and start writing again. Once you've got the bug, you'll never really satisfy it, so don't fight it too hard. After you hold that first dollar (or dime) from the first person who bought your book because they heard that it was good (and not just because they're related to you, or you cornered them on the street), there is no turning back – you are an author, a creator of worlds, a teller of tales.
Could you tell us what you’re working on now?
I've just finished drafting a novel from the Loyalist viewpoint, following a young woman as she evacuates from Massachusetts to Nova Scotia, and I am starting the long and arduous process of editing my novel of South Carolina – that first one I wrote – with an eye toward publication sometime this summer.
Witness the turmoil caused within the Haudenosaunee Confederation by the American Revolution!
As the quiet cycle of life in the forested realm of the Skarure is shattered by the outbreak of war between the British and Colonial forces, the old alliances of the Haudenosaunee Confederation are pulled in divergent directions, pitting brother against brother, even within the clans. Thrust into the middle of this maelstrom, young Joseph Killeen will rely upon the guidance of an unexpected community to decide not only what is right and wrong, but ultimately, who he even is.
"In this book we are introduced to the Haudenosaunee Confederation, a nation of Native Americans who the Revolutionary War throws into a state of Civil War pitting brother against brother as the clans try to honor alliances, only to learn their nation may well become the real victim in the battle between British and Colonists. The story’s well done, and I enjoyed the insight and respect given to a
people, victims really, long forgotten and overlooked in the circumstances that devoured them."
- Dave Kentner
The Readers' Writers Syndicated Book Reviews
"The Smoke very effectively illustrates the pressures facing the Turscarora people: the continuing
encroachment of American settlers and loss of Indian land, the long arms of an American/European conflict that was not their own, the tough decision to choose against the larger Iroquois council, and the struggle to hold on to a culture doomed to extinction by a stronger invader."
- Michelle Isenhoff, author, The Color of Freedom
Click on the link to enjoy the first two chapters of The Smoke.
Web site: LarsDHHedbor.com