So let's get started with the questions. Here we go!
1. Do you have a favorite author or book? What about them appeals to you?
O'Henry has always appealed to me, because he knows human nature. He also has a sense of humor I enjoy when reading. Hemmingway, Faulknew all know characterization well. They have their people down pat. I can appreciate that.
2. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Well, I use the family unit, the coming together, the sticking together and coming together of characters. I not only want them to say I love you I want my characters to come alive on the page for the reader. The message is unity, loyalty, freedom, and even forgiveness.
- Favorite literary character? Why them?
This might sound like it's typical, but I don't think it is. I like Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler. Because they were deeper people than you first see on the screen. He comes off as catty and smart and cagey, deep down he's got a soft heart for the woman he loves and his children. Gotta love that. She comes off as mean and self centered, but take a closer look at Scarlett, would Tara have ever been rebuilt if it hadn't been for the determination of Scarlett. Would the businesses she engaged in work had she been mamby-pamby. No. They wouldn't. So these characters are very deep and layered and you can't just look at Scarlet and say, she was a brat. She was a clever, loyal, determined brat. And Rhett wasn't just a male chauvinist, but a man who loved his family and did everything for them. I like when a book or movie shows growth and we saw Scarlett go from a whinny spoiled kid, to a work savvy woman who knew her business. We saw Rhett go from a carefree smart-aleck to a caring soldier and family man. This is what makes a book, character.
- What book are you reading now?
Sorry, I've been way too busy lately to read a book. In the past two years I have written 5 historicals one contemporary, and several short stories for Anthologies. So reading is not something I can indulge in when I'm writing. I'm writing my own so I don't have the time to indulge in a good book.
- What genre is your favorite to write?
I love the western, it has so many possibilities. I love how the men were tough and the women could turn anything into a big meal. I love to research it and to learn new things about the west and how our ancestors had to work so hard to make it better for generations to come.
- What do you think makes a good story?
Again I go back to characters. If you create an unforgettable character, the reader won't forget your book. Naturally there has to be a plot or plotting, but to me the character is of the utmost importance.
- What are your current Works In Progress?
Love Rules, Always Remember, just sold Better Off Without Her, Sweeter than Wine is a contemp I need to finish, and Mail Order Nanny too. Plus I started a spin off of Beyond the Dream Catcher and have another Indian story to tell. A lot of work ahead of me.
- What is the hardest part of writing?
Hardest part, I'd say the editing, because you are going back over for the millionth time what you wrote and it gets tiring, plus you have to really pay attention to catch all the mistakes that can slip by.
- What’s one guilty pleasure you enjoy?
Oh Geez…..chocolate…and cokes…but lately I've given up the cokes again because of the old kidneys. But a chocolate bar can be heaven. I like plain Hershey bars.
- What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Not sure what you mean. In my wiring itself, I always instill a family unit.
In as a writer, I have a messy desk and if I clean it off, I can never find anything. So I like to leave it alone so I am not disrupted. Because the minute I try to get organized, finding anything is chaos for me.
- If you could live in a book’s fictional universe for a day, which book would you choose?
Gone With the Wind again, because I'd like to actually feel what the people were feeling back then, and know what they were thinking and I'd sure help Scarlett rebuild TARA and I'd have kept that baby from the horses till she was much older.
- What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I enjoy going to a movie, watching oldies on tv, having get togethers with my grandkids. I enjoy bowling.
- Tell us about your current book.
Beyond the Dream Catcher started off like a typical western. As the third chapter was the beginning at first. The paranormal effects in the book made that change and I created a new character to introduce it, At first there were no dreams or dream catchers.. But I wanted to add an element in the book that I could make the couple keep up with each other. So I invented Burning Tree the Shaman of the Shawnee tribe. I invented the theory that he went beyond the dream catcher to pull these two together so that Chase Rivers could bring her back to her people. Katherine Hightower was raised a white girl. Chase Rivers was a half-breed.
Once Chase Rivers enters the picture, he is constantly heading her towards the tribe. But it is Burning Tree's magic that throws Katherine and Chase so intimately close to each other that love is inevitable. Never in all her nineteen years has Katherine been intimate with a man, and to be thrown into Chase's arms during a dream, an erotic dream I might add, is beyond her comprehension. But Burning Tree is determined to keep these two together until Chase can bring her back to the tribe. She has special powers she knows nothing of. She can save the Shawnee tribe. But Katherine has to first accept the fact that she's herself is part Indian.
Chase encounters problems with the Comanche and the U.S. Army, and then a loco thief steals Katherine away and Chase must go after her and save her. But even with the erotic dreams and the fact that he does save her, she hesitates going with him. She must choose whether she accepts her true heritage, and whether her real life feelings are as strong as the dreams she shares.
- How did you come up with the title?
After I invented the erotic dreams, and Burning Tree I realized the legend of the dream catcher is basically to keep bad dreams away. So one must go beyond that to bring two people together and keep them together. Dream Catchers are not normally used by the Shawnee, but Burning Tree tells of a northern tribe that gave him the dream catcher and him being a Shaman he was open to using anything to save his people. Being blessed by the Great Spirit he was able to use the dream catcher to ensnare Katherine and Chase in erotic dreams that would make them pull together for survival. The dreams were always pleasant beyond belief and bonded the two in a union that couldn't be broken. Chase saw mainly visions of the dream, Katherine was the dreamer. Once I stretched the dream catcher to go beyond, the title came naturally.
- What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
That the dreams turned erotic, however, I think they had to be. Because it had to pull Katherine towards Chase at all times. Merely a few kisses would never do this. When one comes together in love a bond is formed. Thus their erotic dreams were a bond to keep them together, to let each other know they were alive and loyal to each other. Katherine at one point is kidnapped and Chase must stay in touch with her, so he doesn't lose her to the loco thief. The dreams keep them aware of where they are, what is going on, and pulls them towards each other, and not apart. Even when Katherine thinks Chase dead, she is still pulled by the dreams.
- Where and when do you write?
I write on my desktop in my bedroom. Sometimes on my laptop, but I don't like writing on it as well. I write sometimes early in the morning, sometimes very late at night. Sometimes I write all day. When the vibes are good, I can write a lot in one sitting. Several Chapters in fact. When I come to a halt, I do something else until I can straighten the problem in my head and go on.
- Have you ever suffered from writer's block and if so, how do you overcome it?
Before I wrote Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, I had just finished Nick's Baby and wondered where I would go from there. I did. I prayed. I sat down in a comfy chair and closed my eyes and talked to God about it. He told me in my brain to search out what I liked to write, to make it twist and turn to be different. And Chief Cook and Bottle Washer was born from the prayer. Sometimes I do housework to make my brain kick in, because I hate housework. I'll do anything to get out of that…including think of a new book.
- If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?
I really liked the book, "The Five People You Meet in Heaven." I thought that was a thoughtful, well written book. I enjoyed it and I think it has a much better direction than The Shack. I'd love to try to write a book like that. Although I'm not sure I could write one better.
- Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers? If so, what are they?
Oh, I guess I could tell them to never give up, but I've learned that a real writer won't. They'll go on writing no matter what. A wanna be writer will quit. I'd say hey, learn all you can about this business, meet people, listen, don't talk, not until you know what you're saying, but listen to others. Many others, not just one, but many, so you have more than one idea to start with. And by all means….write, and keep writing until you get better. Because if you keep writing, you will get better, I'm living proof of that. So when you finish that manuscript, start another, and then another. And finish them. Don't just start one and go to another one. Finish it. Then learn all you can about publishing and which way you want to go with it. Be patient, because you won't get answers immediately. And good luck.
- Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I hope beyond anything else, I touch your heart with my books. I hope my characters shine enough so you remember them. I wish you'd write me and tell me what you think, good or bad. And when I do get letters from readers and they say something like, "I loved that book, I could not stop, and didn't want it to end." Then I am truly paid for my efforts. Thank you one and all. And thank you for having me here. I've enjoyed it.
(Leslie: Also, since I couldn't resist, I asked Rita Hestand a few more questions. These ones were more specifically about Beyond the Dream Catcher - which is an excellent novel!!!)
How long did it take you to write Beyond the Dream Catcher?
I started the premise for Beyond the Dream Catcher several years ago, however, it had no paranormal elements in it at the time, it was a just a western. I wrote about a chapter and stopped. It sat there festering for a long time. Then I began working on it again, just a few months ago. It took about 2-3 months to finish it. Once I came up with the idea of the Dream Catcher, I realized I had the direction going and took off with it. I visualize my books in my head like a movie playing, I could see them moving about. I could see Chase building the travois, I could see the scorpions dancing in the hot sand. The erotic side of the story came later, and made it all gel.
Only because they needed something strong enough to hold them together since they were strangers from the beginning.
2. How did you come up with your characters?
Katherine was the star at the beginning of the story. But once I established her plight I had no direction to go with her. When Chase came along, it began to mesh. Most of the time I have both characters down first before I write, with this one, I began with Katherine and her brother, and it stalemated until I could find the key ingredient, and that ingredient was the erotic dreams.
I knew I would have a half breed Indian in the story, but I hadn't foreseen how they would come together. Once I invented Burning Tree and the Dream Catcher, I had found the entire story and moved with it. It hit me much differently than most of my books. However, I usually don't even write anything until I have the entire plot figured out and can go with my characters.
It is strange sometimes how we form our characters. Once you have the idea down right, the characters invent themselves and you can run with the book. That's what I did. The hero was named after my grandson, Chase. But since he was Indian, I had to find something to go with
Chase. They say that sometimes the Indians name their children after the first things they see when they are born. Chase Rivers clicked with me, right away.
3. Have you written historical fiction previously?
Before Beyond the Dream Catcher, I wrote Jodi's Journey, a cattle drive with a woman along. That book is with Whimsical Publications. It's a sweet romance with no paranormal elements.
It's a tale of lost pride, and regained dignity during a time of defeat.
4. Did you have to do a lot of research for this novel?
Actually, there was a lot, but it came sporadic. I needed to learn the differences in the Indian tribes because Chase was born Shawnee, captured by the Comanche. In the story, Chase tells the Captain the differences in how they treat their captives. And the Captain being a West Pointer and not from the west is awed in that the Indian tribes are so different. I looked up the spelling of the names for God, and Great Sprit and several Shawnee expressions I found a list of words and worked from there I could use throughout the book, they are spelled as the tribes write them.
I researched the Butterfield Stage Line thoroughly, I found it so interesting that this stage line did not last long. And it was partly due to the Comanche and Apache raids through out the country during that time. Butterfield was going broke too, and the war between the states was at hand.
It was also interesting that during the civil war, the forts in Texas were nearly abandoned, leaving the settlers little protection from the Indians and the Indians took advantage of this during the time. There were a lot of changes going on at the time. Butterfield had a good thing going, but others followed with more money and he was left with nothing. Comanches and Apaches raided the Texas frontier regularly during this time, even though the government at the time was trying to get them on the reservations.
Shawnee Shamans had no dream catchers, but it is logical that in their travels from the great Ohio region, they had befriended others who did. The Shawnee were one of the most feared tribes at one time, and yet during the earlier wars they actually helped in American wars.
I studied the Shawnee tribes, looked at pictures of their living quarters. Compared their religion to the others, and their beliefs. And it is strange but our own, "love thy neighbor" is one of their beliefs too. One of their strongest beliefs. They think to do harm to your neighbor is to do harm to yourself. Their religion and ours are close in many ways, which I found strange, and interesting.
Dream Catchers were widely used by the Navaho and they believed that if placed above a baby cradle it would keep all the bad dreams away.
I also had two scorpions mating during a waiting period in the book, I researched that and found it so fascinating how the scorpion can go days at mating in the heat, almost doing a dance together.
5. Did you discover anything during the process of writing it?
I never used a paranormal element to write with. But this story seemed to need it. I was fascinated with the dream catcher, and it hit me I could use it as a tool to keep them together.
I respect the Shawnee greatly for their beliefs, and way of living. Aside from their warring with the Ohio Valley people, and being pushed from their land, I think they might have been a more peaceful tribe had they not been driven out so much from their own lands.
When Katherine's white father got the station in West Texas, he was proud to be a part of it, and his daughter grew to be too. People put a lot of stock in land always have but so much of the time the land worked against them.
I discovered that sometimes adding a paranormal element into a story makes for a more interesting and fulfilling kind of book. I found that by letting them have an erotic dream, it pitted their real world against the paranormal world. A lot of what this is about is soul mate material to some.
My Captain in this book started out being almost mean and very intolerant, but his personality changed because he learned something from his experience, and he also realized he had to put his pride away. He grew, secondary character that grew too.
I discovered many fascinating facts about the Indians, the way a character can appear and then change in a book so drastically, Insects, Mr. Butterfield.
My fascination with Mr. Butterfield was that he did something, one of a kind back then, he built a stage line west, he was the first. I felt sad when I learned he'd gone bankrupt. His loss of men and horses was devastating to his line. He rode out on the line when he first built it.
I think I learn a little more with each book I write. And love that, because it broadens my knowledge and keeps me on my toes to learn more. It is one of the reasons I enjoy writing the west. But come on, the west is a romantic idea and so many tales can be told. I can't wait to finish my next one..
(Leslie: Thanks for joining us here today, Rita!!!)