Coffee? Tea? (I have herbal... peppermint, ginger and lemon) I'll put the kettle on!
What is the essence of this family saga of yours?
Hopes and dreams. These what our lives are built on, and ideas. Grand schemes and brilliant plans. Achievement. Self-determination. But things get in the way. Life gets in the way. Other people, good or bad or somewhere in between, have other ideas. And we have to deal with it, and never give up hope. This is the essence of my saga.
So then, what is your overall vision for the project?
Six volumes are planned for the series. We are on a journey, both of reading and writing. My goal is that when the very, very last word is read there is a deep sigh and the lingering thought... we've come a long way and that was some journey.
And so, what is The Liberty & Property Legends saga about?
As a whole, the Legends form a family saga of adventure and romance set in The West and the Gilded Age. The novels theme freedom, how to get it, fight for it, understand it... the abuse of it and ultimately its effects and the cost of it.
What is your inspiration?
Two of my favourite eras in American history: one, the American Revolution, where the catchphrase 'liberty & property' had its birth; secondly, The West particularly in the Gilded Age, where American history really comes alive for me. I think these two eras come together in a rather unique way.
There are other themes in the saga that could be applicable for today...
One of the themes throughout the Legends is the threat posed to democracy and basic rights from two main sources, capitalism and terrorism. Wherever terror comes from, domestic or global, large or small, it demands a response, and seems to agitate democracy into sacrificing something of itself in order to withstand the threat and prevail.
Capitalism is at a peak during the 1880's in the US. Caught in the middle of the booms and busts of capitalist giants are ordinary, hardworking people. And flourishing in the West, you have the example of the cattle barons. In the Legends saga, those people fight back, as is their right, and suffer the consequences. Their fight is the basis for the story.
How was the idea for the Liberty & Property Legends series born?
The catch phrase 'Liberty & Property' first came to my attention when I was researching Luke's back-story. At this stage I hadn't planned a series, this was a stand-alone novel, although I started to look at a sequel. The catch phrase is from the revolutionary era in US history, when the American colonials were protesting against British taxes and ultimately fought for and won independence from Great Britain and the King.
I began to realize that this story I had written actually had a lot more to it, that there was quite a bit more story to be told, and that the American Revolution was part of it. How does Luke, a young man living and working as a rancher in 1880's Wyoming, get to be connected to the birth of his nation? This is another important aspect of the series, how Luke carries it with him every day in his belief in liberty and property. What Luke is able to do is take 'liberty & property' beyond that revolutionary context and apply it to whatever situation he happens to be in. And of course he and his friends and family live very adventurous lives.
When it comes to genre, who is the series for?
When it comes to genre, it’s for everyone. First and foremost, I aim to have people enjoy the story and care about the characters. Readers tell me they feel transported back to time of the story and drawn into the world of the characters. The saga can be enjoyed on a number of levels; while the more serious themes underpin the story and create a meaningful structure for it, the reader can still enjoy the story as a ripping good yarn.
What do you like about writing historical fiction?
For me, the heart of the individual in any era of the history of the world is a place where the possibilities and outcomes are endless. It simultaneously belongs in time and transcends it. In history, our imaginations take flight because every soul that ever lived or could have lived has a story to tell. Let's take some time to live in their time, their world. Apart from that, it's fun. When you really love history, the research is fascinating and enjoyable. And I really love the counterpoint between historical fact and fiction.
The most important thing for me are the characters, the story and the themes, not about how many hundreds of intricate details of life in America in the 1880’s I can stuff into my novel. People can Google all that for themselves. That being said, the novel needs to feel authentic in time and place, so meticulous research is essential. However, this is the natural world of the characters so I wanted the era to reveal itself naturally through them and not constantly be described, because then it could become an intrusion by the author, or even worse, slow the down the action.
You've mentioned that a fan of the series commented "the female characters continue to be women that I aspire to".
Such a fabulous comment, and one I'm proud of. I think people appreciate striving, active female characters. They want to be inspired by them and accompany them on their journey. The women in the series are strong in the face of the challenges life is throwing at them. Meanwhile, attitudes towards women have moved on since the era in which the series is set, which makes it interesting to reflect on how far we've come while we journey with them.
In the saga, are your many characters based on people you know?
Not all, but some. Some embody concepts and ideas. There are some characters that are directly inspired by real people, or characters who have bits of people I know, and then I read back and go, oh yeah, I know who you are!
You seem keen on the idea that we should learn from history...
Sure. The major theme of the series – freedom – is applicable for past, present and future. I think that history teaches us about the present as much as the past, that as people we are intrinsically the same across time, with the same longing for hopes and dreams and the need to have them fulfilled.
I can't think of a time in modern history when liberty, in all its many forms, hasn't been integral to our world and our lives. I find that fascinating. We should all be students of history, because every day we write history, make history, imagine history into being; we live our stories, pass them on; celebrate them, mourn them, sometimes even learn from them.
And this concept, that history doesn't have to be viewed in designated time periods, is why the saga is written in present tense. Liberty and freedom, the need for them and to protect them, are beyond time. They are then, now and tomorrow. For always, in a continuous stream of present.
Would you like to live in the time and place your books are set?
How ever much I would like to live out my days on the Diamond-T, I think I'm too attached to modern medicine, my skincare regime and my Tempur mattress. But I think to live in a world less complicated and without cars would be heavenly for a bit.
Why do you love Longfellow's poetry so much?
Every poet has a unique voice and, thankfully, we are free to choose which ones satisfy our ears. He is one of the greats. In terms of my saga, you may remember Luke's great great grandparents, Matthew and Elizabeth, came to the New World in search of freedom, took up the Revolutionary cause and left a liberty and property legacy. Longfellow is a great American poet whose poetry, in content, style and sentiment, is able to span the distance of years from the days of colonial America, to the Revolution, to the era in which my novels are set.
If we wander along your bookshelves, what kind of books will we see?
In our home we have quite an eclectic mix of fiction and non-fiction, from history, biographies and science to politics, romance, poetry, adventure, crime and young adult fantasy. Books about all kinds of things really, collected and treasured over the years. Our open-concept dining room is our library, so they are my constant companions and I like them being in the heart of our home.