Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Dawn Country by Kathleen O’Neal Gear & W. Michael Gear

In the wilds of 15th century North America, tribes of the Iroquois people are at war with each other. Food is scarce, the hardships many, and corruption abounds. In a clear act of war, the Dawnland tribe sets fire to Bog Willow Village murdering the men, raping the women, and selling the children into brutal slavery. A malevolent old woman named Gannajero buys these abducted children and treats them with the harshest brutality to break them before selling them to sexual deviants to use.

Among the terrorized children is Wrass, a young boy on the verge of manhood. He tries to save the children, but his attempt goes awry and only some of the children make their escape. Unbeknownst to him, his mother, Chief Koracoo and her deputy, his father, Gonda, set out to rescue the children despite the incredible dangers they will soon face.

The Dawn Country is the second book in the People of the Longhouse quartet, set in North America six hundred years ago. Meticulously detailed, it is a tale that resurrects the savage brutality of these ancient peoples. Interspersed with magical elements, despicable villains, and heroic warriors, the authors have written a story that not only intrigues, but is very difficult to put down. To enjoy the full impact of this fabulous novel, I highly recommend readers start with the first book in the series, People of the Longhouse, as The Dawn Country picks up where the first one ends.

An Interview with authors Kathleen Gear and W. Michael Gear

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: We wrote the “North America’s Forgotten Past” series to chronicle the rise and fall of the magnificent native cultures that inhabited North America long before Europeans arrived on our shores. As archaeologists, we know the role these extraordinary cultures played in what America would become, but most people don’t.

Most Americans have no idea, for example, that their unique concepts of democracy, and even their very identity, was molded by Iroquois concepts of self, government, and liberty. The notion of one-person-one-vote, referendum and recall, and especially the notion of confederacy of states—or a United States--originated not in Europe or ancient Greece, but in the forests of upstate New York in the mid- 1400s.

Q: Does your story line develop organically or is it a gestalt before you begin?

A: Well, it depends. The story is based upon the archaeological information, as well as Iroquoian oral history, so we know the beginning and ending when we start. What we don’t know is exactly how the characters are going to reach that ending. As a result, characters evolve organically as they must deal with the stresses of the storyline.

Q: How does your archeological degrees and experience impact your story telling?

A: Our 35 years of experience as archaeologists heavily influences the story. Everything the characters wear and eat, the tools they use, the activities they participate in, are all based upon the archaeological record—what has actually been dug up.

Q: Do you have a favorite character in the book and if so why?

A: That’s like asking a parent which child is their favorite! We love them all or we wouldn’t have written their stories, but that said, we feel especially close to the children who are stolen from their homes during war raids and sold into slavery. Seeing warfare through the eyes of its youngest victims is a powerful experience for authors, and we hope, for readers.

Q: What do you like the most about writing?

A: Character creation is a kind of magic, you’re never quite sure where these people are going, and watching it happen is just plain fun. Additionally, we have had people explain how our stories have helped them in times of crisis. The notion that our fiction can help hurting individuals is really humbling.

Q: Where do your new story ideas come from?

A: They come from archaeological excavations and native oral history. With PEOPLE OF THE MOON, for example, we were touring the site in southern Colorado and the story just

popped into our heads. The same thing happened at the Poverty Point site in Louisiana—bam! PEOPLE OF THE OWL was just magically there.

Q: What advice has helped the most in your writing?

A: Kathleen’s father was a short story writer, and he said, “Writing is 3% inspiration and

97% hard work. Don’t sit around and wait for a story to come. Just sit down and start writing.”

Q: Is a sequel in the works?

A: Yes, actually, THE BROKEN LAND, book 3 in the Iroquois quartet is already finished, and we’re hard at work on THE BLACK SUN, the final book .

Q: Who is your favorite author and why?

A: There are so many it’s hard to name just one. Here are a few of them: John Steinbeck, Margaret Mitchell, Elmer Kelton, Craig Johnson, A.B. Guthrie, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lisa Gardner, C.J Cherryh, David Morrel, Greg Iles, Tess Gerritsen, and the list goes on.

Q: What advice would you give for the want to be writer?

A: Tenacity is worth ten times what talent is. You have to have both, but without the ability to see a project through, regardless of all the idiots out there who tell you that you can’t do it, you are lost. For ourselves, Mike wrote 8 novels before he sold his first. Kathleen had written 5. You must learn the craft and excel before you can sell in the modern market.

KATHLEEN O'NEAL GEAR is a former state historian and archaeologist for Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska for the U.S. Department of the Interior. She has twice received the federal government's Special Achievement Award for "outstanding management" of our nation's cultural heritage. W. MICHAEL GEAR, who holds a master's degree in archaeology, has worked as a professional archaeologist since 1978. He is currently principal investigator for Wind River Archaeological Consultants.

More About the Authors

Bestselling authors and award-winning archaeologists Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear are renowned for their novels on North American prehistory, a series that melds the latest archaeological findings with sweeping dramatic narratives and strong Native American tradition. The “North America’s Forgotten Past” series educates readers about our continent’s more than 15,000 years of prehistory and brings to life its natural and cultural heritage.

Beginning with People of the Wolf (Tor; July 1990), and continuing through to People of the Thunder (Forge Books; January 2010), the series provides a vital understanding of the history of North America in a way that is entertaining, full of cultural detail, and intelligent. One of the more recent novels, People of the Raven, won the Spur Award for Best Novel of the West in 2005.

Bringing more than 50 years of combined archaeological experience to their writing, Michael and Kathleen have written over thirty-three novels dealing with historical or anthropological themes. They have between fifteen and sixteen million copies of their books in print worldwide and their books have been translated into twenty-one different languages.

W. Michael Gear has a master’s degree in anthropology from Colorado State University, and has worked for twenty years as a professional archaeologist in the western United States. Kathleen O’Neal Gear has a master’s degree in history from California State University, and studied for her Ph.D. at UCLA. She received two special Achievement Awards from the Department of the Interior for work as an archaeologist in the Bureau of Land Management. Both Michael and Kathleen are principal investigators for Wind River Archaeological Consultants, a cultural resource firm in the Rocky Mountain region.

As archaeologists and novelists they have made appearances on CNN, NPR, and have been featured on “Greenroom” on PBS, as well as local network features. They currently live in Wyoming, bordered on two sides by the Wind River Reservation, and raise registered North American bison.

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