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Not a Black and/or White Issue

It’s another of history’s dirty little secrets. While black slavery in this country is well documented, there is little said about its white counterpart. If mentioned at all, white slavery usually masquerades under the broad labels of “indentured servitude” and the “convict trade.” (The word “slave” originally referred to the Slavs of Eastern Europe who were in bondage off and on for centuries.) Gypsies and the Chinese were also victims of forced labor in this country, and the rarely acknowledged enslavement of California’s Mission Indians by the Spanish padres was the subject of my book, Communion of Sinners. Our historians’ biased insistence on ignoring this ugly reality deserves to be rectified. In the 1600s,...

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Character Study

Reviews and reader responses are always a surprise, and my book Communion of Sinners is no exception. I hadn’t expected so many requests to see my protagonist Sam Crockett in another book, nor so many people expressing admiration for Manuel Alvarado, my Chumash Indian artist. Based on a couple of New Orleans friends, Sam was a breeze to create, but Manuel was a challenge who emerged for a couple of reasons. Once I began writing about the enslavement of the Indians under the California Mission system, I worried about my story being too dark and negative and knew I needed a character the reader could sympathize with and root for. That’s when Manuel began tugging at my mental sleeve, but knowing I needed him and knowing something about him were two...

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Site Seeing

Most writing requires research, and historical fiction is especially demanding because it means scouring libraries, the internet, old letters, journals and diaries and, on occasion, visiting cemeteries and even ghost towns. It’s often an exhausting process, but the reward is inspiration for plot, characterization and location, the exhilaration of visiting places where the story will play out and immersion into the same milieu as my characters. Not only does “walking the walk” help create both protagonists and antagonists; it can also steer the plot in unexpected -and challenging- directions. This was certainly the case with my latest book Communion of Sinners. Inspired by Life in a California Mission, the 1786 journal of Jean Françoise de la Perousé, it’s...

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