Sunday, April 15, 2012

Interview + Giveaway with W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear, authors of Contact: Battle For America series

I'm extremely honoured and excited to be joined today by the most fabulous writing duo, W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear, authors of many phenomenal historical fiction novels, including Contact: Battle For America series. I recently had the pleasure of reading and reviewing their latest series on my blog and I absolutely LOVED it. You can find the links to the review posts at the buttom (under the banner). I am also very happy to announce the giveaway of the entire Contact series!

     Please sit back, relax, and enjoy the wonderful interview! Both authors did a marvellous job answering my questions and I'm proud to say this is probably the best, most informative and  fascinating interview I have ever posted on Bookish! I hope you'll enjoy it just as much as I did! Don't forget to enter the giveaway~! 

About the authors:
        Kathleen O'Neal Gear & W. Michael Gear are award winning authors who have authored and co-authored over 40 books. Learn more about the authors by clicking on the links listed below to read author biographies. 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. With his wife, Kathleen O’Neal Gear, he has written the international and USA Today bestselling First North Americans Series and Anasazi Mystery Series.

E: Evie
M and K: Michael and Kathleen Gear
E: Welcome to Bookish, Michael and Kathleen! Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to talk to us today! I had a wonderful time reading your fabulous historical fiction series, Contact: The Battle For America! Would you mind telling us what/who inspired you to write it?
M and K: 

What a delight to participate in your blog! First a bit of background on us. Michael has a Master’s degree in anthropology and has been a practicing professional (We still deliver papers at the Society for American Archaeology meetings) since the late 1970s. Kathleen did her PhD work at UCLA, obtained her Master’s at the University of California, Chico, and even attended Hebrew University in Israel while she was excavating sites there. To date we have published 53 novels, all of them based on anthropological or archaeological themes.

Why write it? For the most part, Americans have little or no understanding of the cultural heritage of their own continent. North America actually has a rich and vibrant archaeological past. Great civilizations rose and fell on our continent, but the archaeologists who study them publish only in the professional journals. To do this we use a highly technical language incomprehensible to normal humans.

Novels allow us to bring the past to life. Which brings us to the Contact: Battle for America trilogy. Some of the myths we have created about our history are just junk. Throughout the American South, elementary schools, counties, parks, subdivisions, and roadside monuments bear Hernando de Soto’s name. His legacy has been lionized. Fact: The man was a monster in the same vein as Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, and, well, just about any truly hideous conqueror you can think of. Read between the lines in the four surviving historical journals written during or just after the expedition. We wanted to set the record straight. The idea of anyone’s children gleefully attending “Hernando de Soto Elementary School” is positively abhorrent. The man murdered, enslaved, raped, and looted his way across the South. His idea of fun was having trained dogs rip chained women and children to pieces before they devoured the bodies.

A second myth is that our Native American Indian peoples were steamrolled by the European juggernaut, crushed, and defeated. Fact: Our Native peoples won most of the first rounds. In the case of de Soto, the Southern nations—and yes, they were nations with kings, queens that modern scholars call chiefs—destroyed the finest, best-equipped, military Europe had ever seen: a feat the Aztecs, Maya, and Inca could not replicate. It took America’s native peoples four years, and was won at a terrible cost.

In the first book, Coming of the Storm, our heroes, Black Shell and his wife Pearl Hand, are pretty much overwhelmed. The story ends at the massacre of Napetuca in Florida. But by the final chapter, Black Shell and Pearl Hand have figured out the strategy they will need to slowly erode de Soto’s military superiority.

In the second book, Fire the Sky, the Apalachee people fight de Soto to a draw. Rather than battle it out and lose, he leaves Florida and heads inland. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to illustrate the grandeur, complexity, and sophistication of the Southeastern nation-states. The book ends at the battle of Mabila in central Alabama. De Soto technically won the fight, killing five-thousand people in the process. Americans wouldn’t suffer that number of battlefield dead until the Civil War. But his supplies were burned in the holocaust, and a third of his men were wounded.

In the final book, A Searing Wind, de Soto marches to the Chicaza Nation in central Mississippi. There the ancestral Chickasaw came within a whisker of completely destroying his army--and would have, but for a freak storm. There, Black Shell and Pearl Hand have to face the enemy and engage him in a deadly game of wits that will leave his force broken, demoralized, and ultimately defeated. Warning: That last couple of chapters are emotionally intense.

Black Shell, being an exiled trader, brings a well-rounded perspective to all the different nations he visits. Pearl Hand, the love of his life, contributes her own female perspective, logic, and guile. Some of our favorite scenes are the times when he’s enraged her by risking his life stupidly. And, of course, the dogs add a special warmth for anyone who loves animals. The critics seem to think these are some of our best characters ever. Like so many of our “People” novels, we include a complete bibliography in the back with the hopes that people will read the actual journals, or investigate the anthropological reference books and learn more about it. And yes, as anthropologists, this is the best reconstruction we can give you of America in the 1500s. We know that other anthropologists and archaeologists will be reading, so we’ve got to keep the facts right.
E: What first got you interested in writing historical fiction?
M and K: What started us on historical fiction? We both grew up with it. The study of history was important for our parents, and historical fiction places human beings with emotions and motivations, desires and fears, within the framework of factual events. In short, it makes dry history like the American revolution come alive in a way no textbook can. As children, Kathleen was experiencing the Civil War in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. Michael was visualizing ancient Athens in Frank Yerby’s Goat Song. The reader is there!
E: What sorts of research do you do for your novels in general?
M and K: What kind of research do we tackle? We have to be able to support our reconstructions based on the data. Our sources include any historical documents (where they exist), archaeological reports and monographs, ethnographic works, the oral traditions of the descendents of these people, and paleoenvironmental reconstructions. See the bibliography in the back of the novels. The fact that many of our novels are used as supplemental texts in classes on both archaeology and history indicates that we’ve succeeded. These are novels; if they read like an encyclopedia, we’d lose our readers. Our concern is the story, the plot, the motivation of characters, tension and conflict, and finally a satisfying resolution. We want the reader’s heart to be beating frantically when the characters are in peril. We want them to hate the bad guy, swoon over unrequited love, and thrill with the action. That’s the meat, the reason there are nearly 17 million copies of our books in print and that they have been translated into 28 languages.
E: What historical settings are your favourite?
M and K: What historical settings are our favorite? Oh, Evie, it’s wherever we’re writing about. In The Betrayal, it was early Christianity and ancient Rome. For People of the Owl, it was America’s first city, 3,500 years ago at Poverty Point, Louisiana. In People of the Longhouse, Dawn Country, Broken Land, and the forthcoming People of the Black Sun it is New York, New England, and Ontario in the 1400s. In all the books, the environment, climate, flora and fauna, all become characters in their own right. Often that means going to paleo-botanical reports, looking at soils, pollen counts, and other data because environments change over time.
E:  In your novels, you seem to be fascinated by the conflicts between cultures – typically one culture invading the territory of another. What is it about this type of situation that inspires you?
M and K: Are we fascinated by conflicts between cultures? Absolutely. That was the basis for Coming of the Storm, Fire the Sky, and A Searing Wind. We are telling the story of one of the first major European invasions of America. The same with Kathleen’s This Widowed Land and, at a later date, Michael’s Morning River and Coyote Summer. All are opportunities to deal with European vs. Native American worldviews, cultures, and perspectives. In other novels like People of the Silence and People of the Moon our interest is in how civilizations collapse. In this case we wrote about the Chacoan empire at 1150 C.E. in the American southwest. It all depends on where the archaeology takes us.
E: What was the most difficult part of the series for you to write?
M and K: What was the most difficult part of the Contact: Battle for America series to write? Easy. It was trying to collapse the story into three books. For example, in Fire the Sky, we start out in Apalachee, fighting a most fascinating guerilla war. That could have been a novel by itself. The biggest structural boon and curse was that de Soto was traveling constantly. By the end of Fire the Sky we’ve had to travel through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, back to Georgia, then half-way across Alabama to Mabila and its great battle. Fascinating events, politics, and peoples fill the entire route. The advantage is that A Searing Wind can be read as a stand-alone volume. As new characters and cultures are encountered, they, too, learn the back story..
E:  What’s next in line for you? Are you working on a new book/series now?
M and K:  What’s next on our writing agendas? Two projects. Recently descendants of Native American girls captured by Vikings and relocated to Iceland around 1000 C.E. have been discovered. The mitochondrial DNA lineage goes back to those maternal ancestors. We’re in the process of telling the story of the first Viking landings in North America and their impact on the Native Peoples. At the same time we’re working on People of the Morning Star, a novel of Cahokia--the great empire that flourished in the St. Louis area at 1150. Cahokia is to eastern North America as Rome was to Europe. We dealt with Cahokia in People of the River, but that was twenty years ago. In the meantime, archaeology has completely rewritten our understanding of Cahokia’s immensity, complexity, and sophistication.
E:  Where is your favorite place for writing? Do you have any special writing rituals?
M and K: Where is our favorite place for writing, and do we have any writing rituals? Most of our writing is here at the house, specifically because we live at the end of a seven-mile dirt road at the edge of the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. To do what we do, we need an extensive library that totals nearly 30 thousand monographs and reports. Michael writes downstairs, Kathleen on the third floor. We really don’t like each other’s music. She’s into Joni Mitchell, the Eagles, Johnny Cash, and Samuel Barber. He revels in Mozart, Allison Krauss, and Puccini. We trade discs back and forth for re-writing each other’s stuff.
E: Who are some of your favorite authors, historical novelists or otherwise? What recent historical novels have you been particularly impressed with?
M and K: Who are our favorite authors? We read a huge gamut including just about everything. Here’s a list of some of our favorite writers: Douglas Preston, Tess Garritson, Kim Harrison, C.J. Box, Craig Johnson, A.B. Guthrie, David Weber, C.J. Cherryh, David Morrell, Tanya Huff, Robert Heinlein, Greg Iles, Barbara Hambly, Charles de Lint, Stacy Schiff, Michael Shaara, Patrick Rothfuss, Terry Johnston, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, Larry Niven and David Pournell, Kat Martin, Loren Estleman, and, gads, the list goes on.
E:  If your book had a soundtrack to accompany it, what songs would be on it?
M and K: If we could add a soundtrack to accompany Coming of the Storm, Fire the Sky, and A Searing Wind, what songs would be on it? Okay, if wishes were cabayos, it would be original Southeastern Muskogean tunes. None of which, unfortunately, were ever recorded. But wouldn’t that be cool? To hear the same songs they sang in honor of Horned Serpent at the summer solstice ceremonies, cued every time he had a scene in one of the books? Real Timucuan war songs during the battle at Napetuca? The actual curing songs used by the ancient Chickasaw hopayes as they tend Black Shell in A Searing Wind? 

M and K: Evie, thank you so much for the opportunity to participate in the blog. We’ve had a great time. We think that anyone who reads Coming of the Storm, Fire the Sky, or A Searing Wind will laugh, cry, learn, and delight as Black Shell and Pearl Hand undertake their perilous quest. But most of all, after a solid read, they’ll come away with a completely different understanding and appreciation of our nation’s early history.

Mike and Kathleen, thank you so much for joining us today!  
I loved the Contact series so much and am looking forward to reading your next, as well as previous, novels!
I am a fan!

I hope you guys enjoyed the interview, for more information about Michael and Kathleen Gear please visit their website.

Huge THANK YOU to Melissa from Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read and review this wonderful series!

My review of Coming Of The Storm: HERE


Simon & Schuster has generously offered to giveaway the entire Contact: Battle For America Trilogy!!
(Thank you so much!)

Enter through Rafflecopter below!
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Ends: April 30th
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About the Author
Evie is the Blogger behind Bookish. She enjoys reading many different genres, especially YA, Paranormal, Contemporary Fiction and Fantasy.
She loves talking to authors and is always happy to welcome them for interviews, and guest posts. She also likes spreading the love for awesome books and  chatting with fellow book-worms.
You can find Evie here: Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Shelfari | The Library Thing


Anonymous said...

I appreciate their knowledge and how they wrote these books to educate readers like me. Actually, there is a lot that I don't know about this continent's earlier civilizations!
Many thanks, Cindi

Kriss Morton said...

This was a beautiful interview. Maybe one day my fiance and I can have a similar experience, and we would be the same way with music LOL Thanks a lot for sharing!

Kriss over at

Verush said...

Great interview, thank you for it! These books are very interesting and I must to say that thanks to an interview I want to read them immediately. :)

Lilly @ (LillysBookIsland) said...

Great interview!! Thanks for sharing and the giveaway :)

Carissa St. Amand said...

I stumbled upon one of your books when I was fighting off a Clan of the Cave bear withdrawal a few years ago. My father-in-law (we share books) and I both adored People of the Earth, and I keep meaning to pick up more of the series. It's so fascinating to read about your influences, and how meticulous you both are in recreating times and atmospheres. That's what I love about historical fiction writers :D Thanks for such a great interview and an awesome giveaway!

Joana Neto Lima said...

Great interview it's really interesting to see how two authors use their connection to create. ;)

After reading this interview Ijust want to pick one of their books and read it already! ;)

Keep up the good work,

alicia marie said...

great interview! i hadn't heard of this series, so i'm glad i have something else to add to my tbr list : )

Hushed Paradox said...

I love the fact that the authors introduced me to so many new forms of song/music. I loved that question. Thanks for the giveaway.

Amy said...

That was a fantastic interview!! The books sound really interesting. I am not much of a historical person, but I have found myself enjoying them lately.

Sallie Mazzur said...

This is the first I've heard of this series, and the covers are all completely gorgeous! I also love that the authors are husband and wife, it says a lot about how much they love each other if they're willing to be married to each other as well as work together! I can just imagine an argument over a scene... how awkward it would be at the dinner table! haha

Thanks for doing this giveaway and thank you Simon and Schuster!

Inky said...

I have never heard of this series! Thanks for spotlighting them and interviewing the authors! They look really good and I'm super excited to read them now! They look fabulous.

Christina said...

Well, I was a history major in undergrad, but am a hundred percent positive I know nothing about their part of history. Reading these might get me motivated!

Jetches said...

Wow great interview. It interesting to learn the habits of a writing duo.

Denise Z said...

I must admit that I have not read historical writings from this time period and after reading the review of book one am quite intrigued. Thank you for taking the time to share with us today and for the lovely giveaway opportunity.

PuttPutt1198Eve said...

Just reading the list of Michael's and Kathleen's favorite makes me want to read these books. I have almost all of the same writers! I can imagine I woulds like this trilogy. Thanks for the chance to win and read them!

Krystal Larson said...

Thank you for the great giveaway! I love your blog design :)

Na said...

I really like that your books visits so many places. The different cultures and people will make it an interesting read that I want to escape to.

Tore said...

I would love to read these books. They sound very good.

roro said...

fablous interview
tnx 4 itroducing this trilogy to me evie

good lluck to all

SusieBookworm (Susanna) said...

Thanks for the great interview and giveaway! I agree with the Gears - Americans (including myself) have no clue what the cultural heritage of the country is! Our U.S. history classes only cover the second half of American history...and that's if you're not counting pre-contact civilizations.

MissKimberlyStardust said...

Excellent interview! I love this husband and wife writing dynamo! For a historical fiction especially a pre-colonialization fiction lover like I am I think they do a superb job when writing their books. I applaud them for bringing history alive for readers :)
-Kimberly @ Turning The Pages

Cathie said...

I love books that aim for accuracy.

Emy said...

Great interview!

Bonnie Regan said...

My mom was able to meet the authors in Billings, MT and after looking into these books myself they sound positively amazing. I love books where immense research into the subject matter is evident.

Anonymous said...

Great interview! There was really a lot of information and I loved it. I had never hurt of this series before but I just know I gotta check it out.

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