Gen Bailey, AKA Karen Kay, is a completely unique author who writes historical romance novels dealing with Native American culture. She agreed to answer some questions about her newest release, SENECA SURRENDER, out today. The excerpt is followed by the interview.
Excerpt of SENECA SURRENDER — Due for release to bookstores everywhere in store and online April 6, 2010
The sun was a low, pinkish orange orb in the sky, announcing its departure from the day in glorious streaks of multicolored sunlight. Shafts of light, streaming from the clouds, beamed down to the earth, looking as though heaven itself smiled kindly upon the land. And what a magnificent land it was. The birch trees were yellow, the maples red, and the oaks announced their descent into a long, winter sleep with multicolored oranges and golds. The hills were alive with autumn hues, while the air was filled with the rich, musky scent of falling leaves.
Into this world of beauty came the delicate and pale figure of a woman, looking as though she had been plopped down on a large, flat rock. To a casual eye, it might have appeared as though she were engaged in nothing as untoward as taking in the sun. However, closer inspection would have shown that she had only recently been washed to shore.
Soon, the lone figure of a man emerged from the forest. Buckskin clad, he was tall black-haired and brown skinned, with a Mohawk hairstyle that hung long and well past his shoulders in back. He’d been hunting this day, very far from his home. From deep within the forest, he’d felt the breeze and heard the rustle of the water. It had called to him.
Stepping quietly toward the lake, he looked up, his gaze one of admiration for all this, the splendor of the woodlands. Squatting down, and setting his musket onto his lap, he bent over to partake of a drink from the water’s cool depths.
However, instantly he sat up, alert. From out the corner of his eye, he’d caught the movement of something, and glancing toward it, he recognized the image of a piece of clothing; it was a woman’s skirt. Rising up, he stepped
toward it to get a better look, if only to satisfy his curiosity.
That’s when he saw her. She was a white woman, blond haired and slim.
Was she alive?
Hauling himself up onto the rock where she lay, he stepped toward her and bent over her. He placed his fingers against her neck, feeling for a pulse. Her body was cold, so very, very cold and he was more than a little surprised when he felt the sure sign of life within her.
The pulse was weak, but it was still there.
Turning her slightly, he was surprised at her pale beauty. Of course, being Seneca and from the Ohio Valley, he’d had opportunity to witness the unusual skin color of the white people. But it wasn’t as familiar a sight to him as one might reckon.
Who was she? How had she gotten here? And what had happened to her?
Glancing in all directions, he took in the spectacular sights of the forest. Where did she belong? Who did she belong to?
There was nothing here to answer him; nothing to be seen, no other human presence to be felt within the immediate environment. There was nothing but the ever expansive rhythm of nature.
Using his right hand to brush her hair back from her face, he noted again how cold she was, however, he couldn’t help but be aware of how soft her skin was, as well. Putting his fingers against her nostrils, he could feel
the weak intake and outflow of breath. She was alive, barely.
Did he dare take her away from here? A white woman?
He hesitated and waited. He watched. Nyoh, he was the only one here, the only one to settle her fate.
That decided him. If she were to live through the night, he had best take care of her. She needed warmth, nourishment and a chance to heal.
Bending down, he spread his hands over her torso. Depending on the type of injury he might discover, he would either nurse her here or take her to a more protected spot. He ran his hands gently down each of her arms, including her hands and fingers. He felt for anything broken. He found nothing.
Spreading his fingers wide, he sent his touch down the sides of her ribs, ignoring her ample breasts. Though his scrutiny was fast, it was thorough. Amazingly, he found nothing.
He continued his search down each of her legs. Surely, he thought, there must be some clue that would tell of her recent history. Perhaps she had broken her neck or back? Gently, he tested the theory, sending his fingertips down over the muscles and bone structure of her neck. Nothing. Nothing substantial to indicate a problem that might claim her life.
Turning her lightly onto her side, he felt along her spinal column. Several bones were out of place, but nothing was broken.
He frowned. Again, he wondered, what had happened to her? What was a white woman doing in the woods alone?
His jaw clenched. There had to be someone close-by. Otherwise, there was no sense in this.
But, glancing up and looking askance again, he realized that the puzzle of her appearance would not be solved here. His examination of her had at least established on fact: she was fit to travel.
Taking her up into his arms, he was more than aware that she felt light in his grasp. Quickly, he stepped down off the rock. Not knowing exactly how she had come to be here, he kept his attention attuned to the environment,
listening for a sign of other life…anything to indicate the presence of another in the surroundings. She was a beautiful woman; surely she belonged to someone who would miss her.
But again, he could sense nothing unusual.
Enough. She required care.
Quickly he shot toward the security of the woods. If someone were here watching, the trees and bushes offered sanctity, at least it would hide the direction of his path. But where would he take her? He hadn’t yet constructed a shelter for the night, and it was already late in the day.
Perhaps…if his memory served him correctly, there was a cave nearby that might lend itself well for their purposes, providing of course that a bear or other animal hadn’t already laid claim to it.
As White Thunder hurried toward that spot, he gazed down into the pleasing features of the woman, realizing that his curiosity about her hadn’t abated. However, there would be time enough to discover who she was once they were safely sheltered. For now he had best hurry to see if the cave were occupied or vacant.
Balancing her weight and his musket into more secure positions, he darted through the forest, quietly disappearing into it.
SENECA SURRENDER, A Berkley Sensation Historical Romance by Gen Bailey aka
DE: How did the idea for this particular book germinate? Do you usually start with character, or with situation?
GB: I can start with either character of situation. It depends on the book. In doing my research for the Iroquois Warrior series, I came across some facts I didn’t know. I forget which research book is was, now, but it was a book given to me by a friend who is Blackfeet. In the book it gave some history of the Iroquois Confederation and how it influenced not only Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine, but also Thomas Jeffereson. Then, upon further research, I discovered that there were two men (around 1140 AD) the Peacemaker and Hiawatha (the real one — not the one of legend), who put into place a future for this area of the world that they called Turtle Island. They postulated that this place would not only live in peace, but that it would lead other tribes to live in peace, and that it would set the stage as an example of freedom for all mankind. Their purpose was to have a ceremony that would heal grief, thus ending all war. The Iroquois Confederacy was quite old when the first of the pilgrams came here — they were escaping oppression. They met a completely free people, who valued peace as well as personal, individual freedom. There were many, many laws that influenced our own Founding Fathers — sometimes I wish they had adopted all of them — one of the main laws of the Iroquois being that no law could ever come into existence that didn’t have 100% approval of all respresentatives. Thus the majority could not inflict their whims/laws, etc. on the minority. I found this fascinating because our own pilgrams and others who were later to come to this country adopted that outlook — freedom for all. That we didn’t learn of this Native American influence in our government-run schools — at leat the one I attended — is a shame…because this history is unique in this rather tyrannical world of ours — it is purely American, and it is a part of our heritage that few know, even some of our Constitutional Scholars. This fascinated me. Thus, I wrote about it.
DE: What do you find are the best, most accurate resources for research on Native American culture?
GB: The best research sources in my opinion are those written early in the 1800’s and written without prejudice. I avoid one source — who was it? Alexander MacKinsey or McKinley? His name escapes me at the moment. Anyway, this man was a very, very prejudiced person, who was drunk more often than he was sober. I find it interesting that he attributed his own bad characteristics to the Indians, calling them heathen, savage, children etc., whereas the opposite was the case. So I avoid him, although I think Hollywood set him up as the “authority” on all Indians. Goodness! A researcher had to always read something with an eye to prejudice, no matter what it is you’re trying to research, because that prejudice will color his prose and his view of “history.” The sources I find best are George Catlin (who traveled amongst the Indians in 1834 and thereafter, also). He went to paint their pictures — but in doing so, he also recorded their history and their amazing viewpoint of ethics and honor. Depending on the tribe, there are other sources. For instance, James Willard Schultz is a good source for into on the Blackfeet because he lived amongst them and married one of them, and so even though his was a trader (a profession that sometimes exploited the Indians), his viewpoint isn’t as colored as others. You can always find a good source for research — depending on the tribe. But the main topic to avoid and to beware of is prejudice. At the first instance when I see it — I read the work with an eye to the fact that I may be getting nothing more than propaganda of the time.
DE: Why do you think depictions have been so twisted in regard to Native Americans in previous decades, and how do you think the attitudes can be changed?
GB: At the time of my stories, the colonists were trying to build a country of their own making, their own civilization. To them, the Indians were in the way. To the Indians, they were living on land given to them by the Creator. As is the case in all wars, one side must make the other side look less than human, otherwise the average person would not raise a hand against them. Indeed, he would probably afford them with the rights that every being has simply because he exists. (These are usually called unalienable rights — or rights given to mankind by God.) Sometimes I think the situations that plague our country are just mirror images of those things that were done to the Indians. That this part of our history isn’t much taught is a shame because only in learning the rights and wrongs of the past can one get an idea of what worked to help mankind and what hindered mankind. These are good things to know for the average person (not just the tyrant) because by being informed and aware of what caused what, as well as the effect of certain causes, can one see what is happening to himself and his own people. By hiding these things, tyranny can rule.
To change this is education’s role, I think — but not education as we currently have it. It would have to be an education that would allow the student to pick and choose his own subjects, and which would allow him to form his own opinions on matters.
DE: Can you tell us a bit about the Clans of the Wolf and The Blackfoot Warriors series? Does each book in the series have a different pair of protagonists? How are the books woven together?
GB: As it turns out the Clans of the Wolf series didn’t materialize except in one book only. The reason for that is because I changed publishing houses after that first book, and went on to pen a different series called The Lost Clan series. The one and only book, THE PRINCESS AND THE WOLF, of the Clans of the Wolf series, then became a part of the newer series, The Lost Clan series. With that book being included, it is a series of 5 books. There is a theme that runs through the Lost Clan series, and that theme is about a hero who is charged with the task of freeing his people from a curse that was placed on his people thousands of years previous. The protagonists are different in each book. What ties each book together is this running theme of the duty to free his people. However, there is one character who appears in each book, and that character is the Thunderer.
The Blackfoot Warrior series does have protagonists that live and breathe in each of that 3 book series. These books are about the Blackfeet Indians — my first attempt to write about the Blackfeet. At the time, I needed a very feared and a very fierce tribe for the plot that I was conceiving in the original book of the series, GRAY HAWK’S LADY. The Blackfeet fit the bill for that tribe. Another interesting aspect is that I met and married my husband whilst I was writing GRAY HAWK’S LADY. We will shortly (in May) be married 14 years. But that book, GRAY HAWK’S LADY is filled with my to-be-husband’s personalilty (at least from my viewpoint then) and our very first kiss. Ah!
DE: Tell us a bit about your work with World Literary Crusade, and why it’s so important to you.
GB: The World Literary Crusade, as well as the Hollywood Education and Learning Project, have been important to me because I do believe that the only way to free a people is to ensure that they can learn. If can can study and learn, the world opens up to that person. Both of these projects instruct not what to learn, but rather how to learn any subject that you set you mind to learning. When one can’t read well, when one can’t add or subtract or do the simpliest of equations, the world is closed to him. I was surprised to hear different young people from East LA talk about how it felt to go to a gas station and not be able to tell what they were pumping. Not only that, they had no means to tell what was meant by 10% off meant — no means to tell if they were ever being cheated…heaven forbid. The world closed to them. They turned to crime. By helping them sort this out and instructing them in how to learn — not what to learn — their lives of crime stopped. Not because of force or threat, but simply because now that they could learn, they chose a life not filled with crime. It’s something to think about.
Author of seventeen American Indian Historical Romances for such pretigious publishers as Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and AVON/HarperCollins, Karen Kay, aka Gen Bailey, has been praised by reviewers and fans alike for bringing insights into the everyday life of the American Indian culture of the past.
KAREN KAY/GEN BAILEY, whose great-great grandmother was a Choctaw Indian, is honored to be able to write about the American Indian culture.
“With the power of romance, I hope to bring about an awareness of the American Indian’s concept of honor, and what it meant to live as free men and free women. There are some things that should never be forgotten.”