INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR OF, "TO TRUCKEE'S TRAIL" AND MANY OTHER NOVELS, CELIA HAYES Hello Celia! It is so wonderful to have this opportunity to interview you. You mention in your bio that you are a military veteran. Can you tell us a little about your time of service?
Military – Yes, I was active duty Air Force for 20 years, from 1977 to 1997, which was an interesting time for a woman to be in the military. It was when women in the Air Force were starting to break into military occupational specialties, besides the traditional nurse-secretary-clerk. Especially in the first years, I knew a lot of women who were the first or second this or that military specialty. It was also just after the military allowed married or pregnant women to remain in the service, so there was this enormous shift. It used to be that a girl would join the military for a single four-year tour, meet a nice fella, decide to marry him and leave the service about the time that she made sergeant. My first tour in, I hardly met any women much over the rank of staff-sergeant. Then – by my second hitch; female NCOs everywhere. In my last tour, I worked with a young troop on a video shoot: she was married to another troop, they had a little boy, and she didn’t believe me at first, when I told her that they used to process for discharge as soon as a girl married or got pregnant. She looked at me, all round-eyed with astonishment: “How could they do that!” “They could, Airman –believe me, they could!” I feel there is nothing greater than authors who write about the heroes and heroines of our great country, their stories and triumphs. Tell us more about your novels and how you began writing.
My novels: I started posting to a mil-blog in 2002 which turned out to be very popular, just at the ramp-up to Desert Storm. I was a veteran, my daughter was a Marine, deployed to the Big Sandbox … and anyway, I started writing about … stuff; my odd-ball, but very happy family, for one. The readers liked it, and they liked it so much, they harassed me into putting my family essays into a little memoir, which I published through a POD press in 2004. Then – I did a multi-part essay about a wagon train party which had always interested me: the Stephens-Townsend Party of 1844. They came over the California Trail two years before the Donner Party, were pretty much the same kind of people, same kind of gear and supplies. They got caught in crossing the Sierra Nevada mountains when winter had already started, had to break up their party – some of whom got stuck in the snow and ran out of food … but they arrived in California with two more than they started with! (Babies born along the way.) The Donner Party, under like circumstances had about fallen apart – and everyone has heard of them, but hardly anyone has heard of the Stephens-Townsends. So … the blog-fans loved the story, and one of them, who had connections in Hollywood encouraged me to write it up as a movie treatment, and she would shop it around to some people that she knew. And I did – and nothing much came of it, until she showed it to a friend who was a writer. He absolutely loved it – but he said, I’d better do it as a novel, first. So, he basically walked me through, made some suggestions … I finished the first draft in about two months flat – To Truckee’s Trail, and it is still my best-seller, although I hardly do any marketing for it. Another blog-friend had a connection to a literary agent, who read the whole thing, loved it and said most flattering things about me as a writer, but said that it just wasn’t ‘commercial.’ So – I went back to the same POD house, and published it independently, but in the mean-time, I had so much fun writing it, that I wanted to do it again. Only – what would the book be about? I decided that it would have to be set on the American frontier again – I had all the reference books. Have to be the 19th century, as I was very comfortable writing in that ‘voice’ and had a good grasp of the period. And it would absolutely have to be another unknown story. I was stuck for a bit – and then I realized that I lived just down the road from a great unknown western story; how the towns of Fredericksburg and New Braunfels and a few others were all founded by a consortium of German noblemen who took up an entrepreneur grant in the 1840s and tried to fill it with German settlers … they recruited and transported 8,000 German settlers, and essentially dumped them on the wild Texas frontier to fend for themselves when their organization went bankrupt. It was an epic story – and the more I researched it, the more interested I got, and the book grew from one book to a trilogy; the Adelsverein Trilogy. They were Unionists in the Civil War; one of their founders actually negotiated a peace treaty with the Penateka Comanche; and a lot of the successful business, medical and technical people in Texas at that time were German settlers … it was another great, unknown story. It took me two years to write it … and then I went and followed the life of a relatively minor character – a woman who was an early settler in Texas, and eventually became a boarding-house keeper and political hostess in Austin during the Republic of Texas years.
When I started on Truckee – I had begun to feel that teaching our history was terribly important. We needed to transmit the knowledge of who we are as Americans and where we came from, the knowledge that our ancestors – metaphorical as well as actual - were decent, hard-working people, that they cared very much about their families, their friends, their communities and their country. We had to reclaim our history, to know where we came from, and what an amazing thing the American experiment was and still is. The best way to pass this kind of history on – is by making a fantastically engaging read of it, and keeping it historically well-researched as well. You also hold training in radio broadcasting, tell us more about that adventure.
Broadcasting: Oh, yes – that was interesting! I had originally wanted to be a public affairs specialist; you know, PR for the local base, write for the base newspaper, since I already had a BA in English. But there weren’t any openings for that … but they did have openings for the military broadcaster field, if you could pass a voice audition. They warned me that if I qualified as a broadcaster, all my assignments would be overseas, or remote – or both! I wanted to travel and didn’t mind going overseas … so that was how it worked out. The mission of military broadcasting was to provide English-language radio and television in places that didn’t have it, you see. Now, just about everywhere has English-language satellite service, so there was a diminishing requirement for it, towards the end of my career. But I went to Japan on my first assignment; I did a year in Greenland, then the tour to Greece, six years in Spain and a year in Korea … I came back to the States on assignments only twice, until my last posting at Lackland AFB. I tell people that military broadcasting wasn’t much like the movie Good Morning, Vietnam – there were twice as many psychotics and only half the laughs! I still considered myself very lucky, though – I got to live and travel all over, in the Air Force. You are a well traveled woman, are there places you have visited that you remember more fondly than others?
Places Remembered: Greece was the place that I think I was most fond of: we lived in Athens for nearly three years; on the local economy, in an apartment that had a view of the Saronic Gulf. We’d visit the Akropolis on my days off, or go down to Sunion … or to Marathon. There’s a wonderful beach nearby. I loved living in Greece very much. Tell us more about your childhood, growing up, and family.
Growing up: Oh, normal and relatively well-adjusted baby-boom family. I was the oldest of four: Dad was a research biologist – he tinkered with cars and built stuff, and gave the most amazing nature-walks! Mom stayed home, but volunteered all over the place; church, PTA, Girl Scouts. We weren’t allowed to watch TV save on weekends for a certain number of hours. Mom had the classical station on all day – which is what I grew up listening to! I knew hardly anything about pop music, when I got to be a radio DJ. We had books – shelves of books. I learned to read very well, by the time I was eight. I dipped into every book in the house, although I gave up on the boring ones by the second or third chapter. It’s a good thing that Lady Chatterley’s Lover takes a good few chapters to get going, otherwise I might have gotten considerable of an education! Mom had a subscription to American Heritage Magazine, though – and I read every issue. My parents also gave me all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books … which I read as soon as I got each one. My youngest brother had the great good fortune to be born the year that I was eleven … and at the beginning of summer vacation, too. I don’t think Mom lifted a finger to take care of him all that summer! He was our baby, our pet – and we took care of him. When he was a little older, I read to him, every evening. I went through all the kid’s books that we had – and there were a lot! I read him all of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings… which is great stuff for a kid. Every chapter is a cliff-hanger, you see. Do you still write articles in addition to your novel writing?
Articles: Oh, yes – I still blog, on whatever interests me and at several different blogs, including the original mil-blog. I also blog and write articles on a freelance basis for pay for various clients – all sorts of things! I also free-lance edit, produce website content … whatever keeps the wolf away from the door and down at the end of the block! Who are some of your favorite and more inspiration authors?
Favorite Authors: Rosemary Sutcliffe was my very favorite HF writer growing up. I absolutely adored Sword at Sunset, and Rider on a White Horse. The sense of time and place never failed. MM Kaye – for Shadow of the Moon and the Far Pavilions. G.M. Fraser – the Flashman books; for writing a cracking good yarn based on real people and real (but sometimes obscure) history. What are your plans for future writing and when can we expect new works from you?
Right now, I have a number of projects going – one is a German translation of the first book of The Sowing; Book One of the Adelsverein Trilogy, which should be out there by the end of the year – and if it sells well in Germany, we’ll do the other books in German too.. I would so like to clean up from all those German Karl May fans out there. Then, I have about six chapters of a free-standing story carrying on with some of the characters of the Adelsverein Trilogy. English lady marries Texas cattle baron, in 1876 – they marry for all the wrong reasons … what happens next? I don’t know when I’ll be done with it; I’d like to be able to turn out a book every two years or two. Currently I am also starting the research for a 1850s Gold Rush adventure – I have always wanted to do a picaresque Gold Rush story, and this is my chance. It will have certain intriguing elements in it: a pre-Civil War cattle drive, vigilantes, a runaway girl disguised as a boy, a slippery Fenian … and a gold mine. I just haven’t sorted out the plot yet! Do you have any advice you'd like to share with other authors, or in general that you think would be beneficial to our readers? Also we'd love you to share your links and let us know where we can find out more about you.
Advice and links: If you have a cracking good story, get it out there, any way you can. If you publish it yourself, make a good professional job of it, as regards editing, lay-out and cover art. And figure out where the readers for your story are – and a way to get it in front of them. Thank you again Celia for this wonderful interview. We hope to do this again in the near future! My website: www.celiahayes.com Book Blog:
Celia Hayes’ Books & More: http://celiahayes.wordpress.com Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1415091659 Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/CeliaHayes Author Page at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Celia-D.-Haye...t_athr_dp_pel_1