With THE WIND CALLER you took a Native American legend and placed it in modern times, where it is tainted by "the white man" in the form of Gideon Berlander, a man who uses the power for his own nasty purposes. How did the idea for the novel come about?
From a rather innocuous comment. It was during my "Pre-school Teacher" days … I was standing inside a leaky garage watching a heavy rainstorm destroy the last of the Fourth of July barbecue coals when a friend and fellow teacher said: "Well, no one can change the weather." How many times in our lives have we heard someone say exactly those words? A million? Two million? This time, however, the words and meaning adhered themselves to the inside of my brain and sat there, simmering. I was also taking "teaching" classes at this time and one of my assignments was to observe and review documentaries that the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs … what it was called then) had made. The "Personal Hygiene" scene in THE WIND CALLER, where a poster designed to promote "hand washing" shows two sets of construction paper hands - one white, indicating "clean", the other set red … - was based in reality. So was Sky's reaction.
The Native American legends and setting came about from my own love and respect for the culture … and the Kachinas.
I was really surprised what the character of Joseph ended up doing to his own family. Pretty horrific. And he's supposed to be the force for good, more or less.
He still is. Joseph knew what was coming for him … and he also knew he would be powerless to prevent his loved ones from suffering an excruciating death. Given that, he made his choice to "save them" that agony. Was he right? Maybe. Maybe not. I try to make my characters as "real" as I possibly can … and something that means going against the grain of the plot.
Do you ever think there will be a second WIND CALLER book?
I've learned never to say "never." Before I even begin to write, I have to have the characters and setting (and plot) so fixed in my mind that they and the world I create become almost "real." Doing a sequel to THE WIND CALLER would basically amount to going back and visiting old friends … finding a plot that wouldn't trod on old ground and give the reader an entirely new vista to walk through is the challenging part.
Of course, I already have a few ideas in mind ….
How long does it usually take you to complete a novel?
Depends on the novel.
It took me one month, writing long hand on a number of yellow legal pads (plus another four weeks to put it into the computer) to write NIGHT PRAYERS. NIGHT PLAYERS, its sequel, took two months (because it's almost twice as long). CANYONS, my contemporary werewolf novel, took three months. THE WIND CALLER took six months … and twenty-eight years.
Guess I should explain that one, huh?
THE WIND CALLER was my very first novel, written twenty-eight years ago - and it was perfect! Or so I thought when I began sending it out. When none of the publishers I sent it to wanted it (and I sent it out to EVERYONE), I decided my book was "ahead of its time" (yes, you may roll your eyes) and put it away until "the publishers came to their sense." Life went on and I wrote other novels and, basically, forgot about the dust-catching manuscript for twenty-six years.
I had just finished the first draft of a 600+ page ghost story and decided I needed to take a mental break … a little literary vacation … so I dusted off THE WIND CALLER, knowing it would only need a slight polish. Besides, the paper had gone all brittle and yellow.
A slight polish?
I can't remember ever being more embarrassed about anything I had ever written. It was, to put it mildly, awful! The characters were not even one-dimension, the dialog required major surgery and the plot … okay, the plot was pretty good and that, along with the names of the characters, was the only thing I kept of the original story.
Once I got started, the rewrite took three months (plus two years of waiting time at Leisure ).
You've lived various places across the country. How much as your location influence your writing?
Only about 150%.
My mind is apparently like fly-paper. It takes in everything it sees: buildings, people, landscape, etc. and holds onto it. But until I moved to Pennsylvania, I would use locations that were different from where I was living at the time.
Examples: I was living in Fremont (Northern) California when I wrote NIGHT PRAYERS, which is set in the place of my birth and old stomping grounds: Hollywood (Southern) California. The sequel, NIGHT PLAYERS, set in Las Vegas (which I used to visit regularly while in Southern California), was written when I was living in Colorado.
CANYONS, set in Denver ... which was actually the second novel I wrote, was completed while I was living in Fremont. I had, however, visited Denver before starting the book and had, among other things, a number of good maps of LoDo (Lower Downtown), where a good majority of the novel takes place.
THE WIND CALLER takes place in Arizona … an area I visited and study while teaching Wilderness Survival Skills … as a resident of Southern California.
Confused? Welcome to my world.
Then I moved to Pennsylvania.
Originally, I was only going to stay a few months in New Hope, PA, in order to write a novel set in that town - this in itself was a change from my normal "Stop by AAA and get maps and tourist info" research; but I knew, for some reason, that I had actually live in the town if I wanted to get the right "feel" of the place. And it seemed to work. I wrote my massive ghost novel in just under seven months … and returned to Doylestown, Pennsylvania three years ago to continue "living under the influence."
There are still a number of stories I need to write about Buck County, PA, so here's where I'll stay ….
What do you think is the driving force behind your writing? What is your ultimate goal with it?
Obsession, pure and simple.
I've been "writing" ever since I was five years old … and writing "scary stories" all that time (don't try to calculate how long - let's just say that in dog years I'm … dead). I can't remember a time when I wasn't writing something. I began with short stories, because that's where I thought, in my then innocence, writers started in order to learn their craft.
I still believe that, sans innocence.
My ultimate goal: To keep writing.
Becoming a "Name" or multi-million dollar success would be nice, don't get me wrong, but as we all know fame is a fickle and fleeting thing and if I set myself that goal, and didn't achieve it, I would feel like the ultimate failure.
I'm a storyteller, nothing more … and the ultimate goal for a storyteller is to keep telling stories.
You're also writing a non-fiction book: THROUGH BLUE EYES, which deals with the supernatural. How did your interest in that come about?
Shall we just say I was "born" with it?
As a child, I'd frequently be paid visits by some of my grandmother's friends who would appear and ask me to tell my grandmother "good-bye" for them … then they'd simply vanish in front of my eyes. That part never frightened me. It was my grandmother's reaction that finally, I think, got me to the point where I could (or would) no longer see her dearly departed friends. My grandmother said I had the "Call of the Grave" and claimed if anyone found out about "this curse" I could very likely be burned at the stake.
Pretty good reason to stop getting visuals, isn't it?
But I never stopped knowing "they" were around. I get a feeling in the bit of my stomach that's similar to the moment you go over the top of a Ferris Wheel. Now, I'm not asking that anyone believe this comment and, honestly, I'm pretty much of a skeptic when others tell me they "see ghosts" or can "communicate with those who have Passed Over" (I could explain how John Edwards does this, but we don't have enough time here ). I'm a "I have to see/feel it" to know it's real.
So, be skeptical … the only thing I can tell you is that it seems my "abilities" are getting stronger. Over the past few years, I'll occasionally ask someone about a specific location in their house and tell them "who" I feel is standing there. Not a big deal, except that most of these time I'm either on the phone or on-line with my friend and have never been to their house, so have no foundation by which to make such a statement.
The accuracy of my comments - of my friends discovering that the name or description I've given them correlates to someone who lived, and died, there - is about 98%.
I have trouble with the names of pets.
Hence, the reason behind my intended non-fiction book on the subject.
Also, unlike the young boy in THE SIXTH SENSE, I don't just "see" dead people … I "become" them. I have listed a few of those times on www.newhopepa.com (look through the archives under my name) so won't go into any details; but I will explain about the title: THROUGH BLUE EYES.
I never realized until just a year ago (and have since had it verified by a number of different sources) that my eyes turn from their normal "baby-diarrhea brown" shade to bright blue when I'm "taken over."
For the most part, THROUGH BLUE EYES, will read like a number of other "Real Ghost Story" books, with the exception of my personal and rather peculiar take on the subject. Should be fun.
What can your readers look forward from you in the near future?
Besides the above mentioned non-fiction book about ghosts, my neo-classic, contemporary ghost story, NEW HOPE, should be the next P.D. Cacek novel. It's been a long time in the works, but not as long as THE WIND CALLER, and is very close to my heart.
I won't say it's the best thing I've ever done … but it, like the town it was named and written for, it has haunted me for the last three years.