A. After the death of my first husband, I started a journal as a way to cope. Not long after, in college, I wrote fiction and poetry. I was reluctant to share any of those early drafts. One instructor waved a hand dismissively and said to me, “If you’re going to bleed, you’re never going to write.” The words knocked the sidewalk out from under me. Self-protective shyness about my commitment to writing was no longer an option.
A. When I was a child in the West San Fernando Valley, as my mom would drive through the canyons and the coastal hills on our treks to the beach, she would point to a swollen rock-strewn hillside and say, “That’s an ancient burial mound!”
We would hike in the ragged sandstone hills and fearlessly explore caves as we searched for rock art, something my friends’ moms were not likely to do. I caught her passion for history, and went beyond into the combined realm of archaeology and visual astronomy.
My late mother was a docent at Los Encinos Historic Adobe in the early 1970s. Like docents the world around, she shared her knowledge and passionate interest to further public understanding of cultural and historical collections. In her case, Southern California history and archaeology were an endless fascination.
Not surprisingly, The Last Skywatchers was inspired by the lives of the people who once inhabited the land surrounding Los Encinos Historic Adobe.
A. The Last Skywatchers was written to entertain readers who enjoy character-driven historical fiction. Plenty of fiction has been written about native peoples of the Midwest, the Great Plains and the Southwest, but very little appears to have been written about the native peoples of California immediately prior to and during the years after arrival of expeditions from Spain.
These people had a rich cosmology that is reflected in the carved petroglyphs and painted pictographs they created. They were patient visual astronomers who used sky knowledge to make the most of seasonal food resources. They had a complex and far reaching trade network. They had established family systems. And their response to historic figures and cataclysmic events was simply a story that needed to be told.
A. Way deep. Research for The Last Skywatchers, a novel of Early California, took me on a quest that included courses in archaeoastronomy through UCLA Extension, plus a number of domestic field trips and overseas adventures to hard-to-reach rock art sites for pre-dawn solstice and equinox light-and-shadow events.
“Everything which I have created as a poet has had its origin in a frame of mind and a situation in life; I never wrote because I had, as they say, found a good subject.”