Months after she has been healed from the Enemy Sickness that afflicted her in Trail of the Dead, Lozen and her family have gathered a community around them to rebuild. Lozen knows danger still stalks them and she intends to be ready to defend her people, but she hopes to avoid killing another human being—though gemod monsters are not off the table.
We interviewed author Joseph Bruchac to see what his writing process was like and what he has up next:
This is the last book of the Killer of Enemies trilogy. Do you have plans to write stories about any of the other characters?
I feel as if the world in which my novels took place is such a rich one that I could easily write more stories about that time and place, including doing so from different points of view. I’ve already done a prequel novella (Rose Eagle) and as I’m answering this question I am finding myself thinking: “Hmm, what was it like for such characters as Hussein in the years just before the Silver Cloud came?” Or, for that matter, what IS the deal with Hally?
Did you already have the whole trilogy mapped out or did it come to you after finishing each subsequent book?
My writing process is more intuitive than planned out—unless I am writing about historical events or figures, in which case there is already a story arc in place. I began with the voice of my main character telling her story in the first book and, quite literally, followed her on her journey as events developed. Along the way things constantly kept happening that I had not consciously planned and even expected. Part of that is because when a character takes on a life of her or his own, I see my job as serving that character rather than telling her what to do. It’s an organic process for me, subconscious, I suppose. In any event, I could not have written Arrow of Lightning without having done the first two books and I wrote in sequence—never jumping ahead to write a later chapter first. Thus, I was often surprised by my characters—especially the wild cards such as Hally and Coyote, and even Luther Little Wound.
With the trilogy, you’ve included many stories that are well known in native communities. Is there a particular story that you like a lot (it doesn’t necessarily have to have been in the Killer of Enemies trilogy)?
I have to say, because they provided inspiration for the series, that there are two stories I have found both fascinating and inspiring for several decades. The first is the gripping story of the Chiricahua resistance in the late 19th century where such real people as the historical Lozen and Geronimo played complicated and often heroic parts. An earlier historical novel of mine, Geronimo, is about that period and it was written with a great deal of help from Chiricahua historians and direct descendants. The second is the story of the hero twins (sometimes called Killer of Enemies and Child of Water), a story central to both Navajo and Apache traditions. How they destroyed monsters and made the world safer for humanity is a true epic.
You’ve written books for both children and teens. Do you think you would be interested in telling Lozen’s story in a picture book format?
Interesting question and not one I’d considered before. But I do think that at least parts of Lozen’s story could work in picture book format for younger readers. And, to take that in another direction, I think it has awesome potential as a graphic novel.
In Arrow of Lightning and the Killer of Enemies trilogy, Lozen encounters new monsters. How do you come up with these monsters?
First of all, I have a really rich imagination. I wake up mornings with ideas that I can’t get to my computer fast enough to write down. I’ve had entire songs, poems, and even short stories come to me like that. One of my suspense novels for middle grade readers, Skeleton Man, gave itself to me that way. I woke up, started writing, and didn’t stop until I’d hit 100 pages the first day.
Secondly, I was a major in Wildlife Conservation at Cornell, and have been fascinated by animals—and been close to animals of all sorts (large and small) all of my life. I’ve worked a little with wolves and mountains lions and my wife Nicola and I are now involved in wildlife rehabilitation. Our family has a 90 acre nature preserve and our Ndakinna Education Center, directed by my son James, teaches such things as animal tracking and wilderness survival. So I have a lot of rather detailed knowledge about natural history that I can bring to bear.
Thirdly, I am always reading about nature. An article three years ago in Smithsonian about the discovery in the fossil record of a super-large boa constrictor type serpent was the inspiration for the Super Snake in book two of the trilogy.
Fourth, to be honest, the natural world itself has a way wilder imagination than I do. Many of the actual creatures that exist in the wild and are little known to most folks are mind-blowing. . .and sometimes pretty dang scary. In some cases—like immense Gila Monsters —I’ve just super-sized them in the three books. And there is also something about predators that’s both chilling and innately fascinating. Of course, there’s no predator on the planet more dangerous than homo sapiens, but if you’ve ever been eye to eye with a 1000 pound grizzly (as I have) and been wakened in the night in the central American rainforest by a jaguar roaring no more than fifty yards away, you’ll understand better what I mean. I’ve tried to work that into my creation of the DNA-spliced monsters in the trilogy.
Joseph Bruchac is an Abenaki Indian. He is among the most respected and widely published Native American authors, with over 100 titles in print. In addition to writing, Bruchac is an editor at Greenfield Review Press, a literary publishing house he co-founded with his wife. He lives in Greenfield Center, New York. To find out more about Joseph Bruchac, visit josephbruchac.com
Purchase a copy of Arrow of Lightning here.