Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Another engrossing winner from Kathleen and Michael Gear!

I'm please to have as guests, Kathleen and Michael Gear.

I discovered them way back when I read this interesting sci-fi book called Warriors Of Spider. I'll admit, one of the things that drew me (aside from the premise) was the fact the author had the same first and last name of my brother--we use don't have an "a" in ours. Fast foward to the 90's and The People Of The Wolf came into my hands and I fell in love with these authors storytelling abilities. I've always loved history and stories which present the culture of the time period. So I was eager to get the next one, People Of The Fire. They didn't change their storytelling and in fact really loved that one and really hated Heavy Beaver and wanted to be like Tanager. While I won't tell you I've read every book the Gears have written I've read a great many of them and am particularly drawn to The People series. Excellent series with fascinating stories, lots of action, and a nice dab of romance. It's magical.

Both Michael and Kathleen (a fine Celtic lass) write individually and have been successful. As co-authors you get the best of both. What's the cost? I ask that because there are very few people I could be a writing partner with. You take two professionals, roughly in the same field, married, and write together? And both are alive and well as is their marriage? How do they manage this, you might ask?

Probably the question we’re most often asked is: “How can two authors manage to live together, and write together, arguing plot, creating characters, sifting through thousands of archaeological and historical facts, and not wind up at the end of the day with your hands around the other’s throat?” While there are days when it’s tempting, generally the answer is simple: trust, love, and respect. If one of us writes something and the other says it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t. That’s the trust part. We believe in each other’s talent and judgment. Our goal with every novel is to create a fluid mix of prose—the perfect blending of our styles--that allows readers to seamlessly drop into the story, and not want to come out. If readers are still emotionally connected to the story days after they’ve finished the book, then we’ve done our jobs.

Do we ever disagree? Absolutely. Michael claims he has written passages so profound, obtuse, and remarkably clever, he knew he was a shoe-in for the Pulitzer. Then Kathleen read it, and said, “This is so clever you have to live on another planet to understand it. Get rid of it.” After stomping around for a while, it succumbs to the backspace key.

Co-authoring when you’re married is an interesting experience—more than just all the backspacing. When we are deep in a story, we’re rewriting each other’s writing every day. We discuss plot and characterization every morning over breakfast and read what the other has written every evening after dinner. The process of creation is so powerful and intimate that it binds us together in that fictional world in a way that’s hard to explain. We literally live inside each other’s heads, and watch the story move in the other’s eyes. There’s such a sensual quality to our creative relationship that we wonder how people ever write alone?

On occasion, we also disagree about the interpretation of centuries old archaeological information. Since we are both professional archaeologists—we’ve owned our own archaeological research firm for over thirty years--it’s important to us to recreate the past as faithfully as we can. But that isn’t always easy.

For example, THE DAWN COUNTRY is book two in the People of the Longhouse quartet. The books are set between the years of A.D. 1400-1460, and chronicle the development of the League of the Iroquois. Obviously, there are no written records of this time period, so we have to rely on other things to reconstruct what might have happened. To accomplish this, we use three things: the archaeological record, Iroquoian oral history, and early historical records. This was a time of war, a time when the Iroquois say they almost destroyed themselves, and the archaeological record certainly supports their stories. The brutalized bodies that date to this period show ax wounds, arrow points embedded in bones, cranial depression fractures--caused by being struck in the head by blunt objects, probably war clubs--and the dismembered remains of children.

The warfare was extreme. But from the flames of the violence, a Peacemaker was born. His name was Dekanawida. There are three great heroes in the Peacemaker story, Dekanawida, his best friend Hiyawento, and a powerful clan matron named Jigonsaseh. The dilemma we argued about for two weeks was which versions of the oral history to use as the basis of the novels? The Five Nations who would join together to form the League, the Onondaga, Mohawk, Seneca, Oneida, and Cayuga, each have different stories. In fact, there are hundreds of versions, often contradictory, that chronicle the lives of the three main figures, and very few of those discuss the childhoods of the heroes. For a time, we were locked in combat trying to decide if we should start the quartet with Dekanawida and Hiyawento as children, or only cover the better-documented lives of the adults? We finally opted to begin at the beginning—with the lives of the children. Why? Sometimes we make story decisions based upon the scientific information, and sometimes we make decisions for literary reasons. In this case, it was the latter. Seeing war through the eyes of children brings the horror home in a way that seeing it through the eyes of adults never can. And rising above that experience to create a democratic alliance that would literally serve as the political framework for what modern peoples call The Free World…well, that’s the stuff great heroes are made of.

We truly believe that our disagreements, scientific or literary, are the creative dissonance that leads to better storytelling. In the end, we are more together than the sum of our separate talents. It’s the twining of our two minds, souls, and dreams that we hope adds magic to our writing.

The Dawn Country

Young Wrass is being held captive, along with several other children, in Gannajero’s camp. Wrass knows he can’t wait to be rescued. He has to organize the children for an assault on Gannajero’s warriors. Even if he dies, someone has to escape, to carry the story back to their Peoples. It’s the only way to stop the evil old woman.

But Koracoo and Gonda have not abandoned their search. They’re coming for the children, and they have allies: a battle-weary Mohawk war chief and a Healer from the People of the Dawnland. Together, they will find the children and destroy Gannajero. But not before many of the children have been sold and carried off to distant villages—and lost to their families and homes forever...Excerpt

Buy: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders

Bestselling authors and award-winning archaeologists Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear are renowned for their novels on North American prehistory, a series that melds the latest archaeological findings with sweeping dramatic narratives and strong Native American tradition. The “North America’s Forgotten Past” series educates readers about our continent’s more than 15,000 years of prehistory and brings to life its natural and cultural heritage.

Kathleen is a former state historian and archaeologist for Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska for the U.S. Department of the Interior. She has twice received the federal government’s Special Achievement Award for “outstanding management” of our nation’s cultural heritage.

Michael hold a master’s degree in archaeology, has worked as a professiona’ archaeologist since 1978. He is currently the principal investigator for Wind River Archaeological Consultants.

The Gears, whose First North American series hit the international as well as USA Today bestseller lists, live in Thermopolis, Wyoming. To learn more about Michael and Kathleen, be sure to visit their website


~Sia McKye~ said...

Kathy and Mike, welcome to Over Coffee. I'm so glad you're visiting.

I absolutely love both the first book in this particular series, The People of the Longhouse and The Dawn Country. You've opened a magical window to the Iroquois of the 1400's. I read both books in three days.

I'll be posting the review various Review sites over the next few days.

Jo said...

Sounds like interesting reading, I have read other such types of book and always enjoyed them, the archeological background of the writers will help considerably I imagine.

Kat Sheridan said...

Wow, these books sound fascinating! And what a wonderful, unique process you share! I think that in the end, none of us writes alone--we have mates off whom we bounce ideas (even if they have no clue what we're talking about!), we seek out critique partners, or we come to Sia's place and find like-minded friends! But how wonderful that you both can manage living together while writing! Wishing you much success!

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love your explanation of how you write together. How wonderful to be able to share what you love with the one you love. I especially like how you said you trust one another. If something works, it works. If it doesn't, it doesn't. Simple. But not so easy to achieve. Congratulations to you both for finding a winning formula and a wonderful spouse.


Helen Ginger said...

Your books sound fascinating. And I love the way you work together. Not many marriages could survive that process!

ptbertram said...

How lucky you are to be able to share your talents, and how lucky for us that you do.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Takes love I'm sure!

Talli Roland said...

I'm fascinated by the process of co-authoring, so I found this really interesting. Thanks for sharing!

Olivia Cunning said...

I love early North American history! I'm glad the two of you have found a process that works. I spend a lot of time pressing that backspace key, too.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Olivia, don't we all? Backspace and delete are well used in this writer's life.

Talli, I've thought of it on a different project but I don't know how well I'd do. I've done it on professional papers and projects, just not fiction.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I have to say, Kathy and Mike, I really could see the blend in these two books. But the story is so well done.

Now, I'm curious, who wrote Odion's chapters? I love the way you handled that.

Alyson Reuben said...

Hi, Kathy and Mike! It's so admirable how the two of you can work together. My husband loves to read, but unfortunately he isn't a writer. And if he was, I'm not sure we could collaborate without bickering a lot! And I mean a LOT! Ha.

Very interesting how you used a combination of archaelogical records, Iroquoian oral history, and early historical records to construct a history as a basis for the IN THE DAWN COUNTRY. I think researching history is fascinating, but it must be super tough when the information is so difficult to find.

The book sounds meaty and rich in details - just the kind of book I love to read!

VA said...

Fascinating subgenre, being interested in Teotihuacan I have to say this is more than a little diverting. The two of you are amazing to juggle everything.

Thanks, Sia. You are a gem.

aries18 said...

These books sound delicious! I'm sorry to say I've not heard of them before but also glad to say now that I have you'll be on my TBR list.

I've never written in collaboratin before. I have to say I'm not sure I could do it with my husband but no worries as he isn't interested in writing at all. But he does listen if I'm trying to work out a plot problem.

Sia, you bring us the best authors! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Everybody! Thanks for all the wonderful comments.

Alyson, you're right that doing the historical research can be challenging, especially when we're pulling together the "gray literature," meaning the unpublished archaeolgical reports, and in the case of the Iroquois books, also handwritten historical reports. But it's also fun! We make some fascinating discoveries.

Sia, you asked who wrote the Odion chapters. Since we hand the chapters back and forth so often, it's only correct to say "we" wrote them. However, Kathleen did the first drafts of those scenes, if that helps.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Alyson, I can get lost in research. I was recently researching some ancient myths. Fascinating but also frustrating because there were chunks of stuff missing.

My husband and I both write and have worked together on profesional papers and we did fine, I don't know how we'd do on fiction.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Mike, I loved the Odion chapters. Well, to be honest, I love the whole book. But there was something about the Odion chapters that grabbed you and for sure set the action and pace of the story. :-)

Thanks for stopping by. Looking forward to the Contact series too.