Wednesday, April 22, 2015


In my book, THE ROCK OF IVANORE, one of the main characters, Jayson, is an Agoran/human half-breed. Years earlier, when he was a young boy, encroaching human colonists and a royal decree forced the Agoran people off their native lands. They migrated to the swampy marshlands of Taktani where they managed to maintain their identity as a people despite harsh conditions and disease. These tragic circumstances form the underpinnings of the novel's backstory.

Does any of this sound familiar? If you live in the United States, it should. The story of the Agorans happens also to be the story of the mass coerced exodus of tens of thousands of Native Americans following the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

Why my fascination with this particular sliver of American history? I am descended from the Choctaw tribe which used to inhabit parts of the Southeast along with other tribes such as the Cherokee, Chicasaw and Seminole. But there were dozens of tribes living east of the Mississippi River at the time, and many of them were friendly to the white American settlers. But following the Revolutionary War and the formation of the United States, the white man demanded more and more Indian land. Over several decades the Indians were traded, tricked and robbed of much of it. Eventually, the government decided it was time to move them out all together. In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act which resulted in native tribes from New York down to Florida being driven to the dry, barren climates across the Mississippi River. Many died from illness, starvation and exposure. History calls this exodus The Trail of Tears.

My great grandmother, Suda Anna Windborn, was a half breed born in Oklahoma territory shortly after this blight in our history. The intermarriage of whites and Indians was quite common in the early nineteenth century and got me thinking about how difficult it might to be a half breed during that time. How could Suda Anna or any other half-breed know to which community she belonged? Would she have any choice in the matter?

Jayson, the Agoran half-breed, feels the pull of both races. He is not fully Agoran nor fully human, but has traits of both. He is more accepted by the Agorans, but not completely. When he falls in love with a human girl, who happens to be the daughter of the king, he is exiled and his people are punished. Of course, none of this occurs in my book. It is backstory, part of the history leading up to the beginning of my book.

I attended a really great lecture once by Tamora Pierce, renowned author of many fantasy titles including The Legend of Beka Cooper and Trickster. She spoke of using historical settings and mythological stories as inspiration for writing fantasy. In creating her books, she oftens draws from the wells of history to help her weave an intricate tapestry for her characters and plots to thrive. So many fantasy stories are based on the Celtic or medieval Europe societies, such as Lord of the Rings and even Harry Potter.  But why not search elsewhere for inspiration?

I drew on the history of Native Americans for THE ROCK OF IVANORE. Here are three more books that draw inspiration from unique periods in history, from Tsarist Russia to ancient China to Central American Mayan myths, you won't want to miss these books.

Leigh Bardugo
Henry Holt & Co.
368 pp.
Ages 12 & up

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

Cindy Pon
Greenwillow Book
368 pp.
Ages 14 & Up

Ai Ling can see into other people's minds and reach into their spirits. But she doesn't know why this power has awakened inside her. She only knows that it is growing. It leads her on an epic journey—one that brings her to the edge of the deepest evil.
Chen Yong has a quest of his own, but then his path crosses Ai Ling's. And there's a connection so strong that neither can ignore it.
Now they must face terrifying demons determined to kill them, and battle through treacherous lands. It is their destiny. But can destiny keep them together?

J&P Voelkel
Egmont USA
416 pp.
Ages 10 & up

Fourteen-year-old Max Murphy is looking forward to a family vacation. But his parents, both archaeologists and Maya experts, announce a change in plan. They must leave immediately for a dig in the tiny Central American country of San Xavier. Max will go to summer camp. Max is furious. When he's mysteriously summoned to San Xavier, he thinks they've had a change of heart.

Upon his arrival, Max's wild adventure in the tropical rainforests of San Xavier begins. During his journey, he will unlock ancient secrets and meet strangers who are connected to him in ways he could never have imagined. For fate has delivered a challenge of epic proportions to this pampered teenager. Can Max rescue his parents from the Maya Underworld and save the world from the Lords of Death, who now control the power of the Jaguar Stones in their villainous hands? The scene is set for a roller-coaster ride of suspense and terror, as the good guys and the bad guys face off against a background of haunted temples, zombie armies, and even human sacrifice!

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