Interviewed by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel
Pati Nagle was born and raised in the mountains of northern New Mexico, and remembers when dusty dogs rolled in the Santa Fe plaza. She has eclectic tastes in reading, and writes fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and historical fiction, both for adults and for a younger audience. With boundless curiosity Pati embraces life, creating art, crafting entertainment, and constructing the best writer’s cooperative in the world. Just give her a little time.
Q.) You’ve brought a book long out of print (OOP) to BVC, the first in your Far Western Civil War series. This was your first book. How tempted were you to do any heavy editing or rewrite?
A. ) No heavy editing, no. I have done a little adjusting of the spacing, and some minor changes where I didn’t agree with the publisher’s house standards. And a few corrections, of course. It seems as though a couple of errors always creep in, no matter how carefully one proofreads.
Q.) Growing up in New Mexico, how aware were you of the Civil War connection in the far west? Was it everywhere in statues and historical markers, did they teach it in school? Or did you discover it later on, when you began to write seriously?
A.) I was not aware of it at all, which is one of the reasons I was determined to share the story. I actually grew up less than 50 miles from the Glorieta Battlefield, but I never learned about it in school. I even drove through Glorieta Pass on the way to summer camp for several years. There was no interpretation of the battlefield to speak of. That’s getting better now, though there’s still room for improvement.
I discovered the New Mexico campaign when I decided to try writing historical fiction, and went looking for local history to write about. When I started learning about this part of my home state’s history, I was blown away. I was really excited to bring this campaign to the attention of readers who might enjoy a novel but weren’t likely to read history books.
Q.) Can a reader start with any book in the Far Western Civil War series, or is it best to start at the beginning with Glorieta Pass?
A.) Best to start at the beginning in this case, but you could read Galveston without having read the first two, or even Red River if you haven’t read the others. They occur in sequence, but they’re sort of two pairs: the first two are about the New Mexico Campaign, and the second two are about the Sibley Brigade’s later adventures in Texas and Louisiana. I strongly recommend reading Glorieta Pass before reading The Guns of Valverde.
Q.) Do any characters appear in more than one Civil War book?
A.) Yes. The pairs of books I mentioned above each have the same cast, more or less. One character, Jamie Russell, goes through all four books. I didn’t have that planned at the beginning, but it wound up being the most natural progression for continuity’s sake.
I’ve had several requests from readers for more stories about O’Brien and Laura Howland. I do have some further adventures planned for these characters from the first two books. Haven’t had time to write them yet.
Q.) In your new Blood of the Kindred series, which starts with The Betrayal, did you plan for the Darkshore aelven to be vampires of some sort, or did you start by defining what they had done to betray their way of life, and move on from there? I can see this beginning as “they did this, which tampered with the creed, and so they were cast out” or I could see you thinking: “what conditions could cause such behavior?”
A.) I read Dracula at an early age and I love George R. R. Martin’s Fevre Dream. There are some vampire stories that aren’t to my taste, but I’m fairly open-minded about them. I even enjoyed the Twilight books, sparkles and all. Reading them was an exercise in nostalgia, because it was actually my twelve-year-old self who would have absolutely adored Twilight. There’s enough of her left in me that I was able to have fun reading them.
Anyway, to address your second question, The Betrayal grew out of my short story “Kind Hunter” (online at BVC), which is about an elf hunting a vampire. I wasn’t finished with the idea when the story was done, so I wound up writing a distant pre-history to “Kind Hunter,” which has a contemporary setting, as a new concept of the origin of vampires. That is how The Betrayal came to be.
Q.) The portion of The Betrayal I’ve seen suggests that the various clans are insular—so insular, that they keep strong color and other characteristics because there is little cross-pollination between various groups. Did you do this intentionally to show a certain mindset for your Aelven, whether they be rustic or proud? Is this isolation intentional, this not wanting to intermingle with other clans? Or is it something that has come on with the worries of war and rebuilding peace?
A.) I did this intentionally as part of creating the ælven culture. They very seldom breed successfully. One of the causes is this insularity, which has led to a degree of inbreeding (though they have no science of genetics, and so don’t understand this well).
From the ælven point of view, the insularity is partly a matter of convenience. They must travel on foot or by horse, and visiting distant clans requires a degree of effort and danger. They also have a tendency to stick to their own familiar circles. This, as Governor Felisan is aware, is not a healthy tendency.
Q.) Does the title The Betrayal have more than one meaning?
A.) I didn’t choose the title, so I didn’t impart any meanings to it. I can think of several, though.
Q.) What is the difference in the writing of your westerns and this fantasy series? Did you research and write these books the same way, or was it a completely different process?
A.) The main difference is that with the historicals, I was using existing history, so I did a lot of research about that. For the Blood of the Kindred fantasies, I probably did an equal amount of creative worldbuilding. I relied heavily on my years in the SCA, in which I learned a lot about medieval and renaissance cultures.
Another difference is that I outlined at least part of my story in advance for the historicals (working from a timeline of real events). Conversely, the ælven books are complete “seat of the pants” writing. I have only the vaguest plan of an ending when I start out, and no outline.
Q.) Anything else you want to tuck into this interview?
A.) I’d like to mention the second ælven book, Heart of the Exiled, and the third book, Swords Over Fireshore. I’ve drafted a fourth book in the Blood of the Kindred series, which will come out in late 2013 or early 2014.
I also have a new ælven series, the Immortal series (Immortal, Eternal) which are BVC originals. These books have a contemporary setting and are aimed at a younger audience, what’s being called the New Adult audience. The protagonists are college-age, just finding their wings. This series is set in New Mexico and is a lot of fun to write.
And I am writing a mystery series, also set in New Mexico: the Wisteria Tearoom Mysteries, written under the pen name Patrice Greenwood. The first of these, A Fatal Twist of Lemon, came out from BVC in 2012, and the second, A Sprig of Blossomed Thorn, is a June 2013 release.