‘Wanders Far’: Six Questions for David Fitz-Gerald [INTERVIEW]

David Fitz-Gerald

Wanders Far is David Fitz-Gerald’s first novel in the Adirondack Spirit Series. (Photo courtesy David Fitz-Gerald)

There are few authors who can thrust us back in time to an era we know little about and yet captivate us with a story that is so riveting, we can’t resist turning the pages to see what happens next. David Fitz-Gerald is one such author. And now he’s here to chat about his sophomore title, Wanders Far, the legendary tale of a quiet boy who grew up in the Adirondacks way back in the 1100s. We hope you enjoy it!—J&H

Jathan & Heather: When the men of the Bear Clan kill a Huron, why did they tie the man’s body to a pole? (Page 21)

David Fitz-Gerald: In this chapter, the dead body of an enemy attacker was tied to a pole for several reasons. Killing an enemy was cause for celebration. Telling stories of bravery and heroism was a part of the culture, and the enemy’s dead body on display served as a prop in their storytelling. It also helped condition the people in the village. The constant warring between tribes impacted every man, woman, and child, and wasn’t just the business of the warriors. In this chapter, the young brother of the main character was praised for sounding the alarm and helping foil the enemy’s attack. If not for him, their village would have suffered many casualties on that day.

J&H: When an Algonquin captive is brought back to camp, stripped, and tortured by the village, Gentle Breeze decides to make him a replacement husband instead. (Page 47) Was this a typical custom? And what would keep a captive from accepting this fate?

DFG: Before I get started with this question, I would like to mention that the main character in the book is a young man named Wanders Far, who wanted to be a runner, carrying messages between villages. He discovered he had a talent―a special gift. He learned to harness the power of a seer with the guidance of a mentor. He and his grandmother, Gentle Breeze were pacifists, which was not at all typical. Scenes like the one discussed in the previous question, and in this question are necessary to show the dangerous world these characters lived in, however most of the book is dedicated to other elements of the hero’s journey.

As a distance hiker, I liked writing about the very long trips across what is now New York, and I loved writing the supernatural elements of the story. As a pacifist myself, writing battle scenes and imagining torture was excruciating. During my research I read an account of Francesco Giuseppe Bressani included in the book In Mohawk Country―Early Narratives about a Native People, Edited by Dean R. Snow, Charles T. Gehring and William A. Starna. Bressani’s story had a very profound impact on me.

Bressani was a missionary and in 1644 he was captured by Hurons. In turn, the Hurons were attacked by the Mohawk, and Bressani ended up in their possession. The unspeakable, horrible brutality that Bressani was subjected to is a sad reminder of what humanity was and is capable of. I recently had the chance to visit London, and the stories told at the Tower of London are also hard to stomach. In the end of Bressani’s account, after enduring months of torture, he became a replacement relative for an old Mohawk woman―yes, it was common for captives to become replacement relatives.

Constant war, as well as disease and other perils left critical vacancies in families, and those vacancies were often filled by slavery and/or adoption. The character Blue Arrow had the good fortune to be adopted by Gentle Breeze and her family. Gentle Breeze’s attitude about torture was counter to their culture, and she made a great show of covering up her pacifism. I portrayed the age difference between Gentle Breeze and her replacement husband, Blue Arrow as being unusual even in their culture.

The final element of the question asked about the circumstances in which captives might not accept becoming replacement relatives. Hatred for an enemy passed from generation to generation and lasted for hundreds of years. It is easy to imagine that some captives would rather be killed than to be adopted. That said, becoming a replacement relative would have been much easier to bear than slavery and/or torture.

I’m currently writing about just such an escape for the next installment in my Adirondack Spirit Series. In this book, Gentle Breeze ultimately sends Blue Ears back to his birth village, as an act of love. Finally, I’d like to say, I tried to show restraint in dealing with this book’s battle, slavery, and torture elements, focusing far more attention on other elements of the protagonist’s journey. This is the story of a runner and a seer. It is not the story of a warrior.

J&H: Chief Warm Welcome hosts a tournament and invites all the nearby villages. (Page 82) Why were tournaments important to this culture and how often would they have been held?

DFG: We know the sport of lacrosse was very important to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) people. We also know their matriarchal society required men to move to their wife’s village when they married. Trade, visiting family members in other villages, and lacrosse tournaments would have been great opportunities for matchmaking. Given the amount of work involved in hunting, gathering, and battling enemies, I would imagine that such tournaments were important, but not too frequent. On this topic, I would like to encourage people to google artist Robert Griffing’s paintings: The Warriors Game; The Catch; and Feared by his Opponents.

J&H: Bear Fat likes to give out gifts, including jerked bear meat, rendered bear oil, and un-rendered bear fat. (134) Was it typical for most natives to be as generous as she was? And while researching this novel, did you ever try items like jerked bear meat yourself? If so, what did you think of it?

DFG: Great question. Throughout human history, so many historical figures were brutal, self-serving tyrants. Bear Fat as the head of her (very large) household, and as the matriarch of her Clan has been depicted as a servant leader, and her leadership role became the family business. The fruits of their summer labor, and the products of her family’s annual bear hunting trips were used to trade for other things their family needed.

I intentionally depicted her trading as much more generous to the other party to highlight her extraordinary leadership qualities and benevolence, which Bear Fat’s sister summarized with the words: “Well fed, well led.” With respect to jerky, I have had the good fortune to vacation in Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota. So I have had the opportunity to enjoy lots of different kinds of jerky, including elk, bison, and even alligator.

I’m grateful to friends and colleagues from my “day job” at our company’s locations in Texas for some of the best jerky I’ve ever had. I like it spicy! I can also recommend the Adirondack House of Jerky on Main Street in Lake Placid, New York. As for bear jerky, I have not tried that. I believe concerns about roundworm require extra caution in making jerky from bear meat. It is probably not fair to compare the jerky from today to its historical equivalent. The spices and marinades used today are quite extraordinary, and such ingredients would not have been available then. Though from my reading, historically, dried meat would have been combined with dried fruit into a mixture known as pemmican. I’d love to try an authentic ancient pemmican recipe.

J&H: What was your favorite part about digging into the history and landscape you write about in Wanders Far, and did it change the way you view indigenous people?

DFG: Thank you for this question! I like to joke that my book is kind of like the famous I Love New York advertising campaign, and that my character, Wanders Far was about a thousand years ahead of his time. This book allowed me to combine my hobbies… As a kid in the 1970s I preferred to only read books about Native American heroes. Heroes such as Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Geronimo, Cochise, Tecumseh, and Sacajawea. And books like the dozen written by my great, great-grandfather, the Reverend Egerton Ryerson Young, a missionary who lived among Native Americans in Canada.

In particular, I would like to mention My Dogs in the Northland, which somehow is available to be downloaded from Amazon. As a distance hiker, and an Adirondack 46-er I have hiked to the top of every major peak in the Adirondack mountains, so it was fun to make my protagonist a distance hiker. I am enjoying following the research being done about whether the Adirondack mountains were inhabited by Native Americans, and I would note the work of biologist Curt Stager of Paul Smith’s College and the book Rural Indigenousness by Melissa Otis. In my fiction, I am portraying the Adirondacks as at least inhabited by a small number of Native Americans.

Personally, I have always been most drawn to the spiritual elements of Native American culture, and I look forward to exploring those elements even more in future books. I have enjoyed visiting great museums, like the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, and seeing artifacts from hundreds of years ago. I think my favorite thing to do is gather stories from mythology, add historical details, and create fiction that brings it all to life. It is impossible not to be affected by reading the first-hand accounts of missionaries. Nonetheless I continue to have a romanticized view of indigenous Americans, so no―my view of indigenous people has not really changed.

J&H: Finally, do you think the story of Wanders Far has implications for modern society? Are there lessons we can learn from his story?

DFG: Absolutely. I hope people will enjoy Wanders Far’s journey as entertainment and be influenced by the warmth and positivity of its characters. I’d like to think the lessons Wanders Far learned along the way are universal, and timeless. Many of the themes in the book should resonate within contemporary society, such as democracy, matriarchy, family, leadership, succession, community building, participatory decision-making, and how to tell a story. Beyond that, I think modern society is ready for a more otherworldly spirituality than in recent decades.

I’d like to thank Jathan Fink, and Jathan and Heather Books for thoughtfully and thoroughly reviewing Wanders Far―An Unlikely Hero’s Journey, and for these fantastic interview questions. I really appreciate it. I hope Wanders Far will find an audience. Your review and feedback are humbly requested. I welcome correspondence with readers and potential readers via email at dave@itsoag.com.

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David Fitz-Gerald's WANDERS FAR

Outskirts Press

ABOUT THE BOOK

Wanders Far lives in dangerous times and is faced with one difficult challenge after another. He is a skinny, quiet boy who has been raised on the banks of a tributary of New York State’s Mohawk River, hundreds of years before colonists arrive. One lifetime is not enough for Wanders Far’s old soul.

From a very young age, his wanderlust compels him down one path after another. No village can contain him.

He is happy living a simple life in the physical world during challenging times. Yet the universe seems to have other plans.

A wise, enigmatic shaman mentors Wanders Far and helps him cultivate his rare talents. And so he sets out to become a runner, carrying important messages across the lands of his people and their enemies. In the end, he winds up fulfilling a much greater destiny than he ever imagines.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Fitz-Gerald may spend his days in the chaotic world of business, but at night he enjoys getting lost in the settings he imagines and spending time with the characters he creates. For him, writing historical fiction is like making paintings of the past. He loves weaving fact and fiction together, stirring in action, adventure, and romance with the hope of transporting readers to another time and place.

David is an Adirondack 46-er, which means he has hiked all of the highest peaks in New York, so it should be no surprise when he attempts to glorify hikers as swashbuckling superheroes in his writing. Wanders Far—An Unlikely Hero’s Journey is the first in a series of books in the Adirondack Spirit Series.

Want to know more? Visit Dave at his home on the Web, like him on Facebook, and follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

WANDERS FAR
By David Fitz-Gerald
197 pp. Outskirts Press. $18.95

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours bannerPurchase Wanders Far at one of these fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, IndieBound, and Powell’s.

Wanders Far is brought to you in association with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

One Response to ‘Wanders Far’: Six Questions for David Fitz-Gerald [INTERVIEW]

  1. Amy Bruno says:

    Great interview! Thank you so much for hosting David and the Wanders Far blog tour!

    Amy
    HF Virtual Book Tours

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