I put three questions to Zoe Saadia, who is the author of a book about Pre-Colombian Native America, a topic which has had scant attention from other historical novelists.
Tell me 3 things that helped you as a writer.
Well, it's hard to define who or what helped me first.
· My obsession with anything Native American began as soon as I learnt to read (not that I lived anywhere near this continent). So probably this obsession comes as the first drive of my writing career.
· Relocation to California when I was in my mid twenties, utterly fed up with being an accountant, was another push that could not be ignored. As a girlfriend (a wife somewhat later) of a relocated software engineer I was offered to do nothing but have fun for a few years. Some of the relocated wives went for a life of shopping and homesick boredom; I disappeared into the wonderful Californian libraries.
· And of course, my family – my husband, my parents, even my kids these days – are of an invaluable help. They kept believing in me all those years when I worked on the research, then the first (unsuccessful) novel, through the writing classes, then this current novel, then the process of translating it into English, refusing to accept the polite "not interested" from my countrymen publishers, then polishing it and so on. It took years of frustration and no-income and I'm not sure I would have persisted if not for the fact that my husband continues to push and give moral support.
Tell me 3 things you hope your readers will enjoy about your book.
· My book deals with the interaction of nations in pre-Columbian North America, which, for some reason, catches people by surprise. The general assumption is that the Americas were hardly populated and not cultivated at all, while the exact opposite is true. I think the reader would like to discover some new, unknown cultures and even empires.
· The story comes before the history. The history lesson my novel is teaching is written fairly lightly and not "aggressively". The novel is full of action and drama, with a fair amount of love and betrayal – it could easily fit in another historical setting, such as Medieval Europe or Ancient Greece. It's just a novel, regardless of the message I am trying to smuggle along the way!
· This novel is getting positive reviews. The storyline is strong and the characters are vivid and full of life – worth getting acquainted with!
Tell me 3 things that have inspired you in life.
· As an avid reader and writer of historical fiction, I can say that I drew much inspiration from great writers such as Colleen McCullough and James Clavell.
·As a history geek, I'm inspired by great generals such as Caesar and Hannibal (inspired to do what, I haven't quite figured out yet); by great politicians - Caesar again, before his infamous dictatorships, and the Great Peacemaker of the Iroquois; and, to leave aside the fighting spirit, by a few great scientists such as Eratosthenes for his early (and by our standards amazing) discoveries.
· I also draw inspiration from some people around me who take life with an amount of good, healthy humor.
By 1,250 AD the Great Mound of Cahokia on the Mississippi River was the centre of the largest North American empire, populated more densely than the 13th-century London. A hundred years later the Great Mound lay abandoned.
“The Cahokian” is a historical novel, based on the final years of that empire.