BookView Interview with Author Olivia Godat

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we interviewed author Olivia Godat, about her writing and her latest novel, Skylark Dancing. (Read the review here.) She has written several novels on the unique history of the American Southwest.

Olivia Godat was born and raised on a cattle ranch in southern Colorado. Although she has made her home in the Pacific Northwest for many years, the unique history of the American Southwest still fascinates her. She has written several novels on the subject. She claims the saying: “You can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl,” perfectly describes her.

What in particular attracted you to writing a historical romance set in the Southwest?

Many American historical romances are written about mail-order brides or schoolteachers and take place in the last half of the 19th century, and I wanted to write something different.

What kind of research did you do before writing Skylark Dancing, and how long did you spend doing that research?

I visited the state of New Mexico and became fascinated by its unique history. I returned again and again for several years, always learning more about the state from museums, galleries, and its people. My library contains two full shelves of history books about the Southwest, and I relied heavily on my Spanish/English dictionary since I do not speak the language. One time on a tour bus I talked to two women who spoke Spanish and after we got friendly, laughing and giggling, I asked them what their husbands, lovers, boyfriends, called them during lovemaking. After more giggling I chose querida (beloved) for Alondra and mi vida (my life or dearest) for Clory.

Which scene or chapter in the book is your favorite? Why?

It’s hard to say because if I went through the book one hundred times, I would probably change something each time!

Which character was most challenging to create? Why?

Probably Lalo because he was a Mexican soldier and I had to learn about that. One of the most interesting (to me) things I learned about the Mexican Army in that period is that the wives followed their husbands to war. They trudged behind the regiment with infants at their breasts, toddlers clinging to their skirts, and their belongings strapped to their backs. Oftentimes a woman would snatch the rifle from her dead husband’s hands and join the fight. Lalo admired those stalwart soldoldas and did what he could to help them. However, he would never subject a woman to that type of life.

Which scene, character or plotline changed the most from first draft to published book?

Alondra. The story was first meant to be about Felipe, but when he met Alondra, she stepped forward and said, “This is my story,” so I said “Okay,” and everything changed.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing a novel?

Ignoring your self-doubt.

How did publishing your first book, The Blue Mesa, change your process for writing Skylark Dancing?

I wanted to write a saga called Under Three Flags: the first portion being The Blue Mesa, a story of the regionunder Spanish rule; the second portion was Skylark Dancing, a story of the regionunder Mexican rule; and the third portion will be Blood Moon, a story of the region under United States rule. All three stories were mostly written at the same time. Being new to the game, I didn’t realize how difficult it is to write a saga. So, I made it three different books.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I want to be original, and I write mostly for myself, because who knows what the next popular genre will be.

Who and what ultimately inspired you to become a writer?

I’m an avid reader and sometimes I read a good story and then in my mind I change the ending or something else in the story. Eventually, I began writing my own ideas.

What’s next for you?

Well, I have Blood Moon, the third portion of my budding saga. It is a Western about when the American settlers moved west. They took over land they considered free land but which actually belonged to the original Spanish settlers by land grants from Spain. I’m not sure yet whether I will publish it.

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