Parris Afton Bonds is the cofounder and first vice president of Romance Writers of America, as well as a cofounder of SouthWest Writers. A New York Times best-selling author, she has published over 40 novels and volunteers to teach creative writing to grade school students and female inmates. Indian Affairs (Paradise Publishing, 2013) is one of her most recent novels. You can find Parris on LinkedIn, Facebook, and her website at ParrisAftonBonds.com.
What is your elevator pitch for Indian Affairs?
Turning conventional wisdom on its head, Washington socialite Alessandra O’Quinn and Indian shaman Manuel Mondragon, defy time and space and politics and families to come together in the sweeping canvas of the 1920’s outpost of Taos, New Mexico. But can they defy Destiny to stay together?
Tell us about your main protagonists, their flaws and strengths, and the hurdles they’re trying to overcome.
Physical hurdles, such as tuberculosis, and the emotional/psychological ones like submissiveness in the face of male/military domination actually compel Alessandra to take on the U. S. government in defense of the peaceful Taos people. And for Man, the assumption that he has only one destiny—to lead his people in the peaceful way of the heart—is challenged by his confrontation with the outside world in the form of Alessandra.
Why did you decide to use Taos, New Mexico as the setting for the book?
Since I was five or six years old, during a visit to Carlsbad Caverns, I instinctively knew that the desert Southwest was where I belong. It was like a tsunami of a metaphysical impact. Taos Puebloan history—its peaceful battle for its sacred Blue Lake—provided the perfect setting for the story I wanted to tell. In Indians Affairs (originally titled When the Heart Is Right(, I included this quote that I feel is a perfect summation for my novel: “La Querencia, that was it. The soul’s comfort, the heart’s joy. Where one was drawn by an attraction without logic, yet with an undeniable force. La Querencia. That was Man and northern New Mexico.”
Will those who know you recognize you in your main protagonist?
Yes, my characters are compelled, despite their flaws and fears, to create a meaningful life.
Is there a scene in your book that you’d love to see play out in a movie?
Naturally, I would be dancing on sunshine if the entire story of Indian Affairs was made into a movie, but if I had to pick one scene, it would be the Senate confrontation where Man presents his impassioned testimony for this people’s right to their homeland. Homeland. For me, the word says so much.
What makes this novel unique in the historical romance market?
I think Indians Affairs possesses one unique and strong element that makes it different from other novels in the historical romance market: its metaphysical approach to the combined dynamics of history and romance.
What sparked the story idea?
I actually moved from Texas to northern New Mexico and spent two years there researching. I dedicated Indian Affairs to a phenomenal person and writer, a Southwest Writers Workshop member, Hana Norton, whose beautiful spirit led the way to this story. It was she who gave me the germ of the basis for my novel.
Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
Yes, that sacrifice for the sake of a large issue is always worthy of a reward.
When did you first know you were a writer?
I wrote my first story (actually typed it on an old Remington) when I was five years old. My mom saved the story, and I have it packed away somewhere. I have always written. But it wasn’t until I moved to Mexico City, that I actively began to write professionally. My first sale netted me $85 for a piece I did for Modern Secretary about a U.S. Embassy secretary. (I loved getting patted down by the handsome Marine guard). That was 43 years ago, and I am still obsessed/possessed by the writing demon/angel—a curse and a blessing.
You’ve written several series (Midsummer Madness; Kingdom Come; Blue Bayou; Janet Lomayestewa, Tracker). What are the challenges in writing a series? Who is your favorite character from one of your series?
Writing a series has its benefits in that you know the character as well as you know the lines in the palm of your hand. However, that is also its drawback—the challenge to create and explore is somewhat mitigated. I have to guard against this laziness when writing a series. Most likely, my favorite character is Janet Lomayestewa, Hopi Indian, because she is so human. She has such inner demons to fight, and she fiercely (but not fearlessly) takes them on: “All right,” she mutters, as I find myself doing sometimes, “bring it on. ”
Of all the stories you’ve written, which one did you enjoy writing the most?
I had the most fun writing Blue Moon. It just seemed to have a will of its own and wrote itself. I merely looked on, mouth open, as magic took over.
Who are your favorite authors?
I love the Old Guard authors: Edna Ferber, Frank Yerby, Rafael Sabatini, Thomas Costain, and Dale Van Every. I was weaned on them. But there are also many present-day, talented writers I enjoy as well, among them Ken Follett. Mitch Albom, and John Grisham.
What are your strengths as a writer, and what do you do to overcome your weaknesses?
My weakness is I tend to overwrite. My strength is my perseverance to create the best story of which I am capable. That means rewrite, rewrite, rewrite—and read, read, read. Everything. Every day.
What percentage of your time is spent writing, and what percent is spent on the business-side of writing?
I tend to take care of the business-side of writing the first hour or so in the morning. Doing so paves the way for the commitment to the creative aspect of my writing, which usually takes anywhere from six to twelve hours, depending if I am on a roll in my writing.
What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write?
I find the most difficult scenes to write are those that demand I dig deep into the character’s psyche. If I have to struggle to find the kernel that chafes my character, then I have to acknowledge I don’t really know my character. Deeper drilling to the core is necessary. For me, this is a real angst.
What advice do you have for beginning or discouraged writers?
I offer two pieces of advice for beginning or discouraged writers: (1) write for yourself—what others think of your soul’s outpouring is none of your business; and (2) the cliché to never give up—it is a powerful elixir (see my answer to the last interview question).
What are you working on now?
Currently, I am finishing up the 5th book (The Banshees) in The Texican series, a historical (not historical romance), which begins in 1835. Book five takes The Texican’s Paladín family through 1963. This will be the first time I have collaborated on a book, and my partner in crime is my former agent, Chuck Neighbors, another Texan.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Like some people believe in ghosts, I believe in magic. And I believe if you never, never, never give up, your magic is given its chance to work.
KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.