Character Interview with Sheriff Claibourne Rainwater from Lightning on a Quiet Night


Lightning on a Quiet Night, a 2015 Selah Award finalist by Donn Taylor, is an historical novel set in Northeast Mississippi in 1948. Rainwater is a minor character from the novel — but he knows major things!

Interviewer: Hello. I’m Robert Rogers from the Memphis Commercial Appeal. The sign on your desk says Sheriff Claibourne Rainwater. Are you he?

Sheriff: I’m him, if that’s what you want to know. Come in here and set where it’s warm. This February of 1948 is super cold, and that wind would freeze the ears off a cornstalk.

Int: Thanks. I was driving through and saw your town sign: Beneficent, Mississippi, A TOWN AS GOOD AS ITS NAME. I’m curious. Is it really that good?

Sheriff: ‘Course it is, or we wouldn’t have put up the sign. We’re doing what ‘most everybody else is doing now, trying to settle down after the war. A lot of building going on, everybody glad it’s peacetime and hoping those stinkin’ Russians don’t stir up another war.

Int.: That worries people everywhere. Say, does everyone here speak the local dialect like you do?

Sheriff: We don’t speak no dialect. We all speak plain good English like me.

Int: Sorry. I didn’t mean to offend. What makes your town so good?

Sheriff: It’s a town of good church people, but the main thing is that we don’t have no real crime. Can’t nobody in town remember if we ever had a felony committed. ‘Least that was true till last month, and then a high school cheerleader got murdered. None of the good people in town would have done it, so it must have been an outsider.

Int: You had a murder?

Sheriff: I’m sorry to say we did.  See that big fellow sittin’ in the next office? He’s a detective from Jackson they sent up here to make sure I was doing things right. Truth is, he ain’t doing no better than I am. We’ve talked to ever’body we could and looked at all the evi-dence we could find, and we haven’t got nowhere. Right now we’re just hoping for some kind of break. But you was asking about that town motto . . .

Int:  Yes. What makes the town that good?

Sheriff: Like I said, good people. I admit we’re kind of proud of our record of no crime. Good people—like the high school basketball team of 1942—only time we ever put a team in the state tournament. They’re good boys. You’d think they was brothers—always stuck together closer’n two layers of glue.

Int: What made them close?

Sheriff: That was the war year. Pearl Harbor in December of forty-one. Their coach volunteered for the Marines next day, but he made the boys wait till they graduated in spring. Coach was a fine man, got killed on Tarawa. Clyde Rakestraw and Jimmy Fletcher joined the Marines. Clyde got killed on Okinawa, and Jimmy served somewhere out west. Otis Hahn tried to join but he had flat feet. So he stayed here and raised crops and kids. Hollis Wilson and Jack Davis joined the Army. Jack went to Europe. But that Hollis—he’s a real go-getter. Got assigned to a headquarters in Atlanta, went to school nights and come back with a law degree. Now he’s the youngest state senator the state ever had.

Int.: That’s impressive.

Sheriff: They say he’ll be governor before he’s through. All he needs to complete the picture is a good-looking wife, and some say he’s got one lined up. That’d be Lisa Kemper. She and her father moved here from Indiana. He’s building a chemical plant to give us more industry. Lisa is sure good-looking enough for Hollis, but she may not like it down here well enough to stay.

Int: And the other man you mentioned?

Sheriff: Jack Davis. Ordinary man with a ordinary name. Nothing spectacular about him, but he always seems to get things done. He works himself to death trying to pay off the mortgage on his farm. His father borrowed to buy new land, but both parents died in a car wreck while Jack was overseas. The banker—Harry Pendleton, as good a man as ever walked this earth—had the farm sharecropped till Jack come home. Jack’s been working day and night ever since.

Int: That doesn’t sound like much of a life.

Sheriff: Well, he could marry. The school librarian, Vesta Childress, is kind of sweet on him. She was engaged to the coach, but like I say, he got killed. She’s maybe six years older than Jack , but it’d still work out if he wanted it to. But he don’t. He don’t see nothing but paying off that mortgage.

Int: You mentioned one other member of that basketball team . . .

Sheriff: Jimmy Fletcher. He don’t do much of anything. Lives out near Branch Bottom, just kind of hangs around. His old man was a bootlegger till we run him out of the county.

Int: You ran him out?

Sheriff: Yep. Shut him down tighter’n a mosquito hide stretched over a barrelhead. But Jimmy will come around. He’ll be good like everyone else. It’ll just take him a while to settle down after the war.

Int: Well, it sounds like this town has a good thing going. With all the church people here, I guess the Holy Spirit visits pretty often . . .

Sheriff: I don’t recall anything special. Seems like people do well enough on their own. They go to church twice on Sunday, prayer meeting on Wednesday, and just behave themselves good in between. Could be the Holy Spirit don’t think we need him to come down and goose us.

Int: Well, I hope it stays that way. Thanks for talking with me. And I hope you find that murderer.

Sheriff: And I hope it ain’t nobody local. That’d really bust up some people’s faith in this town, and I don’t know what they’d do. Then we might need that Holy Spirit to come down and do something. Y’all drive safe going back to Memphis. Some of them other sheriffs ain’t as tough on bootleggers as I am.

Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he completed a PhD at The University of Texas and taught English literature at two liberal arts colleges. Now retired from college teaching, he writes suspense and mystery fiction as well as literary poetry designed for the ordinary reader. He has also written one historical novel, Lightning on a Quiet Night. His latest release is Murder in Disguise, third book in the Preston Barclay mysteries. He lives near Houston, TX, where he continues to write fiction, poetry, and essays on ethics and U.S. foreign policy.

Donn Taylor portraits 12/7/07
Donn Taylor portraits 12/7/07

Front Cover MurderinDisguise 500x750 (1)

Spending time with Tilly Cleaver from Found in Flight: Book 2 in The Baxter Romances

found in flightNovel PASTimes: What is your favorite thing to do?

Tilly: I am the personal maid to Mrs. Martha Baxter. When I came to the Baxter Homestead, I didn’t have much thought of what they would do. I just knew they had taken me in when I had nowhere left to go. They gave me the job, and I really like it! I love working hard for a good woman, and I especially love the nights when Mrs. Baxter and I sit out on the porch and watch the ranch hands doing their last-minute chores, listening to cattle low in the distance and just talking about life.

Novel PASTimes: What impression do you make on others when they first meet you?

Tilly: You know, I never thought about that! I guess I really don’t know. I hope they think I’m a good person, and one who speaks my mind. I spent so much time being silent and afraid, I just want people to know I’m not afraid anymore. I’m not silent.

Novel PASTimes: What is the most important thing you look for in a man?

Tilly: My goodness, you do ask a lot of questions about things I barely think of! I suppose that my idea of a man would be. . . strong, but kind. I love to watch. . . well, there’s this one ranch hand named Paul, and he can pick up more in his one hand than most men can pick up with both arms. So he’s strong as a bull, but when he smiles, you just know he’s thinking the best about you. . . and the best for you, which is even better.

Novel PASTimes: What is the greatest thing you have ever done?

Tilly: I ran away from Poppa.

Novel PASTimes: What is your greatest shame?

Tilly: That it took so long for me to run away.

Novel PASTimes: Do you believe in God?

Tilly: Absolutely! I must admit that in my darkest days there were times when I felt He maybe wasn’t paying too much attention to me. But I do believe in Him, and that he answers prayers. . . just not always in the way we want him to. Which is fine, because when that happens the answer is always better than the one we hoped for!

Novel PASTimes: What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you?

Tilly: Living with Poppa. It wasn’t just that he beat me and basically made me a slave, it’s that he kept me hidden away from everyone. Well, hidden isn’t the right word. He pretended I was there, pretended we were just normal, friendly folk. But every time someone came to make friends with me, or to ask me if I’d like to go with them to a church social, Poppa would scare them away right quick. It was terrible, to be so alone.

Novel PASTimes: What are you most afraid of?

Tilly: That Poppa will find me again.

Novel PASTimes: What do you like best about living on the Baxter Homestead?

Tilly: Well, it’s the first place I’ve ever been free! And there’s Mrs. Baxter, and. . . well. . . and Paul.


More about Found in Flight: Book 2 in The Baxter Romances

Only a woman with a broken heart can show a broken man how to live. Tilly Carver is a woman on the run. After a lifetime under the control of her cruel father, she has finally fled. But running does not mean you leave all your problems behind. After being saved from a gruesome death while on the run, she accompanies the young Clayton Baxter to his family’s home: the Baxter Homestead. But Tilly’s troubles are far from over. As Clayton begins to show his true colors as a cowardly, conniving villain, Tilly finds herself thrust deeper and deeper into intrigue and even danger.

Luckily, though, there are people looking out for her. Mrs. Baxter – Clayton’s mother and a tornado of a woman – has adopted her as one of the family. Clayton’s brother, Adam, loves her like a sister. And then there is Paul. A man of mystery, who showed up at the homestead not long after Tilly, he is always there. . . watching her, protecting her, perhaps even. . . loving her? She does not know. No one knows who Paul really is, or where he came from. She only knows that he is the strongest man she has ever known, and the only man with whom she has ever felt safe. She only knows that Paul understands her, because he also is on the run from a past he only wants to forget.

But the past is never really gone. And as Tilly’s and Paul’s past lives reach out to threaten them once more, they both realize that they can only find safety with each other. They can only find happiness in the arms of someone who understands what they have gone through, and what they have done. They can only find love if they stop running, and face what is coming. . . together.

You can contact Angelica Hart on her Website, Facebook, Twitter, or Amazon pages. She would also love for you to join Angie’s Friends (mailing list): Text “hartauthor” to 444999.



Fictional Character Interview: Maggie Galloway, Baker Extraordinaire, from Secrets and Wishes

Maggie Galloway is the sister of Reverend Ian McCormick, from my first book, Rumors and Promises. She can be feisty sometimes, but has as Ian has said “a heart of gold.” And sometimes even has a good sense of humor. I thought I’d invite her for a chat.

Novel PASTimes: Welcome to Novel PASTimes, Maggie. I was wondering if you missed keeping house for Ian since you moved to Apple Blossom cottage?

Maggie: Sometimes I do, but I’m sure my sister-in-law, Sophie, is taking good care of him and the house, though my little brother can be a handful.

Novel PASTimes: I noticed you refer to him as “Little brother” quite often, but he must be almost a foot taller than you are.

Maggie: Well, he is my younger brother by four years and I don’t like him to forget that. (Maggie laughs.)

Novel PASTimes: I heard you have some good news lately. Would you care to share it with us?

Maggie: Oh dear, I suppose Ian and Sophie have been talking. I wish they didn’t feel like they had to brag. I mean I’m excited about it and all, but it’s not that important.

Novel PASTimes: Tell me, please! I’d like to hear it from you.

Maggie: I recently received a letter from the Silver Leaf Flour Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota. You see, I entered their “Don’t Rest on Your Laurels” baking contest and won second place for my original pecan snickerdoodle recipe.

Novel PASTimes: Congratulations! Were you disappointed not to win first place?

Maggie: Perhaps a little at first but I was truly excited to have placed at all. I will receive a silver laurel pin and my recipe will be in their nationally distributed cookbook. Isn’t that exciting?

Novel PASTimes: I’m so happy for you! What does that mean for your future? Will you try next time to win first place?

Maggie: Maybe, but what I’m most excited about is that perhaps with this behind me, the bank in my hometown will approve a mortgage for the bakery I’ve had my eye one there. It has a cozy little apartment above it, just the right size for my son, Philip, and me. It would be so nice to have a home of our own again.

Novel PASTimes: But don’t you like it here in Stone Creek?

Maggie: I do. It’s a lovely little town. I will miss Ian and his little family dreadfully, but sometimes I miss Buffalo and all the memories there. (Maggie sighs.) That’s where I lived with my dearly departed husband, Robert, and his family is still there. It would be good for Philip to get to know them better.

Novel PASTimes: I heard Philip had a fistfight with the new pharmacist’s son, Zeke Harper, was it? Are you leaving town because of that?

Maggie: Of course not! They were just having a little fuss about whose father was the better pharmacist. Philip got his feelings hurt, but you know how boys can be when their tempers flare. I took him to Harper Apothecary to make up and now the two boys seem like old chums.

Novel PASTimes: I’m glad to hear they patched things up. What do you think of Harper Apothecary and its owner, Thomas Harper? I believe your husband was a pharmacist, wasn’t he?

Maggie: Why, yes, Robert was. And a good one at that. Better than—dear me, I’m starting to sound like Philip. I don’t mean to be a braggart, but Robert was excellent at his job. Having a drugstore in Stone Creek is a good idea. I’m sure it’s about time. I’m just not sure about the proprietor.

Novel PASTimes: What do you mean?

Maggie: I know they moved in recently, but the shop was a bit of a mess. Actually, more than a bit. And his four children, poor motherless dears, they are quite rambunctious. Thomas—that is—Mr. Harper has lost another housekeeper to their pranks and has very little control over the children. And he had the nerve to try and sell me some newfangled pills. I guess they’re called aspirin. I just wanted to buy some white willow extract from him.

Novel PASTimes: So you didn’t really like him?

Maggie: It’s not that. Well, he does have his faults. He’s a rather handsome man, but he has such a sad look in his eyes. (Maggie blushes.) I suppose he’s still deep in grief over his wife. He needs lots of help, but I don’t have the time to give it to him.

 Novel PASTimes: I see. Perhaps things will change. In the meantime, Ian told me that the man bringing your award from the Silver Leaf Flour Company is someone by the name of Giles Prescott? Your brother said you had an old beau by that name. Is this true?

Maggie: (Blushes again.) Honestly, I don’t know why he brought that up. I’m sure there’s more than one Giles Prescott in the world, aren’t you? If you’ll please excuse me I really should be starting dinner.

Novel PASTimes: Thank you for your time, Maggie. I can see you don’t want to discuss Mr. Prescott at this time.

More about Secrets and Wishes:  Stone Creek, Michigan, April, 1901 –  Maggie Galloway and Thomas Harper clash after their sons collide in a fistfight. Both widowed, they’re each doing their best as single-parents. Outgoing Maggie has dreams for a home of her own and a business to provide for her son as she searches for God’s path for her life as a widow. Reserved Thomas struggles to establish his new pharmacy and take care of his four rambunctious children while wondering how a loving God could take his beloved wife.

When Thomas becomes deathly ill, Maggie is recruited to nurse him back to health. Taking the children in hand, as well, is more than she bargained for, but she is drawn to help the grieving family. Both nurse and patient find themselves drawn to each other but promptly deny their feelings.

A baking contest sponsored by the Silver Leaf Flour Company brings former beau, Giles Prescott, back into Maggie’s life. When Giles offers Maggie a position at their test kitchen in Chicago, he hints that, along with assuring her a good job, it will allow them to possibly rekindle their relationship.

But then a charlatan comes to town, and tragedy soon follows. Maggie and Thomas discover the miracle potions he hawks aren’t so harmless when an epidemic hits Stone Creek. Thomas and Maggie realize they must work together to save lives.

Maggie finds herself caught up in battles within and without—the battle to help the townsfolk in the midst of illness and chicanery, and the battle to know which man—Thomas or Giles—deserves to win her heart.

Kathleen Rouser is the award-winning author of Rumors and Promises, her first novel about the people of fictional Stone Creek, Michigan, and the novella, The Pocket Watch. She is a longtime member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Kathleen has loved making up stories since she was a little girl and wanted to be a writer before she could even read. She longs to create characters who resonate with readers and realize the need for a transforming Savior in their everyday lives. She lives in Michigan with her hero and husband of 35 years, and the sassy tail-less cat who found a home in their empty nest. Connect with Kathleen on her website at, on Facebook at, and on Twitter @KathleenRouser.}





Character Interview with Harrison Mark Taylor from West of Forgotten


West ofForgotten_w11514_750.jpgNovel PASTimes: Where have you lived?

Harrison: Family home in Straight Creek, KY; New Orleans; drifted around a bit, and landed in Federal, Wyoming Territory

Novel PASTimes: What job have you had?

Harrison: Cavalry officer during the War of Southern Rebellion, and now, U.S. Marshal

Novel PASTimes: What person do you most admire?

Harrison: That’s a toss-up between two people—my wife and A.J. Adams. Rachel is head-strong, determined, smart as a whip, and I’m not ashamed to admit, most of the time, she’s a better person than me. Doesn’t hurt I think she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, even when she’s dressed in denims and a chambray shirt.  A.J….he’s the most honorable man I’ve ever known.

Novel PASTimes: What is you overall outlook on life?

Harrison: Life’s what you make of it.

Novel PASTimes: What if anything, would you like to change about your life?

Harrison: Right now, not a single thing. Guess you could say I’ve got everything a man needs to be happy and content—a good woman at my side, a job that most of the time should kill me with sheer boredom interspersed with moments of utter insanity, a kid that’s as smart as his mother, and another one on the way.

Novel PASTimes: How are you viewed by others?

Harrison: Most people would say I’m a straight shooter.

Novel PASTimes: How would you describe yourself?

Harrison: I’m a little taller than most men but appearance wise, I’m no better looking than the next man.

Novel PASTimes: What is your strongest and weakest character traits?

Harrison: Rachel says that I can’t see shades of grey, that everything is black and white in my world. Guess that could be both a strength and a weakness.

Novel PASTimes: How much self-control do you have?

Harrison: When I was younger, I had a wicked temper. I’ve learned to control that.

Novel PASTimes: Do you have a talent?

Harrison: I’m pretty good at reading people. Made winning at poker a lot easier.

Novel PASTimes: What do people like best about you?

Harrison: I don’t beat around the bush.

Novel PASTimes: What’s your favorite food and drink?

Harrison: I’m a steak and potatoes man. Never did like all that fancy French food in New Orleans. And, give me a smooth, mellow bourbon over anything else.

Novel PASTimes: What book are you reading at the moment?

Harrison: Reading one by Robert Stevenson called An Inland Voyage.

Novel PASTimes: Best way to spend a weekend?

Harrison: What is a weekend? Rachel and I own one of the largest spreads in the Territory and I’m a deputy U.S. Marshal. Friday and Saturday nights get a little busy in town and I’m spending those nights breaking up fights in the saloons. There’s times, I think the ladies of the morality preservation group have it right, that the saloons should be shut down.

Novel PASTimes: What would a great gift for you be?

Harrison: If someone could turn back time for me to June 30, 1863. I would have let A.J. go back to his troops and not taken him prisoner.

Novel PASTimes: When are you happy?

Harrison: When I’m with Rachel. Don’t even need to be doing anything, just sitting on the porch with a cup of coffee and knowing she’s in the house…

Novel PASTimes: What makes you angry?

Harrison: Look, I know this isn’t a popular sentiment and when there’s a war, someone has to win and someone has to lose, but that anger aimed at the South in this country right now makes me angry. I’m not arguing that the War of Southern Rebellion mowed down more than half a million lives. I’m saying that the men who fought for the Confederacy were just like me and almost all the other men who fought to save the Union. I won’t say if they were right or wrong in their assertions of state’s rights and over-taxation. But, I will say that for the most part, those men were as steadfast and brave as any man who wore Union colors. And, to blame them for the war—it was a war, like any other. Rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight. I guess someone has to take the blame for tearing this country apart but it makes me angry to hear it.

Novel PASTimes: What makes you laugh?

Harrison: Rachel. And her—no, our son, Joshua.

Novel PASTimes: Hopes and dreams?

Harrison: That Joshua never experience anything like that war.

Novel PASTimes: What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why?

Harrison: I told you that Rachel says I can’t see grey areas, that it’s all black and white to me. She’s wrong. After the war was over, I realized that there has to be grey, somewhere, but orders are orders. At Tullahoma, I captured my best friend. I was personally responsible for sending him to a prisoner camp in upstate New York. And, he’s dead because he was in that camp and I blame myself to this day for his death.

Novel PASTimes: Biggest trauma?

Harrison: Seeing Rachel held at gunpoint and not being able to keep her safe.

Novel PASTimes: What do you like best about the other main characters in your book?

Harrison: I like that Rachel doesn’t take any guff from me and she gives it right back in full measure. It makes me real happy when Joshua says I’m his father, even though I’m not. I’m the only father he’ll ever know.

Novel PASTimes: What do you like least about the other main characters in your book?

Harrison: I can’t and I don’t hold it against either Rachel or Joshua, but it does bother me who that boy’s father is.

Novel PASTimes: If you could do one thing and succeed at it, what would it be?

Harrison: I want to be a better father to Joshua than my father ever was for me.

Novel PASTimes: Fast Facts

Parents: Joshua and Kyla

Siblings: Two sisters and a half-brother, Jason

Eyes: Hazel, I guess.

Hair: Rachel says it’s a brownish-blond. I never thought about the color—though there is some grey in it now.

Voice: Deep

Right- or left-handed? Right-handed

author picture betterAbout Lynda J. Cox: Once upon a time there was a little girl who said when she grew up, she was going to have dogs like Lassie, own horses, and live on a ranch just like the Ponderosa. Two out of three isn’t bad. If she can’t live on a ranch, Lynda J Cox writes about characters who do. She writes steamy westerns, what one reviewer called an authentic blend of Old West action and happily ever after romance. She has won The Laramie Award for best debut novel, short listed for The Laramie for her third book, and her last three books have all been given 4.5 to 5 stars by InD’Tale Magazine. You can found out more about Lynda on her Amazon Author Page, FB Author Page, or Author Web page.



An interview with William Louis Redskin from The Red Hawk by Ellen Porter



NOVELPASTIMES:  Tell me about you and your friends:

WILLIAM:  As a young boy, I lived in Shehamniu, a village of the Chaushilha tribe. There were about 100 of us living there when I was a child, including my father and I, my aunt, uncle and their children, and the families of my friends Guyape and Sahale.

One day in 1851, a White man named Ralph Eastman set up a tent on the land just outside our village. I helped him plant his first wheat field that day. He then left it for several months, so our village helped ourselves to it, which made him angry.  Even though he was angry, when he returned he allowed me, Guyape and Sahale to help him build corrals for his livestock. My father had forbidden me to contact White men, as he thought they were dangerous. When he found I had disobeyed his orders, he gave me a whipping so bad I could not join Guyape and Sahale when they went to help Ralph Eastman the next day. My father also convinced my friends’ fathers to discipline them, but their discipline was not as severe.

When Ralph ascertained from my friends what my father had done, he became even angrier. He left without finishing anything but the corral. When he came back, it was with two sheriff’s deputies and a legal order to remove all three of us from Shehamniu. The deputies threatened to kill everyone in the village if my people did not allow them to take the three of us. So, we went, and became the indentured servants of Mr. Eastman. He changed our names to William Redskin, Guy Redskin and Sam Redskin.

Redskin was a term he called all Indians. He never meant to insult us. It’s just what some people called us in those days. I didn’t really like that name as a boy, but I came to accept it and now it’s just who I am.

After several years, my friends ran away and let the people in Shehamniu know we were alive and doing well. My friends never returned to the Eastman Farm, but my father did. He spoke English well by then, to the amazement of Mr. and Mrs. Eastman. They quickly became friends with my father, who then introduced them to everyone else in the village.  Meanwhile, I developed an even better friendship with Eliza, the Eastmans’ daughter. But if I told you more, that would spoil the ending.

NOVELPASTIMES:  Do you have any enemies?

WILLIAM:  You would think Mr. Eastman is my enemy for much of the book.  But he came to be my good friend.

NOVELPASTIMES:  Are you involved with anyone?

WILLIAM:  Eliza eventually becomes more than a friend. That is all I can say.

NOVELPASTIMES:  What person do you most admire?

WILLIAM:  I would have to say my father, for being brave enough to venture over to the Eastman Farm after what had happened to me several years before. I also admire Ralph for his willingness to admit what he did was wrong, and for later becoming one of the biggest defenders of my people. Eliza is the one who understood the error of their ways first, and for that and other reasons, I greatly admire her.



NOVELPASTIMES:  What’s your overall outlook on life?

WILLIAM:  Looking back, I have learned even when bad things happen, good things can come from them. So, if faced with a challenge, you work hard to get through it, you advocate for what is right, and you take what blessings come with that challenge.

NOVELPASTIMES:  Do you like yourself?

WILLIAM:  I am not a perfect man, by any means. But I come from a proud people, and I am very proud of myself, and what I have accomplished. What’s not to like about me?

NOVELPASTIMES:  What, if anything, would you change about yourself?

WILLIAM:  At the end of The Red Hawk, my life seems perfect. But The Red Hawk is a sequel. In The Last Chief of the Chaushilha, and even more so in another sequel yet to be named, I come to see how I’ve let much of my knowledge of Chaushilha traditions and culture slip away from me.  I can blame that on the kidnapping, somewhat. But I’ve also got to blame that on myself, and make sure I remember and pass on to my descendants what I still know.

NOVELPASTIMES:  How are you viewed by others?

WILLIAM:  Guyape and Sahale saw me as the ring leader of the adventures we found ourselves in, most of the time. To my father, my aunt and my uncle, I was a beloved son. The Eastmans saw me at first as a savage in need of civilization, but eventually came to value me as a wise young man and a friend.

NOVELPASTIMES:  How much self-control do you have?

WILLIAM:  I know in my childhood, and even as a young man, I sometimes got into trouble because of curiosity, because of passion, because of anger. But the Chaushilha do not take pride in impulsive behavior, nor do the Eastmans. So I have learned to be much more self-disciplined.

NOVELPASTIMES:  What is your worst fear?

WILLIAM: I think I have already lived through that, which is losing my self-identity. Seeing how working through that adversity brought me great blessing, I am confident there isn’t anything out there I cannot handle, at least with the help of our Creator.


NOVELPASTIMES:  What do you like to eat and drink?

WILLIAM:  I enjoy some of the finest food a man can eat in the 19th century. I also still love my Aunt Macha’s acorn mush, there is none better. But, I deeply love what Aunt Macha has done with the flour from the wheat we grow on the Eastman Farm, the vegetable seeds Clara Eastman gave her, and the livestock we gave the village. She has infused all that with her own Chaushilha ways of cooking. You know, someday, 100 or more years from now, I bet people will still want to eat roasted beef the way she makes it.

NOVELPASTIMES:  What is your favorite book?

WILLIAM:  I am not much of a reader, although Mr. Eastman taught me how. Since most of his lessons were from the Bible, I guess you could say that is my favorite book.  But the Chaushilha do not have a written language, so I never read anything until I was 12.

NOVELPASTIMES:  What would be a great gift for you?

WILLIAM:  Saddles and tack, guns, or other practical things a man can use. When my father and I reconciled, he brought me a bear rug for my wiki-up.

NOVELPASTIMES:   When are you happy?

WILLIAM:  When I am around family. Father, Aunt Macha and Uncle Achachak, and my cousins were originally the people I most loved to be with. But, as you will see in The Red Hawk, I have come to know the Eastmans as family too.

NOVELPASTIMES:  What makes you angry?

WILLIAM:  I still despise how some White men act, with the attitude their race is superior to all others. Some of them don’t even like Eye-Talian people!  You read Last Chief of the Chaushilha when it is published, because in that book I’m going to have even more of a reason than in The Red Hawk to feel this anger towards racist White men. But in both books, you will learn men usually act the way they do from ignorance, and only sometimes from pure evil.

NOVELPASTIMES:  What makes you laugh?

WILLIAM:  When we were children, Sahale did some crazy as a loon things. After he and Guyape ran away, I didn’t see them again. But I did go back to Shehamniu after that, and got to know my cousin Gosheven better. Oh, my goodness! He was completely off his chump at times. All I could do was laugh. And then, just wait until Last Chief of the Chaushilha starts. He plays a big role in that book and his antics get even better.

NOVELPASTIMES:  What is the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why?

WILLIAM:  It would be hard for me to answer that without giving away too much of what happens in The Red Hawk. But I can say Ralph Eastman was the recipient of my “worst thing,” and it had to do with how he perceived me at the time.

NOVELPASTIMES:  What was your biggest trauma?

WILLIAM:  Being kidnapped and taken away from my village at the age of 12 was, by far, the worst thing that ever happened to me. But ultimately, it was also the best.

NOVELPASTIMES:  Do you have any secrets?

WILLIAM:  I learned a few customs pertaining to tribal ceremonies that have to be kept secret because of their sacred nature. Even the women of Shehamniu did not know these things. My father and Uncle Achachak passed these things on to me, and I have vague memories of the men engaging in these ceremonies before I was kidnapped. After I was kidnapped, the influence of White man was so pervasive, we stopped our sacred ceremonies lest we be persecuted for engaging in them.


NOVELPASTIMES:  What do you like best about the other main characters in the book?

WILLIAM:  As we discussed earlier, my father and Mr. Eastman are both admirable men. My father was a brave man to risk his life to reconcile with me, and Mr. Eastman for admitting he was wrong. These are the men who made me who I am today. As for Eliza, I like everything about her.

NOVELPASTIMES:   What do you like least about the other main characters in the book?

WILLIAM:  I had a lot to not like about Ralph Eastman at first, obviously. I am so thankful he admitted he was wrong for thinking about the people of Shehamniu as savages who can’t even take care of their own children properly. I also didn’t like how my father beat me that one day, but I completely understand his reasons now. I would not spare the rod with my own children in such a situation, but I cannot see beating a child so severely as I was that night.

NOVELPASTIMES:  Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?

William blushes and lowers his head as he thinks about that time.

That one was a doozy. You really are going to have to read The Red Hawk to know. I’d get too poked up with embarrassment if I told you here.


Quick facts:

Eyes: Brown

Hair: Black, worn long as a child, collar length after Mr. Eastman started cutting it

Voice: I spoke with authority, even as a child. Even more so in the sequels.

Right or left handed? Right

Parents: Father, Tachi. My mother was Kaliska, but she died when I was only 3 years old, before the story begins. Aunt Macha, Kaliska’s sister, lived next door, and even at the end of Last Chief is still more like a mother than an aunt to me.

Siblings: None, but I have 10 cousins, all children of Achachak and Macha, by the end of The Red Hawk

Places lived: Shehamniu and the Eastman Farm

Job: Indentured servant and hired man for wheat farmer

professional photo of meEllen Porter is a former journalist and the author of The Red Hawk, which is a fictionalized look at the historical events impacting the first settlers of her hometown, Chowchilla, California. The first settlers are some of the Native Americans whose tribe now shares a name with her hometown, but long ago used a different spelling, possibly Chaushilha as she spells it in her book. Ellen wrote this book as the first in a series to honor the memory of Reddy Redskin, a legendary character who served as Chowchilla High School’s mascot from 1916 when the school first opened until 2016, when the school was forced to abandon the mascot under 2015 legislation. Ellen began writing The Red Hawk a few days after the legislation was approved by the governor.


Ellen now lives in southern California in the state’s newest city, Jurupa Valley. Besides working on her next book, Ellen offers book editing and writing services (primarily business communications) through her company, Pen Porter. She also serves on the Jurupa Area Recreation and Park District governing board. In addition, she is the founder and leader of walking club Jurupa Valley Motion, and a member of running club Riverside Road Runners.