Watch the Face of the Sky features some very strong characters. What inspires you to write such colorful people?
I watch people to learn how they react. I did research on leukemia in a large hospital in Dayton, Ohio, and saw people in pain, people with various diseases, bone fractures, and in childbirth. Some reactions were unpredictable, such as a patient stressed about his illness who brought a jar of urine into the lab to be tested - but it was from his dog. I saw a sobbing man climb into the bed with his wife who was giving birth. My husband was an inorganic chemist who worked with radioactive elements. He couldn't talk about his work, which was classified. He talked about architecture and government. We had five children, each a unique individual with completely different characteristics. I have good material to draw from for my characters.
Over the course of the novel, Madoc travels from the American South to Wales, then to a variety of islands, and finally to the Yucatan Peninsula. How did you balance the widely divergent settings with the same cast of characters?
All the characters have a "home background," same as migrants do today. These people use what they learn at "home," and watch and listen to strangers they meet. All new places have similarities to the old; for instance, there is land, edible plants, animals, and water. There is wind and rain, sun and clouds, day and night. Little by little, the characters learn a new language and a different way of doing things. Each character also teaches the strangers a new language and a different way of doing things. People always use and make do with whatever is available in the place they find themselves. Knowledge is shared and spread. Mistakes and accidents are made, but that makes the story interesting.
What writing project are you working on now?
I'm working on the last book in this series about Madoc and his people. I call the book, The Blue-Eyed Mandan. In this last story, you will find what happens to Madoc, his family, the other Welshmen, and the women and children in the Unproved Land. You will go up the Big Muddy River with some of them as they pass through the largest Indian settlement ever found in North America, which today we call Cahokia. While there, Bran again plays in a ballgame. The Palefaces show the Mandan Indians how to make fishing boats, similar to the Welsh bull-boats.
During the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Mandans carved Welsh leafy designs on the bull-boat paddle handles. They kept a few of the Welsh words in their language. The questions are: Did these few Palefaces, who were in the Unproved Land in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, keep their oath not to fraternize with the native people? Why?