Happy Monday, y’all! Wait to you see who’s chatting with us today! That’s right, April W. Gardner, historical romance author. She’s going to be talking about her novel, The Red Feather. Be sure to check out her other books on the Diverse Books recommendation page AND Beth Erin will be sharing her review of The Red Feather, later this week. Let’s get started!
About the Book
On a moonless night in 1813, Adela McGirth encounters a set of wolves and the steely eyed warrior who slays them, searing himself on her heart. When he returns, it’s with a brand of a different sort—the flaming arrow that destroys her life.
In the copper-haired captive, Totka Lawe finds the other half of his spirit. He vows he would die ten deaths to protect her, and he would kill any who tried to steal her away. With bluecoat soldiers pursuing him, a jealous cousin pursuing her, and the woman herself pursuing home, that vow stands a serious chance of being called into action.
In the first of this three-part, inspirational story, award-winning author April W Gardner brings to vibrant life an obscure event and the noble people who once dominated the Southeast but are now forgotten.
About the Author
APRIL W GARDNER writes history with a Christian perspective and a little imagination.
She is a copyeditor, military wife, and homeschooling mother of two who lives in Texas. She writes Christian historical romance with a focus on our Southeastern Native tribes. In no particular order, April dreams of owning a horse, learning a third language, and visiting all the national parks.
Toni: Thank you so much for joining us to talk about The Red Feather, part 1 in the Beneath the Blackberry Moon saga. I’m tickled pink that you’ve chosen to focus on Native Americans in this book. Care to share a little about the tribe Totka Lawe is part of?
April: Sure! But before I dive into that, thank you for having me, and thank you for this blog. It’s more needful today than ever before, and I’m honored both to have been invited and to write diverse characters.
Totka is Muscogee, or Creek as his people were first called by the British. For over a hundred years, the Muscogees were the dominate people group in our Southeast. They ruled from the East Coast to present-day Alabama and beyond. When they migrated into the area, they were smart conquerors and incorporated the tribes they overtook into themselves and, over time, created the Creek Confederacy. It was so mighty that President George Washington treated it with the same respect he did the European nations.
This history is taught in few American schools today. The Creeks and their history have been systematically swept under the rug since 1813 when the nation raged over the massacre at Fort Mims (the setting of The Red Feather). It was the largest massacre of whites by Natives in our history (some estimate 500 dead). The event was horrific, no denying, but I take special care to show both sides of the story. I tell it through the eyes a Muscogee warrior named Totka who simply wants to preserve his land and his culture from encroaching whites. Their method of warfare was a more violent one than Americans were (and are) accustomed to, but they were behaving in accordance with their culture and traditions. However, from that day on, Americans associated the Creek Nation with disgust and began to wipe them from the history books. It’s their forgotten story I long to tell.
Toni: Wow! Now you’ve got me wanting to do a search to learn more! Such an interesting story to tell. And your other character, Adela McGirth, is Totka Lawe’s captive. Man, oh man, did that get my attention in the blurb. There’s a struggle that appears between one’s past life, present circumstances, and the future. How does Adela handle the pressure?
April: Adela is the other half of the equation, and her story is based on the actual McGirth family. They were rescued from the fort in the heat of the battle and protected by a Muscogee warrior for the duration of the war. The romance is my own invention, which wasn’t easy to do, considering Totka is partly to blame for Adela’s grief. How does she handle it? The only way any person can handle such a thing and come out the stronger for it is through the power of Christ. Apart from His grace and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, I don’t know if it’s possible to survive such a thing emotionally, much less come away loving the enemy. Adela is a strong character to begin with, and though she does emerge from the ordeal bearing emotional scars, she relies heavily on God, staying true to Him and her faith.
Toni: God is amazing! I love to see how His presences changes a person. Now, since we’re all about diversity, I have to ask, how did you develop Totka Lawe’s character without falling into racial stereotypes?
April: With lots of help! My dear expert, Ghost Dancer, is Muscogee. He is passionate about preserving his heritage and has dedicated countless hours to helping me get it right. Without his guidance and the careful eye of another expert and friend, Edna, I probably would have stumbled into more than one racial stereotype.
Toni: How awesome! I love to hear who authors have spoken to in their research. What is it about this time in history that captivates you so?
April: Good question! I grew up hearing that my great-great-something grandfather was Billy (Red Eagle) Weatherford, one of the attacking Creeks who later leapt from a bluff to save his people from the pursuit of General Andrew Jackson. As a young adult, I dug into that story, wished it were told in novel form, and decided to do it myself. My research became an addiction and a love that continues to this day.
Toni: Ah, that makes sense. Family history has a way of weaving into our present. How about some easier questions?
What do you do for fun in your spare time?
April: Um, write? LOL. Other things I enjoy doing are walking my fur-babies (two German Shepherds), visiting historical sites, and reading.
Toni: German Shepherds are such gorgeous animals. How about favorite meal?
April: Anything I don’t have to cook. Ha! But if you’re looking for something specific… I’m a big rice girl. If it has rice, I’m a fan!
Toni: Kindred spirits! I say the same thing and rice is wonderful. Especially with butter and sugar. But I digress. Favorite Christian song?
April: There are a ton of contemporary songs that I adore, but my favorite hymn is “The Love of God” by Frederick Lehman. The third verse is my favorite:
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
Toni: Beautiful! Last but not least, what’s next for you on your writing journey?
April: Glad you asked! Bitter Eyes No More released February 7. Its tagline is, “A man of abiding honor, tested by a woman of ruinous passion. A woman of unspeakable sins, pursued by a God of unquenchable mercy.” It takes place during the last days of Spanish Florida and depicts the upheaval between the Spanish, Natives, and Bluecoats (American soldiers).
It’s such a new release that my “what’s next” is still at least six months away, but I’m already working on it. The fifth book in the Creek Country Saga is entitled Love the War Woman. Its female lead is a Muscogee woman who is, you guessed it, a warrior. She is bodyguard to Chief Tall Bull who is far too handsome and prestigious to consider loving a roughened woman such as herself. It’s set during the inciting event of the First Seminole War, and because of the rare setting and characterization, it promises to be quite unique!
Toni: It sounds great! I’m looking forward to it and definitely adding your books to my TBR pile. Thank you so much for talking with me today. I’ve enjoyed it. 🙂 What about you, reader friends? Care to ask April some questions?
Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh