As I have observed before (probably too many times), my fiction is binary in nature. I simply place my protagonists in a location with an idea. The characters then make a series of decisions from the beginning of the story to the end. Yes or no? Up or down? Left or right? These decisions determine not just the nature of the adventure and the eventual outcome, but even the length of the book. In TULARE, my protagonists made decisions that precluded a swift conclusion. It is a long book.
All of my novels are what I term “character driven”, meaning the characters make the choices. Once the personalities and character traits of the protagonists have been established, I must be true to them. So when Zack Tolliver is visited nightly by a troublesome dream, his reaction is to “get over it” and he does nothing. Libby, on the other hand, tells him to go see a shrink. Neither can do else; their characters are set, and the way they respond is prescribed.
In a series, by book number ten, the personalities of the protagonists have been long established, making the task of the author even easier––and more difficult. Easier, because the plot can unravel almost automatically as Zack and Eagle Feather determine the twists and turns; more difficult, because by now the reader is tuned to the protagonists’ tendencies and will notice if they do not follow form.
TULARE was a long journey but absorbing. Zack, Libby, Eagle Feather, and even Jimmy Chaparral are older now, and their actions are influenced by the weight of greater maturity and longer experience. As in each series novel I write, my research uncovered absorbing mysteries, legends, and other discoveries. The once and vanished Tulare Lake is not the least of these, and the once populous and now diminished Yokuts people it supported have their own tragic history with a Phoenix-like rising ending. The land northwest of Bakersfield where my fiction unfolds is now a remarkable mix of extensive farm and ranch land, oil fields, Air Force base, Rancheria, and urban development.
The Central Valley of California is as rich a resource for a fiction writer today as it was for Steinbeck three quarters of a century ago. While this writer hopes to evoke adventure, excitement, and mystery rather than the literary masterpieces of the former, our goals coincide in the hope of great entertainment.