Today’s interview is with Zoe Saadia, author of a number of books on the Pre-Columbian Americas. She is best known for The Highlander, the first in her The Rise of the Aztec series.
Hi Daniel. Thank you for your interest in my work. I’m truly honored.
1. What information did you for this little-known setting? Are there any sources still around from that time?
Well, there is surprising amount of sources that did manage to reach us across the centuries. First of all of course, there are fairly good, if not very accurate or objective, Spanish accounts, such as of the conquistadors like Bernal Diez the Castillo or the friars like Bernardino de Sahagun or Diego Duran. Furthermore, a fair amount of the original Aztec and other Nahua people codices survived, or had been successfully recreated. Combined with the archeological evidence and the orally passed on customs and traditions, they manage to give us a picture of the pre-contact life in the Mexican Valley and beyond it.
2. What part of the history was most exciting or surprising? What did you make up that you are most proud of?
I enjoyed recreating the Tepanec history, as this once-quite-a-powerful Empire seems to be completely forgotten, by the Mexican people as much as by the rest of the world. But to deal with the much-better-recorded Aztecs was a sheer delight.
With the Tepanecs I was forced to make up quite a lot of detail, from political conflict in the book called “The Young Jaguar” (which was based on the real conflict of the later times) to the simple daily-life habits and even foods, borrowing many of those from the later day Aztecs. So I suppose, I can classify the political clash of the above mentioned book as my most proudly made-up scenario.
Still I would rather deal with the more solidly recorded events and times, like I was privileged to deal with in my “The Rise of the Aztecs” series.
3. Which of your characters would you most like to meet? Any that you’d be afraid of?
Oh, I would love to meet quite a few of the characters. Kuini, the Highlander, seems like an interesting fellow to spend an afternoon with, should he deign to pay attention to a strange-looking foreigner claiming an authorship on him and his friends. He is a fictional character.
As for the historical ones, Nezahualcoyotl, the most famous Emperor of the pre-contact Mesoamerica, is the man I would spend days with, kicking my heels in one of his palaces, trying to gain an audience with this great tlatoani-an emperor. The great ruler, lawmaker, engineer and poet, I think this man might actually find it interesting to talk to a foreigner (but a woman? Not sure about that. Like many others, this society was for the men to rule ;-))
4. How do you write so much? If I counted right, you’ve finished 10 novels within the past two years! Were some of those finished before you published your first?
Well, I have very supportive family who are prepared to put up with me working around the clock. Their support is invaluable, truly, and I appreciate it more than I can tell!
The possibilities the independent publishing world is offering are wonderful, limitless, too good not to explore to the full of its potential. With no need to spend months waiting for an approval of agents or publishers, then more time while the team of editors would deign to start working on one’s book, an author can let the muse go wild. It’s an incredible amount of work, as you have to manage all the aspects of publishing yourself, but it is so greatly satisfying. As an Indie, one needs to form a good alliance with other professional people in the field – editors, proofreaders, cover artist, web designers – and then one can write and publish with a breathtaking speed. It took me time to organize my team, but now, with an amazing editor who is as devoted to her work as I am, and with whom we are working very closely, encouraging each other, and a no less amazing cover artist, I feel like I would be slugging if I didn’t work daily, writing on and on. Luckily, the history keeps offering an endless amount of trouble, cultural clashes, wars and politics to supply me with ideas for more books.
5. Have you tried anything from your books—cooking the food, learning the language, making clothes from the maguey cactus?
Regretfully not yet. I’m an awful cook, but my friends in Mexico are promising to feed me nothing but the original indigenous food, just like the meals described in my books, the moment I come visiting. I made many great friends along the way, and so many history enthusiasts from Mexico-city and the Highlands were amazingly kind and helpful with my efforts to understand and to recreate as much as I could.
As for the language, yes, this comes more easily to me than cooking. I can’t yet speak a fluent Nahuatl, but I can put together phrases and words, understanding the general gist more often than not.
6. Tell me about yourself personally. Anything interesting/strange/silly?
Well, the strangest thing about me, I suppose, is the fact that with all this passion for pre-contact Americas and its wonderful but so painfully misunderstood and misrepresented cultures and peoples, I don’t live on that continent at all. I was born behind the Iron Curtain (Saint Petersburg) and these days I live in the hot boiling Middle East (Israel). So I suppose, when my Israeli kids are speaking words of Nahuatl and force their friends to play at Tepanecs, it may look strange or silly to some
Thanks, Zoe. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you. Best wishes for the rest of your series.
For more informaton on Zoe, her books, and Pre-Columbian America, check out http://blog.zoesaadia.com/
To purchase her books, go to http://www.amazon.com/Zoe-Saadia/e/B005DD6C9W