Let’s see what this book is all about.
Blurb: Far from the world he knows, he’ll find a home.
Among strangers, he’ll find acceptance.
And in the arms of an unexpected man, he’ll find love.
Young Billy Strobaw comes West to escape the stigma of his Tory family. In the Dakota Territories, he encounters the Yanube warrior Cut Hand. Billy’s attraction to the other man is as surprising as the Yanube perspective on same-sex love. Unlike Europeans, the Siouan tribe celebrates such unions. Billy and Cut Hand can live as partners and build a life together, which Billy agrees to do.
As Billy struggles to acclimate to a very different culture, quickly discovering the Yanube have as much to teach him as he has to impart to them, a larger struggle is brewing. The white man is barreling through the Great Plains, trampling underfoot anyone who stands in his way. As a leader of his people, Cut Hand must decide whether it will be peace or war.
In a historical romance taking place against the epic backdrop of the early American West, where a single spark can ignite a powder keg of greed, lust for power, and misunderstanding, one man must find his place in history and his role in the preservation of all he has come to value.
Elizabeth: We’re so excited to have you here today, Mark. Would you tell us a little about your chosen genre?
Mark Wildyr: To say that Cut Hand is historical fiction doesn’t adequately cover it. The novel is a love story, but that’s inadequate, as well. It is also a primer for understanding how the clash of two cultures begins to change the way some native cultures viewed the deviants among them. The whites condemned berdaches, some tribes honored them. What I liked about writing this story was that Billy met and overcame his own culture’s prejudices and lives to be a legend to both peoples. Throughout the Strobaw family saga, I strive to show the gradual overpowering of the aboriginal people’s philosophy by the whites’ more narrow, less accepting view.
Elizabeth: We’d love to hear more about the origins of Cut Hand.
Mark Wildyr: As a child, I began writing essays about Native American cultures. It was a short hop, so to speak, from essays to imaginative short stories. Cut Hand was born many years ago as a Mohawk when I read Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales and as a Comanche when I moved with my family to Texas. But when I sat down to actually write the book, he became a member of a fictional “Siouan” band called the Yanube. Perversely, Yanube was the name of a creek not far from my original Oklahoma home. Therefore, the word must be of Choctaw origin.
Elizabeth: How do you define “diversity” in your writing, and how do you explore it in this book.
Mark Wildyr: Ah, that elusive word “diversity.” I had to think about this one some because this is not something I consciously sought to put into the story. But the very nature and theme of the novel, a couple of things become apparent. Billy Strobaw comes from a white Christian background; Cut Hand from a native band with its own religious and spiritual practices. Yet is it Billy who struggles to live in a foreign culture. Billy is the graduate of an eastern college but comes to understand that Cut Hand is as educated in things important to his culture as he is. When you think of it, Billy comes from a rebellious (Tory) background while his lover fights to protect his own. And as the whites overpower the land, Billy struggles against his own people to help his adopted people. Then as history overtakes them, Billy turns from his honest, straightforward nature to deceit in order to help the Yanube survive.
Elizabeth: Cut Handis being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for genre novels that don’t necessarily focus on or even contain romance. Tell us about the relationship in Cut Hand and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.
Mark Wildyr: Cut Hand is a reissue, and I was uncertain whether it belonged under the Dreamspinner or under the DSP Publications imprint. The previous Mark Wildyr book, Johnny Two-Guns, was published by Dreamspinner Press. After a discussion with my editors, we decided Cut Handshould be a DSP Publications book. I think we made the right choice.
Here, I must say an unsolicited word or two about the Dreamspinner Press organization. The care, detail, and support in creating the publication is better than at either of my two previous publishers. And I cannot say enough about the editiors. This outfit edits my books until I want to pull my hair out, but each one has a purpose and a goal. And their perseverance results in an attractive, professional product. Now the basic content is mine, so you’ll have to make your own judgment about the story.
My standard in writing these books was always James Fenimore Cooper’s the Leatherstocking Tales. I can’t match him… but I sure can chase him hard. I try to put the reader into the landscape just as he did. I hope I am successful. Of course, being from New Mexico, our own Tony Hillerman is one of my idols with his books about the Navajo. I try to capture some of his intimacy with the culture.
Elizabeth: We have more questions!
What goes into naming characters? Do the names have significance?
Mark Wildyr: I try to name my characters very carefully to achieve authenticity for both the time and the setting. For example, William (and Billy) have been familiar names for centuries. I never even considered changing his name to Bill as he matured in both age and wisdom. This gave me the task of overcoming his boyhood name with acts and an air of maturation as the years went by. He bears the honorifics of “the Red Win-Tay” and “Teacher” to assist in creating a legend out of a grown man still called “Billy.”
Cut Hand came to me “out of the blue.” I saw him as a nearly perfect specimen of manhood but for a healed cut on his hand. Ergo, he became Cut Hand. The other native players bear names from something within their spirit or out of their past… in other words, Earth Names, as was the custom back then.
Elizabeth: Why do your books have gay characters and gay themes?
Mark Wildyr: Once upon a time, I walked into a used bookstore with a friend and sat at a table while he searched for a specific publication. I picked up a book lying on the table and saw that it was a gay, erotic anthology. I glanced through it and was appalled. Few of the stories had a plot or suspense. None put me in the scene. They merely described one sex scene after another. Because I had achieved no success with my traditional stories (you want to peek into my rejection notice box?), I decided I could write a better story than those contained in that book. I took down the publisher’s information, went home and wrote my first gay-themed story. The same publisher bought that story and eleven others. Over the years, I have sold over 60 short stories to anthologies such as Men of Mystery, Kink, Ultimate Gay Erotica, and Best Gay Erotic Stories. Those stories were my training ground for transition into a novelist.
Elizabeth: Thank Mark for joining us today and thank you to all our readers. Mark has brought us a great except and don’t forget to check out the links! Our next guest will be Lyn Gala with her scifi release. So, like our Facebook page, join our Facebook group, and check out our web page to make sure you don’t miss out on a single post or contest!
PrologueAutumn 1831 along the Allegheny River
BUT FOR improvident fate, angry, boiling clouds would have unleashed nature’s cold fury upon this Yankee river valley the day he buried his ma and pa. Perversely a rose-hued dawn washed the tall forests and granite bluffs in a warm autumn glow.
Prosperous Tory farmers, his forebears rallied to Benedict Arnold’s American Legion during the Rebellion of the American Colonies, participating in the raid on New London. Their lands confiscated, their very lives at risk, the family joined the migration of a hundred thousand Loyalists to Canada and the Mother Country upon the Crown’s surrender to the victorious Continental rebels.
At the turn of the century, his pa brought the little family south from Toronto to unsuccessfully petition for the restoration of their prosperity, but old hatreds die lingering deaths, and Tories were subjected anew to high prejudices with the burning of the President’s House in the War of 1812. The Marquis de Lafayette’s return to these shores in August 1824, and the old revolutionary’s warm reception by James Monroe, the last American president to fight in the Rebellion, put the barm on the brew, sentencing the family to hard labor merely to meet the cain on farmland that once was their own.
Life doubly rocked the slender young man with hair the color of sandy soil and hazel irises shot with brown and green and gold when the tragic deaths of his parents in a farmhouse fire followed hard on the heels of a doomed affair with the daughter of a family of Patriots who had no use for Tories—real or reformed. The discovery of a hundred carefully hoarded gold English pounds in the ashes of the family’s cabin confirmed his determination to abandon this hateful land and retrace the footsteps of his boyhood idol, Jedediah Strong Smith, the legendary trapper and explorer of the Far West.
Mark Wildyr is an Okie by birth and New Mexican by choice who turned a childhood interest in Native American cultures into a career. His seven published novels and approximately sixty short stories detail how attitudes toward homosexuals—who once held places of honor among some of the tribes—began to change upon the coming of the white man, with his suspicion and fear of those who are “different,” ultimately becoming pariahs even among their own people as the Europeans became dominant.
Wildyr continues to be fascinated by how different people interact together to discover who they are when measured against others. He gives back to his community by teaching a free writing class at an Albuquerque community center.
Until next time, Happy Reading!