Monday, August 14, 2017

Meet Pikes Peak Writers Member Wes Redfield

By: Kathie Scrimgeour

Wes Redfield fell in love with New Mexico when he taught at the University of New
Mexico. He was drawn to [the state’s] old, deep, and sometimes tragic history, which resulted in his series of historical fiction novels. In researching for these, he found books published in the 1840s provided more information on the time period than in modern books and articles. 

KJ Scrim:  Your debut novel, Sangre de Cristo: The Blood of Christ will soon be followed by Santa Fe:  Holy Faith, and the final installment, Santa Cruz:  Holy Cross.  Tell us a little bit about these.

Wes Redfield: My first novel, Sangre De Cristo: The Blood of Christ, is a coming-of-age story about a young American in Spanish New Mexico who must come face-to-face with the slave trade in Indians. It is raw, because I believe that is the only way to treat slavery.  My second is Santa Fe:  Holy Faith.  It has the same characters and deals with abuse of debt peonage, persecution of Crypto-Jews (Jews who faked being Catholic to escape the Mexican Inquisition), and the origins of Penitentes, a secretive religious sect. The third in the series, Santa Cruz:  Holy Cross, is about a short, brutal civil war between Hispanics in New Mexico. Few scholars or fiction authors write about it.

KJ:  What part of this series did you enjoy writing the most?

Wes:  So far, Santa Fe: Holy Faith because of the intrigue and risks taken by Crypto-Jews against the Mexican Inquisition. I also enjoyed debunking myths about Penitentes.  I am one of the few writers to treat them sympathetically.

PPW:  What is the biggest challenge you faced when writing and researching for these, and how did you resolve it?

Wes:  Finding information on the civil war between Hispanics was the most challenging.  Little has been written in modern times about it, perhaps, a big perhaps, because certain groups don’t want the public to know about it. But several books published in the 1840s contain valuable information. One, Josiah Gregg’s Commerce of the Prairies published in 1844, is still in print. Also until the last twenty years little was written about the slave trade in Indians or the plight of Crypto-Jews.

KJ: Do you set daily, weekly, or monthly writing goals? 

Wes:  Yes, absolutely.  Writing is hard work.  At least for me I need a disciplined schedule. I start writing about 8:30 in the morning and go until noon when my brain gives out. Then in the late afternoon I begin revisions of the first draft. I try to not write on weekends. Writing is my new job. I wrote Santa Fe in a year. I think I can maintain that pace.

KJ:  I noticed you used Createspace to publish your first novel. Is this a platform that could be easily used by anyone?  What were the advantages for you to self-publish?

Wes:  I have found CreateSpace to be easy to work with. Self-publishing is worthwhile in my opinion to establish a platform. But the big problem for some people is marketing.  Fortunately, I worked in marketing and sales (they are different) in telecom, computing, and medicine. Initially, I did not market Sangre de Cristo because I knew my writing would improve. Now that I have a series, I will kick off an aggressive marketing campaign. We shall see how it works.

KJ:  Writing conferences, workshops, and critique groups are an important part of all writer’s growth. What have been a few of your favorite experiences?

Wes:  All three have been beneficial, particularly critique groups.  When I first attempted writing, I attended the Capitol Hill critique group in Denver headed by Terry Wright. I had a long way to go, and still do, but several published authors were members. I have attended numerous workshops in Denver and Boulder, and I won first place in a nationwide contest for historical fiction sponsored by the Southwest Writers Group in Albuquerque by submitting an early draft of Sangre de Cristo. Attending the awards banquet was a thrill.

KJ:  Do you have any “self-help for writers” books that you use regularly? Please share your list of your top two or three.

Wes:  I bought many of the usual books until I realized that most of the authors had never written successful fiction. The best book I’ve found is John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story. Several people have excellent series of videos on the Internet. They include John Truby, Robert McKee (of “Write the truth.”), and Stephen King and John Grisham have a series of two videos together. What a powerful team! I also subscribe to Robert McKee’s and Steven Pressfield’s newsletters/blogs. An excellent blog is edittorrent, http://edittorrent.blogspot.com/  The producers of it, Alicia and Theresa, are working editors, and lately their workload has been heavy, and they have made fewer posts.  However their index contains many valuable posts. Alicia has recently begun a newsletter for writing fiction. One can subscribe to it from the edittorrent blog.

PPW:  Does your reading influence your writing? How?

Wes:  Absolutely!  The most influential writing for me is a series set in the West by A.B. Guthrie, Jr. He won a Pulitzer for his second novel The Way West, but his debut novel The Big Sky is his best in my opinion. I have tried to write in his style, which is in deep point of view, in the vernacular, and sudden--danger and risks appear suddenly. I also studied, I mean really studied, John Grisham’s novels to try to understand why they are so popular. My conclusion is that they have conflict and tension on nearly every page. I read a lot of historical fiction such as works by Margaret George, Robert Graves, Michener, Leon Uris, and Anita Dianant’s great little novel The Red Tent. Also works by Steinbeck and Hemingway. Hopefully, I learned something about economy of words from Hemingway. Willa Cather and Cormac McCarthy wrote the two best novels about New Mexico in my opinion. Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop is sweet and McCarty’s Blood Meridian is brutal. I’ve tried to split the difference. 

KJ:  If you met someone who was thinking about starting to write, what advice would you give them?

Wes:  Write, write, write. Learn by doing. And read critically. Try to analyze what authors are doing to gain their objectives. Understand that conflict and tension are the essence of fiction. I am amazed at how many people don’t understand that. And definitely join a critique group.

Contact Wes Redfield at:
LinkedIn - Wes Redfield

Email – wes_redfield@hotmail.com


Are you a member of Pikes Peak Writers and interested in being interviewed? Contact Kathie Scrimgeour at K.J. Scrim