‘Red Bird,’ as I fondly refer to it, isthe first novel I ever wrote. And rewrote, and learned how to write in the process of all those endless revisions. It’s also the story I’ve cared most deeply about and connected with on various levels. Part of me is still seated around the circle at the fire with my Native American brothers & sisters.
The initial encounter between Charity and Wicomechee at the beginning of the story was inspired by a dream I had on New Year’s Eve–a highly propitious time for dreams–about a young warrior taking an equally young woman captive at a river and the unexpected attraction between them. That dream had such a profound impact on me that I took the leap from writing non-fiction essays to historical novels and embarked on the most amazing journey of my life. That was years ago and the saga continues.
I also met the prophetic warrior, Eyes of the Wolf, in another dream at the advent of this adventure, so when I describe him in the book I’m envisioning a character I feel I know.
The setting for much of Red Bird’s Song is the same as my other strongly Native American novel, Through the Fire, the spectacular Alleghenies. Much of the history depicted in the story was inspired by accounts I came across while researching my early American English/Scots-Irish roots and the Border Wars. The French and Indian War is the most well known, but there were others. Life in the frontier was unsettled even after The American Revolution had drawn to a close and warfare a reality. The boundaries of the frontier just keep shifting farther west.
In the early-mid 18th century, the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia was the colonial frontier and only hardy souls dared to settle here. The bulk of these were the tough Scots-Irish. If the Indians had only had to fight regular British troops they might ultimately have won because they scared the s— out of men trained for conventional warfare, but the long knives were another matter. They weren’t easily intimidated and soon learned from their cunning enemy.
Although Hawk Eye in The Last of the Mohicans is an adopted Mohican, his lifestyle and behavior is that of a colonial frontiersman. The more rugged of these men dressed as he did, much in the Indian way. They hunted & fought with muskets, tomahawks, and their famous knives. Indians acquired these knives as well. They blended traditional weapons and ways of living with newfound tools and weapons of Western man. A highly adaptable people.
The attack at the opening of Red Bird’s Song in the Shenandoah Valley is based on one that occurred to my ancestors and is recorded by Historian Joseph A. Waddell in The Annals of Augusta County. A renegade Englishman by the last name of Dickson led the war party that attacked them. Initially I’d intended to make the Colin Dickson in Red Bird’s Song a villain but as soon as he galloped onto the scene I knew differently.
Wicomechee, the hero in Red Bird’s Song, is based on the Shawnee warrior by that name who lived early in the nineteenth century and to whom I have ties. The Moffett’s, an early Valley family I’m related to, include a reference to him in their genealogy. Wicomechee’s father, John Moffett, was captured in Kentucky by the Shawnee at the age of eight and adopted into the tribe. It’s said he was a boyhood companion to the great chief Tecumseh, a chief for whom I have enormous admiration. The accounts of John Moffett and Wicomechee are recorded by Waddell. It’s also noted that during the Black Hawk Wars Wicomechee recovered the captive daughters of a Dr. Hull and brought them safely into camp, which reminds me of Hawkeye in The Last of the Mohicans. I’ve included more on this amazing warrior at the end of the novel as a bonus for those who read it.
Red Bird’s Song is out in print now at the Wild Rose Press, Amazon and Barnes&Noble. The OFFICIAL release day when the ebook comes out is 9-10-2010 at The Wild Rose Press. From there, the novel will travel on to other online booksellers. Your local bookstore can order the novel in as can your library if you ask them to.
*Beautiful book cover by Rae Monet
Image of the Alleghenies taken by my mother, Pat Churchman