Santa Cruz Good Times

Monday
Sep 22nd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Mountain High

mountainhighRevered author Charles Frazier comes down off the mountain for
a talk in Santa Cruz about his new book, ‘Thirteen Moons’


There are few big league writers who can score something like an $8 million advance for their sophomore book. Charles Frazier is among the select few. He might even be the one-and-only. In 1997 his first book, “Cold Mountain,” was published. The novelist was quickly ushered into the A-list. His book became a massive bestseller, he won the National Book Award for it and the story went on to hit the big screen, starring Nicole Kidman, Jude Law and Renee Zellweger, who won an Oscar. Now, in 2006, nearly 10 years later, Frazier competes with his past success, while reviewers and fans soak up his new book, “Thirteen Moons.” At 7:30 p.m., on Monday, Dec. 4, Frazier will speak at Bookshop Santa Cruz about his new offering in the literary world. “Thirteen Moons” tells the story of young Will Cooper, a 12-year-old orphaned boy who is turned out by his aunt and uncle, and sent to oversee a trading post in the woods, on the edge of Cherokee territory. Eventually, the Cherokees adopt young Will into their culture and family. Meanwhile, a love story, and a whole lot more arise in this powerful work by Frazier. GT recently caught up with the esteemed author.
GT: It’s been 10 years since “Cold Mountain” came out, how much of that time until now was spent researching “Thirteen Moons” and how much time was spent writing the book?
Charles Frazier: I write and research at the same time. I don’t spend a year doing research and then stop and start writing. I work the first part of a book doing 75 percent research and 25 percent writing and then those figures reverse over the years. For about five years or so, I worked on it. After “Cold Mountain” was published I spent two years pretty much on book tours.

GT: “Thirteen Moons,” like “Cold Mountain,” has exquisite details about unique cultures. It’s not the sort of stuff you find in history books. What does that say about your research process?
CF: One of my main interests in reading and art is “place,” and so the place that I know best is the Southern Appalachians. With this book I spent a whole lot of time reading natural history, travel writing from the period I was going to be dealing with, memoirs, any kind of primary document, a lot of military reports, all kinds of things like that. And I do a lot of getting out and walking and bike riding in the kinds of place that I’m writing about. When I know I’m going to be writing about something, I pay attention at a different level to the changes of seasons and the plants and the weather, those kinds of things. And if I get stuck on a scene, often I’ll go to some place in the mountains that would work for that scene and think about what it is I’m going to write if it happened there.
GT: When writing this book, how did you measure up to yourself and your previous book? In essence, were you in competition with yourself? Or did you just let that go and simply write?
CF: Ideally it would be the latter—that you’re trying to write the best book you can write at that particular time and just try to be content with that. On the other hand, it’s hard not to think about the expectation. I didn’t want to finish this book feeling like it was a redheaded stepchild to “Cold Mountain.”

GT: At what point do you know that you’re ready to begin writing? Do you have an outline and chapter summaries written up?
CF: None of that. With “Cold Mountain” I had a little bit of a story about that ancestor of mine. That would have been an outline, only you could have written it on an envelope. I like to have four of five key elements. It makes a story and with this one (“Thirteen Moons”) I knew there were a handful of elements that I wanted to be in the book. This book was going to be a lot more dependent on a narrative voice that drives the book. It’s kind of a process of discovery. I have writer friends that by the time they have an outline written, the book is half done. For me, I just love finding things. For example, I had this vague sense that Will and Featherstone (a character in the book) needed to have some conflict. I ran across a little piece about the etiquette of dueling. They both want to be so cultured, and in some way, they needed to get involved in that.

GT: How much time do you spend writing every day?
CF: Without a deadline, three hours a day. With a deadline, more than that, usually six hours a day. Sometimes you sit there long enough to know whether anything will happen or not. I’m not a morning writer or a morning person in general, so I usually aim to start writing at two or three in the afternoon and I go until something is happening.

GT: Tell us about Will Cooper (the main character in “Thirteen Moons”). Who is this man? What do you like about him? Is he someone that would be your friend?
CF: I think I’d enjoy spending some time with Will. I think Will is more optimistic than I am. He has more of a sense of his ability to shape the world in a direction that he thinks is good. He’s a very forward-looking person. Even though the book is retrospective, through his life, he is looking forward. 

GT: I understand Will Cooper is based on a real person?
CF: William Holland Thomas, a guy who was sent out to the edge of the Cherokee nation at 12 or 13 years old to run a trading post. (He was adopted by the Cherokee people.) From that point on in his life, he was tied up with that small group of Cherokee until he died and it was that group of Cherokee who were able to resist the Trail of Tears and stay there.

GT: How did you find out about William Holland Thomas?
CF: I was doing research on “Cold Mountain” and I ran across (some information) about an old man in a mental institution in the Raleigh area who some days would only speak Cherokee. I kept thinking who was that guy? How did he end up in a mental institution?

GT: I understand from reading some other interviews that you were frustrated about news getting out about your $8 million advance for this book. Did you feel like people were putting too much emphasis on the money, rather than the literature?
CF: Well, yes. And also, that kind of thing is private. How would people feel if their salary was on the crawl on CNN? But, it is what it is and I have to accept that it is a part of the territory.

GT: I also read somewhere that producer Scott Rudin paid $3 million for the rights to the movie version of “Thirteen Moons.” When will the movie come out and will you be involved in that process? And, do you have anyone in mind to play Will Cooper?
CF: If I was making the movie I would be thinking about an actor in the 25-30 range. But I don’t have a dream person. I haven’t been to a lot of movies in the past three years. I’ve been pretty much working seven days a week on this book. I’ve had one call saying that they’re beginning to think about a director and screenwriter and are in the very early stages.

GT: What did you think about the movie version of your book, “Cold Mountain”?
CF: I liked what some of the actors did. I was very happy that Renee Zellweger got her Oscar. Going on a film set and seeing these things that have been in your head made real, to see and walk into Ada and Ruby’s house and there’s Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger walking around …  it was really weird.

GT: Are you still living in North Carolina and raising horses?
CF: We live in North Carolina part of the year then follow the horse show season. We raise jumpers and a couple of hunters. Mostly doing jumping right now.

GT: What’s next for you after the book tour?

CF: A short novel. I have a couple in mind, but they’re not set in the 19th century.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past

 

The Peace Equation

Sunday is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, a global peace-building day when nations, leaders, governments, communities and individuals are invited to end conflict, cease hostilities, creat 24 hours of non-violence and promote goodwill. Monday is Autumn equinox as the Sun enters Libra (right relations with all of life). The Soul Year now begins. We work in the dark part of the year (Persephone underground) preparing for the new light of winter solstice. Tuesday to Wednesday is the Virgo new moon festival. We know two things about peace. “The absence of war does not signify peace.” And “Peace is an ongoing process.” In its peace-building emphasis, the UNIDP, through education, attempts to create a “culture of peace, understanding and tolerance”. Esoterically we are reminded of the peace equation: “Intentions for goodwill (and acting upon this intention) create right relations with all earth’s kingdoms which create (the ongoing process of) peace on earth.” At noon on Sunday, in all time zones, millions of participating groups will observe a moment of silence for peace on earth. Bells will ring, candles will be lit, and doves released as the New Group of World Servers recite the Great Invocation (humanity’s mantram of direction). To connect with others around the world see www.cultureofpeace.org    Let us join together with the mother (Virgo). Goodwill to all, let peace prevail on earth. The dove is the symbol for the day.
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sweet Treats

Local cannabis bakers win award for cookies

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.