Interview with Author Andrew Joyce: Yellow Hair

Hi everyone! I'm honored to bring author Andrew Joyce onto the blog to talk about his newest book, Yellow Hair. I was intrigued by its premise of the Sioux Nation and Wounded Knee, all topics that I feel like there isn't enough popular literature about. I truly believe taking the time to explore these untold stories is incredibly rewarding, and I hope you enjoy our brief conversation!

Hi! Thank you for being on the blog today. Could you start us off with a brief introduction of yourself?

I live on a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with my dog, Danny. I write books. And when I’m not writing, I’m working with my editor. And when I’m not working with my editor, I’m marketing my latest book. Then I start the process all over again. I pace myself to one book a year. That way I don’t have to work so hard. Four months for writing, three for editing, and five for marketing (which I detest).

First, let’s talk about your book, Yellow Hair. Can you give us a brief summary?
Through no fault of his own, a young man is thrust into a new culture just at the time that culture is undergoing massive changes. It is losing its identity, its lands, and its dignity. He not only adapts, he perseveres and, over time, becomes a leader—and on occasion, the hand of vengeance against those who would destroy his adopted people.
Yellow Hair documents the injustices done to the Sioux Nation from their first treaty with the United States in 1805 through Wounded Knee in 1890. Every death, murder, battle, and outrage written about actually took place. The historical figures that play a role in this fact-based tale of fiction were real people and the author uses their real names. Yellow Hair is an epic tale of adventure, family, love, and hate that spans most of the 19th century.
Why did you choose to write this novel?

The inspiration for the book came to me when I was reading a short article and it made reference to the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862. It also mentioned that the outcome involved the largest mass execution in the history of the United States. That piqued my interest.

When I started my research into the incident, one thing led to another and before I knew it, I was documenting the entire history of the Sioux, who are also known as the Dakota, vis-à-vis the relationship between them and the United States.

Let’s talk about writing. What made you decide to write historical fiction?

I didn’t decide to write historical fiction. It just happened. I only wanted to tell engaging stories, and so far all my books have taken place in the past. But I have 150 short stories under my belt that include almost every genre from detective stories to science fiction to children’s stories and everything in between.

How was the researching process, especially talking about a sensitive subject?
I want to say that I learned the hard way how important proper research is. But it wasn’t really that hard of a lesson. In my first book, which takes place in the last half of the 19th century, I made two mistakes. I had the date of an event off by one year and I had my hero loading the wrong caliber cartridge into his Winchester rifle. I would have gone blissfully throughout life not knowing how I had erred if not for my astute fans. Both mistakes were quickly pointed out to me in reviews of the book. One guy said he would have given me five stars if not for the wrong caliber bullet mistake. I had to settle for only four stars. Lesson learned!
For Yellow Hair, I had to know both points of view, the white man’s and the Sioux’s. Getting to know the whites’ take on things was easy. There are many, many books (non-fiction) that were written at the time. I even found a book written by Custer detailing his strategy for wiping out the Sioux entirely. That was hard reading. Then I went looking for diaries and obscure self-published books written by the participants. Then it was onto newspaper articles written at the time; the archives of universities and historical societies were also a great help.
As to the Sioux’s point of view, there are a few books that were dictated to newspapermen years later by the Indians that took part in the various battles that I weave into my story. I found a lot of material from Native American participants of the Little Big Horn, written twenty to thirty years after the fact.
But I wanted to immerse myself in the Sioux culture and I wanted to give them dignity by using their language wherever possible. I also wanted to introduce them by their Sioux names. So, I had to learn the Lakota language. And that wasn’t easy. There is a consortium that will teach you, but they wanted only serious students. You have to know a smattering of the language before they will even deign to let you in. I had to take a test to prove that I knew some Lakota. I failed the first time and had to go back to my Lakota dictionary and do some more studying. I got in on my second try.
What do you feel like we need to see more of in books at the moment?

Good editing and well-told stories.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

The writing process.

What is the hardest aspect of writing?

The marketing process.

Thank you so much! To finish, how can readers find your book Yellow Hair if they are interested?

Here’s a link to make it easy:

Andrew Joyce left high school at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He wouldn’t return from his journey until decades later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has written five books, including a two-volume collection of one hundred and fifty short stories comprised of his hitching adventures called BEDTIME STORIES FOR GROWN-UPS (as yet unpublished), and his latest novel, YELLOW HAIR. He now lives aboard a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his dog, Danny, where he is busy working on his next book, tentatively entitled, MICK REILLY.

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