SA Collins has a new queer alt-earth sci-fi book out, book one in the Cove Chronicles:
“Beware Mohawks Bearing Gifts.”
It’s 1847, New York. William Matthias Hallett is a fashionable dandy of the Manhattan social set. His life is laid out before him: a world of soirees, riches and luxury. Yet all he wants to do is find an adventure so deliciously wicked that it would satiate his soul for an eternity.
So, disguised in a lower-class manner, into the notorious Five Points he goes, seeking that spark of adventure. That is until it greets him in the form of his old schoolmates from Dartmouth College – a pair of Mohawk warriors who will up-end his world and all he knew it to be forever.
Set in an alternative Earth that deviates from our own known timeline, William Matthias Hallett, a Mohawk/British New York socialite and dandy, who wants very little to do with his upper-crust Manhattan set, sets out to the notorious Five Points, seeking an adventure so decidedly wicked to satiate him for a lifetime. He gets far more than he bargains for when he crosses paths with two Mohawk warriors from their days at Dartmouth college.
Thrust into an unseen war that the Mohawks and the rest of the Haudenosuanee Confederacy has been fighting for over 600 years, William must come to terms with his maternal heritage that is pressing ever forward as their newly created sovereign nation rapidly expands, isolating the burgeoning United States along the eastern seaboard and now reaching a boiling point with the new Americans.
Central to this sci-fi adventure is the creation story of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy where myth becomes reality in ways that William can scarcely imagine.
Welcome SA Collins for a special
Guest Post for Books, Tattoos and Tea
How did you choose the topic for this book?
This book was a long time in coming to life. In fact, I have been toying with the idea for well over 15 years. It has had many, many, many, revisions and iterations over those years. The inspiration came from two main sources: 1) I wanted to tell a tale with American Indians at the core of it and I knew it had to be sci-fi, because we’re always seen as the shaman, the alcoholic, or mystic, but not as people who struggle just like everyone else; and 2) I wanted to write a tale for my granddaughter with a young female protagonist who is at the core of the story. I started writing this during the first year of her life. Now, at seventeen, she is of an age to read such a tale. Secondly, I wanted to have my native characters have something monumental to push against. So, it had to be on an epic scale. Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, epic.
I decided that the creation myths were a good place to start. It begins with Skywoman and her twin sons, Spruce and Flint. There are three sections to this series – I’ve sort of outlined (I am a pantser by nature) – three books to each section, totaling nine altogether. The first three, of which Beware Mohawks Bearing Gifts is the first in the entire series, is set in 1847 New York city—in a world very much like our own, but not. It is a parallel universe where things did not transpire as they did here. So, it will be both familiar and off kilter for readers at the same time.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The culture. It is one thing to write about witches (as with Harry Potter) or elves (Lord of the Rings) which are steeped in western mythos and fairly well known and accepted. But how do you impart a culture that is not so well known yet is at the core of the work? It is the greatest struggle I have in presenting this world to readers. I can’t rely on known trope characters like witches and elves because they don’t exist in the way that people collectively recall them. Yet, there are universal themes that are deeply entrenched in the work: the struggle of good over evil. The heroes aren’t all good, the evil characters are not all bad. It is a grey world, much like our own. I wanted to present a heroic adventure, but with fully dimensional native characters at its core.
What secondary character would you like to explore more? Tell me about her.
Rebecca Hallett. She is the one to watch. While the first three novels are centered around her twin brother, William, and his Mohawk companion, Joss, she is the wild card in this first trilogy. She will surprise everyone in the story and the reader—at least, that’s what I am shooting for. You see, the story also has my husband’s family tree woven into it. He is descended from Elizabeth Fonnes Feake Winthrop Hallett (of the Winthrops who founded Boston). There is a novel written about her I very highly recommend, The Winthrop Woman, by Anya Seaton. There are many headstrong women in my husband’s family tree. Women who did not take a back seat to men. Rebecca is crafted as an amalgam of these women.
Who did your cover, and what was the design process like?
I designed the cover myself. My native characters don’t always appear as you might think they would. Indeed, the man on the cover of the book is not the hero. It is the man they think is the villain in the work, Tiyanoga. He is Mohawk, but he is also over 500 years old. He has a strong fashion sense that is decidedly British. Confused? An odd pairing visually? Yes, it is. But there are reasons for that representation on the cover. He is the Mohawk you are to be wary of. He represents the title of the first book to the fullest, so he had to be on the cover. The reader will get a fuller understanding later in the series of whom Lord Tiyanoga is within the series.
What’s your core motivation in this book?
That native characters can be front and center to an epic sci-fi adventure saga. They don’t have to be told from a “white man’s perspective” to engage the reader. If I’ve done my job right, any reader from any background should find commonalities within the characters they can identify with. We aren’t the stoic “Injins.” I also wanted the myths of the Haudenosaunee (aka Iroquois) Confederacy (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora), to be at the core of the work. Hopefully, readers will find this world engaging in a way they might not imagine.
It is the road not taken. Not many people know or were taught that when the American Revolution ended, Britain promised the Haudenosaunee for their services to the British crown that they would secure a sovereign native nation during the drafting of the Treaty of Paris. At the last minute, they reneged on that promise. This series deals with the ‘what if’ scenario. What if a sovereign Native nation was established as originally promised? What would that nation look like? How would it interact with other nations on the world stage? That’s at the core of this work. The relations between the newly formed United States and the Akwe:kon nation are not at their best. There is mounting tension that adds a whole other level of drama to the story. Historical sci-fi, what could be better?
Giveaway: SA Collins is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour. For a chance to win, enter via Rafflecopter: a Rafflecopter giveaway
He leaned against the doorway with a slight smile upon his face and placed the message from my sister onto the desk nearest the door.
“So, are you planning to sleep upon the floor, or will you nest down in the kitchen?”
“Just be glad the bed I have in your room is large enough for us both. You will just have a bed mate until we can rectify the situation downstairs.”
“I could always sleep on your sofa in the receiving room, Will.”
“Certainly not. If I am anything, I am a superb host. I will not have you attempting to recline on a sofa that isbarely sufficient to sit upon, let alone gain some much-needed rest.”
“Fancy little Indian, are you not?” He indicated the quality of my nightshirt and dressing robe.
“I walk in two worlds now; allow me my fashionable proclivities,” I replied as I began to change out of my clothing and into the nightshirt. For a few moments he stood there shaking his head and smirking at my nightly routine, though I did detect a blush moving across his face as I got down to my undergarments. As I pulled my shirt over my head, I noted he had slipped into the spare bedroom.
I carried the nightshirt and robe over to the spare room to join him as he began to slip off his leggings and mocs. After he shucked his shirt, I paused to appreciate the simple utility of the Haudenosaunee male wardrobe. Moments later, Joss changed from the comfort of his daily outfit into a simple loincloth suitable for sleeping, and here I struggled with overgarments, shirts, pants, undergarments, and various pieces that served only as ornamentation. I began to question for the first time the intelligence of my way of dress.
::But you wear your clothing so well. I do not judge your choice of them. This is simply what I know and have grown comfortable using. Why are you curious as to our way of dress?::
::Well, I suppose I should gain a better understanding of our people’s ways. I feel I know so little about my Mohawk life. I assume I can lean on you for that. Unless you find me a lost cause.::
::Will, have no doubt. You are Mohawk; your lineage is clear. You just have not had much in the way of guidance in our way of life. You can always turn to me for that.::
“Thank you. I cannot tell you how much that means to me. Since I came into this whole new world of the Guardians and Flintlings, I have felt little more than a leaf upon the raging river, with little hope of purchase with which to grant me some sense of security. You have provided the security I desperately need.”
“Wait here…” He gated out of the room, though to where, simply wearing his loincloth for protection against the elements, was beyond me. I did not have to wait long as he returned within a few moments with a beaded side bag in his hand. He threw it upon the bed and began to rummage through it. He extracted a beaded belt and a tightly rolled piece of blood-red cloth.
“Get out of that precious royal swaddling you have encased yourself in,” he chided me as he unrolled the cloth, revealing it to be about the length of the loincloth he was wearing. I realized he had retrieved his spare clothing, though from where I was uncertain.
Reading my musings, he replied, “I have spare clothing set aside in various places. I can retrieve them whenneeds arise. These shall be yours now.” He indicated the bag on the bed as much as the belt and loincloth he held.
“Oh, Joss…” I gasped, filled with awe at his offering, knowing that to refuse would deeply mar our new relationship. Not something I was willing to risk, given our being inextricably bound to each other.
Forgetting my near nakedness, I knelt upon the bed, running gentle fingers over them, and watched as he completed the folding around the back of the belt. A small smile broke over his face, bringing his eyes to light.Clearly, he was most happy in his offering. I only wished I had something to offer in exchange. As if hearing mythoughts, he had a reply. “Just your wearing it will be more than enough,” he murmured as he
handed me the garment. “Come, let us have you try it on.” “I am afraid you will have to help me out a bit.”
Shortly thereafter, I found myself wearing my first Mohawk loincloth. My slightly burnished alabaster skin, witha dusting of freckles along my muscular shoulders that mellow as they wend their way over my bare torso, standing in stark contrast to the rich colored fabric of the loincloth.
He placed two gentle hands on my shoulders as we regarded my reflection in the mirror. I felt him course along our link with such gratitude and care that I was undone by his gesture.
Joss beamed, watching me take root in my heritage, pleased he could do this for me. After sheathing myself in some of the finest material and clothing the world could offer, I was amazed at how much comfort, both in movement and luxury, this simple natural garment afforded me.
He pulled out the leggings, a pair of mocs, and a shirt. After another few moments, I was fully clothed in my maternal heritage clothing. A sense of pride seemed to swell within me that I had not anticipated. I nearly wept from thesensation. I know Joss did not miss my eyes misting up from the transformation at his hands.
“Joss, I never knew just how comfortable these really are.”
“You wear them well; as if you were born to them,” he added with a bright grin, no doubt pleased with himself.
I paused, turning this way and that, before bringing Joss into a tight embrace, so thankful for his offering. He moved his head from my shoulder to place my forehead against his, his hands on either side of my face, gently holding me there.
::Like this, Ohnehta’kowa. When it matters most, this is how we share that moment.::
I nodded, thankful for his teaching and his generosity. I knew, being so linked with him, our intimacy would be something I needed to embrace and let flow. It was a part of who we are. If I were truly honest, I longed for it to go on into the night; spending this singular touching moment with him and to share it thusly shattered what I knew about myself and the world around me. Joss sensed this and gradually broke contact between us. I felt bewildered and in aslight stupor for the loss of him. I needed to regroup.
“Yes, well, now to bed, eh?”
SA “Baz” Collins hails from the San Francisco Bay Area where he lives with his husband and Zorro, a character of a cat. A classically trained singer/actor (under a different name), Baz knows a good yarn when he sees it.
Based on years of his work as an actor, Baz specializes in character study pieces. It is more important for him that the reader comes away with a greater understanding of the characters and the reasons they make the decisions they do, rather than the situations they are in. It is this deep dive into their manners, their experiences and how they process the world around them that make up the body of Mr. Collins’ work.
You can find his works at sacollins.com, violetquillredux.com and as a co-host of the wrotepodcast.com series.
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