Liz Fichera is an author living in the American Southwest by way of Chicago.  She likes to write stories about ordinary people who do extraordinary things, oftentimes against the backdrop of Native American legends.  When she’s not plotting her next novel, you can find her hanging out on Facebook and Twitter, dishing about writing, books, LOST reruns, and the best brands of chocolate.  Please visit her web site at http://www.lizfichera.com/.

Liz’s novel appealed to me because I used to live in Arizona and I’ve visited many of the same places she has, many times. Reading her novel will be like visiting my former home!

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Your main characters are Hohokam Indians.  Please tell us about the Hohokam and how they inspired your historical romance debut, CAPTIVE SPIRIT.

Well, first of all, CAPTIVE SPIRIT is set at the dawn of the sixteenth century in what we now know as Arizona in the American Southwest.  The Hohokam Indians are considered the original inhabitants of the Sonoran Desert, particularly to Phoenix, Arizona.  They arrived around 300 BC from ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures and existed peacefully as farmers and master canal builders until around 1500 AD when their population vanished for reasons unknown.  And that’s the little-known piece of history that inspired me to write CAPTIVE SPIRIT and include it as a storyline in my novel.  Why would the Hohokam vanish? There are lots of theories—fire, famine, drought, migration, war—but no one knows for sure.

Please give us a teaser about CAPTIVE SPIRIT.  What’s it about?

Here’s the back cover summary:

Sonoran Desert. Dawn of the sixteenth century.

Aiyana isn’t like the other girls of the White Ant Clan. Instead of keeping house, she longs to compete on the Ball Court with her best friend Honovi and the other boys. Instead of marriage, she daydreams of traveling beyond the mountains that surround her small village. Only Honovi knows and shares her forbidden wish, though Aiyana doesn’t realize her friend has a secret wish of his own…

When Aiyana’s father arranges her marriage to a man she hardly knows, she takes the advice of a tribal elder: Run! In fleeing, she falls into the hands of Spanish raiders and finds herself being taken over the mountains against her will. Now Aiyana’s on a quest to return to the very place she once dreamed of escaping. And she’ll do whatever it takes to survive and find her way back to the people she loves.

The book trailer for CAPTIVE SPIRIT will also give you a good sense of the setting, along with some additional cool photos of Hohokam petroglyphs and the Sonoran Desert where the story takes place.  Plus, I think the music that accompanies it is pretty awesome.  J  Many of the shots in the book trailer were taken near my home.

Tell us about the names of your characters in CAPTIVE SPIRIT.  How did you come up with them?

All of the characters in the book are Native American with the exception of three.  Naturally, I chose Native American names for the others and I chose them based on their meanings.  Aiyana, the heroine in the story, her name means “Eternal Blossom.”  Honovi, Aiyana’s love interest, his name means “Strong Deer.”  Then there’s Eyota, Chenoa, Sinopa, and Manaba and many others.  Each name means something special.  J  I got lucky with Aiyana, though.  Not only do I think the name is lovely but its meaning is just as lovely.  Perfect for a heroine.  She definitely grew into her name.

Do you have any favorite parts of CAPTIVE SPIRIT that we can look for as we read?

If I had to pick a favorite, I’d say that I love the part when Aiyana, Honovi, and Diego meet up with the Apache.  Writing the chapters with the Apache was a blast.  There was so much tension and build-up in those scenes.  My fingers practically exploded getting the words onto the page.  And it took place in an entirely new setting, much different than the Sonoran Desert that Aiyana was used to.

How about any parts that were difficult to write?

CAPTIVE SPIRIT was just one of those stories that flew into my laptop from my fingertips.  It was like I could see the story in my head and I couldn’t get it on the page fast enough.  I love it when that happens! I could immediately “see” my characters too, their personalities, conflicts, idiosyncrasies.  So, the first draft was relatively easy.  All of the editing and fine-tuning that followed was a little more tedious and difficult but that’s par for the course.

Did you try to sell any other novels before CAPTIVE SPIRIT?

At the time I wrote CAPTIVE SPIRIT, my agent was trying to sell a young adult novel that I had written and loved dearly.  And that young adult novel was getting kicked in the teeth and rejected by editors all over the place, unfortunately.  I tend to write stories that are out of the norm—my young adult novel did not include the currently very popular vampires, werewolves, zombies, and fae.  While I love a good vampire story as much as the next person, that’s not what my heart desires to write.

How difficult was CAPTIVE SPIRIT to sell?

Carina Press was the only publisher that I queried about CAPTIVE SPIRIT.  I queried Angela James last January when I saw a tweet where she said they were “hungry for historicals.”  I figured it was a sign.  By March, she called to tell me Carina Press was interested in buying my novel.  I got lucky.  Selling CAPTIVE SPIRIT was pretty easy.  And working with Carina Press has been a dream.

Why Carina Press? Why digital books?

Well, for starters, I love how Carina Press is not afraid to shake up the traditional publishing model.  Their motto intrigued me from the start: “Where no great story goes untold.”  They seemed less about trends and more about publishing stories and good writing.  Plus I think that it’s only a matter of time before more and more people begin reading books on e-readers.  I don’t think that hardcovers and paperbacks are going to disappear overnight but I do think demand for them will decrease while people will opt for the convenience and cost of e-books, especially as the cost of e-readers continues to plummet.  It’s already happening.

Which e-reader do you own?

I went for the Nook.  And I love it.  At first, I didn’t think I’d warm up to an e-reader.  But I said the same thing about email years ago too! Things change.

Final question: Tell us about yourself.

I live in Phoenix, Arizona, although I was born and raised in Park Ridge, Illinois, just outside of Chicago.  I never in a million years thought I’d wind up living in the desert but here I am.  And I love it.  I write full-time, although I teach the occasional writing class at a local college near my home.  When I’m not writing, I like to travel (money and time permitting), visit museums, support local theatre, and I’m one of those freakazoids who actually likes to run and hike in the desert.  But it balances out my chocolate habit.

Giveaway!

Liz is here to answer your questions, and she’ll give a copy of CAPTIVE SPIRIT to a random commenter.