Today we're talking with Ron Fritsch, author of Promised Valley Peace
FQ: It is clear to me that you devoted much heart and soul toward character development and depth. How difficult will it be to turn out the light and close the door on Promised Valley and begin a new project?
FRITSCH: Your assumption about devoting “much heart and soul” in writing the four Promised Valley novels is absolutely correct. I published them in successive autumns from 2010 to 2013 (Promised Valley Rebellion in 2010, Promised Valley War in 2011, Promised Valley Conspiracy in 2012, and Promised Valley Peace in 2013). But even before I published Rebellion, I’d spent several years living with my characters night and day. I already miss them greatly. It’s as if a large group of friends—the "bad" guys as well as the "good" ones—suddenly went missing from my life. But it hasn’t been difficult to begin working on a new project. I'm apparently addicted to having characters in my mind and writing their stories. My new "friends" are getting as sassy and bold with me as Blue Sky, Rose Leaf, Wandering Star, and all the others in Promised Valley did.
FQ: In our previous interview of Promised Valley Conspiracy, I asked if you had plans to develop Promised Valley for the 'big screen' to which you said you would. How are your plans coming along?
FRITSCH: At the time of our previous interview I thought I might finish the four novels and immediately start writing screenplays for them, one film for each novel. After my partner and I, enticed by the first three seasons of the BBC’s Downton Abbey, viewed the entire Rome series on DVD, we began to wonder if one-season-per-novel television screenplays might better serve the complexity and many characters of the Promised Valley tale. Because we haven’t answered that question yet, I've started writing a stand-alone novel (more about that later).
FQ: I cannot help but think you must have experienced many moments throughout writing the series where you dreamed about your characters. Which character resonated most with you in Promised Valley Peace and what actor (or actress) would you envision playing the role (and why)?
FRITSCH: You're so right again. My Promised Valley characters showed up in my dreams almost every night. And they still do. Every time I view a film or television drama that draws me in, I imagine the actors playing roles in Promised Valley. Wouldn’t she (Reese Witherspoon, say) be wonderful, I ask my partner, as Rose Leaf? My protagonist/main character is clearly Blue Sky, but playing him will be as difficult as acting gets. Severely suffering from what we'd call PTSD, he goes into a strange trance and fights on, killing whoever needs to die next. Can I suggest three related characters and the people who should play them? The Jake Gyllenhaal of Brokeback Mountain as Wandering Star. He shamelessly manipulates Blue Sky and admits he needs him in the same breath. Susan Sarandon as his mother, Dancing Song. Despite having seen it all, she’s still in love with life, letting "joy itself," as she says when another character suddenly dies, "guide her feet in dance and her voice in song." Tom Cruise as his father, Lightning Spear. Maimed and vindictive at the pinnacle of his youth, he's now as cracked as his kingdom.
FQ: Horses play a more prominent and significant role in Promised Valley Peace. Why wait until the final novel to portray this premise?
FRITSCH: I wanted to show how the Promised Valley people gradually learned to use horses. Blue Sky’s grandparents acquired the first of them from the river people, as stronger but more wilful substitutes for oxen. Blue Sky, Rose Leaf, and Morning Sun secretly defy their parents and ride them. When the valley people face extinction, they use them for the heavy hauling they need to defend themselves in their upper valley. After two hill-boy refugees devise a way to ride horses in their hunts, riding them in battle becomes the obvious next step. Horses are to the Promised Valley people what nuclear weapons, guided missiles, and drone aircraft are to us. They'll win you every battle you fight—but only as long as your enemy doesn't have them.
FQ: You pose an interesting concept to the reader in your analogies of how the people are guided by the "gods." What is your philosophy toward the "gods" guiding humans and your take on the notion of: "there are no coincidences in life"?
FRITSCH: In this telling of the Job story, the supernatural deity or deities who supposedly rule the universe lose out to human reason. As Blue Sky insists, his grandparents didn't exchange most of what little they possessed for a river trader's unwanted animals, i.e. horses, because some gods in a faraway, unseen heaven had asked them to. They did it because they were the desperate victims of a foolish king.
FQ: There are many complexities to the story as well as an abundance of key characters. How did you keep track of who was doing what during the writing process?
FRITSCH: I lived with these characters and their stories night and day for years. I came to know them—and I continue to know them—as well as any actual humans I've ever met. I dutifully maintained lists of characters and scenes throughout the writing of all four novels, but I rarely had to consult them to answer who did or said what at some earlier point in the story. I almost always knew. The lists were useful to assure me I had everything right.
FQ: You're quite descriptive toward the Promised Valley landscape and the diversities between the hills and valleys. Is there any particular real place you spent time to develop the lay of the land in your fictitious Promised Valley?
FRITSCH: Even as a child, I knew I wanted to write a story about people peacefully occupying an exceptionally fertile river valley surrounded by mountains keeping out their enemies. Whenever I took auto trips with my family and friends through mountains and saw such a valley—always within the United States—I'd think it was the valley in my story. As I describe it in the Promised Valley series, though, it would have to be located in a temperate area in Eurasia or northern Africa.
FQ: I want to thank you for the pleasure of reading Promised Valley Peace. I'm looking forward to your next adventure. Would you care to share what that may be?
FRITSCH: And I thank you for the pleasure of reading your reviews of Promised Valley Conspiracy and Promised Valley Peace. I like to think of the novel I'm presently writing as fitting within a "Midwestern Gothic" genre, if there is such a thing. It's set in a mostly German-American farming community in northern Illinois in the middle of the Twentieth Century—the Forties, Fifties, and Sixties. After the Second World War a young boy's mother runs off with the lover she openly consorted with while the boy's teenage father was fighting and drinking his way across northern Africa and western Europe. The boy's father kills himself, leaving the boy in the care of his grandfather. The community suspects that man, however, of committing fraud and even murder on his way to ownership of the largest farm in the county. I best not say more!