Interview: Coty Justus author of the Birthrights Series

ahomeontherange

 

For the last week, I have been reviewing the Birthrights Series by Coty Justus.  I was completely taken in by the series and totally fascinated with the world created by the author.  It is just so different from any other paranormal romance series out there.  It offers such a great message for young women, it is “safe” for teenagers (meaning it doesn’t feature graphic sex) and it is totally addictive.  Ms. Justus  kindly agreed to an interview, much to my delight.  Here is the author’s “official” bio:

Coty Justus lives in the Wyoming she writes about in her books.  A simple person with simple tastes, her books reflect her upbringing, with an emphasis on family and a rural lifestyle.  An animal lover, Justus frequently incorporates dogs, horses, and an odd assortment of wildlife into her plots.

Stronghold

 What inspired you to write such a far reaching series about magical women in Wyoming?

Like you, I enjoy reading history.  Sixteen years ago, I was reading a history of Easter Island—I cannot for the life of me remember which one—and I fixated on a piece of trivia: One of the first visitors wrote in his captain’s log that most of the people were dark-skinned and dark-haired, but that he had seen the occasional red-haired native.  I am curious by nature.  I pondered this information.  From whence had stemmed a red-hair gene?  Geography not being my strong suit, I decided on Scotland.  I made the logical transition to second-sight.  From those wild deductive leaps, a series was born.

 Is the religion/culture of “The Ten” based on any real or historical religion?  If so, what is it?

I don’t think “The Ten” is based on any religion or culture.  I think it’s invented.  At my age, though, having long been an avaricious reader of anything, even a cereal box in a pinch, it could be an amalgamation of any number of spiritual or superstitious beliefs.  I like to read.

Did you plot out the entire series or did you write it book by book?
I plotted out the series, but it went badly awry.  One day I will pull out that old outline, perhaps a hundred pages long, and read it for fun.  I invest a lot of energy on character development, and they all become alive to me.  The greatest joy for me in writing is to develop a character, put that character in a situation, and let my fingers fly while the character acts and reacts accordingly.  The outline quickly became obsolete.

Roundup

 Many of the themes in your book are dark, especially starting with “Home on the Range”, was it difficult writing from the perspective of a young girl on the run? With “The Maverick” it continues with Acrasia’s struggle to survive was that difficult as well?
I enjoy the darkness.  Like you, one of my favorite contemporary books, maybe my favorite, is The Stand.  I remember, as a non-traditional college student, telling one of my literature instructors that this book would one day be included among the classics.  (She had asked another student who Stephen King was.)  There must be some darkness to appreciate the light.  All the women protagonists suffer as children.  The darkness shapes them into strong women warriors.  They have seen evil or deprivation and are prepared for the final battle.  I think I needed to portray that as realistically as possible without offending the reader; otherwise, they would not have been believable in the last book.

Each of the women are very well developed characters, even some of the little ones, like Maddy, Ally, Susan.  I was surprised to see that the men weren’t just a side dish as well, they are very central to the plot and as equally represented and developed.  Was it difficult to create so many deep and robust characters? 
I think that, of all the fiction elements that go into a work, I most enjoy characterization.  Dialogue, actions, reactions, thoughts, other characters’ impressions—all of these go on autopilot once I’ve established the individual’s base persona.  Jason asks “What are you two?” when he finds a strand of red hair on his pillow.  Alan is emotionally obliterated by the death of a fellow officer.  Matthew vacillates between leaving the table or coming up with a response when threatened by the prospect of small talk.  Michael tells his brother and cousin that they need to take their act on the road.  Roland asks Michael when he ever conned him and then laughs at Michael’s response.  Sam tells Alan he loses sleep, wondering what goes on in his head.  These were all defining moments for each character.  After that, as mentioned before, I needed only create a situation and see what happened.  You can probably tell by this why I have a problem sticking to an outline.

Maverick

 Native American culture features prominently throughout your books.  Are the beliefs/rituals/customs mentioned part of a particular tribe?
All of the Native American customs are specific to the High Plains tribes, in particular, Granny Whitefoot’s Eastern Shoshone.  Because the High Plains tribes met at trade fairs, fought side by side to repel early colonists, and battled one another, taking captives, the customs are similar.  The religion is specific to the Shoshone, but I will confess to being disappointed in the dearth of research materials available for the Eastern Shoshone.  I did my best with what was available and only hope I don’t walk outside one day to a flaming lance buried in my lawn.

 Have you approached the Wyoming tourism board and offered to write travel brochures for them?  The way you describe the landscapes, the beauty, the feel of the range has made me seriously consider a trip out there.  How do you go about writing such fantastic depictions?  Is it from memory?  Do you go out there with a pen and paper and just write?
You will not be disappointed by a visit to Wyoming.  It is a wild country and still untamed.  I did not need to refresh my memory.  Viewed under the right circumstances, it stays with you.  I was born in North Dakota, was raised primarily in northern Idaho and Montana, and spent half my adult life in South Dakota and half in Wyoming.  I love this North Country of mine.  I first saw Yellowstone National Park over fifty years ago.  It is definitely worth a visit, especially for children!  I want Wyoming readers to read my books, but I am a novice at promotion so don’t know how to go about it.  I recently entered a Wyoming writers’ competition, submitting the entire series as one work.  It pleases me to know that at least three Wyomingites—the judging panel—will be captive readers.

Range_Wars

Any chance of a follow up series with the younger generation?  Or just a few books on how life is for the family and their hilarity?

 
I doubt I will do anymore with the Stantons, only because I am reluctant to leave them behind.  I visualize Michael’s reaction when Bel’s chosen shows up at the door; Acrasia working as a volcanologist; and Ally in a college classroom during final exams, and I know if I don’t let go now I will never begin another book.  I’ll see how the next book goes.  This series was something I had to write.  It festered in my subconscious for sixteen long years.  Now I must wean myself off it.  (I still read Range Wars.  I love that book.)

Thank you Coty Justus for the wonderful insight on how a series like this was created.  I absolutely loved it.

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