Q&A WITH BARBARA CRANE
Where did the idea for your novel come from?
My novel emerged from days of crisscrossing the Los Angeles Basin by automobile—sometimes putting 15,000 to 20,000 miles a year on my car during my work as an independent writer and corporate trainer. As I crossed overpasses high above the land, I often turned north toward the soaring transverse range. Known in our time as the San Gabriel Mountains, they ring the Los Angeles Basin. I wondered, “What did the first people on this land think about living in the shadow of these magnificent mountains?”
I crossed over the Los Angeles River, saw it encased in its concrete channel, and wondered what the rivers looked like when they ran freely. I drove along the coast and imagined ships full of adventurers, explorers and holy men who came to California as early as the 16th century, changing the landscape, people and culture forever. I began to infuse my imaginings with the people who lived here when Los Angeles was a pueblo. Those people—a few Mexican and American settlers, the indigenous Tongva Indians, and the Spanish missionaries people my novel.
Is this a true story?
When Water Was Everywhere is historical fiction. Although the story is fiction, most of it is historically accurate because it is based on more than a decade of research on the pueblo of Los Angeles and the lives of the Tongva/Gabrieleno Indians in the early 1840s. I researched the padres and Indians at the California missions, specifically the Mission San Gabriel. I especially enjoyed delving into the history of our two historic ranchos in Long Beach, particularly Rancho Los Cerritos, where a good deal of the action in the novel takes place.
Are the characters based on real lives?
One of the four major characters is inspired by John Temple, a wealthy businessman and owner of the first store in the pueblo of Los Angeles. Don Juan Temple, as he was called, bought a part of the original Nieto land grant that borders the Los Angeles River on the west and, today, the San Gabriel River on the east. Today, those 325,000 acres that constituted the Nieto land grant have become seven cities. John Temple purchased Rancho Los Cerritos, which comprised 27,000 acres of the Nieto grant in 1843. Much of the action in When Water Was Everywhere takes place as Temple’s (Rodrigo Tilman’s) ranch house was being constructed.
Who are your favorite writers?
My favorite novel is Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. I’ve read it nine times. I love Toni Morrison, Gabriel García Márquez, Nadine Gordimer, Jonathan Franzen, Jumpha Lumphiri. Holly Prado Northup, Louise Glück and W.S. Merwin are some of my favorite poets. I read writers from all over the world--Japan, Africa, Nepal, Costa Rica, Mexico. I want to know about other places and other people, and I think books are a good way to know them.
Barbara Crane is an award-winning novelist and short story writer. Her 2016 release, When Water Was Everywhere, won a Beverly Hills Book Award. Her 2001 novel, The Oldest Things in the World, was a ForeWord magazine Book of the Year. Crane’s short stories and nonfiction have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Sun, Birmingham Arts Journal, and the Outrider Press Black and White Anthology series. Barbara has enjoyed careers as a business journalist, teacher, and corporate communications consultant. A native Los Angelino, Barbara took her degree from UC Berkeley. She lives in Long Beach with her husband.
Find out more about When Water Was Everywhere: www.whenwaterwaseverywhere.com
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