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Author Interview: Leonide Martin

A retired university professor, I’ve published several professional books and received Writer’s Digest awards for short fiction and novels. Now I write historical fiction about the Maya after years as a Maya researcher, living in Yucatan, Mexico and studying with elders, daykeepers and shamans. After taking apprenticeship, I became a Maya Fire Woman and Solar Initiate in the Itza tradition. My many trips to Maya sites, participation in rituals and archeological study bring factual accuracy to my writing, which blends scientific views with those of indigenous Mayas. Captivated by their unique arts, mysticism and cosmology, my writing about ancient Maya civilization brings the culture and people vividly to life.

  • : While writing has been integral to my university career, I didn't take up fiction until I retired. I wanted to make more people aware of the incredible accomplishments of the ancient Mayas, and realized more people would be reached through fiction. Not everyone will spend hours pouring through archeological and anthropological treatises, like me! This led to writing historical fiction that would include rich depictions of ancient Mayan life and people, combined with compelling stories. My books have real historic Maya characters and events, as well as fictional ones.
  • : When I was 12 years old, I remember writing a story on a western theme. I wrote it in a spiral notebook but don't recall much else. I was a big Zane Gray fan at the time.
  • : The" Mayan Red Queen" is the nickname given by archeologists to a red cinnabar-impregnated skeleton excavated in Temple XIII at Palenque in 1994. When first discovered, they could not identify which Mayan royal woman occupied the sarcophagus, which was richly adorned with jade, shells and ceramics. They knew she must be connected with K'inich Janaab Pakal, the most famous Maya ruler, since her small pyramid adjoined his much larger one. More than 10 years later, forensic techniques, strontium isotopes analysis and advances in DNA analysis pointed to the wife of Pakal, Tz'aakb'u Ahau. I was fascinated by this discovery and the story that might lie beneath the ruins. My latest book, the third in the Mists of Palenque series about four great Mayan queens, tells my interpretation of the story of her life.
  • : Very young, probably as soon as I could put a sentence together. My education through the doctoral level, and 30 plus year academic career, kept me writing consistently.
  • : Born and raised in southern Louisiana, I found people more influential to my writing bent than setting. My grandfather was a school principal and my aunt a professor. It was a well-educated family that valued reading and always had books around. I left Louisiana in the early 20s to pursue a masters degree at UCLA. California felt more like my true home, with its expansive views and tolerance of different lifestyles. My first novel, "Dreaming the Maya Fifth Sun," reflects the more visionary and spiritual aspects of west coast culture.
  • : Writing in the morning is best for me, when I'm fresh and my mind is relatively uncluttered. However, when I'm pushing to finish a chapter or scene or book, I can write at anytime and into the night. Once engaged with the material, the outer world falls away and I'm immersed in another reality.
  • : The fourth book in the series about Mayan queens is up next. Book 4 will tell the life story of K'inuuw Mat, a noble woman who married the youngest son of Janaab Pakal. Although Pakal and Tz'aakb'u Ahau had four sons, only the youngest had surviving children to continue the dynasty. Very little is known about K'inuuw Mat, so I will be called upon to use a great deal of creative imagination. I've written the first chapter to establish her childhood character, and created a family connection to serving the Great Mother Goddess, Ix Chel. I've got several ideas for the story arc that are quite juicy, so it should be another great read about ancient Mayas at Palenque.
  • : My other interests, in addition to enjoying the company of my husband David, include gardening, cooking, putting up food, taking walks, going wine tasting, getting together with friends and family.
  • : First comes an inspiration about a character, story or setting. Then I develop a story arc and begin thinking about character arcs. After a great deal of rumination, I start a notebook where I keep the outline and timeline for events (especially important with historical fiction). I continue doing research, adding facts and ideas, until I feel the creative pump has been well primed. Then I start writing in earnest, although whenever inspiration hits, whether driving a car or awakened from sleep in the middle of the night, I manage to write these ideas down quickly. Otherwise, they tend to evaporate. Sometimes entire scenes "download" quite richly developed, like manna from heaven. These must be immediately captured, so I keep writing pads around all the time.
  • : "The Mists of Avalon" by Marion Zimmer Bradley (and her other related works). "The Bull From the Sea" by Mary Renault (and the other books in this series). These authors capture the flavor and nuances of their historical periods perfectly. They take historic persons and develop them into complex and believable characters. They weave the tapestry of history into compelling stories that take readers into these ancient cultures. You feel as if you are there, in Arthurian Britain and the Mediterranean of Crete, Mycenae and ancient Greece.
  • : Professor of Nursing, UCLA and Sonoma State University, California. Family Nurse Practitioner, Sierra Family Medical Clinic, Nevada City, CA. Currently retired Professor Emeritus, Sonoma State University.
  • : Kindle.
  • : I use a professional artist, and give him ideas and photos to work from.
  • : Detailed outlines are a must for me. I could not write accurately about the history of Mayas without keeping a very detailed timeline. After I'm well into a book, the outline can change and additional scenes and characters enter. Stories and characters take up a life of their own, and often "tell" me where to go with them.
  • : Crafting a great scene! I cannot say just how satisfying that is, when the ideas and images in my mind are well-expressed in writing.
  • : Website: Blog: Facebook author page: Amazon author page:
  • : How much I appreciate their interest and support of my writing! For those really devoted fans who make it through all four books of the Mists of Palenque series about Mayan queens, I'm going to instigate a "quadrathalon" award -- you are special people, indeed!
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