Hi! I’m Lou Sylvre, author of the Vasquez and James books including latest release, Yes, a novella. Although the other Vasquez and James books (all available at Dreamspinner Press) are suspense/thriller romances, Yes is a much more personal type of struggle/romance. So some readers had some questions. Here’s the interview with Luki.
When I caught up with these characters, members of Luki’s little, patchwork family, he’d only received the iron-clad cancer diagnosis a few days prior. I sat and talked with Sonny, Luki’s uncle Kaholo, and Ruthie—his niece-in-law—at Margie’s Cup O’ Gold coffee shop in Port Clifton, Washington. Outside the day was “froggy” as people sometimes say in the region, meaning the fog was thick and the temperature below freezing. It’s a treacherous kind of thing, because the fog freezes to things, like roads. Sonny kept looking at the door, and I knew he was worried about Luki. (Sonny doesn’t trust Luki’s driving even in the best of conditions.) I swallowed some very good raspberry latte (Sonny’s recommendation). Then I asked the first question, my own, and obvious.
Sonny, where’s Luki?
“I thought you already interviewed him.” Sonny’s expression was wide open and sweet, as usual. He’s obviously just curious.
I did. At Elzabeth Noble’s blog. But you seem worried.
“Yeah. Well, he’s just in Port Angeles, taking care of money things. He says it’s just routine, but he didn’t want me to go, and I suspect he’s wanting to make sure everything’s easy for me if… anything happens to him. I suppose I should do the same. I have some resources, and just because I don’t have cancer doesn’t mean I couldn’t….” Sonny was quiet for a while. I drank latte, and nobody else said anything. Finally he spoke up again. “Didn’t you have some questions from readers, or something?”
Sorry, yes I do. First, Angel wants to know if you ever think about taking up dancing again?
“No.” At first I thought that was all he was going to say, but after he asked Margie to bring us all more lattes—on his bill, he’s a sweetheart—he continued. “No, Angel, I won’t be dancing anymore, at least I don’t think so. First, I was a Grass Dancer, and that’s a young man’s dance. I’m not old, but mid-thirties is a ways beyond pushing it. Really I think I probably could still do it, but I’d stand out a bit in the arena. Even historically, if you believe the usual stories about the origin of Grass Dance, it was something the young man did to help create a habitable place for the tribe or band.
I interject, what about switching to Men’s Traditional?
“Well… I could. Actually you know Luki’d make a great traditional dancer. He’s good at looking kind of warlike and serious. I don’t… I really don’t want to. And not only that, but you know, Indians—Native Americans if you prefer—are often pretty conservative. It was not easy being gay on the reservation, which is why I eventually just moved in with my uncle Melvern. One of the reasons anyway. I still went to pow wows, but after Melvern died, and then my little Fancy Dancer Delsyn wasn’t around much, and I had school and then my work… well I just stepped out. I stay in touch with a few people, but mostly, I’m just happy up here in my little corner Luki….” To my astonishment, Sonny stood up suddenly, whispered, “I need a minute,” and walked toward the back door, clearly upset. There was nothing I could do but turn my attention to the others at the table.
Kaholo, Angel wants to know if you ever think about going back to the islands?
Kaholo, who was wearing a loose Hawaiian print shirt, puka shell necklace, and flip-flops despite the weather, leaned back in his chair and laughed. His laugh, I realize, is like Luki’s, and so is his physique, age notwithstanding. His hair is coarse and curly, but short and salt and pepper gray. Of course, his eyes are nothing like Luki’s, dark chocolate brown and liquid. “Oh, Angel,” he says. “Lady I think about the islands all the time, but I never think about going back to stay. I didn’t even go back to visit ‘til these boys got married over there. Since then I do, I visit. I realized I missed my family—and it was too late, mostly! I’ve only got the one sister left.” He shakes his head and somehow it makes me think of a lion. “But when my sister married my best friend, I followed her to Nebraska. Cowboyed, some, worked as a hand. And in no time, we had Luki, and that little boy was enough to fill up anyone’s world. So I stayed. Then my sister died, and Luki—and Peli, too—they needed me, so I stayed some more. Then that shit happened to Luki down at the river, and by god Peli was bent on saving him. But I was afraid that if Peli was all Luki had, if nothing more gentle was around him, it would ruin him. So I stayed. Again. And now,” he shrugs, “I guess it’s a habit. But also there’s Josh, and Jackie, and… well, you get the picture. I think about it, Angel, but I’m not going to leave these people, because I love them.”
Kaholo, Kim has a question. You have been through so much with Luki, so many challenges and hardships and every time you have been a big part of his support base. But in a situation like this, where you are equally affected, who is your support base?
“Hmmm.” Kaholo starts with that and then is silent, stroking his chin as if he thought he could pull out an answer. Slowly, he begins to speak. “Well, I hadn’t thought of it like that. Yes, I’m affected. I don’t think I have any… well, no that’s not true. Oddly, though they are the young ones, I think Josh and Ruthie, here, and Jackie are there, maybe not ‘for’ me but ‘with’ me. And Margie, here at the Cup ‘O Gold. Though we don’t know each other well, we’re friendly, and we’re more or less of an age, and we talk. She’s a beautiful lady. Hm.” He purses his lips, thinking again. “And you know what? Luki. He supports me. At least for now. He’s strong.”
Ruthie, Kim also had a question for you. Or rather a couple of related questions: Do you find the challenges that have been going on in Josh’s family life pull the two of you closer together or pull you both farther apart? Because of the nature of the many of the family challenges, they are a family known for their distance from others, have you found this to be something you and Josh had to overcome while falling in love?
Ruthie is such a quiet soul that I was actually surprised she agreed to the interview. Once asked, though, she answered, and she talked on longer than I would have expected. The Appalachian rhythms I hear in Ruthie’s speech are slow and fluid like a deep stream, and they make me wonder if she ever gets angry. “Oh, Kim, I don’t know. Families are always a challenge, aren’t they? And then, I don’t have much family of my own to speak of. Maybe that’s why I don’t mind. Josh and Jackie, their lives have been hard. But they’re good people, maybe better because of the trouble. At least in some ways. And Kaholo has been a godsend—you know he’s not even blood-related, but he treats those brothers like they’re his own grandsons.” When she stops here, a smile spreads over her face so bright and sunny that I catch myself shielding my eyes. She speaks again and it’s clear why she’s happy. “You know, I love Josh so much, and we’re expecting, nothing could be sweeter. But Kaholo has taken me in, and every now and then when I’m feeling down, he gives me a hug. God, that man is the world’s champion hugger. No one could keep from feeling better after he holds you and sings you some old silly Hawaiian song. Him and Jackie, they’re my family, too. They make what me and Josh have even better. I’ve never felt so loved—never been so loved—in all my life. And Sonny, well the moment I looked at him I felt like I’d known him all my life, he’s just easy to be around. Mr. Vasquez… well.” She made a wry face and shrugged. “He’s what you call a bird of a different feather. But he’ll come around. And really, I know deep down that if I ever needed anything, if I was ever in danger, he’d stop at nothing to take care of me. He’s just like that. He’s going to beat this cancer, too. We’re all gonna make sure of it.
Luki came in the door just then, looking comfortable in his dark-blue, tailored, winter-wool suit and overcoat. He wore a hat. Was I surprised! I’m his author, you’d think I’d know if he wore hats, but I’d certainly never seen one. It made him look just a bit like a classic gumshoe from the fifties. “What’s the matter, Ms. Sylvre,” he said. “Never fucking seen a hat before” I decided not to answer, especially because I’d noticed his suit was just a little loose. And he coughed, several times, rather hard. “Where’s Sonny?” he asked, once he’d recovered.
“The head.” That was Kaholo, and I was rather glad he spoke up. Luki looked as though he thought about going back to find him, but he sat down instead.
Luki, while you’re here, I have a question for you.
“We did the interview yesterday!”
I know. Sorry. This is an extra question from Treasure. She wants to know about your coping strategies for the days you have chemo?
He shook his head, his curls—damp from the fog—bouncing a little, giving him an odd, little boy look. “It hasn’t started yet, the chemo, not for a couple more days. Fuck. I don’t know what the fuck I’ll do to cope. I don’t know what to expect. They told me some things—nausea, dry skin, fatigue, and all that, but that doesn’t really mean anything. The only plans I have are wait and see, and try to keep Sonny from making himself crazy over it. But you know he probably won’t. He’ll be perfect and strong and I’ll… I’ll lean on him, which I do a lot. More than anyone else knows. Maybe more than he knows.
As he finished speaking, Luki got up and walked over to the counter, sat on a stool and sipped at the cup of coffee Margie put in front of him. It looked like he and Margie were indulging in small talk, or maybe gossip. Sonny came back to the table, sat down blindly while watching Luki at the counter. I watched in utter amazement and yes, jealousy, Luki touched a finger to his sweet, thick lips and blew Sonny a kiss. I interrupted the torrid little mini-affair, loudly clearing my throat.
Sonny, Treasure wants to know what your coping strategies are for the days Luki has chemo?
Sonny didn’t answer right away. He gave me a look I can only describe as piercing. “Your jealous, aren’t you, Lou.”
Sonny, watch it. I made you, I can unmake you.
He shook his head, laughed mockingly. “No, Lou. That’s where you’re wrong. An author’s powers are limited. Once you make us characters, we’re here to stay.” I sat, squirming under his glare, and wondered why I never knew about this cruel streak. “It’s not cruelty,” he said as if he’d read my mind. “I just want you to face facts. Now about Treasure’s question, about chemo days. Well, I don’t know. We haven’t started yet—we just got the final diagnosis a few days ago. The first chemo is in— (he stopped, swallowed) in two days. They said I can sit with him. He might fall asleep. I think I might read to him… I don’t know. All I can think of is try to take care of him the best I can. If he’ll let me, you know?
As that answer died on Sonny’s lips, accompanied by hopeful, almost pleading eyes that looked like they had forgotten what they said about my limitations, a tall, slender young man entered the café. He looked around, then honed in on Sonny and then on me, and stepped over to our table.
“Excuse me,” he said. “My name is Sparkle, and I’m… Is this the fictional Cup O’ Gold café in fictional Port Clifton, Washington?”
“Yes it is, and I’m Lou Sylvre,” I said. “Nice to meet you, Sparkle. Allow me to introduce—”
“I’m in a hurry. I just have a question I need you to answer, Lou. Ms. Lou. Ms. Sylvre.”
“Lou’s fine, dear. Sit down. Ask your question.”
Well, I am curious, of the many sicknesses one can develop, why cancer? Is there some significance to you as the author, or a more deeper meaning that you’re symbolically tackling?
Luki speaks up, from across the room, “I can answer that Sparkle.” He walks back to the table and pulls a chair up from an unused table next to us, squeezes it in beside and a little behind Sonny, draping his arm across the back of Sonny’s chair. “That’s an interesting name by the way—Sparkle. But the fact is, I got cancer because I smoked cigarettes non-stop. I’m pretty young to have cancer from smoking, but I recently found out… well, you know there’s a family history. That stuff is all in the book. So Ms. Sylvre—mind you, she and I don’t always see eye to eye, but even I concede she did what was right. She had to write the cancer, because my smoking, especially with my family history, it didn’t give her any choice.”
I was surprised, pleased that Luki supported me, but sad nonetheless, because it was a bitter-tasting recognition. I didn’t want him to have cancer. Not at all. Still, I spoke up. “Thank you Luki. Sparkle, he’s right. The more he smoked, the more I worried as I was writing him. Finally, it seemed inevitable. As far as symbolism, I don’t think I’m being that sophisticated with it. Luki smoked, he got cancer, he and Sonny have no choice now but to grow in order to keep living and loving. That’s what I want them to do.
You may already know this is one stop on a blog tour for me (Lou Sylvre) and the characters, with a contest–you can win an ebook of Yes. Here are the other links to follow.
First, go to my Goodreads blog to find out which links are live, as the blog owners are on various distant shores, and they won’t all go live at the same time.
To win the ebook, simply comment–say whatever you’d like–at each of the blogs in the tour. Your name will then go into the random drawing. Best of luck! (And thanks.)
Last but not least, giant Thank You Rhys Ford, for letting me pirate your blog ship. 😉