Interview with Diana Holguín-Balogh
Diana Holguín-Balogh’s debut novel, ROSARY WITHOUT BEAD, was released on October 17th, 2018 by Five Star, Cengage Publishing.
Question - Please describe what the book is about.
Diana Holguín-Balogh - Rosary Without Beads is a back-hills narrative for the 1800’s Lincoln County War. The novel reboots Bill the Kid’s academic legend and gives voice to the silent story haunting the recorded version. Ambrosia, a Mexican sheepherder’s daughter, encounters fast talking Billy the Kid. Her world reverses its orbit.
Q - Share a teaser from your book.
DHB - How far will Ambrosia go to save Billy the Kid?
Q – Where did you get the idea?
DHB - After a cousin’s funeral held on the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation, my brother showed me side by side graves of Shotgun Roberts and Dick Brewer, enemy combatants in the Lincoln County War. I grew up with the story and knew that when Billy wasn’t charming Mexican señoritas, the bilingual Kid fought in that war. Intrigued, I began. My fingers typed away as the story wrote itself.
Q – What’s the story behind the title?
DHB - At the beginning, Ambrosia’s mother is dying. Unable to grasp rosary beads, her index finger rotates a heart shaped motion on the pad of her thumb in prayer. As the story progresses, Ambrosia finds herself with the same nervous habit.
Q – No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.
DHB - The story was based on Billy the Kid, but the novel evolved into an aggressive woman power performance. From back hills New Mexico, a mentally challenged sister, a disenfranchised Apache curandera, and Ambrosia offer a fierce rendition into their possible involvement in the war.
Q – Tell us about your favorite character.
DHB - What? Pick my favorite child? Difficult, but I’ll take a stab. Ramon Salamanca, Ambrosia’s betrothed, is quickly set aside once Billy arrives. On Billy’s last getaway his ankles are dragging chains so he can’t ride a horse. Ramon, a blacksmith, hammers off the irons, so Billy can get out of town. Ramon is a wounded man who maintains and proves his love to Ambrosia rather than striking out with vengeance. He exemplifies what we all should aspire to.
Q – If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?
DHB - The unforgettable Kid is loved by the locals and hated by those in power. So many unknowns have fueled eternal debate about his true character. Was he good or bad? I’d love to ride horseback with him from San Patricio, Ambrosia’s home, to Fort Sumner. Along the way, he could tell me about his life philosophy, his upbringing, and loves and future dreams. But then, would I have to re-write the book?
Q – Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?
DHB - As I point out in the Epilogue, members of Ambrosia Salazar’s family are fictional except her brother. He truly lived and was Billy the Kid’s friend. All the players in the historic Lincoln County War were real people. Those living only on the page are Tehde, the Mescalero Apache Indian, Ramon Salamanca, his mother, and Father Martinez.
Q – How long did you take to write this book?
DHB - Approximately four years.
Q – What kind of research did you do for this book?
DHB - Apart from growing up with the legend and attending many Billy the Kid pageants in Lincoln, New Mexico, I interviewed James Taylor, whose great grandfather, George Coe, fought in the war. I also checked my rendition of Tehde with the curator at the Mescalero Apache research center. I read several books including Pat Garrett’s, The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid.
Q – What did you remove from this book during the editing process?
DHB - I originally began telling the story from three points of view, Ambrosia, her sister, Sinforosa, and Tehde, the Mescalera. Ambrosia emerged as the most important narrator so the other two became minor characters.
Q – Are you a plotter or a pantser?
DHB - With historical fiction, I believe the academic outline exists and should not be compromised. However, the other, the possible observers of the story, the fictitious intermingling of invented characters, and the hidden conflicts offer literary fodder. I aspire to make that interwoven fabric with the academic outline. So I guess I’m both a plotter of the history in a pantser style.
Q – What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
DHB - I’m might be weird but I love editing. Taking a wooden sentence and making it pop gives me such joy.
Q – What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
DHB - How much multicultural element to embed in the story is my challenge. An agent once told me Spanish should be garnish not main course. Because it’s so apparent to me, I have to constantly ask myself if I’m overloading or expecting too much of my reader.
Q – Can you share your writing routine?
DHB - ROSARY WITHOUT BEADS was my second novel. My first manuscript is now again on the pitch trail. I have a draft of a third book. Each has evolved differently. My first manuscript was group critiqued for an entire year; however, I found its entirety shortchanged until I found someone to beta read it later. ROSARY WITHOUT BEADS, as I said, wrote itself. The story was so clear to me it came in one NaNoWriMo episode. Then I workshopped the whole draft at a weeklong master conference. The third, still in the making, had to be story booked as it was so long and convoluted. The skeleton has been scripted, and I am now going back to give it heart. So the process for each novel was different.
Q – Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
DHB - If I have had writer’s block, I haven’t recognized it as such. I think of myself as overtired, overloaded, or uninspired. I go out for a long run, and it usually solves itself or goes away.
Q – If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
DHB - Write your passion, not what you think others want.
Q – How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
DHB - Only my current WIP; however, I have many ideas rambling in my head.
Q – Do you have any writing quirks?
DHB - I sometimes dream a scene, get out of bed at whatever early hour and work on it until daybreak.
Q – Tell us about yourself.
DHB - I’m a retired community college psychology instructor. I live with my husband in beautiful Colorado with a shy black cat called Mia.
Q – How did you get into writing?
DHB - My undergrad degree was English and Spanish. I always loved words. When I retired, I was finally able to devote the time to my passion.
Q – What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
DHB - I have two wonderful grandsons, love skiing and traveling when I’m not loyally moving to step exercise or writing.
Q – Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?
DHB - I write poetry mostly for cathartic emotional release.
Q – Share something about you most people probably don’t know.
DHB - My great grandfather, Stephen Utter, with his brother Charlie Utter buried Wild Bill Hickok in Deadwood.
Q – Which book influenced you the most?
DHB - It has to be Milagro Bean Field War by John Nichols. I have since corresponded with him, and I sent him an ARC of ROSARY WITHOUT BEADS.
Q – What are you working on right now?
DHB - Sisters of Crumbling Adobe is the story of Ignacia and Josefa Jaramillo from Taos, New Mexico. Josefa was Kit Carson’s wife and Ignacia was Charles Bent’s wife. Bent was the first territorial governor who was scalped and killed in a bloody revolt which the women witnessed. Both watched Mexico become United States.
Q – The book you’re currently reading?
DHB - I have so many colleague Authors18 books on my shelf. I’ve just begun Cirque by Denise Dietz, a frontier fiction writer published by Five Star. And I just finished Mira Lee’s audio of Everything Here is Beautiful. I have so many more to read it’s mindboggling.
Diana Holguín-Balogh’s Biography
I am a product of a multicultural family. My father attended only to the fourth grade, and my mother made it to the eighth. Books, other than an old encyclopedia, were not available in my family. My parents could not offer what they knew not. However, my father was a fantastic verbal story teller, and I remember wearing out the fairy tale section of that encyclopedia. In high school I encountered my first love of literature as our English class read Charles Dickens. I was hooked. English and Spanish were easy for me so I double majored and was a first generation college graduate. I went on to get a Ph.D. from Colorado State University and taught psychology at a local community college. After retiring, I began writing. I believe you know the rest, thus, ROSARY WITHOUT BEADS, thus Authors18 interview.
Links to Diana Holguín-Balogh
Facebook: Diana Holguin-Balogh, Author