Peace Corps Writers
Talking with . . .

Lucia St. Clair

Shadow Patriots

Read Terez Rose’s review of Shadow Patriots

An interview by John Coyne
ACCORDING TO HER WEBSITE Lucia St. Clair Robson was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and raised in South Florida. She has been a Peace Corps Volunteer (Venezuela 1964–66) and aPrinter friendly version teacher in Brooklyn, New York. She has also lived in Japan, South Carolina, Miami, and southern Arizona. After earning her master’s degree in Library Science at Florida State University, she worked as a public librarian in Annapolis, Maryland. She lives today near Annapolis in a wooded community on the Severn River.
     The Western Writers of America awarded Lucia’s first book, Ride the Wind, the Golden Spur Award for best historical western of 1982; the book also made the New York Times Best Seller List and was included in the 100 best westerns of the 20th century.
     Since then she has written Walk in My Soul, Light a Distant Fire, The Tokaido Road, Mary’s Land, Fearless: Novel of Sarah Bowman, and Ghost Warrior: Lozen of the Apaches (a finalist for the 2003 Golden Spur). Her newest, Shadow Patriots: A Novel of the Revolution, has already won critical acclaim.
     When we caught up with Lucia, we asked —
What was your Peace Corps assignment in Venezuela?
I was an Urban Community Development Volunteer.
Looking back, what was your tour like?
It was the best experience imaginable. It made me feel at ease wherever I happened to be in the world. It gave me confidence, knowledge, and insight.
Have you written anything about your Peace Corps experience, fiction or non-fiction?
Not yet. That experience is percolating, but my group, Urban Community Development II, got back together via the internet and had a reunion a couple years ago. I’ve been encouraging them to write their memories down and send them to me — by e-mail if necessary. I have a whiskey carton in my office where I throw what they produce. There’s quite a stack. One day I want to get them to collaborate with me in putting their thoughts, memories, and experiences together in a book. Like all PCV groups, they’re a funny, smart, socially-committed bunch.
What about your writing, when did you start writing novels?
I began my first novel, Ride the Wind, in 1979. And much of what I had experienced in the Peace Corps found its way into that book, which was about a young girl trying to assimilate into another culture, learn another language.
Give us some examples of what you mean.
Well, I described the main character standing in the Comanche encampment of teepees at night and thinking how familiar it had all become. That was my exact experience, standing in the street of Los Cerritos, Caripito, Venezuela, with the lights in the windows of the row of houses. Later on, a neighbor’s baby died and I woke in the middle of the night to the sound of her keening. When I had to describe mourning in the Comanche village, I knew what it sounded like.
     Then there was my initial experience in Lost Cerritos. People crowded into the house when we first arrived in country, everyone curious to see us. That’s how I described it for Cynthia Ann, waking up in a teepee that first morning. And also, certainly, just the experience of being dropped into a different culture and having to learn the language and the customs.
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