Interview with Frank Newton

What's your personal story behind this new book?
There are several life experiences that led me to write this book. The first was my fieldwork as a grad student in cultural anthropology at UCLA. I once did research in the highlands of Guatemala, living in a cane shack on a hillside surrounded by volcanoes -- just like the character of Tizoc in my book. So I had a real feeling for what it's like to live in a remote, native village in Central America. I also visited the temple ruins in Teotihuacan, Tula and downtown Mexico City. Climbing those temple pyramids and visiting the great museums provided insights for me -- facts and concepts that directly impacted my story telling.
Second, at another point in my life I was a middle school teacher, so I know that the State of California has required social study units on the Aztecs and Maya. But I also learned that aside from textbooks, there were few if any middle school novels about those cultures. The guiding idea throughout my writing of "Tizoc" was that an adventure novel might be much more more engaging and informative for students than textbook overviews of Aztec.
My hope is that "Tizoc" brings Aztec society to life for young readers.
What are you working on next?
I'm continuing in the vein of Aztec culture -- but this book will not be like Episode Two in a "Tizoc" series. I'm fascinated about Cortes' conquest of the Aztec empire. It was a brutally horrific experience, utterly devastating to the Aztecs. A key point we often overlook is that Cortes didn't fight the Aztecs all by himself. The several hundred Spanish soldiers he had were supported by tens of thousands of Indian warriors from other communities that hated the Aztecs -- the Totonacs, the Otomi, and especially the warriors from Tlaxcala.
Exploring this major historical event through the eyes of one of these native warriors who fought for Cortes is a fascinating project for me. Soon I'll be heading down to central Mexico to do some more research on this.
Who are your favorite authors?
I grew up devouring science fiction novels -- especially Arthur C. Clarke and Issac Asimov. But as I've grown older, I've become more captivated by historical novels. My absolute favorite is James Clavell. I think i read "Shogun" three or four times, and "Taipan" and "Noble House" at least a couple of times. I also love reading James Michener. If I could produce an historical novel that's even remotely close to the quality of those masters, I'd be ecstatic.
Actually, there's one historical novel that directly influenced my work on "Tizoc" -- and that's the Johnny Tremaine novel about the American Revolution. I learned a lot about that time period in America's history by seeing it through the eyes of a boy my age; and I'm hoping that young readers will come to understand Aztec life through the eyes of Tizoc.
Have you done other published writing besides your "Tizoc" novel?
For over nine years I had a biweekly column in our city's major newspaper. The column was titled "Frank Talk for Seniors," and each column focused on an organization serving senior citizens or a particularly interesting senior or on some social issue impacting seniors in our community.
I also wrote and edited a senior newspaper titled "Successful Aging." Over four years, that paper covered a wide variety of senior topics.
So I have been published for many years -- but always nonfiction. "Tizoc" is my first published work of fiction.
What is your favorite e-reading device?
In my generation, we're used to (almost addicted to) printed material -- books, magazines, newspapers. My son reads everything online, but I still like to feel a newspaper in my hand.
Nevertheless, my son bought me an iPad for Xmas awhile ago, and I got into the habit of reading Kindle ebooks. I must admit, I've grown rather attached to my iPad for that. Instead of lugging hard copies of novels around with me, I can store tons of novels right in my one handy device. It's hard to argue with that convenience. Plus... I can increase the font size in my ebooks. As you get older, that's huge!
Published 2015-03-04.
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Books by This Author

The Trials of Tizoc
You set the price! Words: 43,030. Language: English. Published: March 4, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Historical » Ancient
An Aztec boy, Tizoc, foolishly destroys a magnificent royal cape. As punishment, the boy's family is cast into slave bondage and his parents are slated for sacrifice at the Great Temple in the capital city, Tenochtitlan. In a desperate gamble, Tizoc and a few friends journey to the capital to rescue his parents from a gruesome death.