PUHA by J. Bradley Van Tighem
Puha (Master of the Wild Book 1) by J. Bradley Van Tighem is a historical literacy fiction novel that follows the life of a twelve-year-old boy known as Many Wolves who was adopted by Lipan Apaches, after his white parents were killed by the Nokoni Comanche band. Laughing Crow is the leader of the people who killed Many Wolves’ parents and now demands that the boy be handed over in return for peace. Many Wolves flees the village and spends the next five years learning to live and survive on his own with his trained wolf hawks. Everything changes when a Lipan arrow kills Laughing Crow’s son. Does Many Wolves have what it takes to protect his village from the angry vengeance of those that killed his parents or will he die alongside those that adopted him?
Puha (Master of the Wild Book 1) by J. Bradley Van Tighem was a very well-written book that was the perfect blend of historical facts and fictional characters. Many Wolves quickly became my favorite character with how he possessed spiritual powers that allowed him to walk with the spirits of his animals. I liked the fact that Many Wolves spent five years learning to survive with only animals for assistance as it made it so much more realistic when he returned to help his village. Instead of a scared twelve year old boy facing his parents’ killers it was instead a young man who was hardened by his seclusion in the wild who had the skills need to not only face that Nokoni Comanche band, but to survive such an encounter. Overall I really enjoyed reading this book and I would be very interested in reading the rest of the series!
Interview with J. Bradley Van Tighem
What inspired you to write this book?
I have always had a keen interest in Native American cultures and have wondered what it would have been like to live in an era when these cultures thrived. Also, I have a deep love for nature and a special interest in birds of prey, in particular. With my stories, I have combined all of this subject matter to build a world that is rich and believable, with the addition of a couple of 'mystical' elements to broaden the story line.
Did you ever consider writing yourself into your book? If yes did you and if no why did you refrain?
No. However, my main character, Many Wolves, is in some ways a fictional representation of myself.
Which part was the hardest for you to write and why?
The biggest challenge for me was trying to make the setting of my story as historically accurate as possible.Though the characters are all fictional, the world around them is based on my research of Texas and the indigenous cultures of Texas during the 18th and 19th centuries. Not a lot was documented by the Native Americans back then, which, in one sense, made it difficult to find factual information about that period in American History, but in a good way it gave me some leeway to be creative and build the world the way I wanted to.
Which part was the easiest for you to write and why?
Probably 1) the combat scenes and 2) dialogue. To me, those are the most memorable parts of the story and were fun to write.
Which character was the hardest to write and why?
Many Wolves, the main character. His character is much more introspective than the other characters and it's not necessarily his actions that define him. Laughing Crow, the antagonist, was easier because I found his actions were more predictable.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Laughing Crow. I wanted him to be fearsome, but also very human. If he lived in our world today, he would be labeled as cruel and violent. But in the violent world of 1700's Texas, violence and cruelty were needed to survive in a harsh world. He's not your typical antagonist who is predictably evil. He has good sides too.
Were there any characters that you did not like?
No. I'm sure I wouldn't be close friends with many of them if they existed today, but still they are interesting to me in a fictional setting.
What made you choose to write a book on Native Americans?
I've have always been fascinated with Native American cultures, even in my youth, especially the Apache and Comanche nations. They were (are) people who respected the land and were perhaps the greatest warriors in American History. In many ways, their cultures were like the Samurai and the Mongols, who were also victims of modern civilization.
Did you base any of the characters off of real people?
Many Wolves is loosely based off of me. His grandfather (Yellow Feather) is also loosely based off of my grandfather. In fact, one of Yellow Feather's stories was from my grandfather, who also loved nature and birds like me.
What makes you qualified to write a book Native Americans?
In some ways, I'm probably NOT qualified because I am not Native American. However, I have tried very hard to paint an accurate, respectful portrait of Native American cultures in my stories. I don't claim to be 100% accurate on my facts, but based on the historical research I've done, I feel it's an accurate and believable representation of what Native American life was in the 1700's/1800's. This is not a work of non-fiction, but I hope that the fictional world I created is believable and is mostly based on a historical setting. Could there have been a Comanche leader like Laughing Crow? I definitely think so.
What advice would you give to your readers?
I would say to be patient through the first few chapters. I introduce a lot of characters and it might be some what confusing. Stick with it. I think you will find the characters have depth and that many things that happen in the story are both surprising and believable. This story is not like most westerns in the past. There are no cowboys. No heroes riding off in the sunset. It's a story about survival in a very harsh, unforgiving and violent world. It's a story about one man's deep bond with nature and his animal companions and how they survive together against almost impossible odds.
What type of person do you believe would enjoy your book the most?
Anyone who is curious or interested in Native American cultures and wants to learn more about them. Anyone who enjoyed movies like 'Dances With Wolves,' 'The Last of the Mohicans.' or 'The Revenant.'
What/Who inspired you to write this book?
I think some of my inspiration was from Christopher Paolini who wrote 'Eragon.' I figured if a high-schoolkid could write a great story, then I could at least give it a shot. Also, I tried my hand at falconry, but wasn't very successful at it. This story allowed me to practice falconry in my fiction and to explore my love of birds of prey.
Do you plan to write more fictional books with Native Americans characters?
'Puha' is the first book in the Master of the Wild Series. I have written two more books in the series:'Mestizo' and 'Tejano.' If you enjoyed 'Puha', you can continue Many Wolves' adventures by picking up a copy of 'Mestizo', and eventually 'Tejano' too. I am currently working on the fourth, and final, book of the series entitled 'Sangre.'