Guest post by Terry O'Reilly
I have always had a fascination for Native American culture. So, I was overjoyed when a relative did a family genealogy and discovered my great grandfather was an Illini Indian. While only an eighth Illini, I quickly embraced that small percentage of my gene pool and registered myself with my tribe, taking on the name Sleeps with Dogs. An easy choice as I literally do sleep with my three dogs.
Interest in my heritage has lead to the writing of several stories involving Native American culture and the place of gay men in those societies. The Search for Soaring Hawk is one of those books. Son of an Illini chief and a white captive, Soaring Hawk is raised in the native customs. As he grows into manhood, he comes to recognize his desire for the love of men. Knowing the fate of those that are of 'two spirits' within his tribe, he leaves the Indian village, disguises his heritage and enters the white man's world as Samuel Hawkins.
He embarks on an odyssey which takes him across the continent and into the arms and beds of many lovers. As he travels he comes to realize that love has many forms. But the one he seeks most continually eludes him. The only constant in his life is his faithful half-breed wolf-dog.
Samuel's first love after leaving the tribe is a Swedish settler, Nils Bjorn. Their love for each other is deep and pure. But Samuel, as I envisioned him, is on a quest to find his true identity. I wasn't ready for him to find his happy-ever-after at this point in the writing. So I had to find a way to get rid of Nils. At first I was going to kill him off. (Ah, the power of being an author.) I wrote the entire chapter describing in detail Nils' demise and Samuel's mourning for him, all the while shedding tears as I had come to love Nils just as Samuel had. In the end I couldn't do it. But I still needed to have Nils out of the picture. In the story, Nils had come to the New World to build a life for himself and his wife-to-be, Sally, who was waiting back home in Sweden for word from Nils to come and join him. I decided Sally would show up unexpectedly. Samuel, honorable guy that he is, would steal away in the night, allowing Nils to fulfill his destiny, leaving Samuel to continue to search for his.
In writing The Search for Soaring Hawk, and my other stories in this genre, I've had the joy of discovering more about the culture which is part of my heritage with its rich traditions and spiritual grounding. I hope to write more stories involving my Native American roots in the future.