Dr. Nina Cooper – Servants on Horses

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

Actually, there have been two kinds of recent books, very different from each other. The first was a translation of a 19th century detective story, Monsieur Lecoq, by Emile Gaboriau, and the second, SERVANTS ON HORSES, a novel about the Creek Indians of Alabama and Georgia before the Indian Removal Act of 1838. Two Gaboriau novels in translation have appeared, one in mid-2009 and the second in the fall of 2009. The novel appeared in 2010. The first detective story in translation was published by Jean-Marc Lofficier, who lives in the south of France, but publishes Black Coat Press out of California. Black Coat Press specializes in classic French detective stories as well as science fiction. File No. 113, was published by Kitty Werner of Distinction Press, which publishes from Vermont.

My interest in the “Feuilletonistes” of the 19th century, writers who first published their work in serial form in newspaper, then as novels, began in 2007 when I stopped in Paris on my way to join Dr. Bill Niedinger’s archeology group for a tour of western Turkey. I bought several novels from a display of recently re-issued “feuilletonistes” at Gilbert Jeune and at FNAC to read on the bus trip. I was fascinated by Gaboriau. On my return I ordered some 19th century editions, researched with Google, found Jean-Marc Lofficier, who edited and published MONSIEUR LECOQ.

The novel, Servants on Horses, resulted from genealogy research done on my father’s family in Alabama and Georgia. I found my great-great grandfather was born in 1799. His father would have lived during the American Revolution, but he himself would have lived through the War of 1812, the Indian Wars , and the Indian Removal Act of 1838. Such a life deserved some positioning in history. So, I left him his own name, but transformed his life into a short novel told from the point of view of a Muskogee Indian. The historical documents are the most interesting part of the story. They make sense of that period, I think. I also edited, and Kitty Werner published, the other side of the story, THE REMINISCENCES OF GENERAL THOMAS WOODWARD, a part Muskogee scout for General Andrew Jackson, who lived through that same period.

Tell us something about yourself.

I was born in Baytown, Texas, on the Gulf Coast of Texas. I attended the University of Texas at Austin. I taught high school briefly in Freeport, Texas (Brazosport). I left there to return to the University. I took a Master’s and a Ph. D. in Romances Languages. Then I taught French at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas; later returned to Austin as Supervisor of French in the Texas Public Schools; then back to the University in the College of Education and the Department of English. After that I taught English as a Second Language for the Defence Department in the Defence Language Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

How did you choose the titles for your books?

The French translations kept their original titles: MONSIEUR LECOQ and LE DOSSIER NO. 113, the latter translated literally as FILE NO. 113. The title of SERVANTS ON HORSES came from several sentences in ECCLESIASTES, the last sentence of which says: “I have seen servants on horses, and princes walking as servants on the earth.” The Muskogee Indians were princes when they walked the earth prior to their annihiliation by General Andrew Jackson.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

I found no particular obstacles. Jean-Marc Lofficier was unusually helpful then and still is with suggestions and criticisms. I was referred to Kitty Werner by a mutual friend in Savannah. She too has been most helpful.

Do you have any writing rituals?

None, simply a set number of pages per day.

If you were doing it all over again, would you do anythingdifferently?

No, not unless I had my life to live over. The books are the result of various stages in my life.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

I like to read detective stories for relaxation, as do many people. In English, I like Dorothy Sayers and Dick Francis, in French, Emile Gaboriau and Melchior-Frederic Soulie. My favorite American author is William Faulkner. He and Gaboriau knew the human heart.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

Distinction Press will publish THE FERRY MYSTERY of Fortune du Boisgobey later this fall. I will amplify SERVANTS ON HORSES later, probably next year. I would also hope to translate Julien Green’s third novel in the trilogy DIXIE, as well as his unpublished short stories.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Each must find his own way.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

The books are available from Amazon.com and your local bookstore.