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Published on Tuesday, September 10, 2013

An Interview With

Nikki Maddalo-Dixon

 

Nikki Maddalo-Dixon is the author of the upcoming release from Sunstone Press Bandita Bonita and the Scourge of New Mexico: Romancing Billy the Kid and she recently granted an interview to The Western Online.


The Western Online: Can you describe your story for our readers?

Nikki Maddalo-Dixon: Bandita Bonita and the Scourge of New Mexico: Romancing Billy the Kid (Sunstone Press; www.sunstonepress.com) is the first in a trilogy that begins with the female protagonist, Elucia Howard, who is sent out west to live with her pre-contracted fiancé, John, under the supervision of guardians who are also partners in her fiancé in his business, as well as his lawyer.

She is miserable at the prospect of marrying a man whom she does not love, but while out in New Mexico she meets one of John's young farmhands, the soon to be notorious outlaw Billy the Kid, beginning a relationship with him that leads to an unbreakable bond of love.

TWO: How is your story one that would interest the readers of The Western Online?

Nikki: My novel of course deals with old western living and the difficulties that abounded, especially for women. It also delves into the Lincoln County War which made Billy the Kid the infamous entity he became and is today. Today Billy the Kid is an infamous part of our history and a great interest to a great many people. In writing a story that studies him my intentions were to help turn him into a three dimensional character. So little is known about William H. Bonney, and so my initial concept for the book was to create a character study of Billy based on the information gathered about him using all of the fantastic and hard-won knowledge that had been collected about him by Fredrick Nolan, the accepted and widely known premier authority on Billy the Kid. "Bandita Bonita" also deals much with the hardships pressed upon woman which is put front-and-center with the use of my female protagonist, and it provides the reader with 19th century details of the old west, including slang and demeanor, and again, above all, it helps give insight into who Bill Bonney was, AKA, Billy the Kid, a man whose life, although one of the most notorious and well known outlaws of our past, still remains a mystery today with the exception of what we know though the remarkable and grueling efforts executed by Frederick Nolan in order to decipher Billy. In addition, Bob "Boze" Bell and Michael Wallis contribute excellent information in surmising who in fact this legend truly was.

TWO: What motivates the protagonist in your story? What is she trying to prove?

Nikki: Elucia "Lucy" Howard longs for freedom, wanting to break away from her oppressive Victorian era, heiress lifestyle of being told how to behave, when to speak, where to go, and whom to marry. While the men fight for their liberties and the liberties of the citizens crushed under the wheel of The Santa Fe Ring, Lucy fights for her own independence, to be liberated from her own crushing oppression. She, too, is willing to die to achieve her liberty in a time when men ruled humanity. As for what she is trying to prove, it is that she is worthy and capable of her own independence and is not any man's chattel—she is so much more.

TWO: How would you define the term "Western" and what does it mean to you?

Nikki: When I consider Western, as in the old west, it brings to mind the American way of Manifest Destiny. It entails excitement, growth, and opportunity for those ambitious enough to seek out something better. Though I know that, in reality, it was not such a glamorous life at all, in contemporary times, looking back, it was a time where one could find their independence and make an attempt to make their own way and start over. It also represented the guts of the American spirit in moving out westward despite the treacherous trek one would need to endure.

TWO: What draws you to writing Westerns?

Nikki: Since I was a young girl I have always loved westerns. I love the dramatics that an author can unfold and utilize, despite knowing that the old west wasn't about dueling pistols, for example, but rather self-preservation. Writing about westerns also allows for the development of interesting characters and conversely interesting character development. Because of the open or obscure, manmade laws and basic liberation from the East there is so much to play with. There is something inherently romantic about the western, and at the same time, there seems to be a simplicity involved that is not found contemporarily.

TWO: What writers have influenced you the most?

Nikki: In all honesty, I truly love the books written by Robert B. Parker. I have read his entire series involving Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch—I love those two characters.

Of course in terms of 19th century writing Jane Austen fixed somewhere in there for me, as well as Dickens and Tolstoy, of course. I appreciate Hemmingway, as do most, and as far as contemporary novelists go, I enjoy Jodi Picoult as she does extensive research on her subjects, which is an endeavor that is tremendously appreciated and important to a serial reader (and writer) such as myself. And my God, I mustn't forget Hawthorne or Bronte, or Alcott!

TWO: What is your favorite Western, either novel or movie? Why?

Nikki: That's easy: The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford. While I do not care much for Jesse James the man, the myth, or the legend, the movie was done superbly all around! The acting was amazing by all who participated in the film, and the cinematography, the music (it was so much like a lullaby it just drew you in), the portrayal/dynamic of the characters was so very exciting to watch. It is absolutely one of my favorites. Then of course there is Young Guns. Though an obvious Hollywood entertainment piece, it managed to get the job done for its demographic. I adore that movie, and that was the movie all those years ago in '88, that turned me on to the real Billy the Kid and made me want to learn all that I could of him— it made me fall in love with him, historically speaking of course.

TWO: If you could go back in time and meet one famous person in the Old West, who would it be and why?

Nikki: Hands down, William H. Bonney! There is still so much we want to know about him, and I would love to let him know that all of his efforts were not in vain—that he is remembered today and a national treasure. I would absolutely love to sit and listen to him tell me stories straight from his first person perspective, and of course to be the first person who knows him inside and out as so much of his is shrouded in mystery.

TWO: What are you plans for the future? Are you working on a sequel?

Nikki: My novel is actually a trilogy. Originally I had intended to make it one book, but it was so exceptionally long that it was clear it needed to be broken down into two parts (as far as Billy's life in New Mexico is concerned).

My first novel topped out at 130,000 words long, climaxing during the 5 Days War. My second novel, of which I am 60,000 words in, will climax upon what happens in Ft. Sumner on the night of July 14, 1881. And because this story is told from my female protagonist's perspective, things will continue on past there, but of course I can't give anything away here.

TWO:Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Nikki: Writing this novel included a heck of a lot of research. I did not twist the facts in order to fit fiction, but rather I worked hard on figuring out how to connect the fictional aspects to compliment the actual facts—I remained religious to the true events. I spent a good, solid three years planning out my story which is an absolute must if you plan to write a good story, let alone a story that involves real life individuals who lived the story you plan to tell. To be a responsible writer in this respect is to spend time researching the history and, in the meantime, you will become personally familiar with your real life, historical players as well as the characters that are figments of your own imagination. Spending intimate time with these people allows a writer to share his/her soul in an extraordinary way that should absolutely shine through to the audience, which in turn will allow them to connect emotionally with your work. There is no better payoff or compliment than that! Therefore, all of the extra effort I put in to planning out my novel was extremely necessary as I wanted to tell Billy's story as adeptly as possible, building his character by basing him on the interviews of his friends (again, based on the hard work of Fredrick Nolan and a few of his contemporaries) and, therefore, molding him into a three dimensional character by assembling the puzzle pieces made available to me by these other wonderful writers in order to help me create and bring him to life to the best of my ability, and therefore I could have him react to situations in a way that I wholeheartedly believed would be close enough to how he might have truly responded to any given circumstance. Initially, I had intended to write a biography, but because there are several biographies out there, I put the kibosh on that for two reasons: A) I did not want to write a hack story made possible by the hard work of others, and B) I wanted to create a unique story in order to complete a character study of Billy in the way I see him, and the best way for me to do that was to insert another character whom the audience could identify with and follow. I, of course, chose a female, as not only does she serve as my mouthpiece as it is I who is telling the story, but in this way she is able to become unchallenged in becoming intimately close to Billy in the way that a male protagonist could not. And also, as I had mentioned, in having a female protagonist, it allowed me to tackle feminine oppression during this time period, providing the novel with a well-rounded purpose in terms of education.

 

Read an excerpt from Nikki's upcoming novel, Bandita Bonita and the Scourge of New Mexico: Romancing Billy the Kid exclusively at The Western Online: Bandita Bonita.

 

Nikki Maddalo-Dixon has been writing since she was 6 years old, and wrote her first children's book at this age, using pictures as well as dialogue. It wasn't very good, but it was a start. She is now published with Sunstone Press (http://www.sunstonepress.com/) out of Santa Fe New Mexico along side of several wonderful authors including her favorite Billy the Kid aficionado, Frederick Nolan. Bandita Bonita is slated to be available in print and e-books on all the major book websites by the winter of 2013.

Nikki can be found on Twitter and Linked In or at her blog.

 

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