Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Interview with Andrew Joyce

Yellow Hair is an American historical fiction novel about the injustices done to the Sioux Nation from 1805 through 1890.  Andrew Joyce, the author, based this story on real life events and people, even using their real names.  He tells the story through a white man adopted by a Dakota (Sioux) tribe.

With the recent event of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe' s litagation on the Dakota Access pipeline, I believe this book may be of interest to those following this current event.  Also, many American's were taught in childhood that the Wamponoags and Pilgrims shared America's first Thanksgiving together.  Over time it has been questioned why we tie Native Americans in with Thanksgiving since our treatment of the Native Americans was unspeakable and the relationship described in these stories is most likely false.  With Thanksgiving coming, and our thoughts on this, it might be a good time to read Yellow Hair.

Although I have not read his book, I am excited to have Mr. Joyce tell us about Yellow Hair and answer a few questions.

Me: Please tell us about your new book.

Andrew Joyce: Through no fault of his own, a young man is thrust into a new culture just at the time that culture is undergoing massive changes. It is losing its identity, its lands, and its dignity. He not only adapts, he perseveres and, over time, becomes a leader—and on occasion, the hand of vengeance against those who would destroy his adopted people.

Yellow Hair documents the injustices done to the Sioux Nation from their first treaty with the United States in 1805 through Wounded Knee in 1890. Every death, murder, battle, and outrage written about actually took place. The historical figures that play a role in this fact-based tale of fiction were real people and I use their real names. Yellow Hair is an epic tale of adventure, family, love, and hate that spans most of the 19th century.

Me: What made you decide to write about the Sioux Nation?

AJ: The inspiration for the book came to me when I was reading a short article and it made reference to the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862. It also mentioned that the outcome involved the largest mass execution in the history of the United States. That piqued my interest.

When I started my research into the incident, one thing led to another and before I knew it, I was documenting the entire history of the Sioux, who are also known as the Dakota, vis-à- vis the relationship between them and the United States.

Me: How much of your story is actually fiction?

AJ: I would say that it’s about 50/50.

Me: What was the most interesting or important fact you discovered when doing the research for this book?

AJ: There are so many things that I learned while writing Yellow Hair. But I guess the most important thing I discovered was that our treatment of Native Americans was so much worse than I could ever have imagined.

Me: What does it take to research thoroughly enough so as not to be criticized by historians and experts on the time period you are writing about?

AJ: I want to say that I learned the hard way how important proper research is. But it wasn’t really that hard of a lesson. In my first book, which takes place in the last half of the 19th century, I made two mistakes. I had the date of an event off by one year and I had my hero loading the wrong caliber cartridge into his Winchester rifle. I would have gone blissfully throughout life not knowing how I had erred if not for my astute fans. Both mistakes were quickly pointed out to me in reviews of the book. One guy said he would have given me five stars if not for the wrong caliber bullet mistake. I had to settle for only four stars. Lesson learned!

For Yellow Hair, I had to know both points of view, the white man’s and the Sioux’s. Getting to know the whites’ take on things was easy. There are many, many books (non-fiction) that were written at the time. I even found a book written by Custer detailing his strategy for wiping out the Sioux entirely. That was hard reading. Then I went looking for diaries and obscure self-published books written by the participants. Then it was onto newspaper articles written at the time; the archives of universities and historical societies were also a great help.

As to the Sioux’s point of view, there are a few books that were dictated to newspapermen years later by the Indians that took part in the various battles that I weave into my story. I found a lot of material from Native American participants of the Little Big Horn, written twenty to thirty years after the fact.

But I wanted to immerse myself in the Sioux culture and I wanted to give them dignity by using their language wherever possible. I also wanted to introduce them by their Sioux names. So, I had to learn the Lakota language. And that wasn’t easy. There is a consortium that will teach you, but they wanted only serious students. You have to know a smattering of the language before they will even deign to let you in. I had to take a test to prove that I knew some Lakota. I failed the first time and had to go back to my Lakota dictionary and do some more studying. I got in on my second try.

Me: What is your favorite part about the completed book?

AJ: The “twist” I put in at the end.

Me: Is there anything else you could share with us that would make us want to read Yellow Hair?

AJ: If you are at all interested in what is happening in North Dakota concerning The Dakota Access Pipeline and the treatment of the protesters, Yellow Hair will show you the genesis of that treatment and how it has not abated one iota since our first contact with the Sioux.

Me: Will you be writing another book? If so, what can you tell us about it?

AJ: The tentative title is Mick Reilly. It is about three generations of Irish whose patriarch immigrates to America in 1840. I know where I’m going with it, but I have more thinking to do before I say anything else.

Yellow Hair was published by William Birch and Associates on September 28, 2016. It is 498 pages.  It is available on Kindle or in paperback from Amazon.


It is also available from Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, and iTunes.


  1. Great interview, thanks, Lisa. I have read Yellow Hair and found it compelling. Loved it!