Gerald and Loretta Hausman are an award-winning, bestselling husband and wife writing team with over 18 books to their joint credit. From mythology to biography, from cats to dogs to horses and from sagas to a book about pancakes, their books have been recognized by USA Today, The New York Public Library, the American Booksellers, Better Homes and Gardens, the Scholastic Book Club, the QBP Book of the Month Club and the Edgar Cayce Foundation, to name a few. The Hausmans have a distinguished career as master storytellers and their latest book, The Forbidden Ride, is but one example of their magnetic writing style that draws the reader in from the first page to the last. THIRSTY was fortunate to visit with Gerald and Loretta at their home in Bokeelia, Florida.
THIRSTY: How did you become interested in Icelandic family sagas?
GERALD & LORETTA HAUSMAN: We've spent a lifetime working in mythology of various kinds, mostly American Indian and West Indian. But at one point when a publisher suggested we branch out some more, we began to study European mythology, especially Norse, and thus we wound up deep in the sagas and eventually were inspired to write a story which would use them in a kind of contemporary political crisis, such as the breaking of a law that needed to be changed.
THIRSTY: In your recently released book, The Forbidden Ride, you tell a timeless Romeo and Juliet story of love between a 15-year-old-girl and a 17-year-old boy that is set in the harsh, unforgiving days of 10th century Iceland. What motivated you to write this book and to do it together?
GERALD HAUSMAN: We often work together even if I am doing the writing. Loretta always has something to say about the logic, coherence, and factuality of the tale. She's often the gravity that helps me pin the language down. This particular story of conditional and unconditional love was compelling to me because every family has something like this going on, but not in such extreme measures. In this case there is bloodshed and mayhem as a result of one simple, impulsive teenage action. The law comes down hard on them – and it's society's law, the Law of Settlement which is meant to hold things together but instead, in this tale, tears them apart.
LORETTA HAUSMAN: In looking for a story that would appeal to the YA [Young Adult] market, I found the enduring theme of this family feud plus the young people caught in an emotional trap of conflicting loyalties. The effect of the feud on the lives of everyone in the settlement and even the changing of the law is crucial to this story's timeless quality. It's, very simply, about now.
THIRSTY: Why do you think the history and mythology of Iceland holds such a strong attraction for the modern audience?
GERALD & LORETTA HAUSMAN: We are a litigious society, as were the ancient Icelanders who created one of our earliest world democracies. They managed to rule their country for over 200 years without a king. But as everyone knows now – and this is why the story holds true today – democracy is only as good as the people who run it and permit its freedoms to survive. It's easy for it to tilt – for elections to be bought and paid for, and that is why The Forbidden Ride is so timely.
THIRSTY: It is most unusual for a husband and wife to co-author books and you have collaborated on over 18 very successful titles. How do you manage to work together so well?
GERALD HAUSMAN: Practice and patience. Love. Willingness to be wrong or misled and just plain driven. To work together you have to accept strengths and weaknesses and move on from there building trust and compassion, and eventually getting a good result from the collaboration. Two minds are better than one, and as an author I've not only collaborated with my favorite author, Loretta, but also with a dozen other writers including sci-fi fantasy master Roger Zelazny who, when we started out were just good acquaintances, but when we finished our novel called Wilderness, we were best friends.
LORETTA HAUSMAN: My strengths are the little details that authors – and Gerald is sometimes a good example of this – forget about in the excitement of telling the emotional drift of the story. This is why he's so good at telling the tale orally; he makes it scary or dreamy with his expressions of sudden emotion. But when he writes I am always there to say, "You left out the part about the dog. He was supposed to be in the yard, but you had him sleeping in the bedroom." Such seemingly modest mistakes add up and often spoil the symmetry of the whole. I love details because they bring a sharp-edged reality to the writing. In the end we complement one another because if I were to write alone, I might not have the emotional pitch he does. And usually when he writes by himself, he calls me in for a logic 101 lesson.
THIRSTY: Throughout your joint writing career, you have written about mythology and often focused on the myths surrounding certain animals like horses, dogs and cats. What is there that so fascinates us about the legends and lore of animals?
GERALD & LORETTA HAUSMAN: We once counted up the numbers of dogs our two families had during the time we were kids and young adults and it came to over 35. Add to that a large number of cats, possums, raccoons, squirrels, ducks, tropical birds, reptiles and amphibians not to mention fish and you have a small ark. When you live with animals your entire life, you understand the fables of old, whether Aesop or American Indian, and you well understand why the animals talk and are often called "animal people." Most of us believe to a certain extent that animals are like us only different and it has come to the point where many people believe that some animals are smarter than we are. Doesn't this make for fun reading? The success of some of our animal books tells us that people enjoy being reassured that others think the way they do on this issue.
THIRSTY: You have jointly written several books with historical themes and settings that range from Josephine and Napoleon to Henry David Thoreau. What characteristics draw you to specific stories and how do you go about deciding on which stories to write?
GERALD HAUSMAN: Often publishers have suggested themes they would like us to explore. We both love history, modern and ancient. We both love culture, old and new. What it comes down to though is whether or not something could sell to readers at a certain time. Our book Escape From Botany Bay seems to have been a story that people wanted to know more about, and in fact some Australians have written reviews where they wondered why such stories were not better known in their school system. That book is about the colonization of Australia and particularly the brave woman who escaped from bondage and prison life and traveled 3,000 miles in an open boat to escape. Her bravery, we felt, was historically unequaled. Record books told us that no woman had ever bested Mary Bryant's open boat voyage. She had no navigational equipment. In The Forbidden Ride we found another valorous woman who bested all the odds against her and won in the end. Such stories give us hope and faith in our continuance as a species.
LORETTA HAUSMAN: I love to read stories where the odds are totally against the hero or heroine, but somehow they accept the challenge because it's in their nature to do so. What is that nature, specifically? We, Gerald and I, work on bringing that daring and secret DNA to light. It's in his book with Roger, Wilderness, and it's in Escape and especially in The Forbidden Ride. Somewhere I read an article by a librarian who wrote: "We need more stories where women triumph in unusually harsh environments."
THIRSTY: Do you think that the characters in The Forbidden Ride will demand that you write a sequel?
GERALD HAUSMAN: YES. We have started the research on it.
LORETTA HAUSMAN: My favorite parts of The Forbidden Ride are the ways in which Freyja, the heroine, communicates telepathically with Faxi, her beloved horse. The second book in the series would be an expansion of what happened in the first book. There are a lot of questions raised at the end of the novel. Someone has already asked about the quixotic figure of Ozur, the mercenary. Does he come back in Book Two? What about Bjarni, the man of vengeance? Does he find a way to revive the blood war? And then there's Faxi...does the great horse grow in powers unseen and unknown in Book One?