Forty-five pages in the story, a main character gives birth to her baby boy, and the chapter ends with her hoping he survives his first year. We keep reading, just to see if he does. The book begins in Alta California circa 1793 and continues, for nearly 800 pages, through the trials, torments and triumph of mankind, moving forward and backward until the end of the 18th century. Despite the gains and losses throughout history, its readers never get lost.
Author Buzz Anderson sat in his Santa Cruz home researching, writing, and reviewing the story that was bubbling through his mind until it began to take shape. The more he studied the genealogy of people who saw California as a landscape, the more complex the story became and the more confident he became that it was something he felt compelled to write.
His first effort, slow and steady word placement, yielded 50 pages. Once it hit 200 pages, the story became its author, as if telling Anderson how it happened and what to write about. Some of the figures who came forward are prominent historical figures, disputed by modern assumptions of their contribution to California – the Spanish priest Father Junipero Serra, the Franciscan missionaries Juan Crespi, Juan Vizcaino and Francisco PalÃ³u – complemented by a group of fictional characters whose stories take place in a historical context.
One of the more interesting reads appears in Anderson’s “Afterword”, where he discusses the controversial and complex Father Serra through a seemingly balanced interpretation of man, missionary, priest, via a faith-shaped perspective. and research, a compassionate narrative. it looks like he knew him. Yet it is not without Anderson’s questions.
After Anderson pushed his story to some 850 pages, he looked for an editor who could help him polish the tone and clean up the text that became âFive Hundred Moons,â in reference to the period of the book. He had thought about calling it “In the name of”, confident that most readers would add “the Father” while others would fill in the blank in their context. Its editor was leaning towards the moons.
The ambition of all life
Anderson was born in San Jose, where his father was a prune farmer. He grew up in Capitola, where his grandfather had built a family home. Since his childhood he has been fascinated by the stories of people who have wandered the same coastal and forest regions as him, as well as the decisions they have made and the directions they have taken.
Obviously there were stories to be researched and a book awaiting him, but it became a lifelong ambition until he finished his career.
A retired auto parts dealer, Anderson ran the family business in multiple locations until he shifted gears and began teaching English at a charter school. He has also done building estimates and contributed to his community through his volunteerism, such as his involvement with CASA – a national organization that promotes the defense of special court-appointed rights for abused or neglected children.
He didn’t think of himself as a writer until he realized he still had the story to tell.
âWhen I retired,â he said, âI was so used to doing something focused and getting something done every morning. So I worked diligently on my book, researching and writing for at least an hour, every day. After three years, I handed it over to my editor, who spent another year with it, doing his own research and suggesting revisions.
Anderson’s depth of research, coupled with a natural penchant for vivid descriptive detail, resulted in a 39-chapter work of historical fiction that was difficult to suppress. Just like his installation for the cliffhanger. At the end of chapter 21 he writes: âIt seemed that only a miracle would keep the expedition from failing. Everyone will surely continue to read looking for it.
Part of its history has come from its wonder; he didn’t know where his characters were going until they got there. It was later in his writing that he decided to weave a gypsy story, as he realized the parallel persecution between them and the inhabitants of the Ohlone tribe.
At the end of his postscript, Anderson described his own experience, walking through a loop of ancient redwoods near Felton.
âI felt the presence,â he wrote, âof its former inhabitants. I imagined being able to hear their songs and see their villages spread out in the dim light. For the Ohlones, these trees were as alive as any human who walked beneath themâ¦ I hope the mindfulness and sensitivity they practiced still hold a common thread in our realities today.
Part of the authenticity of Anderson’s story has come from the attention paid to his characters – who they are, what they represent in the story, and how they could possibly feel. Her slow and quivering sensuality between the main characters Drina and FranÃ§ois reads like a sensation of silk. His inspiration, he says, was Jennie, his wife of 40 years, and his first reference in his acknowledgments at the end of the book.
âThere is absolutely no one I would dedicate this book to,â he wrote, âother than my life partner, Jennie. She read every word of my drafts, made hundreds of constructive comments. and encouraged me every step of the way.I would not have completed this manuscript without his unwavering support.
Buzz and Jennie Anderson got married at the Carmel Mission, near the graves of Serra and her missionaries. Jennie took the photo of her husband, which features the author on the back of his book. Their story is played out in its expression.
âFive Hundred Moons,â released in 2021 by Rim of the World Editions, is available on Amazon, as well as River House Books at Carmel, Olivia & Daisy in Carmel Valley, Kelly’s Books in Watsonville and Bookshop Santa Cruz, and downtown Book and Sound town in Salinas, which will host a book signing event for the author on January 15th.