Forrest Hayes Interview

A stranger and occasional customer handed me a library book one day in 1983 while I was selling burritos in the streets of Juneau, Alaska. He said I could read Quest for the Lost City (1951), a narrative written by a couple from California who had searched for a lost Maya city in the jungles of México in the 1940s.

What inspired you to write?
A stranger and occasional customer handed me a library book one day in 1983 while I was selling burritos in the streets of Juneau, Alaska. He said I could read Quest for the Lost City (1951), a narrative written by a couple from California who had searched for a lost Maya city in the jungles of México in the 1940s. (Dana and Ginger Lamb eventually spent time with the Lacandón Maya in Chiapas and found the lost city). Alaska Airlines offered a round-trip fare from Juneau to México City for $100 later that same year, a bargain too good to pass up. So my girlfriend and I took off for México. Someone told us about the artist town of San Cristóbal de las Casas, high in the mountains of southern México. When we tired of the beach scene, we flew into Chiapas and shared a taxi for the thirty-mile trip through the jungle-covered hills to San Cristóbal. One of the other passengers, a museum curator from New Mexico, told us of a place to stay called Na-Bolom that was nice, cheap, and safe, a compound surrounded by a ten-foot adobe wall. When we entered the hotel through a large, hand-carved door, I immediately noticed pictures lining the walls of the Lacandón Maya in xikul, their customary white cotton tunic. Unbeknownst to me, I had been delivered to their front door. My own experiences in the area, bolstered by the Lambs’ adventures, started rattling around in my head, inspiring a short story. One evening in 1988, I sat down and started writing the rough draft that is now Chapter 3 of Na Bolom. From then on, I was hooked. I didn’t begin with the idea of writing a novel. Just a three- or four-page story, then another, and another. In time, it became apparent that these short stories were part of a larger tale, and I began tying them together. I never developed a storyline or outline. Na Bolom just sort of wrote itself. There was something compelling about the story coming through me and I became passionate about recording it. It was my passion for this story that drove me. Sometimes I would write for eight, ten hours day and often past midnight. At one point I was unemployed and wrote seven days a week for a year. You might say I was obsessed, or possessed. So the reason I’m a writer is because of this story—I had to get the damn thing out of my head!

Was your inspiration sudden, or did it take time?
It took some time for the inspiration to occur, but when it did I was on fire.

Did you use an outline, or just write your story from start to finish?
I never had an outline, nor were the chapters done in sequence. One chapter after another simply came to me and I would write it out, only later to find out where it fit in the story.

Do you work alone, or get encouragement from family and friends?
I work alone.

What was the most difficult part of writing your book?
Learning how to write was the most difficult part. After about one hundred edits, I finally got it right.

What was the most enjoyable aspect of writing your book?
Seeing what would come through me next was fascinating. I loved the adventure of it and often found myself writing until the wee hours of the morning.

After the book was published, were you changed?
No. I wasn't changed, just disillusioned. The publisher did nothing to promote it even though they felt it was one of their better titles. Not surprisingly, they went out of business after just two years.

Are you working on a new book at the moment?
Yes, a sequel.

What gets in the way of your creativity?
All the distractions of the world. All the usual suspects.

What strategies do you use to deal with criticism?
I really haven't had any as yet.

What is your favorite/worst childhood memory?
Being left behind while on a family vacation. They soon discovered that a child was missing and turned around.

What is your favorite show on TV?
National Geographic

Favorite movie?
Dances with Wolves

Favorite book?
West With the Night

Who would you want to meet if you could? Dead or alive.
Mahatma Gandhi

Is there a talent you wish you had?
Playing music on various instruments

What’s something about you that would surprise us?
My sensitivity.

Describe yourself in 3 words!
Persistent, creative, humorous.