Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hi, Fiona. My name is Dr. Ernest R. Rugenstein, however, outside of my students most call me Ernie or Rich (from my middle name). As for age, I was born in 1956.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I grew up in Chili (CHY-ly), New York, a bedroom community of Rochester. There was a city bus stop at the corner of the street. Currently I live in Troy, NY.
Fiona: A little about your-self (i.e. your education, family life, etc.).
Well Let’s see, where to begin. I’m married to Keli Rugenstein who is a psychotherapist with a Ph.D.in Social Work. We live in Troy, NY and have two adult children. Don, who owns his own business in the mental health field and Ernest Kristoph, who has a degree in Mechatronics and works in industry. Both of them are married to wonderful women who are accomplished in their own right.
As for myself, I received my Ph.D. in Cultural History from Union Institute &University. I also have an M.A. in European History from the University of Albany, an M.A. in Religion/Ministry from Indiana Wesleyan University and a B.A. in History from Potsdam College. Currently I teach honor courses at Hudson Valley Community College and am actively investigating an archaeological site in the Adirondacks. You can see more about me here https://www.linkedin.com/in/errugenstein/ )
My academic specialties include Historical Research, Native American History, World History, History of the Twentieth Century, Archaeology, and of course Cultural History. I’ve created a number of college level courses, and was previously published.Further, I have presented at various conferences and reviewed a number of text-books
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Outside of my first book coming out, hmmmm, I suppose professionally, creating two new upper level courses at my college, and helping to adapt a course I created to a “college in the classroom” course for a local high school. I suppose another situation would be working at a dig in the Adirondacks. (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/digging-russia-town-roberts-road-site-part-1-ernest-richard/)
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve never really considered myself a writer in the typical way. In fact, I often thought of myself as a terrible writer, but I always wanted to tell a story. I suppose that’s why I think teaching is a natural fit.
However, back to the question, I suppose as I look back to the 1980’s I was a writer of sorts when I wrote technical manuals as a project engineer. It was all straight forward technical stuff, no plot, sometimes not even a complete sentence. They were facts and figures and strictly a narrative.
Other than that, I am published in a New York State Museum publication and I did have a blog at one point, however, I now publish articles on LinkedIn. I guess I like telling stories from history.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
As I said, I don’t know if I would consider myself a writer. Does writing one book make you a writer? Certainly, writing a book would make you an author, but it seems the term writer has a different connotation. I have a friend who has been an adjunct at numerous schools in the area where he lives, but he writes and publishes books. He writes every day, so many words a day. I don’t do that, not yet, but I am working on other things so maybe I’ve caught the bug, I don’t know.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Well, this is my first book and it based on my doctoral dissertation.The thrust of the book is one close to my heart. It comes from a combination of being a Cultural Historian, the fact that my wife and her extended family are Mohawk with many still living at Akwesasne, and finally my affinity for those cultures being oppressed by more powerful cultures such as we find on Akwesasne. A location, where powerful federal governments, and less powerful state/provincial governments, were forcing their will on the Natives.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The original title of my dissertation the book is based on was Clash of Cultures: Uprising at Akwesasne with the basic premise that the imposed border exacerbated the troubles. The idea of separation of the various cultures, even different languages in some cases, led to the present title. It’s a play on words. In a physical sense, the Reservation is divided by the St. Lawrence River, politically, it is divided by the US-Canadian border. There is also a cultural division between those who follow traditional practices/government and those who would be consider modernist/Christian who adhere to the officially recognized federally imposed governments.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I don’t think I have a particular writing style. If I do I don’t know what it is. I feel there is a challenge in history that is always there. Trying to include everything and not being able to.Paraphrasing Rosenstone, no matter how much research we do, primary sources we look at, or interviews we do, history will never come to us in a “single version of the truth.”
In other words, write your book on the research obtained and no matter how you present the narrative there will be those who disagree, complain you left out important information, or shaded the facts in a certain way.
A good example of this is Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book on Lincoln, Team of Rivals. A fine book and acclaimed by all, but when she is writing about the Winter of 1862 she doesn’t mention Lincoln ordering the largest mass hanging of Native Americans in history. Didn’t she know, did she have an anti-Native agenda? No, she was writing about a specific aspect of Lincoln’s history. Yet. there have been criticisms of it not being mentioned.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The book is a secondary history of the events that occurred at Akwesasne between 1989 and 1991. It contains primary sources mixed with firsthand knowledge and limited comments from other sources.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
In the case of this work I had traveled through the area extensively and actually was living in the North Countryof New York State along the St. Lawrence River when it was occurring. It certainly helped in writing since I could visualize the area. Further, I had interacted with the culture when doing research, I knew the locations of events.
This is also true of most of the articles I write. All of them involve interaction with the subject or location. One of the articles I wrote was about Honanki people of the Sedona, AZ area. Naturally, I had visited the location and investigated the archaeological aspects of the site before writing the piece. (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/honanki-heritage-site-visit-700-year-old-sinaguan-ernest-richard/)
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Actually. I designed the front and back cover with some expert help fromStephen R. Walker Designs on the spine and getting it all sized and ready to go for the printer. The photograph on the cover is my wife’s Grandmother. She’s in her Christening gown and secured to a traditional Mohawk cradleboard. This also shows the divide the Natives deal with between traditional and modern ways.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, that no race, creed. or color has been more oppressed, had genocide committed against them as the Native Americans. From the 15th century to the 18th century 95% of the Native population was gone. Scholarly estimates of Native American population loss are as high as 100 million. Where did they go? They didn’t move, they were killed by disease (at times intentionally spread), enslaved and worked to death by the European invaders, or just killed as one would kill a bothersome coy-dog. The Natives that were left were coerced into leaving their land. This was typically accomplished through promises in treaties, none of which were eventually kept. In the case of Akwesasne treaties imposed a border that wasn’t there.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
One of my best friends isn’t really a new author, but I read anything he publishes and he is unique in his narratives. He writes non-fiction investigative and historical books, short stories and great fiction. His name is Thom Metzger, his latest is book is Undercover Mormon: A Spy in the House of the Gods.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Well, that’s easy, Norm Wilson, owner of Melange Publishing. Don’t get me wrong there are others outside of my family who were supportive. Thom Metzger a friend and writer was encouraging and certainly my Department Chair Peter Sawyer, Ph.D., who encouraged me to create a Native American course and supportive of my book being used as a textbook. But, it was Norm who encouraged me to take the step of turning my dissertation into a book and then when I was indecisive on some aspects he encouraged and supported me to move forward. Additionally, he put me in contact with people who could help me in technical aspects of publishing, such as Stephen R. Walker
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I don’t see making writing a career however, I didn’t really think I would write a book let alone get published. So, I guess I will have to say, I don’t know.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I would have done more interviews.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Yes, I learned a great deal putting this book together. It all started with my dissertation and many of hours of research and investigation.This not only included written material but of course visiting the Reservation and talking to people. Up to now doing research tended to be for term papers and shorter essays, but the dissertation and later the writing of the book helped me to refine the way I did research
The other thing I learned was some of the rudimentary aspects of publishing. I found it enlightening and can understand why not everyone can be published. I feel very fortunate that I connected to Norm Wilson and followed his great advice.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Interestingly I think it would be a great movie. A Native American woman harassed by the government for walking over an imaginary line with the process ending in a supreme court decision. As for the lead, I don’t know, but I would hope that90% of the all actors are Native American actors.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
I don’t really have any real advice. A friend of mine who is published, and an avid writer always answers the question with a question – what are you reading? So, I’ll use his answer – read.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Just, I hope you enjoy the read and it moves you do more research into Native American Studies.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m reading two at the moment. Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Future and Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Little Black Sambo, and I loved that story. Most people see this as a racist children’s book and a put down of Blacks or African -Americans. In actuality, the book is about a little boy who lives in India and as far as a put down, I always thought Sambo was a genius. He was smart enough to get out of dangerous situations and turn the table on his adversaries. He was even rewarded for his troubles with a great meal.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
What makes me laugh depends on the circumstances? Sometimes it’s something that happens or someone says something while the family is sitting around the fire in the back-yard and it tickles me. Other times it’s a well-timed joke.
As for what makes me cry, that too is circumstantial? In general, it’s the injustice and maltreatment people suffer in their day to day lives. Especially children and I guess I would add animals to that too. They are for the most part innocent and for them to be mistreated moves me first to anger then to tears.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
This is one of those tricky questions because there a so many and of course I would need a universal translator. I guess it would be Karl Theodor Rugenstein, my great-great grandfather. He’s the one who migrated here to America from Germany. I’d like to know why he left Germany? What was life like there when he left? How was he treated when he got to the US? The reason comes down for historical research, to learn more of what was happening at the time.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Hiking/back packing and kayaking. Although, if it’s just me and I have some time I like working at my archaeological dig site.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
TV Shows: Dr. Who, Game of Thrones, Midsomer Murders, Mr. Robot, the original Star Trek, Are You Being Served?
Movies: The Fifth Element, Shawshank Redemption, Napoleon Dynamite
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Food: Ham, Fried Chicken, almost anything with garlic.
Color: Sky Blue
Music: Very eclectic (from classical to Marilyn Manson to German Folk music)
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I would do what I do now, teach in Higher Education. I love getting up every day and going to class’ opening student’s minds to a dynamic look at history.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
“If You Only Knew”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I have an author’s page on Face Book and on Amazon.com. Also, I utilize LinkedIn to post articles I’ve written. At one time, I had a blog of about fifty followers, but with Linked I have almost1900 contacts that are notified. The links are below: