5 August 2014

HNS Indie Award Finalist - Robert Shaffer

This year, 2014, the Historical Novel Society has introduced an annual award for the best Indie / Self-Published Historical Novel, with winner and runner-up prizes kindly sponsored by Orna Ross, bestselling literary novelist and director of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and Geri Clouston of Indie B.R.A.G. There were eight eventual short-listed writers, from which four finalists were chosen by Orna Ross, with award-winning historical novelist Elizabeth Chadwick selecting the winner and runner-up.

Our judges found it very difficult to make their selections as the quality of writing was excellent, and to thank the authors, I would like to feature them all here on my Blog

So please welcome one of the four finalists
J. Robert Shaffer and his novel, Samoa

About the author:
J. Robert “Rob” Shaffer has been closely associated with Samoa and its people for 55 years and has lived in Samoa for 22 of those years.
Shaffer is married to Sina Lia’i of Apia, Samoa. They have four children, all born in Samoa. Shaffer is fluent in the Samoan language, one of a very few non-Samoans to have mastered that artful language. In 1976 he was bestowed the High Chief title Lealamanu’a by the chiefs and orators of Iva, Savai’i.
The author holds a Bachelor’s degree from San Jose State University and a lifetime California State Teaching Credential from San Diego State University. He has been a teacher, a UPI and AP correspondent, a freelance writer, a hospital administrator and a chief of staff to five American Samoa governors. Most recently he has been a historian, writer, and special assistant to the Rincon Tribal Council. The Rincon people are a Band of the Luiseno Indian Tribe, located in northeast San Diego County.

SAMOA – A Historical Novel
Rob began researching the historical and cultural material for the novel SAMOA while living and teaching on Savai’i – the largest island in the Samoan chain, and at the time considered by anthropologists to be the purest surviving form of Polynesian culture in the South Pacific. Rob lived with a Samoan family whose grandfather – a village chief – had been born in the 1890s.

The chief, in his late 60s at the time, was a walking encyclopedia. Rob spent endless hours listening to the elder’s stories of “old” Samoa. After hearing in vivid detail of the 1918 flu epidemic that wiped out nearly 1/3 of the islands’ people, Rob knew he wanted to write Samoa’s story.

As time permitted over the next 20 years, Shaffer researched the information he would need to bring the islands’ history to life. His meticulous pursuit of detail required discussions with hundreds of Samoans, many of them born in the late 1800s. He scoured the great Pacific libraries from Auckland to Honolulu, as well as the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. gathering data. He has lived, sailed, paddled and walked in the footsteps of the novel’s characters, even undergoing the ancient Samoan tattooing ritual.
Since publishing the historical novel, the author has traveled throughout Samoa speaking at conferences and on high school and college campuses. He has also been a keynote speaker at special events at the Robert Louis Stevenson home and museum in Apia, Samoa. Common questions from these audiences included, “How did you make the book’s characters so real? How did you make their dialogue so realistic? How did you get so deeply into characters’ emotions?”

To answer those questions the author most often referred to the notation in Robert Louis Stevenson’s stepdaughter’s journal on the day Stevenson died.  While Louis dictated passages of his novel The Weir of Hermiston to Belle that morning, she noticed he seldom referred to his notes. Her journal records: “It seemed that Louis didn’t actually dictate the text of his novel. Rather, it was the living, self-willed characters in his novel that dictated the text to him.”

Rob noted this incident in the “Tusitala” chapter of SAMOA. To his audiences added, “My own experience in writing this book seemed very similar to the way Belle described Stevenson’s. It’s difficult to explain, but I became so deeply involved with the book’s characters that they began to tell their own story to me.”

One of the pivotal chapters in Samoa’s history took place in 1888-89 as Germany’s iron-fisted rule of Samoa together with their claims of Samoan land and natural resources clashed head-on with Samoa’s leading royal chief. The British and Americans supported the chief’s desire for Samoan independence. The deciding battle was looming, with warships positioning to open fire, when nature intervened, providing an outcome no one anticipated. Samoa’s “Hurricane” chapter captures all the drama of this incident, as does the screenplay the author has penned titled, “The Shark Hunter.”

Shaffer is currently under contract with the Office of the Governor of American Samoa to add four new chapters to the book American Samoa – 100 Years Under the United States Flag, a non-fiction, beautifully illustrated, coffee-table book. The author wrote the original edition for American Samoa’s centennial celebration as a U.S. territory in 2000. The new edition, which will be re-titled, will be available from Island Heritage Press, Honolulu, in June, 2016.

The SAMOA website www.samoanovel.com provides a direct link to Amazon kindle to purchase the e-book version of SAMOA plus provides reviews by the novel’s readers.

Read the HNS review for Samoa

HNS Indie Award 2014

HNS Indie Award Short List 2014
judged by Orna Ross

1. The Sower of the Seeds of Dreams by Bill Page
2. Blackmore’s Treasure by Derek Rogers (withdrawn, author deceased)
3. Jacobites' Apprentice by David Ebsworth
4. A Gift for the Magus by Linda Proud
5. The Prodigal Son by Anna Belfrage
6. The Bow of Heaven: Book 1: The Other Alexander by Andrew Levkoff
7. Khamsin: The Devil Wind of the Nile by Inge H. Borg
8. The Subtlest Soul by Virginia Cox
9. Samoa by J. Robert Shaffer

and the 2014 Four Finalists are:
judged by Elizabeth Chadwick

1. Jacobites' Apprentice by David Ebsworth
2. A Gift for the Magus by Linda Proud
3. The Subtlest Soul by Virginia Cox
4  Samoa by J. Robert Shaffer

full details and rules can be found here
and related article 

Previous Indie Award Spotlight Spots
 shortlisted author Andrew Levkoff
Elizabeth Chadwick: website
Indie B.R.A.G. website

HNS Conference 2014

Details of how to submit an Indie / self-published historical novel for review can be found here 


  1. Very exciting for the finalists :)

    1. Very! (Exciting for all historicl fiction indie writers in fact! :-)

  2. Congratulations to everyone! And thanks to HNS for being in the vanguard in support of indie authors.
    Is there another path to the contest rules that doesn't go through Google/Blogger? Google isn't letting me access it through either of my google email accounts and I don't like google enough to struggle with it. A straight-up web page, perhaps?

    1. Hi Anna, thank you for your kind word.
      It serems a bit odd that you can't access the rules which are on a different 'page' on this blog site when you could access this page OK - but that is the quirk of Google I expect. :-/ If you would like to e-mail me I can send you something direct. (We hope to get the rules up on the Historical Novel Society webpage soon - its a matter of finding the people and time to do it!)
      my e-mail authorAThelenhollickDOTnet

  3. Heartfelt congratulations to Mr. Shaffer. His "Samoa" is a breathtaking epic indeed. with best wishes for deserved success.

    (Well, blogger seems to like me this time enough to post my comment. I am glad because I truly wanted to pay homage to Mr. Shaffer)

    1. The quirks of blogger LOL - thank you Inge


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