We asked the author of Motherless some questions about the book becoming a film. Here are the questions and his answers.

  1. Why does Motherless need to be made into a film?
  2. Why is Motherless the one to tell this story?
  3. Why should I invest in Motherless?
  4. How will Motherless stand apart from other films/make a profit?
  5. Do you have a niche audience? Do you have some insight into the subject matter? What about your background makes you the ideal person to tell this story.

Why does Motherless need to be made into a film?

Motherless is a film to stir up a part of humanity that is dormant and cause a hunger for more. A film that would have the gift of touching that part of one’s being not seen by the naked eye.

  1. Some Reasons Why the Story Needs to be Told: With regard to contemporary life, underrepresentation in films of traditional Indigenous philosophy in contemporary settings; underrepresentation of strong, relatable female characters, especially Indigenous; underrepresentation in contemporary films of millions of “Non-Status” or “Federally unrecognized” or “non-tribally enrolled” Indigenous people; underrepresentation of the link and value between older and younger generations; underrepresentation of the history and contributions of Indigenous peoples; underrepresentation of the meaning and importance of family that extends beyond blood and species.   Almost three quarters of people who identify as Native Americans in the United States DO NOT live on reservations. In Canada, it is also reported that nearly 60% of people who identify as Indigenous, or First Nations People, do not live on reserves. In the U.S., this does not include the thousands of Indigenous peoples from Mexico and Central and South America who also live in the United States, but identify themselves as Indians. Many are of tribally mixed and/or undetermined Native blood or other races, and most are disenfranchised. As a result of hundreds of years of interracial and intertribal relationships, a very diverse looking population has emerged. And so, while most all other contemporary films seem to want to keep Native characters somewhere in the past, particularly the 1800’s or within the boundaries of the 21stcentury reservation, MOTHERLESS becomes an exception. As a result, within the limitations of these dominant parameters, most films over the last hundred years require the actors who play the Native roles to fit a stereotypical appearance that abandons the reality of how diverse 21stcentury Indigenous people look. Along with many people, several well-known actors and performers today personally claim Indigenous identity, but often do not assert publicly to avoid ridicule because they don’t look like the image of how a “real Indian” is supposed to look, or cannot provide “proof of Indian blood”. Even the President of the United States in his business dealings with East Coast native people, recently stated, … They weren’t really Indians, don’t even look like real Indians.  MOTHERLESS offers an Indigenous perspective of identity that emanates from the heart, and is rooted in traditional teachings.     
  2. Underrepresentation of respect for the elderly, and the value of grandparents: In the United States, “Nationwide, 2.7 million grandparents are raising grandchildren…” In MOTHERLESS,Walter Peek, of mixed Mayan, Native American, and Irish descent, and a widower, assumes the responsibility of raising Rainy, his only grandchild, a selfless act of love and courage as he now faces the challenges of old age. MOTHERLESS is a film to help show some of the difficulties our elders face, the respect that can be given to them by the young, but also ways of how ancient wisdom, life experience, and an unconditional love that grandparents can possess, can be passed on to their grandchildren.           
  3. Underrepresentation of strong female characters: From an orphaned five and a half year old child, to a young woman about to receive a doctoral degree, and at a time in film when super heroes (male and female) have super powers unattainable for children and young adults, Rainy Peek’s strength and power are deeply rooted in the feminine, and in the cultural and spiritual teachings given to her by her grandfather. As well as her spiritual relationship with the creative forces and energies in the world, all teachings center on the idea, Earth is MotherEarth is female.           
  4. Scientists have stated,“Human activity is causing one of the largest mass extinction of species the world has ever seen….”MOTHERLESS is at its core, a contemporary eco-story that depicts the interconnectedness of all things, an interrelationship with all things, intertwined in a philosophy that affirms an Indigenous perspective of the world, and of the universe.      
  5. Science declares that “… The ocean is running out of oxygen at a rapid speed—and the depletion could choke to death much of the marine life these waters support…. The oceans are dying.” Shortly after the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Americans showed a significant rise in concern over the unchecked demands and use of fossil fuels. This sentiment was shared by people around the world. There was a call for implementation of cleaner energy sources as well. Several months after the catastrophic spill, a sharp decrease of interest followed. Today, humans have reached the tipping point of choosing. MOTHERLESS asa film can create for the audiences a more deeper appreciation and more compassionate reconnection to the waters of the earth, as well as all life, and to the care and responsibilities needed to live in a healthy and more “balanced” way, and to feel through an Indigenous perspective what it means to be a human being of this planet, and what it means to be truly motherless.                                                                                  

Why is Motherless the one to tell this story?

I cannot separate my writing from the spiritual relationship I maintain with the story. 

  1. As MOTHERLESS shows, some Indigenous people still believe in the power of dreams. They can be important influences in one’s life. The conception of MOTHERLESS occurred in such a dream. It was a haunting dream of three turtles, two young ones and a great Mother. Throughout the writing process, the power of Mother Turtle became a prominent symbol. She represents an essential spiritual element that interconnects with the act of the novel’s writing. Inseparable. Even ceremonial. When the novel was completed years later, it is not surprising, that on the night after the last chapter/scene had been written and the book was done, another dream had occurred; the turtles had returned to me. I was standing on a jetty overlooking a shimmering lagoon, and emerging from the water, the Mother Turtle shape-shifted into a woman who stood in front of me. Her back turned to me. We spent a moment in peaceful silence watching the young ones, circling close by. Then her transformation set in motion, and she reached back with her flipper, brushing it across my outstretched hand. She said, as she descended, without looking at me, Thank you for all you have done.And then she was a Turtle Mother returned to the water that sustains the world. I watched with apprehension as she and her two children headed out into the vast expanse of the incredible sea. Her journey has always been, for me, and still is now, the metaphor for MOTHERLESS.  
  2. Throughout the creative process of MOTHERLESS as a novel, female energy had embraced the story. From the main character that is Rainy Peek, to the other strong and positive female characters; and from the Earth and Moon and other lifeforms came female energy; from the girls and women and grandmothers who read the drafts; from the publisher, and the editor, and the design team whose book cover won an award. Women – the feminine – spiritual energy vitalizing the Turtle’s journey. Female energy.               

Soon after MOTHERLESS became an audio book, narrated by Barbara Best, I was deeply moved listening to her audio version. Through Barbara, the Turtle’s journey could now reach an even wider audience, some of those who can’t see to read, who can’t find time to sit holding a book to read, and those who simply need a good story and soothing voice to fall asleep … reading. Happily, Barbara was so moved while narrating the audio book, she was drawn to lend her passion and conviction, her professionalism, and partnership, to help each of us help manifest the Mother Turtle’s journey of MOTHERLESS into film. 

Who else to tell this story for the world to be a better place, a more loving, kind, compassionate, and peaceful place where all beings can be respected and appreciated? Who else will lend their energies and gifts and passions to a film that can one day touch and stir and rekindle the collective goodness of the human spirit?

Why should I invest in Motherless?

All over the world, the Earth is in need of people who are in need of that which reconnects them to the Natural world, and to a more natural way of being human. The other night, I watched a national news broadcast showing, that even in places like Tehran, Iranian people make their ways to the mountains on weekends to stand or sit on top of a ledge to take-in that breath of freedom in the clean air, and to feel that weight of the civilized world fall away. A place to reconnect to Nature. And, everywhere it seems, pockets of Indigenous peoples are struggling to maintain and live their world view that the Earth is a living being; Earth is the Great Mother; Earth is the living being that sustains us. Should you decide to invest in the film MOTHERLESS, you are investing in a bond that reconnects young and older generations, a film that shows a respectful relationship among humans beings, and among animal, and all forms of life. You would be investing in a film that honors an Indigenous perspective of experience, history, and culture, that shows an Indigenous view of life that is viable today, and in the direst of ways so needed to help move diverse audiences to feel for the life they share with all beings on this planet. If you invest in MOTHERLESS as a film, you would be helping to provide a unique experience, a story that offers a look into the lives of Indigenous people separated from the reservation system, and out of personal choice and or circumstance, remain undefined by bureaucratic and racist laws. You will be investing in the greater balance, for very few contemporary films over long stretches of time, have ever gone where MOTHERLESS goes. Through the film idea of MOTHERLESS, those of us involved have invested in the life of our Earth. Invested in our love for our children, and our children’s children. Invested in the wisdom of our ancient past. We’ve invested in the appreciation for the animals, invested in the gratitude of all that we take, in the respect and love that we can give back. MOTHERLESS can be an investment that will help save our humanity. Our planet…. As eleven year old Rainy observes approaching the sacred island on her door, the nests of turtles have nearly disappeared. There is this ominous ticking inside our brains and this rapid beating of our hearts, telling usWithout the turtles, there’s no more running out of time….  

How will Motherless stand apart from other films/make a profit?

Although fiscal profit is often the driving force behind the motivation investors feel when considering a project, MOTHERLESS has the capability of fulfilling more than just monetary needs. It has the capability of feeding those connected to it, both morally and ethically, and presents an opportunity to tap the greater aspects of our humanity.                                                  In a scene from MOTHERLESSGrandpa is sitting at the kitchen table with his 11 year old granddaughter Rainy. They are in deep discussion about a perspective of history not taught at her school…. Then Grandpa’s eyes shifted to the front door, gazing momentarily through the screen into the yard, seeing with his mind’s eye all the way to the shore, and beyond, where turquoise water sparkled in the light of the Sun, and dolphins breached and mantas swam, and life was going on as it had for a billion years. And then he saw further out, the drilling platforms disrupting the beauty and the balance…. 

“Some of ‘em,” he said, “will do anything for oil, or coal, or gas, and just about anything else that makes money. That’s their true history, always takin’ more than they need. Not thinkin’ of the mess they’ll be leavin’ for the children of the world, and their children’s children … only the bottom line.”                                                                                                                        

Of course, profit is a driving force of investment, but it is not the only one. Other forces can be involved, like for some of us, the hours, the days, and months it takes, and even years to create something wonderful to put into the world. Something meaningful and powerful that can help make the world a better place, a more beautiful and more compassionate place. For others, the investment is their acquired knowledge, their creativity, expertise, experience, the wisdom that comes from age, the energy that emanates from youth, their talents and gifts, their entrepreneurship, their professionalism, their passion. But in the end, we all need those who find ways to make available the funds, the money, the source that enables the project to manifest. Such investments allow us to go home to our children, our husbands and wives and life companions, and dogs and cats, to all those who love us, and to feel good about ourselves because we invested in something that makes for positive change. Investment is risk. For Motherless, investing involves a commitment of not only money, but faith in the project and in the people responsible for making it happen. Faith in our humanity. In our abilities. Faith in the future of our world. Faith that the risk has been minimalized with all of this. I cannot guarantee a financial profit for the film Motherless anymore that I could guarantee profit to one of my several publishers who invested in my stories, my books, my writing. And yet, everything I’ve ever written has found a publishing home, has found a publisher willing to invest in my work, and those publishers have each, to some degree, profited. Sometimes money was in an issue with me, but never a reason for me to write or create. The dignity of fairness, and the dignity of the knowledge and wisdom passed on to me were my requirements. I understand that investors want to show a profit, even need to show profit, and I feel strongly that the film Motherless will provide that profit. The bottom line may just be that more people from all generations today than we can imagine, are feeling the need of another way to perceive life, and the way we are living. Perhaps more people than we can imagine are searching for that kinship with all things, that reconnection to the greater idea of love and family, an audience in need of feeling valued for their own wisdom and compassion. An audience seeking to return to a more peaceful relationship with each other, with other forms of living beings, and with the very planet that sustains all life as we know it. I think that films such as Whale Rider and The Life of Pi show audiences open and wanting more. Perhaps for some it is a film like MOTHERLESS that could cause a spark that inspires them in education, and for others, Motherless can reawaken the ancient and newborn feelings of life within the collective heart of audiences everywhere that will lead to a more peaceful world, a more promising, hopeful future. That to me is a worth-while investment, part of the balance that helps to counteract the dirty money and greed syndrome, an investment that can very well produce the fiscal profit without foregoing, but rather supporting, the balance….

Do you have a niche audience? Do you have some insight into the subject matter? What about your background makes you the ideal person to tell this story.

As the author of the novel MOTHERLESS, I feel this brief biography can be helpful with answers to these questions. The bio does show that I have been an educator for over forty years. I have used films like Whale Rider in my classes, and encouraged others to do likewise. I feel that Motherless is the kind of film to be seen in certain courses, as it has been already used as a novel in middle school classes in Chicago. What the following bio may not show, is that I share the complexities associated with the Indigenous identity of the main characters in the story, and that I am an individual who is also not defined by tribal or federal governments, not defined by blood quantum, or card numbers, but defined by my life, my heart, my family, and the way I have lived. My path of Indigenous identity has provided me an experiential understanding of what that identity means to me.            

Booklist called Gabriel Horn… “A generous, searching writer…” and his work “…mesmerizing… lyrical… powerful”; The Tampa Tribune,“…insightful and eloquent”; the American Indian Library Journal, “…too appealing to resist reading a second time”; and Spirituality & Health magazine stated that “…. Horn demonstrates a kind of radical amazement, a deep feeling tinged with both awe and wonder….”                                                                        

He is also an award-winning author and retired professor of literature and creative writing. His publications span across four decades, and include, for children: his first book, Ceremony – in the Circle of Life,Beyond Words Publishing. Ceremony – in the Circle of Life was selected as a Notable Children’s Trade by the National Council of Social Studies Teachers. As White Deer of Autumn, he also authored for children, The Great Change, (a featured book at the Multicultural Children’s Book Festival in Washington DC), and Native People/Native Ways, a four book series for readers from middle school and up, surveying the history, achievements, and world views of Native Americans (translated into Italian).                                        

For adults, and young adults, his works include Native Heart,Contemplations of a Primal MindThe Book of Ceremonies, and co-authored with his wife Amy, a novel of magical realism, TranscendenceHis most recent novel MOTHERLESS, was the inaugural publication of Lisa Hagan Books.        In 2017, his book, Spirit Drumming…was released by Sterling Ethos.                        

Excerpts of his works have been anthologized in college texts on writing and for Western Humanities, and included in several acclaimed literary anthologies. In 1973, Gabriel Horn’s A Chant to Lure Honor, was the concluding selection for the college text and anthology, Literature of the American Indian. His work also appeared in the Marjorie Kinnan RawlingsJournal of Florida Literature, and Unraveling the Spreading Cloth of TimeIndigenous Thoughts Concerning the Universe.He has provided an interview for Stephan Martin’s book, Cosmic Conversations, and he is the editor and the author of the Editor’s Note in the Harvey Arden and Steve Wall national best seller, Wisdomkeepers – Meetings with Native American Spiritual Elders. Gabriel Horn is also a featured writer in The American Eagle, selected by former President George Bush Sr. as a Presidential Gift-of-State, who presented the book to the Queen of England. He is a contributing writer in A Circle of NationsVoices and Visions of Native America. Other writings have appeared in Native People’s magazine and other national and international publications, and have been included in the anthology, Our Kinship with the Animals, featuring one of Gabriel’s heroes, world-renowned scientist, Jane Goodall. His essay, “Genocide of a Generation’s Identity,”is featured in the anthology, Genocide of the Mind, also showcasing an introduction by the late Lakota scholar and author, Vine Deloria Jr. Most recently, Gabriel has written a non-fiction story for a new 2016, Native American anthology, When Spirits Visit.                                                                                                                                    

One of his books for children, The Great Change, was honored at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts where he gave a performative reading. The Book of Ceremonies, New World Library, has been available for purchase at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. Selected Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, Gabriel Horn was presented with the Florida Space Coast Writers Guild’s Award for 1996Distinguished Educator, Author, and Master Children’s Writer. In 2009, he received the University of South Florida’s Distinguished Alumni Award for Professional Achievement. In 2012, he  co-authored with his wife Amy, the 2012 National Indie Excellence Book Award winner for visionary fiction,TranscendenceAnd in 2015, Gabriel Horn was honored as Professor Emeritus at St. Petersburg College where he taught for twenty-two years. In 2015, MOTHERLESS received the Florida Book Award for young adult fiction, and in 2016, was the winner of the International Book Award for multicultural fiction.                                                   

Retired from teaching writing and literature since 2012, Gabriel has also instructed young journalists for the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. At other times he has taught graduate courses, and addressed audiences as an invited guest for colleges and universities across the country. And, on different occasions, he had served as a wisdomkeeper for The Wisdomkeepers Program in North Carolina, where, in addition, he had co-founded and co-directed the first Native American Writers Camp for children on the Cherokee reservation. He has been a special guest on various local television programs, National Public Radio, MSNBC’s Time & Again, Wolf Mountain Radio for Peace International, and a record breaking listening audience on Gia Scott’s radio program, Dawn of Shades. Recently, author, Jeannine Wiest, interviewed Gabriel on his novel MOTHERLESS for her radio seminar, Healing Your Mojo II. MOTHERLESS has also been chosen as a book club selection. It is the recipient of various literary, educational, and design awards.                                                                                                                         

For over 40 years, from reservation schools, to American Indian Movement (AIM) Survival Schools, to public schools, colleges, and universities, Gabriel Horn has unwaveringly advocated the academic respect due the history, literature, and philosophy of Native America. And, he has been advocate and activist for the spiritual rights of traditional Native peoples, as well as an outspoken defender of the natural world. He has been a teacher, and an eclectic writer, whose “mind, heart, and spirit will be forever Indigenous”.                                                                         

His Narragansett/Wampanoag uncles, Metacomet and Nippawanock, had written of Gabriel, saying; “We are proud of our nephew, for it is in blood as strong as his, that the words of the people ring on the land.”

Read the Synopsis of Motherless here.