Writing Real Literature:
a reply to a reader who suggested more dramatic action near the end of each book
[spoiler alert for those potential readers who
are sensitive to such things]
Keep in mind that I set out to write traditional, somewhat old school, occasionally boring Literature.
Popular fiction was the farthest thing from my mind. Foremost was positive characters and themes set in reality: real settings with real events tracking in realistic, logical, sometimes boring order in the plot. Simulation of life was paramount. Thus, as you complained, in book 1, Aaron kills the main villain in the cornfield outside the mission long before the end of the story. But that is how life happens, and that shooting was not the main story anyway. It was just the main concern of the individuals as far as danger. In real life, the bad can show up at any time. But the main drama does resolve at the end of Sangre de Cristo. Actually, the main tension in the plot was twofold: first, the potential meeting between Aaron and Sheriff Tom Baker, and secondly the realization of his and Sunny's love.
That, the romance between the two, is what Sangre de Cristo is all about. Their love was the real story, what the book was really about: how and when those two would get together. That is also why the book's most dramatic and important scene was even earlier, when Sunny gives up her life to save Aaron when Sheriff Tom Baker almost ends her in a mercy killing. Sunny's sacrificial offer to Aaron is one of the whole series’ most important scenes because it illustrates her three main character strengths in one dramatic moment. She possesses extreme levels of self-sacrifice, courage, and compassion. This defines her throughout the rest of the series.
What I am trying to say is that people are defined by their era and by their actions and words within it. Thus the era and the events within it are just props or theatrical vehicles for characters' heroic or bad behavior. Thus the trip to the Shenandoah in book 4 is less about the fight with the nightriders and more about everything else that occurred during their travel: Sunny's introduction to Aaron's family, the trip to the university, the death of Jane from leukemia, and other events. The trip West was more about the reconnection with Elaina, the trip to the Navajo homeland, Sunny's memories of childhood and young adulthood, and the growth of the children than about the plot to steal the mission lands. Both trips were about Sunny's growing courage and tactical skills, and they are also revealing in her growing confidence, a confidence that gets a bit too big. That is where the fighting action is most important, where it reveals her developing character and even flaws.
Action sequences are very important as they are the vehicles in which a person's character is seen to grow and strengthen in some while it may dwindle and fail in others. The stories' action scenes mold the main players' (heroes' and heroines') character and showcases it as well.
Throughout all of this, another theme is the constant positive relationship of the two lovers and those of the other important couples. This story is above all about strong marriages.