Our Author

Naida West

 ​​​Author Naida West formerly lived on a small ranch bounded on the south by the Cosumnes River and the north and west by Rancho Murieta, a distant suburb of Sacramento. That place and the larger Sacramento area is the primary setting of her three history novels. During her 20 years of researching and writing about the people who walked the ranch before her, large new houses altered the area, but artifacts from the ground and the unchanged river continued to inspire her.

West mixes real-life people and true events with representational characters to bring the past to vivid life. Her novels are soul-stirring sagas, and her endnotes educate readers who want to know more about the historical people and events.

Born in Idaho, West spent her early years in small towns and farms and ranches, often living with relatives. Among the many schools, she attended a one-room schoolhouse in Montana Her relatives were Methodist, Catholic, and agnostic. They included conscientious objectors, military patriots, alcoholics and religious teetotalers. Politically they ranged from far left socialists to far right Republicans — all of them opinionated people. They raised sheep and cattle, potatoes and sugarbeets, they practiced law, the Christian ministry. In all locations Naida wandered through open fields, hills and along streams, loving nature. Her greatest influence was her grandmother, Elizabeth Symon Smith.

In the 8th grade Naida and her siblings moved with their divorced mother to Carmel, CA, a coastal town of spectacular beauty. From its beginning, Carmel was the home of artists and writers, some of them renown and still working in the 1950s when Naida lived there. Her mother made $1/hour, but Naida and her brother worked after school and on weekends. Her mother became a piano bar player, which made it possible to buy a car. In Carmel Naida flourished. See Daughter of the West: Herstory. Part I.

During high school Naida was an exchange student in Germany, and after graduation she returned Germany where she interpreted German to English for the Indian government. Back in the U.S. she married, gave birth to her first child, and earned a B.A. from UC Berkeley. Her husband worked at the Capitol, so Naida moved to Sacramento and, after her second child was born, earned her MA at Sacramento State University. She was elected to the San Juan School District board. After her third child was born, she earned a Ph.D. in sociology from UC Davis in 1979.  “New babies sleep a lot, so after each baby I went back to school, took night classes, and had time to study." She continued to write poetry, a habit since the age of 14. 
Naida has been a potato picker, house cleaner, waitress, secretary, interpreter, telephone operator, statistical analyst of violent criminals in California, and college teacher. Advancement in academia proved impossible without moving her family, so, with her husband working in Sacramento, Naida changed careers. For a decade she worked as a consultant specializing in coastal issues. Then in the early 1990s she stopped all other work to write history novels full-time. She had moved to an historical ranch alongside the Cosumnes River and “Magically,” she says, “all of it flows into my writing.”

All of her books have won awards, and in May 2011, Rest for the Wicked won first place for historical fiction in the Next Generation Indie Book Award — the only national, not-for-profit competition available for independently published books, similar to the Sundance Film Festival for independently produced films. 
Needing to be closer to medical facilities when her husband became ill, Naida now lives in Sacramento, a five-minute walk from the trails along the American River, where she continues to be inspired by nature. She expects to finish Part II of her memoir — Daughter of the West: Herstory — in a year or two.

Naida and another local author created the Authors Booth at the State Fair, and she has managed it for 23 years. A lively speaker, she has spoken at writer conferences,   led writer workshops, and addressed numerous book clubs and all kinds of groups about the subject matter of her books and the process of writing and publishing. For many years she has led hundreds of people on walks beside the Cosumnes River to show them places where events in her books took place.