SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—Author Buzz Anderson always dreamed of writing the great American novel.

Born in San Jose and then moving with his family to Capitola, Anderson has remained in Santa Cruz County for most of his life, attending local public schools, Cabrillo College and UC Santa Cruz. 

After studying journalism and literature, he shifted focus, getting into the auto parts business with his brother and then receiving a teaching credential. He published a book of poetry, “A Jar of Water” and continued to write on the side.

All the while, a much bigger story was forming in his head.

“My family was always interested in history,” he said. “I was always walking about Santa Cruz County, wondering if I was stepping in the same footsteps of the original habitants of the area. It was so interesting to me.”

It wasn’t until he retired that Anderson began writing what would become “Five Hundred Moons.” The historical fiction novel, which was released in late 2021, spans the years 1749 to 1793. It includes three storylines: The life of Junípero Serra and the Spanish colonizers that came to Alta, California; the indigenous Ohlone who struggled under the mission system; and a family from Europe who immigrated to the New World. The stories eventually intertwine and become one single narrative.

Anderson said that exploring the colonization of California’s indigenous peoples, in particular, was especially important to include.

“People are recently taking a harsher look at Serra, and the missions,” he said. “And for good reason. The system was awful. It got to the point where it was basically enslavement, the start of a genocide.”

The process of writing “Five Hundred Moons” was a big undertaking. At about 800 pages, the book was the result of dedication, passion and routine.

“I worked on it every day,” he said. “I gave my wife some pages to read, and she’d tell me what I did wrong … I asked other people, friends read it too.”

Anderson found an editor in Texas-based Sheila Setter, who worked with him on the manuscript for about a year.

“[Sheila] was really sharp—she caught me on some of the historical facts, and lots of grammar,” he laughed. “I’m really indebted to her.”

The most challenging thing about the project? Dialogue, as well as not comparing himself to other authors.

“The hardest thing was to find my own voice,” Anderson said. “But once I was confident that I didn’t have to follow someone else’s style, that I could follow my own path … It was much easier.”

“Five Hundred Moons” is now available at local bookstores such as Kelly’s Books in Watsonville, Two Birds in Capitola and Bookshop Santa Cruz, as well as on Amazon.

Anderson said that so far, he has received good feedback from family, friends and other readers who have picked up the book. 

“I’m pretty happy with it. I hope readers learn about some local history, but also have fun and be entertained,” he said. “I’m hoping someone will notice it, and get some recognition for writing it. At least in this area. If it’s only a local success, that’s enough for me.”

For information about Anderson and his works visit his Goodreads page.

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Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study Literature. She covers arts and culture, business, nonprofits and agriculture.


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