Today we're talking with Margaret Coel, author ofThe Spider’s Web (A Wind River Reservation Mystery).
FQ: To start off, I want to say I am a big fan of the Wind River stories. And the first question I have is...Father John O'Malley and Arapaho attorney, Vicki Holden, have become like "friends" through the years. They are written so well, from the inside out, that I was wondering if these characters are purely fictional or based on "real" people?
Both Father John and Vicky are total fiction. I feel bad saying that because they seem so real to me. I don't want to hurt their feelings! I call them my "dream people" because they came to me in dreams while I was thinking about the first novel, The Eagle Catcher, and was trying to come up with the main sleuths. But I'm told that a favorite guessing game on the Wind River Reservation is who Father John and Vicky really are!
FQ: I live in the Southwest and I was always told that the West is truly beautiful country, which comes through in your books. In your opinion is this the "Paradise on Earth?" Because of the scenery, the history, or is the community simply the best there is?
I love both the people and the landscape. I'm a westerner myself, a fourth-generation Colorado, so I write about the kind of people I know in my bones. Independent, self-sufficient, stubborn, good-hearted and tough! You have to be that way to survive in some of the rugged landscape that abounds in the West, especially in Wyoming. It is still the last frontier. But the landscape, as challenging as it may be (and need I mention the weather? Winds, blizzards, heat-waves?) is so beautiful in its own stark and gripping way. As Father John says, out here you feel like you're walking around in the sky.
FQ: The Ten Arapaho Commandments I find truly interesting. Is this something you came across as you studied the Nation, or are they personal to you? And, of all, what is the one that perhaps "strikes home" the most?
The Ten Commandments are the basis for a series of short stories I wrote for ASAP Publishing. (An anthology of these stories plus other short stories I have written will be published next March.) They are the same as the Judeo-Christian commandments, but what I found interesting was the different ways in which they could be interpreted within the Arapaho culture. I'm probably partial to Deadend, based on the sixth commandment, "Thou Shalt Do No Murder." It deals with the way in which a community comes together to ensure justice is dispensed when the usual methods fail.
FQ: I know classic novels are a favorite of yours. Which would you say is the one that "speaks" to you...Edith Wharton's writing, or someone else?
Oh, I am such a huge Edith Wharton fan. I've read and reread House of MIrth many times. I love Henry James, and Portrait of a Lady is one of my all time favorite novels. Recently I reread Anna Karenina, in the stunningly beautiful translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. But I'm a big mystery fan, naturally. I love mysteries that work history into the story, such as Alan Furst's novels. I love Elizabeth George and Deborah Crombie and Peter Robinson.
FQ: You've won many awards (as you should) for your writing. I know the one thing that all authors want to know is how you first got published? In this day and age people/writers can gve up much more easily because of the economy shattering publishers left and right that it seems like luck is the largest factor in any project lately. Your thoughts on this?
Things are definitely changing in the publishing world, and I'm not sure anyone knows what the final outcome might be, which makes it tough for newcomers to figure out how to get in. But there are also more opportunities than when I started. It was pretty much cut and dried then. A publisher either accepted or rejected you, and that was it. I was lucky that I found an agent who liked my novel, The Eagle Catcher, and sold it, along with the next two novels, to Berkley Publishing. Today, new authors have the option of publishing on the internet, and creating e-books. There are even new publishers just for e-books, so the traditional book publishers are not the only game in town. With all the changes, I still believe the best advice I can give a hopeful writer is: Be Persistent. You simply should never give up. Keep improving your craft and scoping out different ways to get your stories in front of readers.