Monday, October 10, 2022

Marcie R. Rendon

Marcie Rendon is an enrolled member of the White Earth Nation, a Pinckley Prize-winning author, playwright, poet, freelance writer, and a community arts activist. Rendon was awarded the McKnight Distinguished Artist Award for 2020. She is a speaker on Native issues, leadership, and writing. Her second novel in her Cash Blackbear mystery series, Girl Gone Missing, was nominated for the Sue Grafton Memorial Award. Rendon was recognized as a 50 over 50 Change-maker by Minneapolis AARP and Pollen in 2018.

Her new novel is Sinister Graves, the third Cash Blackbear mystery.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Sinister Graves grew in my imagination on a long drive through the northwest states with no towns or gas stations in sight. I stopped at a graveled pull-off near a postage-stamp-sized grassy field. I discovered it was a family grave site, pre-Spanish flu era, where a mother and father were buried long after five children were buried there. Each child had only lived a mere 2 years. I looked up and down the vast mountain and imagined a mother who suffered from post-partum depression. And in that isolated rural place, who would have questioned, who would have lived close enough, at that time in history, to even question the untimely demise of so many two year olds in one family? Graveyards in general don’t scare me, but this one contained Sinister Graves.

What's in a name?

Cash Blackbear got her nickname Cash when as a young teen in foster care, she worked the fields with the men. When they asked her why she worked with them instead of in the house with the women, she would reply, “I need the cash.” By the end of the first summer, Renee Blackbear was known from then on as Cash. For the other characters in Sinister Graves I did a google search for obscure Scandinavian names because I have many readers from the Red River Valley, and while they love recognizing towns and roads from where they live, the communities are small enough that I can’t risk naming a murderer after a living (or past living) person from the area.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

My teenage self would be thrilled that I found a way to tell these stories. I love to read and have been a voracious reader since I learned to read. I grew up in the rural north and the county Bookmobile was my lifeline to the world. My teenage self would be so pleased to see the stories of her region and people brought to life in the pages of a novel. Now my grandchildren, on the other hand, read Sinister Graves, shook their heads and said, “Really Grandma, Really?” and “I’ll never look at a church in the country in the same way ever again.”

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Cash Blackbear, in Sinister Graves, sets out to solve the murder of a woman who washes into town with the spring flood – nothing Cash can’t handle. But when Cash, searching for the identity of the dead woman, discovers small graves in a rural churchyard, things get harder for her to understand and cope with. As the story progressed it became imperative to reach into the depth of Cash’s being in order to finish the story, move it to completion in a way that would continue to honor her strength and resiliency.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

Other Native American women have told me that I am telling their story. They see themselves in Cash Blackbear. Non-Native women admire Cash, and many have said to me, “I wish my younger self had been more like Cash.” Cash is not me; I am not Cash. But I do believe Cash is an embodiment of the resilience and compassion of many women who have lived an unhappy childhood who have persevered with determination to make a different life for themselves and for others.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I love visual art and the creation of beauty. My hope is that my writing is written with beauty and creates a visual story in the reader’s mind. I am also inspired by nature and the natural world around us that sustains us as humans. I am easily influenced by the human experience around me; always silently observing, always eavesdropping and always creating stories in my head for my own amusement.
Visit Marcie R. Rendon's website.

The Page 69 Test: Sinister Graves.

--Marshal Zeringue