Monday, November 14, 2022

D.M. Rowell

Like her protagonist Mud, D.M. Rowell (Koyh Mi O Boy Dah) comes from a long line of Kiowa Storytellers. After a thirty-two-year career spinning stories for Silicon Valley startups and corporations with a few escapes creating award-winning independent documentaries, Rowell started a new chapter writing mysteries that share information about her Plains Indian tribe, the Kiowas.

Her new novel is Never Name the Dead.

My Q&A with the author:

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

I don’t think my book’s title, Never Name the Dead gives readers insight into the actual story, but for me it does mark it a Kiowa story. The title comes directly from text in the book. The protagonist, Mud discovers a body, when she tells her cousin Denny about the body, she stops abruptly before naming the man.

““… we will know who killed—.” I stopped before finishing the dead man’s name, remembering, we never name the dead.”

In the Kiowa culture, we do not say the name of the dead in fear of holding the spirit back from moving on. While the title wasn’t my first choice, I have come to like it. I think the title provides a hint of the Native American aspect in my mystery novel.

What's in a name?

I knew from the beginning that my Kiowa mixed-race protagonist would be named Mae and called Mud by family, friends and the Native community of her childhood. I chose the names specifically to honor my mom, Mae and her mother. I loved my grandmother’s nickname, Mud and knew it would be the perfect name for my main character. Mud/Mae is a strong, competent woman, just like her namesakes.

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

Teenage me would be beyond shock that I have a published novel. While I always dreamed of writing mysteries, it was in high school that a teacher shattered the dream for me. In an advanced writing class, a teacher strongly suggested I stick to nonfiction. She didn’t think I had the imagination or ability to create fiction. Unfortunately, I believed her.

I would love the teenage me to see we can live our dream.

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

Definitely harder to write beginnings. I’ve planned the first four Mud Sawpole mysteries to be brisk mysteries, each happening in less than twenty-four hours within a four-day period. The novels are fast paced, with Mud going from one adventure to the next before she finally solves a murder in each novel.

In my first drafts, I tend to crowd the first chapter with characters and happenings to get things moving. Fortunately, I have a wonderful editor that reminds me to slow down a bit in the beginning before letting the ride take off.

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

I do draw upon my experience as a curly-headed Kiowa grandchild running around summers in the backcountry of Oklahoma to build my character Mud. Though, I find that I take different elements from people I observe to create the perfect characters for my novel.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I was greatly influenced by my Kiowa grandfather, C. E. Rowell. He was the tribe’s historian, a traditional artist, and a master storyteller. His art and storytelling instilled a deep love and respect in me for my Kiowa heritage. Grandpa inspired me to be a storyteller and is the reason I blend insights about my Kiowa tribe’s history and traditions into each mystery.
Visit D. M. Rowell's website.

My Book, The Movie: Never Name the Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue