Blood Memory Q & A
Q. Tell us about Blood Memory. What's it about?
A. It's a suspense novel set in Denver that features an investigative reporter, Catherine McLeod, and a Denver police detective, Nick Bustamante. Someone is trying to kill Catherine, not because of something she has written but because of something she is about to write. She has no idea of what it might be, but to save her own life, she must uncover the story.
Q. Where did you get the idea for the story? Are you always asked that?
A. Oh, yes. The story is based on the actual efforts of the Arapahos and Cheyennes in 2004 to get land near Denver for a casino. I had followed the story with no intention of ever writing about it. But when I started thinking about doing a suspense novel, there it was--the perfect idea upon which to hang the plot.
Q. All your novels weave in a good deal of history. Is that true for Blood Memory?
A. I'm a recovering historian. Still I can't help myself. I love writing about history, and Blood Memory gave me the chance to write about Denver's past and the history of the Arapahos when this was their land. So the story that Catherine unravels in the present takes her into the past. And it's only when she understands what happened more than a hundred years ago that she is able to comprehend what is going on today. I like the way the past always influences the present.
Q. And characters? Where do they come from?
A. Out of the same nether space as plots, I think. Seriously, Catherine McLeod and Nick Bustamante started walking around in my mind. The same thing had happened with Father John O'Malley and Vicky Holden fifteen years ago. These people seem as real as lifelong friends. I feel as if I know them that well. It's a weird and wonderful experience to have people pop into your head like that. But we're a weird bunch, writers.
Q. Your Wind River mystery series has been very successful. Why interrupt the flow at this point with a stand-alone novel set in a different place with a whole different cast of characters?
A. I've read a lot of suspense novels and thought: That looks like fun to write. I think writers like to spread our wings, try something new. I believe it sharpens our writerly skills. And there's always that question in the back of our minds: Can I pull it off?
Q. Did you pull it off?
A. I think I did. There is a lot of tension all the way through Blood Memory. Even when Catherine and the reader finally uncover the story and realize who has hired the assassin to kill her, the assassin is still out there. So we know that Catherine isn't safe yet. Not until the end, which I hope will be a shocker. I think the cover should have carried the spoiler warning: Do Not Skip to the End.
Q. What's different about a suspense novel, as opposed to a mystery like your other novels?
A. Well, in a mystery, the crime--usually murder--has already occurred and, in my novels, Father John and Vicky must figure out whodunit before the murderer can kill again. That's the basic outline. In a suspense novel, the crime hasn't yet occurred, but we know it is planned. In Blood Memory, an assassin has been hired to kill Catherine McLeod. So the plot is all about how the character must stop the crime from taking place.
Q. Which do you prefer? Mystery or suspense?
A. I have to say I always prefer the novel I'm writing at the moment. It is always, hands down, the most fascinating. Right now I'm back with Father John and Vicky on the Wind River Reservation, deep into the next novel--a mystery. Fascinating. But last year I was deep into Blood Memory and loved every minute of it.
Q. What's next for you?
A. More of the same, I think. Which means, more suspense and more mysteries.