Rocco welcomes NYT Bestselling author Margaret Coel!
Margaret Coel is the author of nineteen award-winning mystery novels set among the Arapahos on Wyoming’s Wind River Reservation, including THE MAN WHO FELL FROM THE SKY, the most recent entry in what Booklist calls “the consistently strong Wind River series.” The novels feature Jesuit priest Father John O’Malley and Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden. She is also the author of two suspense novels set in Denver.
Margaret’s novels have been on the bestseller lists of the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News. She is a six-time winner of the Colorado Book Award and a winner of the Willa (Cather) Award for Best Novel of the West. She has received the Frank Waters Award for “exemplary literary achievement,” the High Plains Emeritus Literary Award for “a lifetime of outstanding work, ” and the Colorado Arts and Humanities Lifetime Achievement Award. THE SPIDER’S WEB received the 2010 Hillerman Sky Award for the most evocative descriptions of the Southwest.
She is also the author of the short story collection Watching Eagles Soar as well as many articles for publications such as American Heritage and The New York Times. She has published four non-fiction books, including CHIEF LEFT HAND, a history of the Arapahos, published by the University of Oklahoma Press and winner of the Best Non-Fiction Book Award from the National Association of Press Women. The Colorado Historical Society lists both Chief Left Hand and GOIN’ RAILROADING, the book Margaret wrote with her father, among the best 100 books on Colorado history.
Margaret is a fourth-generation Coloradan. She resides in Boulder where she writes from a study that looks out over the Rocky Mountains. A herd of deer graze on the hill outside her window and from time to time, a mountain lion will wander past. “Everyday,” she says, “I drink in the West.”
R: Welcome Margaret. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing.
Thanks Rocco. I think I was born a writer. It is the only thing I ever wanted to do and, as it turns out, the only thing I’ve done. I got a degree in journalism and French literature, went to work as a newspaper reporter, graduated to writing magazine articles and non-fiction books. And finally landed where I had always wanted to be: writing novels.
R: Tell us about your Wind River Mystery series. What inspired that?
My first non-fiction book was a history of the Arapahos when they lived on the plains of Colorado, as well as a biography of one of their great chiefs. It is titled Chief Left Hand and is still in print after thirty-some years. The five years I spent researching and writing that book took me into the Arapaho world. I have never left.
R: Tell us about your other series, Catherine McLeod.
I’m a native of Denver, and I think of my McLeod series as love letters to the city. I wanted to write about an urban Arapaho, caught up in the day-to-day madness of city life. Since I had veen a reporter in Denver, I thought my urban Arapaho character would be a reporter. So Catherine McLeod was born.
R: Your series feature the Arapahos prominently. How did you become interested in them?
They were the people of the plains in Colorado. Half of Colorado once belonged to them and the Cheyennes. I’m a 4th generation Coloradan, and I was always interested in the people who had been here before my people and everybody else came and changed everything. I started reading about these tribes. You never know where you’ll go when you read a book, and pretty soon, I was researching and planning my own book on the Arapahos.
R: Do you have an “how I got my agent” story you’d like to share? How did you feel when you got the call your first novel had sold?
When I had finished my first novel (you cannot sell what you don’t have!) I went to writers conferences and met with editors and agents. I had perfected my elevator pitch: I have written a novel like Tony Hillerman’s novels. At least that got their attention. Several editors asked to see the manuscript. I did not send it. Instead, I contacted agents I had liked and told them editors were waiting to see the manuscrpt. It worked. I had several agents offer to represent me, and I chose the one I thought I could work best with.
How did I feel when the call came that the novel was sold? Ecstatic and scared, because Berkley Publishing, which had bought the novel, also wanted two more. So I had to get right to work. No time to celebrate.
R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?
Quiet. My own office. I’m not a writer who can write at Starbucks or on airplanes. I need a cup of tea nearby.
R: If you had access to a time machine, which historical moment would you travel to and why?
Gettysburg when Lincoln spoke. That must have been awesome.
R: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?
I am a seriously addicted movie fan, especially old movies. I love them all and spend wayyyyy too much time watching them, over and over again sometimes. Godfather, anybody? Any movie with Cary Grant and Doris Day? Count me in.
R: What is the craziest thing you've ever done?
Went to visit a very dangerous site on the Wind River Reservation against the advice of my Arapaho friends. But I was writing about the place and wanted to see it. When I got there, I interrupted a drug deal and got shot at! As a result I was shot at. Now that was crazy.
R: What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?
Maybe an appreciation of the American West and our rich and riveting history. Maybe a little insight into Arapaho culture and history. Most of all I hope they feel they had a good time reading.
R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Definitely a plotter, but not a detailed plotter. I start with what I call my roadmap. That is, vague idea of where I’m going and how to get there. Very vague, because wonderful things happen in the writing process—characters start speaking up for themselves—and I don’t want to have the plot so well defined that I can’t let that happen.
R: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? :)
I played competitive tennis for years, but have recently cut back. I like to walk and hike. Any outdoor activity suits me fine.
R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?
My website: margaretcoel.com. And my Facebook page.
R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
Write. Write. Write. You have to keep at it, no matter what. My guess is no writer gets published without a lot of determination and perseverance.
Thank you, Margaret.
Margaret will give away a copy of her new book, THE MAN WHO FELL FROM THE SKY, to one lucky commenter!
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Winner will be chosen at random using random.org. Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! Contest ends midnight, October 17.