© Deborah J Ledford 2011 all rights reserved
The leading man of my thriller series is Steven Hawk, the only African American deputy of Swain County, North Carolina. Yes, this may be a stretch—there most likely will never be a black man assigned to this position in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina . . . but I have hope.
The same goes for the ethnicity of my female lead, rock star sensation Katina Salvo, who is faced to return to the Taos Pueblo in order to escape from someone intent on killing her. She soon learns that reconnecting with her people is far more important than wealth or fame.
I’m a firm believer that the writer must stay true to their characters, no matter their skin color, background, or beliefs. The “vision” of Steven Hawk came to me initially when I was writing the screenplay many years ago. Although SNARE is much different from the script, I loved the character so much that I didn’t feel the need to alter his appearance when writing the novel.
And I knew that Katina Salvo needed to be Native American. As part Eastern Band Cherokee, it is always my intent to showcase authentic Native American elements in all of my work, so it was crucial to find the correct tribe to gift Katina with. I had no desire for her to come from an Arizona tribe, and the Navahos are already quite well represented by Tony Hillerman. After endless hours of research I decided on the Taos Pueblo Tribe of northern New Mexico.
Assuring the integrity of all things Pueblo, I enlisted help from the spokesman for Taos Pueblo creative affairs, Floyd “Mountain Walking Cane” Gomez. Due to his tireless efforts, and loads of patience, the inspirational Taos Pueblo and its People are presented to the best of my ability. There were many elements I wanted to include in SNARE but couldn’t. There isn’t a lot published about the Taos Pueblos and many topics and stories Floyd discussed with me were deemed confidential. Although I would have loved sharing this with you their wishes will be respected—these secrets will go to the grave with me.
The manuscript was wholly approved by Floyd, and if he questioned any of the pages he sought advice from elders and the Tribal Council. This not only included what I presented about the Pueblo Reservation, but also every element of Katina’s “being” had to be true to the Pueblo culture and personality. SNARE would be lacking on every level if not for this kind assistance.
I had the honor of appearing on the “Living Diversity” panel at Left Coast Crime 2011 in Santa Fe last month with Darryl Wimberley, Neil Plakcy and Gar Anthony Haywood. These truly gifted novelists all write multi-cultural characters. The audience was quite interested in how we go about stepping into the skin of a character so much different than our own.
Consensus with the panel was that every writer creates multi-cultural characters, whether they carry the novel, are secondary, or appear only briefly. If Anglo writers were pigeonholed into presenting only white characters, blacks writing only about blacks, Asians “allowed” to only present their people, there wouldn’t be many books worth reading. Essentially, we’re all the same on the inside.
About the author
Deborah J Ledford’s latest novel SNARE is The Hillerman Sky Award Finalist. STACCATO, is book one of her Steven Hawk/Inola Walela series. Both novels are published by Second Wind Publishing. She is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and her award-winning short stories appear in numerous print publications, as well as mystery and literary anthologies. Deborah invites you to visit her website: http://www.deborahjledford.com/.