December 20, 2017
In just a few short months, Sara Sue Hoklotubbe’s latest mystery Betrayal at the Buffalo Ranch hits bookstores. The fourth book in the Sadie Walela Mystery Series draws Sadie deeper and deeper into danger. When Angus Clyborn’s Buffalo Ranch opens in Cherokee Country, murder, thievery, and a missing white buffalo calf take Sadie Walela and her wolfdog on a dangerous and wild ride.
In anticipation of the book’s release, we were excited to chat with Sara about what drew her to mystery novels and to get her thoughts on the lack of Native American representation in mystery writing.
What advice would you give any aspiring mystery novel writers?
To read, first, and then write, write, write, with a passion. Write what you’d like to read. Don’t try to copy or emulate other writers; create your own voice and tell your own stories. Chances are, if you like what you write, other people will, too.
What drew you to writing mystery novels?
I spent twenty‐one years working in the banking business and had very little time for reading. But when I discovered Tony Hillerman’s mysteries, that all changed. I loved how he wrote mysteries and wove in Navajo and Hopi culture. Even though Tony was non‐Indian, he wrote with such accuracy and respect for Indians that the Navajo Nation gave him their blessing. That’s when I decided I wanted to write mysteries about my people – the Cherokee.
Why do you think there is so little Native American representation in mystery writing?
I think it is simply a case of numbers. Native Americans, who once totally populated this country, have sadly been reduced to about two percent of the population. And, while there are many Native authors, they write in diverse categories from fiction and non‐fiction, both current and historical, to screenplays and poetry. When you boil it down, there’s only a few of us writing mysteries.
You draw upon your upbringing in Oklahoma for your setting. What are the differences between the Cherokee Nation you grew up in and the one you describe in your novels?
It is very much the same. I like to write in a current day setting rather than historical, because I want to dispel some of the myths of what life is like in the Cherokee Nation today. We do not live in teepees. Never did, never will. Cherokees are ranchers, police officers, lawyers, small‐business owners, bankers, business people, writers, and anything else you can think of. I try to describe a real life setting in my books.
Which of your characters do you identify with the most?
Probably Sadie. We both think we can save the world, are quick to speak our mind, and hand out our own kind of justice. Sadie is a good and honest person, and I’d like to think I am, too, even though I’m quick to point out that Sadie is not me. I would be naïve to think most of the other characters I write about don’t have a sliver of my personality in there somewhere.
Is there more in store for Sadie Walela?
I hope so. I’m waiting for her to come to me in a dream and tell me what’s next. We’ll see.
What book are you currently reading?
I recently read Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann and Anne Hillerman’s Song of the Lion. I’m currently reading Winter’s Child by Margaret Coel. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil de Grasse Tyson is next on my list to read.
Cover photo: The American Bison by Adam Cocke