Melissa Tantaquideon Zobel interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Jun 21, 2016 1:11:49 PM
Melissa Tantaquideon Zobel interview with David Alan Binder
Short bio from her website interweaved with the Wikipedia bio:
Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel is a Mohegan author, historian, and storyteller who serves as both the Medicine Woman and Tribal Historian for the Mohegan Tribe. In addition, she is executive director of the tribe’s cultural and community programs department. Also a prolific writer she writes fiction and non-fiction about the extraordinary world of the Native Americans of New England, Zobel has published many books including the historical biography, Medicine Trail: The Life and Lessons of Gladys Tantaquidgeon, and the futuristic novel Oracles. Some publications appear under her maiden name of Melissa Jayne Fawcett. Her latest, Wabanaki Blues, was released in June 2015 by Poisoned Pen.
(Blog links are on my website)
Twitter: twitter @tantaquidgeon
1. How do you pronounce your name (only answer if appropriate)? Melissa Tantaquidgeon (rhymes with Santa Pigeon) Zobel (rhymes with noble)
2. Where are you currently living?
I live in Mystic, Connecticut in a 182 year-old house. My first house belonged to one of the signers of The Declaration of Independence. I like houses with lots of stories to tell. I have a quote from Bram Stoker’s Dracula stenciled upstairs. It says, “…to live in a new house would kill me. A house cannot be made habitable in a day, and after all, how few days go to make up a century.”
3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
As a Mohegan author, I like sharing ancient tribal stories about this land. I believe that knowing these enchanting stories connects people to the places they live at a deep and timeless level.
4. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
I don’t need great atmosphere for a good writing environment. I’m fine with a lousy view and distracting noise. I love writing anytime and anywhere.
5. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
a. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they?
My publisher is the Poisoned Pen Press of Scottsdale, AZ. They are celebrating their 25th year, and I love them. New England presses rarely publish Native American Literature. Arizona presses are another story.
6. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
All mediums of publishing are great. But even with a publisher, promotion is a great deal of work. So I hold that out as a caution.
7. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
Don’t be afraid to take out your favorite lines in a book if they don’t help the character or plot. The story’s the thing.
8. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
I wish I knew how to get an agent. I don’t have one but I would love one! Any takers?
9. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
Don’t get frustrated. Hang in there. My mom taught me that it’s not the fastest one that wins; it’s the one who doesn’t quit.
10. What was one of the most surprising things you learned your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
To find out your character is so real that people (erroneously) believe he/she is autobiographical is a wonderful feeling.
It’s incredibly hard to say goodbye to your characters, once your role in their creation is done. That’s why I am now focused on writing a series. That way, my main character and I don’t need to say goodbye.
11. How many books have you written?
Three of my books are published. But another manuscript is brewing. The first was a biography. The second was speculative fiction. The third was a young adult murder mystery. The fourth is an adult murder mystery. I enjoy jumping genres.
12. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?
Don’t put more than a scene or two in a single chapter or any short story.
13. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
Keep creating obstacles for your main character. If you’ve given them enough humanity, their responses to their troubles will allow the twists to emerge.
14. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
My stories are about the little known world of New England’s Native Americans.
15. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
I write blogs, travel to book signings and visit college classrooms that are teaching my books.
16. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
I would start writing fiction at a younger age! I was first trained as a historian and didn’t begin writing novels until a little over a decade ago. My first book was a biography titled, Medicine Trail: The Life and Lessons of Gladys Tantaquidgeon. It’s published under my former name of “Fawcett.” It’s about my great aunt who was the Medicine Woman of our tribe and lived to be 106. Once I realized her name would die with her and it was the last indigenous name in my state, I took the Tantaquidgeon name back, as my own. My grandmother. Winifred Tantaquidgeon, was Gladys’ sister. I am proud to carry this ancient Mohegan family name.
17. What saying or mantra do you live by?
I grew up with so many great expressions, learned from my tribal elders. I pepper them in all my books, so they will live on. But there are also newer tribal sayings I hold dear, like this one, adopted by my tribe’s Council of Elders in 1997: We are the Wolf People, children of Mundo, a part of the Tree of Life. Our ancestors form our roots, our living Tribe is the trunk, our grandchildren are the buds of our future. We remember and teach the stories of our ancestors. We watch. We listen. We learn. We respect Mother Earth, our Elders, and all that comes from Mundo. We are willing to break arrows of peace to heal old and new wounds. We acknowledge and learn from our mistakes. We walk as a single spirit on the Trail of Life. We are guided by thirteen generations past and responsible to thirteen generations to come. We survive as a nation guided by the wisdom of our past. Our circular trail returns us to wholeness as a people.
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