CREATING SKEET BANNION

GUEST POST:  LINDA RODRIGUEZ, AUTHOR OF EVERY BROKEN TRUST

Creating Skeet Bannion

When I write fiction, I always begin with character. For me, all story and plot arise from character. I knew I wanted to write about urban, mixed-blood Indians. I am one myself, and so are many of my friends all around the country. In fact, there are more Indians living in cities now than on reservations. This is, in large part, due to the BIA’s big urban relocation program of the 1960s and 1970S when they moved whole families from the reservations far away to cities where they knew no one and were culturally isolated. We’re seldom written about. When non-Indians write about us, they want to write about Indians living ancient traditional lives on reservations or about urban Indians who are drunks and drug addicts. Neither is an accurate portrait. So I wanted to write about an urban mixed-blood Indian professional living in Kansas City (because I know the city), and I made her Cherokee because I’m Cherokee.

I also wanted to write about a university setting, but I didn’t want to do it from an academic perspective. I wanted an insider who was yet an outside of sorts. I thought of the campus police forces, which most people don’t realize are actual police forces with arrest and investigative powers. I thought of how their chiefs often are recruited from nearby large urban police forces. So I decided to make my Cherokee Kansas Citian a campus police chief.

I couldn’t make the university one in Kansas City, however, because I’d been an administrator at the major Kansas City university for decades, and I didn’t want people to treat my book as a roman á clef, trying to find real-life figures behind each fictional character. Thus, I created a small university town right outside of Kansas City with various features I liked in a variety of small towns around the metropolitan area. That brought me face to face with the question of why my Cherokee cop left a successful career (it had to be successful, or they wouldn’t want her as a police chief) to live in a small town and head a campus police force. So I dug deeper into my character, Skeet Bannion, and discovered her alcoholic, verbally abusive cop father and her unfaithful cop ex-husband who doesn’t want to let her go. Suddenly, Skeet had excellent motives to flee Kansas City—and not incidentally, a load of emotional baggage to deal with, as well.

As I dug deeper and deeper into her character, I discovered Skeet was estranged from her mother, and her Cherokee grandmother had been the most formative influence on her. So had mine, consequently I gave Skeet my own beloved Elisi who died when I was thirteen, but I had Skeet’s Gran still living as Skeet hit her mid-thirties. I discovered Skeet’s best friend and surrogate mother, retired psychologist Karen Wise, who owned Forgotten Arts, the fiberarts shop I’ve always wanted, and raised angora goats and Romney sheep for their fiber on her farm just outside of town. I discovered Karen had brought Skeet into her circle of women friends who now became Skeet’s friends, as well, and Miryam Rainbow and Annette Stanek were created. I discovered that a neighbor teen took care of Skeet’s yard and pets and that his father had deserted him and his mother, that his mother was a victim who had hooked up with a con-man stepfather. And suddenly, I had a murder and we were off to the races in the first Skeet book, Every Last Secret.

Linda Rodriguez’s second Skeet Bannion novel, Every Broken Trust (St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books), was September’s selection for Las Comadres National Latino Book Club. Her first Skeet novel, Every Last Secret, won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition, was a Barnes & Noble mystery pick, and is a finalist for the International Latino Book Award. For her books of poetry, Skin Hunger (Scapegoat Press) and Heart’s Migration (Tia Chucha Press), Rodriguez has received many awards and fellowships. She is president of the Borders Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, a founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of the Macondo Writers Community, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, Kansas City Cherokee Community, and International Thriller Writers. She spends too much time on Twitter as @rodriguez_linda and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LindaRodriguezWrites.  She blogs about writers, writing, and the absurdities of everyday life at http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com.

Available at Amazon.

every broken trust-1

About Lawrence and Suella Walsh
Managing Editors of Mystery, Ink. Novels. Taught writing for 20 years at Johnson County Community College. Freelance writers with 12 published books and more than 100 articles and short stories in national magazines. Owners of Walsh Writing Services. www.walshwritingservices.com

6 Responses to CREATING SKEET BANNION

  1. I love reading about how it all comes together to make your wonderful books.

  2. Every story has a backstory. I loved reading about your inspiration for this wonderful series!

  3. Thank you so much, Judith! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  4. Niki says:

    Linda, I enjoyed reading how your characters are created. Seeing the details lets readers and writers understand how you can start with a character and just the spark of an idea. And then through time and trusting your instincts, you can let your character form the story. Thanks for sharing the process you use. Niki

  5. Yes, Niki. Your story will arise out of your character(s) if you’ll only dig deep enough. Glad you enjoyed it.

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