Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Writing Through Osmosis: Guest Post by Sara Sue Hoklotubbe

Sara Sue Hoklotubbe:
Writing Through Osmosis

The dictionary defines osmosis as the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas and knowledge. No one, it seems, can escape 24/7 news. It is prolific, always streaming somewhere in the background, and it affects both the conscious and subconscious parts of our minds.

When I began working on Betrayal at the Buffalo Ranch, (University of Arizona Press, 2018) I had no idea how timely it would be when it was released. While the book is purely fiction, it embraces ideas, that even though they have always been present in American society, have become more prevalent in today’s daily conversations – bullying, bigotry, sexual assault, and racial bias. These topics seeped into my writing, I believe, through osmosis.

Sadie Walela, the protagonist of my Sadie Walela mystery series, is an amateur sleuth who involuntarily becomes entangled in murder investigations. She is Cherokee, lives in Cherokee Country in northeastern Oklahoma, and tries desperately, in her Cherokee way of thinking, to restore balance and harmony in the world around her.

Lance Smith, Sadie’s significant other and local lawman, tries to keep Sadie and her wolfdog out of trouble. That turns out to be a tall order, especially when someone like Angus Clyborn moves into the area. Conflict is unavoidable, and in this case, it includes murder.

Angus Clyborn, the antagonist in Betrayal at the Buffalo Ranch, is easy to hate. As a man with money, he believes he is privileged, better than everyone else. He thinks nothing of lying to, stealing from, cheating, and bullying people if they don’t look and act exactly like him. It wasn’t until I’d finished the manuscript and sent it on its way that I realized I’d plucked his character traits right out of the daily news cycle.

I enjoy reading good murder mysteries that make me think, and when I turn the last page and close the book, like most mystery readers, I want justice to prevail. But I also want to take away something positive.

I learned that from the late, great, mystery writer, Tony Hillerman. I devoured his books and loved the fact that after reading his mysteries, I came away having learned something. I don’t know if he ever wrote through osmosis, but he inspired me. His mysteries, set among the Navajo and Hopi, encouraged me to write about my people—the Cherokee. I owe him a great debt of gratitude.

Before I became a writer, I spent twenty-one years working in the banking business where I personally experienced discrimination simply because I was a woman. It was a good-old-boy world where women were the worker bees and the men sat around in cushy offices, smoking cigarettes, and making decisions regarding things they knew little about. The gender pay gap, once uncovered, was shocking. So, when I wrote my first book, Deception on All Accounts, I was determined to highlight how awful women were treated in the banking world. The book took a ninety degree turn and became a mystery. However, I think I’m safe in saying that my message came out loud and clear.

The second book in the series, The American CafĂ©, centered on family secrets, how they affect people the rest of their lives, and can even lead to murder. The third book, Sinking Suspicions, showed how identity theft can destroy lives. The story also sheds light on the toll combat takes on our warriors, and sometimes we have to revisit where we’ve been to know who we are.

I saw a quote recently that said: “We write down made-up stories to tell the truths we wish we could say out loud.” I don’t know who the author of that quote is, but I agree with it. While my mysteries are not based on sensational headlines, in retrospect I think they reflect today’s world, written through osmosis. It works for me.

Sara Sue Hoklotubbe is the author of the Sadie Walela mystery series set in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma where she grew up. She has won the Willa Literary Award, the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, and Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers’ Mystery Book Award.


Molly MacRae said...

Well said, Sara Sue. I look forward to reading your books.

Kay said...

Sara Sue, I'm not familiar with your books, but I plan to be. I'm from Texas, but my mother's family was from Oklahoma. I love reading mysteries set in places that I know (and places that I don't know). I love Donis Casey's books and I'll add yours to my Oklahoma list.

Sara Hoklotubbe said...

Thanks, Molly. Please me know how you like them.

Sara Hoklotubbe said...

Kay, since your family is from Oklahoma, I think you will like my books. Let me know.

alok said...

I have enjoyed all three previous books, each one more than tbe one before it.I can't wait to read this one ( plus, I love buffalos)!

Sara Hoklotubbe said...

Thank you, alok! I think you will like this one, too. Please let me know.