Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Conversation with Margaret Coel, Author of the Wind River Mysteries

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Margaret Coel
with Margaret Coel

We are delighted to welcome mystery author Margaret Coel to Omnimystery News today.

Margaret's new book is Watching Eagles Soar (Berkley; July 2013 trade paperback and ebook formats), a collection of short stories featuring her "Wind River" series characters Father John O'Malley and Vicky Holden.

We recently had the opportunity to talk to Margaret about her long-running series of mysteries and short stories.

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Omnimystery News: Your first "Wind River" mystery, The Eagle Catcher, was published in 1995. Did you know at the time it would be the first in a series?

Margaret Coel
Photo provided courtesy of
Margaret Coel

Margaret Coel: When I wrote The Eagle Catcher I never dreamed it would grow into a series. I was thrilled with the idea of getting one novel published. But the publisher immediately said, "We want more of Father John O'Malley and Vicky Holden." So they became recurring characters, and I am very glad because I love writing about them.

OMN: Into what bookstore category would you place your books? And are there any advantages — or maybe disadvantages — to categorizing it as such?

MC: I'll start with the second question first: The advantages are that book sellers know where to shelve the books. Disadvantages are that some readers stereotype books by their genre, when, in fact, great books cross all genres.

I would place my novels in the mystery/suspense genre.

OMN: Your most recent book is a collection of short stories featuring Father John O'Malley and Vicky Holden, but we understand that you have a new mystery in the series being published in September. What can you tell us about it?

MC: I realized as I was writing Killing Custer that it deals with the ways in which we cross borders. Geographical, physical, emotional and psychological. All the major characters, including Father John and Vicky, have crossed borders in one way or another and, in so doing, have reinvented themselves.

OMN: What kind of research do you do before writing a new book?

MC: I research and fact check in myriad ways. Internet research, which I use more and more. Books, articles on the subject. I have a group of experts I consult with. I go to the Wind River Reservation frequently, talk to my Arapaho friends, and take part in many of the things about which I write, such as powwows, sweat lodges, the Sun Dance.

OMN: What is the best advice and harshest criticism you've received as an author?

MC: The best advice? Apply the seat of your pants to the seat of the chair. In other words, set aside all the reasons why you can't write today, you can't write at this moment, and just get to it.

Harshest criticism? An agent once told me that somebody ought to write about the Arapahos, it just wasn't me. (Nineteen novels, one non-fiction book on the Arapahos, and still counting. I hope he reads this.

What I learned: Write whether you feel like it or not. And don't listen to the negative voices.

My advice to aspiring writers is: persistence, persistence, persistence. If you care enough about writing and never give up, you will get published.

OMN: Suppose you're casting for the principals in a screenplay adaptation of one of your books. Who comes to mind?

MC: I used to think that Harrison Ford would be a great Father John. But now Harrison Ford has gotten older than Father John — who ages slowly. As for Vicky, there is a TV personality on Channel 9 in Denver, Adele Arakawa, who has always reminded me of Vicky.

OMN: What kinds of books did you read when you were young? And do you think they influenced what you write today?

MC: When I was very young, my father read to me a whole range of classics, from the fairy tales to Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson and on and on. From that beginning I grew up loving stories. Novels where something happens, where the characters meet and must overcome challenges in the world. Not for the me the angst-driven, navel-gazing novel. Give me a story! Does that influence the kind of books I write? Absolutely.

OMN: What kinds of books to you read now for pleasure?

MC: I am an eclectic reader. I just finished rereading The Great Gatsby for, what, the tenth time. But what a great story! I love Henry James and Edith Wharton and the stories they weave. I also love the suspense novels of John le Carré, Alan Furst, Philip Kerr and Robert Harris. I am a big fan of anything written by Lisa Unger, Elizabeth George and Deborah Crombie. And I love following Craig Johnson's Longmire series.

And I read a lot of history, both for my own novels and for my own pleasure.

OMN: Where might we find you when you're not writing?

MC: Traveling. Spending time with friends and family. Playing tennis. Attending the opera and the theater. Going to movies. Reading, reading, reading.

OMN: What kind of feedback do you get from your readers?

MC: I've received some wonderful feedback from readers who tell me the ways in which my novels influenced their own lives. I'm always hoping that readers will just enjoy my stories. For them to be touched in a deeper way is wonderful.

I am also touched that these "dream characters" of mine have a way of becoming real to readers. One reader wrote that his most fervent wish was to spend an hour talking with Father John.

But don't write and tell me about the typo on page 57. The novel is published. There's not a whole lot I can do about it.

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Margaret Coel is the author of two series, the "Wind River" mysteries featuring Father John O'Malley and Vicky Holden, as well as one featuring Denver investigative reporter Catherine McLeod. She is also the author of several works of nonfiction. Originally a historian by trade, she is considered an expert on the Arapaho Indians. A native of Colorado, she resides in Boulder.

For more information about Margaret and her work, please visit her website at

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Watching Eagles Soar by Margaret Coel

Watching Eagles Soar
Margaret Coel
Short Stories from the Wind River and Beyond

In this thrilling collection of short stories follow Father John O'Malley and Vicky Holden further into the hidden mysteries and crimes of the Wind River Reservation …

When artifacts are stolen from the Arapaho Museum, Father John and Vicky are drawn down a path of two-bit hoodlums, drug dealers, and murder … An allergic reaction lands a young man in the ICU, but his life hinges on solving the mystery of a thirty-year-old murder … Vicky finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with Lonny Hereford, the murderer they call Bad Heart, whom she helped put away three years ago …

Experience these and other tales of sin, secrets, and retribution by award-winning author Margaret Coel. Also included are two essays by the author revealing her insights on writing about the West. Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)  iTunes iBook Format  Kobo eBook Format

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Killing Custer by Margaret Coel

Killing Custer
Margaret Coel
A Wind River Mystery

The whole town of Lander has turned out for the big parade celebrating the start of the new rodeo season. The main spectacle this year is the appearance of Colonel Edward Garrett — a spot-on impersonator of General George Armstrong Custer — and a troop of men acting as the ill-fated Seventh Cavalry.

The problem is they are being followed by a group of Arapaho warriors from the Wind River Reservation, who proceed to encircle Garrett and his men in a "dare ride" just to remind them exactly who won the Battle of the Little Bighorn. But when the ride is over, history seems to have repeated itself: Garrett is dead in the street with a bullet hole in his chest.

No one is sure what happened, but public sentiment quickly turns against the Arapaho — and the prime suspect is Colin Morningside, a descendant of Crazy Horse. When a local attorney connected to Morningside disappears, the accusations only grow stronger.

Father John O'Malley knows in his heart the Arapaho are not guilty. And Vicky Holden finds herself professionally and personally compromised from getting involved. But what begins as a murder soon reveals itself as a conspiracy that neither Father John nor Vicky could have foreseen. And someone wants to ensure that the truth they discover will die with them …

Killing Custer by Margaret Coel, Amazon Kindle format  Killing Custer by Margaret Coel, iTune iBook format


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