Friday, July 31, 2015

A Conversation with YA Mystery Author Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel

We are delighted to welcome author Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel to Omnimystery News today.

Melissa's first in a trilogy of YA mysteries is Wabanaki Blues (The Poisoned Pencil; June 2015 trade paperback and ebook formats) and we recently had the chance to catch up with her to talk more about the book.

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Omnimystery News: Into which mystery subgenre would you place Wabanaki Blues?

Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel
Photo provided courtesy of
Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel

Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel: Wabanaki Blues is a cross-over novel. The main character, Mona Lisa LaPierre, is seventeen years old. She solves a cold case murder at her high school. But she also solves a deeper mystery about New England, the land where she lives, and how it connects to the greater universe. That deeper, more philosophical, element in the book is something that appeals to all ages. This book can be read at many levels.

OMN: Give us a summary of the book in a tweet.

MTZ: Wabanaki Blues is a double mystery: a cold case high school murder mystery & a timeless cosmic mystery rooted in Native American tradition.

OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience have you included in the book?

MTZ: My characters are always inspired by people I know. I realize some people are unaware of the enduring and active Native American community of New England, never mind the ancient stories and traditions that community preserves and perpetuates. I enjoy offering a window into that world. Some of our practices are contemporary. But others are as old as memory. Just as other continents have ancient stories about little people and giants, so too the Natives of this land carry its ancient and fantastical tales. By sharing those tales, I hope to share a deep rootedness in this beloved land.

OMN: How did you go about researching the plot points of the story?

MTZ: I have spent my entire life learning all I can about my Native American people. To that end I received a Masters Degree in History and conduct ongoing research. My research does not come only from books. I have long travelled to visit with other traditional indigenous knowledge keepers. I also grew up hearing the ancient stories of my Mohegan elders and other elders at Tantaquidgeon Museum. My great aunt and great uncle, Gladys and Harold Tantaquidgeon, founded this Connecticut museum in 1931. It is the oldest Indian owned and operated museum in the USA. I started giving tours there, almost as soon as I could walk and talk.

OMN: How true are you to the setting?

MTZ: Because my Native American heritage connects me to the most ancient stories of New England, my settings are beyond real, not in a supernatural sense but in the sense of connecting the reader very intensely to old indigenous traditions about a place, traditions which they may not have heard before, traditions rooted in Oral Tradition, ceremony, and a deep respect for this land.

OMN: How involved were you with the cover design of Wabanaki Blues?

MTZ: Like everything about my writing, my cover design is timeless and rooted in Native American tradition. The border comes from a star design that has long been used by the Wabanaki people (of what is today called northern New England and the Canadian Maritimes). That star is an important symbol of the Wabanaki Confederacy, an ancient alliance of tribal nations that includes the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Micmac, Maliseet and Abenaki. There is also a bear on the cover that is central to the story. The woodlands pictured on the cover are glowing and alive, for that is how they appear when fully connects to them.

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Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel is the Medicine Woman of the Mohegan Tribal Nation of Connecticut. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University, her MA in History from the University of Connecticut and her BSFS in History/Diplomacy from Georgetown University. Zobel grew up giving tours at Tantaquidgeon Indian Museum on the Mohegan Reservation, learning tribal tradition from her great aunt, Medicine Woman Gladys Tantaquidgeon. Melissa has been employed by her tribe as a cultural leader for twenty-two years and has three grown children — Rachel Beth Sayet, Madeline Fielding Sayet, and David Uncas Sayet. She is married to her high school sweetheart, Randall Zobel.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Wabanaki Blues by Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel

Wabanaki Blues by Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel

The Wabanki Trilogy

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)iTunes iBook FormatKobo eBook Format

"Some days you appreciate the dead; others, you don't dare think about them."

These are the words of Mona Lisa LaPierre, teen blues musician, also known as the girl who never smiles. When her out-of-touch parents send her to the New Hampshire boondocks to stay with Grumps, her reclusive grandfather, Mona is not exactly thrilled. She nevertheless slings her beloved guitar, Rosalita, over her shoulder, says goodbye to Beetle, the oblivious boy she adores and sets out to meet her destiny.

Destiny pops up in various forms: a blonde bear named Marilynn with a fondness for bananas, a fellow musician named Del, and a green-flamed motorcycle that was last seen racing away from her high school the day a girl from her school named Mia Delaney disappeared eighteen years ago.

Mona's search for Mia's murderer becomes a quest for identity, love, and meaning. She is guided along the way by Grumps and her dead Grandmother, Bilki, whose spirit speaks to her in moments of need. Mona's amazing journey is enriched by Native American traditions, a passion for music and art, and her growing realization that to achieve what is most important in her life, she must sacrifice what she most loves.

Wabanaki Blues by Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel


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