Sandi Ault, a volunteer firefighter, Native American enthusiast, and proud owner of a 180 lb. pet wolf, is poised to take the mystery world by storm with her remarkable debut, WILD INDIGO.
An avid researcher, Sandi traveled to and studied a variety of pueblos in the Southwest while writing her novel. She became very close with the Native Puebloans of several pueblos in New Mexico and many of the families opened their doors, and their lives, to Sandi. They shared their culture and many of their celebrations with her. The fictional Tanoah tribe in WILD INDIGO represents a blending of Sandi's research, experience, and imagination.
Here's more from Sandi about WILD INDIGO:
Q. In your novel, WILD INDIGO, you explore the conflict between traditional Pueblo Indian ways and modern technology. How much of a problem does that play in Puebloan tribes?
A. I believe that it is a matter of survival for their culture. It is impossible for them to isolate their culture and live without the modern world and all its trappings. However, it is obviously tantamount for them to retain what they call "the old ways." as it is a matter of self-definition, of spiritual wholeness, and more. It is a huge challenge for them.
Q. What inspired you to write this book?
A. Many Native American tribes have herds of bison. They are trying to bring back this wonderful species, and the tribes revere their herds, relating to them both spiritually and practically in terms of animal management. I have seen a few of the herds up close, and these powerful animals inspire me. I had the idea for the beginning of this book from hanging around a bunch of buffalo. But I had more ideas for the people and the customs in the book from exploring the Southwest and being offered the gift of sharing time with many Pueblo families. I literally felt called to write about the beauty I observed.
Q. Give us an idea of the plot.
A. A BLM agent named Jamaica Wild sees a Pueblo man trampled by a herd of bison, something he appears to have deliberately caused to happen. But the agent is not convinced, and suspects foul play. She launches her own investigation, and it leads her through an intricate maze of secretive cultural rituals and Indian and Hispanic witchcraft.
Q. Why did you decide to make a wolf a major character in the book?
A. I was inspired by the wolf in my life, who was a major character every moment he was here, and remains an inspiration to me even though he has passed beyond the ridge. He was a clown, a rascal, a wild and beautiful beast. He was my teacher and my friend, and he shaped my life in spite of how much I tried to resist. I loved him beyond words, and I love him still.
Q. How much of this book is based on your own personal experiences?
A. I would surmise that every author has some bits of herself and her life in her work. There are certainly experiences similar to those I've had, especially with Mountain, my wolf. But it is a work of fiction.
Q. What is it that drew you to place the story in northern New Mexico?
A. This is a wonderful question, and one hat I am excited to answer! I feel that northern New Mexico is a unique and enchanted place, in that it has many ancient cultural characteristics that have not been waylaid by modernism and technology. There are three distinct cultures living in northern New Mexico: Native Americans, Hispanics, and Anglos. And there is some limited blending of these, but they each still retain their strong character. It feels a bit like time has stood still there, and you can catch a glimpse of the world before it got wired for sound and lights. And all this plays out against a beautiful backdrop of rugged, largely-unspoiled landscape that is ancient, magnificent, and ever-present. Humankind and even time have not yet triumphed over its magic.
Q. In the book, you describe the native Puebloans as being fiercely protective of their culture, and unwilling to reveal much about it. How did you learn so much about their culture?
A. I have been privileged to share time and a variety of experiences with a number of Pueblo families, and to observe some of their culture and their ways. Many of them have become such good friends that they are like family to me. I have visited most of the Rio Grande pueblos and I have been made welcome as I researched, studied and observed. But it is important to note that I speak as an observer. I strongly believe that it is the right of each tribe to define and keep their own culture. And many of the native Puebloan tribes feel very concerned about this, and so they limit what they will share. I respect that. That's why I have deliberately mixed in a variety of traditions and customs from several different Puebloan cultures, and made this a fictional Pueblo, so as not to appear to describe or define any one. This is a work of fiction.
Q. Tell us about your experiences with Mountain, your wolf.
A. He was my best friend and a spirit of great strength. I loved him fiercely, and he challenged me in all of the same ways he does Jamaica in the book. If there is one true element of WILD INDIGO, it is Jamaica's relationship with Mountain.
Q. What kind of adventures are in Jamaica Wild's future?
A. Jamaica goes on from WILD INDIGO to WILD INFERNO, in which she is called to respond to a wildfire on the Southern Ute Reservation as part of an Incident Management Team. Momma Anna, Mountain, Roy, and Kerry all join her on this adventure, plus some wonderful new characters, including some powerful Ute storytellers.
I think Jamaica will want to explore many new experiences in the Southwest, and possibly elesewhere, as she grows. I have several ideas for future episodes.
and her novel, WILD INDIGO...
WILD INDIGO opens with Agent Jamaica Wild witnessing a man from the Tanoah Tribe being trampled to death by stampeding buffalo. The Tribe declares the incident a suicide, the FBI concurs, and the body is hurried to ceremony before the sun can go down on his spirit.
But Jamaica suspects foul play. Haunted by the memory of the strange look of ecstasy she saw in the man's eyes before his death, Jamaica pursues her own investigation, which leads her into a labyrinth of clandestine Pueblo religious rituals.
Ultimately, Jamaica discovers that the answer to the mystery is wrapped in another secret, perhaps the greatest secret regarding the Tanoah Pueblo — one that threatens not only its future but its past.
WILD INDIGO sports a great set-up for a plot that develops into a most engrossing mystery. But WILD INDIGO offers much more than that. The characters and their relationships with one another — including Jamaica, her adopted wolf cub and her Pueblo Indian "grandmother" are simply terrific. The sense of place is also wonderful, with the majestic but potentially lethal landscape a looming presence throughout.
What people are saying about Sandi and WILD INDIGO...
"Meanwhile, thousands of miles away on an Indian pueblo in New Mexico , a young female agent with the Bureau of Land Management puts some muscle into a homicide case with eerie mystical overtones. Making her striking debut in Sandi Ault's WILD INDIGO, Jamaica Wild watches a man trampled in a buffalo stampede. Despite the expression of rapture she saw on his face, she refuses to accept the Tanoah tribe's judgment that his death was a suicide and doggedly pursues an investigation that strains her relationship with the "pueblo mother" who's initiating her into the Tanoah customs. Scenes of the high, dry, glittering landscape are as clean as a sun-bleached bone, and there are thrills galore when Jamaica is trapped in a flash flood that tears down the canyon walls of an ancient mountain sacred to the tribe. But Ault is no less artful at depicting the marriage customs, funeral rites and religious ceremonies that have drawn Jamaica to this tightly knit world and made her lose her heart to its people."
— Marilyn Stasio, New York Times
"Sandi Ault's new mystery series featuring Jamaica Wild, an agent with the Bureau of Land Management, gives the reader a chance to see the Native American world in Colorado and neighboring states through the eyes of a terrific, fun character. Jamaica may not be a Native American by birth but she's one by spirit! I loved it!"
— Linda Dewberry, Whodunit? Books, Olympia, WA
“Ault blends the traditions and ceremonies from several Pueblo cultures, immersing the reader in Pueblo life and the beauty of northern New Mexico. An enjoyable series debut for fans of Nevada Barr and Tony Hillerman.”
“Reviewers and readers will draw parallels between Ault's enlightening, well-researched debut, set in northern New Mexico, and the mysteries of Tony Hillerman, Nevada Barr, and Aimee and David Thurlo; this is fine because she is that good. Highly recommended for all mystery collections. Ault lives in the Rocky Mountains.”
— Library Journal
"Blending elements of outdoor adventure à la Jack London's White Fang, Native American-powered whodunit (Tony Hillerman, James D. Doss, etc.) and shamanistic vision quest, Sandi Ault's impressive debut novel Wild Indigo is, simply put, a page-turner of the highest order... Ault's extensive knowledge of Southwest Native American culture aside, the real power behind this novel - the thing that makes Wild Indigo such a unique and compelling read - is the complex relationship between Wild and Mountain. Both human and wolf are outsiders, with no real home or family, and the intense bond that they share - the pack of two that they create - is as beautiful as it is bittersweet. Additionally, Ault deals with a myriad of sensitive themes like the preservation of indigenous cultures, psychoactive drug-induced mysticism, wildlife conservation, etc. with compassion and class. Carlos Castaneda meets Tony Hillerman."
— Random Notes / Barnes & Noble Reviews
“ Rich in Indian lore and lovely description -- "old cottonwoods stand with gnarled authority" "Wild Indigo" is more character and place-driven than plot-centered. But that's fine -- this powerful start shows great maturity and portends great things from Ault.”
— The Richmond Times-Dispatch
I hope you'll take the time to stop by Sandi's website and read more about her wolf, Mountain. She's also got some interesting information about the research she's done for Jamaica's book and there are lots more photographs too!
Sandi's publisher, Berkley Prime Crime, has generously donated five copies of WILD INDIGO for a contest with this spotlight and I hope you're one of the lucky readers who wins an autographed copy of this book! To be eligible to win, all you need to do is visit Sandi's website to find out the answers to a couple of questions and email me with your answers.
Question 1: What is the name of the "new beginning" featured in a photo on Sandi's website?
Question 2: WILD INFERNO takes place when a wildfire breaks out on which Indian reservation?
Once you're sure you've got it right, please submit your full name, mailing address and correct answers to me via email.
Your deadline to get your answer to me is March 21st , 2006. I'll pick 5 winners after that date and notify them by private email. Names will be announced here shortly thereafter.
Sandi's very excited about this book and would love reader feedback. If you've already picked up a copy of WILD INDIGO and enjoyed it, please consider dropping her an email to share your thoughts. Also, please do check back on Sandi's website to cattch the latest news about Jamaica's next adventure, WILD INFERNO!
Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org Or Call (253)238-5353