Saturday, October 25, 2008

Guest Interview: Aimée and David Thurlo

Aimée and David Thurlo are the authors of three series, starting with the Ella Clah novels, which feature an ex-FBI agent who returns to her Navaho roots in the four corners of the U.S. west. Their second series features an extern nun, Sister Agatha, and their third Lee Nez, is a nightwalker (the Navaho equivalent of a vampire) and a New Mexico State Policeman.

The couple have won Romance Writers of America Career Achievement Awards for Series Romantic Suspense (2007) and Romantic Suspense (2003), and been nominated multiple times in the past twenty years for Best Romantic Suspense Novel, Best Harlequin Intrigue, and Career Achievement—Mystery/Female sleuth.





PDD:
Your longest series features the young Navaho woman, Ella Clah. How has Ella grown and changed over 14 books? What challenges will she face in her latest book, Coyote’s Wife?

Aimée and David:
Keep in mind that each story takes place after about a year’s time has passed, so Ella has now been back to the Rez for around fourteen years. In that time, she’s gone from `LA Woman’ , the nickname she was given because she returned as an outsider - to a Navajo woman widely accepted and respected among The People. But, just as it was upon her return, Ella has continued to struggle with walking the line between the modern, Anglo world and the culture of the Traditionalists. She’s learned to respect and appreciate those cultural beliefs and practices that had once seemed foreign to her, and strives hard to maintain harmony and balance as she protects her tribe.
 
In Coyote’s Wife, Ella is pressured to halt whoever is trying to sabotage the completion of a satellite telephone service on the Navajo Nation. The pressure is coming from an old nemesis of hers, Abigail Yellowhair, the widow of a Navajo politician and power broker. Abigail’s son-in-law heads the communication project, and is the main target of the harassment. As the incidents escalate and a man in killed, Ella starts to suspect a connection with Navajo witches, skinwalkers, and this places her in danger as well.

PDD:
One of my favorite characters is Ella’s mother, Rose. Could you talk a little about how you created her character, and the roles she plays in the books?

Aimée and David:
In the first book of the series, Blackening Song, Ella has left the reservation to get away from the pressure of having to choose between the ways of her Christian preacher father and the traditional Navajo beliefs of her mother, Rose.
 
When her father is killed and Ella returns to the Navajo Nation, she realizes she’s forgotten much of what it means to be Navajo. Her closest relatives, Rose and her brother Clifford - a hataalii or medicine man, are both very traditional, so Ella doesn’t have to look far to find conflicts in life styles and philosophies. Rose provides balance, cultural guidance, and loving support for Ella and her grandaughter, Dawn. Though she can be a pain sometimes, Rose is the rock that holds the dysfunctional family together.

PDD:
Neither of you come from a Navaho tradition, but you have lived all or a large part of your life among Four Corners Aboriginal people. I love the details in your books, not only of Navaho culture but the day-to-day details, like pick-up trucks lining the highway at dawn to sell breakfast tortillas to travelers. What has the Aboriginal community’s response been to your books?

Aimée and David:
David grew up on the Navajo Nation, and his father was born within a few miles of Navajo land and worked for the tribe for many years, so there is a strong connection within the family. Many of David’s former classmates have contacted us, letting him know how much they appreciate someone who’s been on the `inside’ and lived among The People. We’ve also met many Navajo people who’ve come to our events and signings, or written us, encouraging us to continue the stories about Ella and her family. Most of our sources for our books are Navajo and from the Four Corners region, and everyone we’ve met so far has been positive.

PDD:
What advice would you give to writers who want to stay in the business for the long-haul?

Aimée and David:
Whether you’re writing standalones or a series, keep the stories fresh and true to character. Also, know your readers and what they expect from your characters - though it’s important to keep them guessing a bit. And when it comes to the business side of writing, remember that you have to remain tough skinned and resilient to critics and rejection. Never give up your dream.
PDD:
How did you come to have a shy, 94-pound poodle to help you with your writing?

Aimée and David:
We adopt our animals whenever we can, and Gabriel was a twice rescued guy from South Carolina when we heard about him. He was described as a `couch potato’, so we arranged to have him flown to New Mexico. We’d just lost our biggest poodle to a sudden illness, so we needed him as much as he needed us. It turned out that Gabriel had been abused by a man, so it has taken several months for him to warm up to David. We have offices at opposite ends of the house, so Gabriel sits beside Aimée on the daybed where she does second drafts and keeps her company. He’s also served as an occasional desk for her laptop computer. He’s calm, dependable, and a great companion for both of us now, and helps keep us centered sometimes when we’re feeling stressed out.

For more information about the Thurlos and their books, visit their web site at http://www.aimeeanddavidthurlo.com/index.html#about.

60 comments:

Darlene Ryan said...

Welcome Aimee and David. Ella is one of my favorite series characters. She feels like a real person to me. This is a series I've become more engrossed in over time, not less. I'd love to hear more about how you manage to work together.

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