By Brian Knight
A young ski area owner in Flagstaff, AZ is determined to use man-made snow, an energy tycoon has his own reasons for promoting it, environmentalists and tribes may use any means to stop it. But the Hopi spirits of the mountain just might have the last say.
Shannon Baker’s latest mystery novel, TAINTED MOUNTAIN, is available this month, and she’s agreed to spend a little time with me to talk about it.
Tell us about your new novel, TAINTED MOUNTAIN.
Well, Brian, I’m glad you asked. When I moved to Flagstaff several years ago I discovered this huge controversy about pumping treated wastewater onto the ski resort outside of town. That mountain range is sacred to 13 tribes who are not happy about “potty water” sprayed on their holy ground. One of the tribes involved is the Hopi, and let me tell you, that is one fascinating culture. I was hooked and couldn’t wait to write the story.
TAINTED MOUNTAIN is billed as a Nora Abbott Mystery. I searched but wasn’t able to find any other Nora Abbott Mysteries. Is TAINTED MOUNTAIN the first in a series?
TAINTED MOUNTAIN started out as a thriller. But when the acquisitions editor at Midnight asked if it was a stand alone or a series I just took a chance and said, “Series. And here is my idea for book 2.” I’m thankful she bought my bluff because I’m having a blast sending Nora here and there and exploring more aspects of the Hopi tribe.
What can you tell us about future Nora Abbott titles?
Since writing TAINTED MOUNTAIN, I moved to Boulder, CO. Surprisingly, Nora followed me here and BROKEN TRUST, book two of the Nora Abbott mystery series, is set in Boulder, CO. It is slated for release in 2014 from Midnight Ink.
The synopsis for TAINTED MOUNTAIN is intriguing, and seems to be concerned with ecological issues. Are the ecology issues in TAINTED MOUNTAIN a long time concern of yours, a new interest, or just a plot device for this one novel?
Nora grew up in Boulder, so environmentalism seeped into her blood. Me? I’m from Nebraska, where they shoot environmentalists on sight. But when I lived in Flagstaff, I worked for The Grand Canyon Trust, which is a hotbed of environmentalists. Most of them are rational but some think blowing up Glen Canyon Dam would be a good solution to natural flows on the Colorado River.
I love to be outside. This time of year I ski and snowshoe and take lots of walks and trots. I backpack, kayak, SCUBA, and cycle. I want to be able to do all this outdoors stuff in a clean place so maybe I’m a little bit environmentalist. If we want a healthy planet in the future, I think we all ought to have some conservationist tendencies. I recycle but I don’t compost. Don’t judge me.
Please tell us a bit about yourself; who you are, where you came from, the path you took to get to where you are now.
After getting my undergrad degree at the University of Nebraska (Go Big Red!) I lived in the Nebraska Sandhills for 20 years. Cattle outnumber people there by 50:1 and I set my first published novel there, ASHES OF THE RED HEIFER (which is out of print, probably a good thing). I thankfully escaped from there to Boulder, where I earned my MBA and then moved on to Flagstaff. Now I’m back up in Colorado but have a house in Tucson just waiting for me to earn some bank and retire.
I started writing mainly to stay sane in a very strange place. Obviously, I wasn’t successful in the sanity department. I’m a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, which is the most amazing incubator for writers. If it wasn’t for them (although I have an epically flat learning curve), I’d never be able to send Nora out into the world.
Do you have a muse, either real or imaginary?
A muse! Can I order one online? Muse.com. The closest I get to a muse is an over-developed guilt bone. If I don’t write it aches. I’m thinking of having it surgically removed.
Who are some of your influences, both old and new? Who inspires you?
Mari Sandoz, who grew up in the Nebraska Sandhills, suffered rejection both from her family and from the publishing world. She just kept going and ended up being very successful. When I first read Barbara Kingsolver I thought I’d love to write like that. I never will, but a girl can dream. Jane Smiley’s A THOUSAND ACRES got me going. Now I’m reading J. A. Jance, Margaret Coel, William Kent Krueger, Tony Hillerman, Nevada Barr….
A huge source of inspiration is my two daughters. When they were still in school and life got pretty dicey for me, I felt like giving up. One of them said to me, “You always tell us we can do and be anything we want. Was that a lie?” If that doesn’t put some “I Can Do It” into you, nothing will.
Is there anything you’d like to talk about? Anything I missed that you would like to share?
Thanks for being so nice to me, Brian. I’ve never met you in real life but you have the scariest book covers EVER! I was a little worried the interview questions might take a dark turn.
Please stop by and visit my website.
To celebrate the launch of TAINTED MOUNTAIN, I’m giving away free copies of TAINTED MOUNTAIN on Goodreads! Stop by and sign up.
Thanks for talking to me, Shannon. Best of luck with TAINTED MOUNTAIN.
“Shannon Baker offers readers a taut, cautionary tale that is a deft mix of both important contemporary issues and the timeless spiritual traditions of the Hopi. For those of us who hunger for the kind of novel Tony Hillerman used to write so well, this promising new series may just fill the bill.” – William Kent Krueger, New York Times Bestselling Author of ORDINARY GRACE
“A thoroughly satisfying mystery! Shannon Baker captures the grandeur and fragility of the western landscape while keeping the pages turning. And Nora Abbot is a fiery and tenacious sleuth whose future career in crime solving will be fun to watch.” – Margaret Coel, New York Times Bestselling Author of BUFFALO BILL’S DEAD NOW
A lover of mountains, plains, oceans and rivers, Shannon Baker can often be found traipsing around the great outdoors. She is a member of ITW, MWA, SinC and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and makes her home in Boulder, CO. TAINTED MOUNTAIN, the first in her Nora Abbott Mystery Series, is set in Flagstaff, AZ, where she lived for several years and worked for The Grand Canyon Trust, a hotbed of environmentalists who, usually, don’t resort to murder.
To learn more about Shannon, please visit her website.