Author Spotlight: Getting to know D.M. Rowell

Donna Rowell

Unveiling the Multifaceted Donna Rowell

Donna Rowell isn't your traditional author; there is so much more to her than meets the eye. You can't help but be drawn in by her kind face and friendly smile. She is an award-winning producer and writer and has meaningfully contributed to several documentaries. She is well known for her work on the Vanishing Link: My Spiritual Return to the Kiowa Way, which aired on PBS and was the winner of TrailDance 2007 Best Oklahoma Documentary.

What sets her apart is her ability to weave parts of herself and her heritage into her story, which successfully adds to its authenticity. As a child, her Kiowa grandfather profoundly impacted her life and strongly influenced how she viewed life. 

He was a tribal elder, an artist, a master storyteller, and one of the last readers of the Sai-guats, winter count deerskin calendars that recounted a hundred years of Kiowa history. She fondly remembers her grandfather's stories and art, which were responsible for her love of the Kiowa culture and its many traditions. 

From Silicon Valley to the World of Writing

Donna has spent over 30 years working in Silicon Valley, spinning stories for various startups and corporations while also creating thought-provoking independent documents. The next chapter in her life is all about writing, and as we mentioned, she weaves part of her personality and history into her book, Never Name The Dead, which was released in 2022. Her impressive debut is fast-paced and full of action; we simply can't wait to read the next one!

When asked what prompted her to write this book in a recent interview, she responded, "Since I was 12, devouring Trixie Belden mysteries, I have wanted to write a murder mystery series. That same year, my grandfather, C. E. Rowell—Kiowa historian, artist, storyteller, and Tribal Elder—pointed at me with his chin, in the style of the old Kiowas, and decreed, "You. You will keep our traditional stories alive. You are next."

And at last, she was able to do what she always wanted – to write a murder mystery series that not only entertains but also shares information about my Plains Indian tribe, the Kiowas. At age 60, Donna embarked on a UCSD Extension Creative Writing Program with the intent, as she says, to write a mystery novel trapped within. She didn't anticipate how much she would enjoy writing and getting to know her characters. 

She recalls that during one scene, a character showed up unexpectedly, refused to leave, and ended up dominating the scene. She went on to say that at the end of the writing session, I realized he was right. That character needed to be there, doing what he did. It improved the scene immensely.

Donna counts herself lucky to get Carolyn Wheat as her first instructor, for she offered that much-needed encouragement and helped her bring her story to life. Carolyn was also instrumental in motivating Donna to submit her book for publication. And as you know, at Once Upon A Book Club, we are all about bringing stories to life.

This journey has been a surprise and a wonderful learning experience for Donna. She recently shared that she is new to this world and is still struggling to even understand the jargon. We can definitely identify with that; it's always the jargon you have to master when you enter a new industry. 

Never Name the Dead: A Riveting Kiowa Mystery

Never Name the Dead features a curly-headed Kiowa woman named Mud Sawpole, and just like Donna, Mud comes from a long line of Kiowa Storytellers who treasure their oral traditions. This riveting mystery is about old grudges, tribal traditions, and returning to your roots. 

No one called her Mud in Silicon Valley, for there she was Mae, a high-powered member of that exclusive club. She had left her Kiowa roots behind her many years ago, but your roots always call to you. After receiving a worrying voice message from her grandfather, James Sawpole, asking her to come home, she rushes to the airport and catches the next plane back to Oklahoma.

Mae finds herself caught up in a web of lies, theft, betrayal, and murder, but Mud must use her Native American spirituality and Silicon Valley shrewdness to solve a theft and a murder in this exciting adventure based in Kiowa Country.

She returns home to find her tribe in chaos – their ancestral lands are ravaged by fracking, families are being forced to sell off their artifacts, and her grandfather has been threatened with death over his water rights. 

But Mud's life is thrown into turmoil when she and her cousin Denny discover that her grandfather is missing and accused of stealing the valuable Jefferson Peace medal from the tribe museum. Things only get worse after they discover a body in his workroom, and now she has no choice but to search for answers, clear her grandfather's name and find a killer.

Mud sets out into the Wildlife Refuge, unaware that she is about to embark on a journey involving deceit, greed, and a charging buffalo, all while there is a murderer close on her trail.

Donna Rowell's Hope and Advice to Readers

For Donna, her hope is that the readers will have an enjoyable read while they learn a bit about the Kiowa Tribe, their language, history, traditions, and customs. Her advice for all of you budding writers is, "It is never too late to tell a good story. Believe in yourself and do it!" Donna currently happily resides in sunny California with her partner, their son, and a bossy, feral gray cat who rather seems to be in charge.

1 comment

  • Darleen Shea

    This was a great read. I loved it and I love her.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.