Donna Rowell is not your conventional author; she is a multifaceted individual with a captivating story to tell. Her welcoming smile and kind demeanor draw you in, but it's her remarkable journey that truly sets her apart. An award-winning producer, writer, and documentarian, Donna has made significant contributions to the world of storytelling. Her work, notably the documentary Vanishing Link: My Spiritual Return to the Kiowa Way, which aired on PBS and earned recognition as the TrailDance 2007 Best Oklahoma Documentary, is a testament to her talent and dedication.
What distinguishes Donna is her ability to interweave elements of her personal heritage into her narratives, infusing them with an authentic richness. Her Kiowa grandfather played a pivotal role in shaping her perspective on life during her childhood.
A tribal elder, artist, master storyteller, and one of the last keepers of the Sai-guats, winter count deerskin calendars chronicling a century of Kiowa history, Donna's grandfather's influence left an indelible mark. Fond memories of his stories and art ignited her love for the Kiowa culture and its cherished traditions.
From Silicon Valley to the World of Writing
With over three decades spent in Silicon Valley, Donna's professional journey involved crafting stories for various startups and corporations while simultaneously pursuing thought-provoking independent documentaries. However, the next chapter in her life is dedicated to writing. In 2022, she released her debut novel, Never Name The Dead, a fast-paced and action-packed mystery that has piqued readers' curiosity for more.
In a recent interview, when asked about the inspiration behind her foray into writing, Donna shared, "Since the age of 12, devouring Trixie Belden mysteries, I've dreamed of writing 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.'"
Finally, Donna fulfilled her lifelong dream of crafting a murder mystery series that not only entertains but also sheds light on her Plains Indian tribe, the Kiowas. At the age of 60, she embarked on a creative writing program at UCSD Extension with the intention of giving life to the mystery novel that had long been trapped within her. What she didn't anticipate was how thoroughly she would enjoy the process of writing and getting to know her characters.
Donna recounted an intriguing experience during her writing journey, where a character unexpectedly appeared, refused to depart, and ended up dominating a scene. Reflecting on this, she remarked that by the end of the writing session, she realized the character's presence was crucial and significantly improved the scene.
Donna considers herself fortunate to have had Carolyn Wheat as her first instructor, as Carolyn provided much-needed encouragement and played a pivotal role in helping her bring her story to life. Carolyn's influence also extended to motivating Donna to submit her book for publication, a mission closely aligned with the ethos of Once Upon A Book Club.
Navigating the world of writing has been a surprising and immensely rewarding experience for Donna. She openly acknowledges that she is a newcomer to this realm and is still grappling with understanding the intricacies of the industry. This sentiment resonates with many who embark on a new path, where mastering industry-specific jargon becomes an integral part of the journey.
Never Name The Dead: A Riveting Kiowa Mystery
Never Name the Dead introduces readers to Mud Sawpole, a curly-headed Kiowa woman deeply rooted in a lineage of Kiowa storytellers who hold their oral traditions in high esteem. This gripping mystery delves into the realms of old grudges, tribal traditions, and the profound act of reconnecting with one's heritage.
In Silicon Valley, no one knows her as Mud; there, she is Mae, a prominent member of an exclusive club. However, her Kiowa roots continue to whisper to her, and when she receives a worrisome voice message from her grandfather, James Sawpole, urging her to return home, Mae's journey takes an unexpected turn.
Upon her arrival in Oklahoma, Mae finds her tribe in turmoil. Their ancestral lands are ravaged by fracking, families are compelled to part with their cultural artifacts, and her grandfather faces threats to his life due to his water rights advocacy.
Mae's world is further upended when she discovers that her grandfather has disappeared and stands accused of stealing the valuable Jefferson Peace medal from the tribe's museum. Matters worsen when a body is discovered in his workroom. With no other choice, Mae embarks on a quest to uncover the truth, clear her grandfather's name, and apprehend a murderer.
Her journey takes her into the Wildlife Refuge, where deceit, greed, and a charging buffalo pose challenges at every turn. As a relentless murderer lurks in the shadows, Mud must rely on her Native American spirituality and Silicon Valley shrewdness to solve a complex web of theft and murder.
Donna Rowell's Hope and Advice to Readers
Donna's aspiration is for readers to not only enjoy her work but also gain insights into the Kiowa Tribe's language, history, traditions, and customs. To budding writers, she offers a valuable piece of advice: "It is never too late to tell a good story. Believe in yourself and do it!" Donna currently resides in sunny California with her partner, their son, and a bossy, feral gray cat who appears to hold a position of authority in the household.
Donna Rowell's journey from Silicon Valley to the world of writing is a testament to the transformative power of pursuing one's passions and embracing the call of one's heritage. Her ability to infuse her Kiowa roots into her narratives enriches her storytelling, making her work a captivating blend of mystery, culture, and tradition. As readers embark on the literary adventures crafted by Donna Rowell, they not only enjoy riveting tales but also gain a deeper appreciation for the Kiowa way of life and the enduring power of storytelling.