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Margaret Coel | The Idea for WINTER’S CHILD

September 18, 2017

Where did the idea for WINTER’S CHILD come from?

Without doubt, the most frequent question fielded by authors is what I call the “idea question.” I’ve always liked the answer Willie Nelson gave when asked where he got ideas for songs. Ideas are floating around in the universe, Willie explained, and from time to time, one drops into his head.

But there is something more. Your head has to be ready. Ready, open and welcoming. You have to be on the constant lookout for ideas. The mat must be out: come on in, make yourself at home.

Because, as Willie says, ideas are indeed out there. Everywhere. And they are looking for you—writers, musicians, artists. The billboard you just passed, the commercial interrupting your favorite show, the little old lady shuffling by in the parking lot, the phone conversation annoying you in the airport.

And books, of course. Books are chock full of ideas. I have gotten ideas for lots of stories from books. Often I’ve been doing research for the novel I happened to be working on when, wow! An idea for the next book jumped off the page.

That’s how the idea for WINTER’S CHILD came. I was writing WIFE OF MOON and doing research about the Wind River Reservation in the early years after 1878, when the Arapahos settled there. Tucked in a footnote I had almost overlooked was the mention of Lizzie Brokenhorn, a white woman who had grown up Arapaho on the reservation. Interesting, I thought. I made a note about Lizzie and filed it into my ideas file (if you don’t capture ideas when they drop into your head, they have a way of evaporating into the mists.) I finished WIFE OF MOON, went on to write other novels, and thought no more of Lizzie, until the idea popped up in another book. This time, I paid close attention. I began to look into the story of a white woman who had come into the tribe as a child.

The idea of such a child captured me. What if a white child were growing up on the reservation today, I wondered? What if she believed herself to be Arapaho? What if she had been brought to the reservation because of a horrific crime, a crime the villain would stop at nothing, even murder, to keep secret.

And what if Vicky Holden, Arapaho attorney, and Father John O’Malley, Jesuit missionary priest, were drawn into the mystery surrounding the white child’s background and began to unravel the truth? What might the villain do to stop them?

I started writing, and the result is WINTER’S CHILD, a novel that sprang from the germ of an idea in an obscure footnote while I was researching another novel. But you never know when an idea might present itself. I have learned to be ready and to be patient because the idea for the next novel is always on its way. It could drop into my head from anywhere.

WINTER’S CHILD by Margaret Coel

Wind River #20

Winter's Child

Margaret Coel’s New York Times bestselling series continues as Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden and Father John O’Malley discover that a centuries-old mystery is tied to a modern-day crime on the Wind River Reservation…

In the midst of a blizzard, Myra and Eldon Little Shield found an abandoned baby on their doorstep and brought her inside. Five years later, no one has come back to claim the little girl now known as Mary Anne Little Shield. But now that she’s old enough to start school, her foster parents fear social services will take her—a white child—away from them.

Determined to adopt Mary Anne, the Little Shields hire lawyer Clint Hopkins, who wants Vicky as cocounsel on the case. But before their meeting can take place, a black truck deliberately runs Hopkins down in the street.

Enlisting Father John to help investigate who would kill to stop the child’s adoption, Vicky unravels a connection between the five-year-old girl and a missing alcoholic Arapaho wanted for robbery—only to uncover one of the darkest secrets in Wind River’s history…

Mystery Woman Sleuth [Berkley Prime Crime, On Sale: September 5, 2017, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book (reprint), ISBN: 9780425280331 / eISBN: 9780698191297]

About Margaret Coel

Margaret Coel

Margaret Coel is the New York Times best-selling author of the acclaimed Wind River mystery series set among the Arapahos on Wyoming’s Wind River Reservation and featuring Jesuit priest Father John O’Malley and Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden.

She is a native Coloradan who hails from a pioneer Colorado family. The West — the mountains, plains, and vast spaces — are in her bones, she says. She moved out of Colorado on two occasions — to attend Marquette University and to spend a couple of years in Alaska. Both times she couldn’t wait to get back.

She writes in a small study in her home on a hillside in Boulder. The window frames a view of the Rocky Mountains and the almost-always blue sky. A herd of deer are usually grazing just outside, and one summer a couple of years ago, a mountain lion made its home closeby.

“Every day,”she says, “I drink in the West.”

Wind River Mystery


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