I met my guest, author Carmen Peone, recently at the Silver Spur Western Gathering in Spokane, WA, and read both of her delightful Young Adult books, Change of Heart and its sequel, Heart of Courage.
Change of Heart Synopsis: After fighting with her sister, thirteen-year-old Spupaleena bolts from their Arrow Lakes pit home into the dead of winter. Spupaleena doesn’t know where she is going but knows she canno longer live at home. Haunted by the deaths of her mother and baby brother, Spupaleena runs until she falls over a cliff.
Upon discovering Spupaleena’s body, Philip Gardner, a trapper, brings her home to his cabin. His wife, Elizabeth, does her best to help heal Spupaleena, although with a broken heart and a mangled body, she is not likely to survive. See Trailer for Change of Heart.
Yes. I had studied the Sinyekst or Arrow Lakes Language, that of my husband and sons’ tribe, with elder Marguerite Ensminger for three years. Having lived on the reservation for 26 years now, I knew I had to write these books if nothing else but for my sons; in honor of their culture and our faith. I also co-coordinate the after school program at the Inchelium school. I love working with youth and is the main reason I write for the young adult audience, although every age has read them (third grade up to the 70 and 80 year olds). The cultural aspect is historically accurate, which I think is what draws readers of all ages, as does the Native language.
Are the books based on stories the elders told you? No, although in Heart of Courage the story about the turtle and coyote is a story pasted on for many generations. Everything else is a story that came to me many years ago.
The books contain many authentic words from this Native American tribe. Tell us how you learned them, and can you speak the language?
I studied the language for three years with elder Marguerite Ensminger. She actually taught my oldest two sons in school before she had strokes, causing her to retire her volunteer services at the local school. We came to be good friends while both serving on the Inchelium school board. Marguerite pestered to me come to her house and take lessons, and finally I did until she could no longer give them due to a major stroke that sent her to live in a retirement home. Not long after that she did pass away. At one time I knew much of the language, although not fluent, and now I speak very little. Not many people speak the Arrow Lakes Language. Okanagan, which is similar, is what is taught in the area now and is spelled much differently.
What would you say is the theme of your writing?
The theme of my writing is that no matter how hard life gets, there is hope in God. I like my girl characters to be strong, but not disrespectful. There are many life lessons in my writing and hope youth take these lessons to heart and learn from them.
You include strong messages of faith and courage. How does your personal faith influence your writing?
I write because of my Christianity. In my early years I struggled with esteem issues and want my readers to understand that all things are possible with God. Too many times, a false perception of self is our biggest struggle. We were created with all the tools we need to succeed; we just need to work hard to achieve our desired goals. Nothing really is impossible. It took me a long time to figure that out and I still struggle with those “I’m not good enough” issues that try and pop up at times. Then I think of my successes, give it to God, and move forward.
Tell us about your writing journey, how you got started and how you came to be published.
I never intended to be a writer. Over ten years ago I began writing Change of Heart and had to put it on the back burner and finish raising my sons, who at the time were in junior and senior high school. Once my youngest left for collage, he pestered me until I finished the manuscript for Change of Heart. During the course of the ten year stint, I took an online non-fiction writing class and didn’t really care for the craft of writing articles. I then took an online fiction course with Writer’s Digest. My instructor helped me get the manuscript for Change of Heart in order and off to a good start. Once it was complete, I searched various publishers and was accepted with Tate Publishing and Enterprise as they are big on first time authors. I decided to keep on with Spupaleena and her adventures in honor of the culture and the youth I work with. I believe the Native language is what makes my books unique. I want to leave that as my sons’ legacy to the Native men God created them to be.
Who or what has inspired your writing? Any favorite authors?
I am an avid reader. There are so many inspiring authors, but Gary Paulson’s young adult books have encouraged me to write for youth, especially because God has always given me a heart for them. I eventually want to write western adult romance. But because I have fallen in love with my characters, I will continue on with them for a few more stories. Another author who has really inspired me is Mary Connealy. I love her humor and characterization. She is a master at keeping a story flowing.
In your second book, Heart of Courage, Spupaleena is endeavoring to race horses against young men. I understand you raise Paint horses and are in a riding group called the Saddle Sisters. Tell us more about your love for horses.
Yes, I have paint horses, but quarter horses also. I always knew horses would be in my books. I have shown horses with my youngest son in 4-H and open classes in Western Pleasure. My Paint gelding was born and raised on the reservation. He has some thoroughbred blood in him and loves to move out. So I bumped him up to extreme challenge competitions were he has to slow down and think. We actually won an ACTHA competition in Spokane, WA and placed Second at Ride the West also in Spokane, both last year. I am pleasure riding only this year with my Covada Saddle Sisters as I’m focusing on marketing and writing the books this year.
The reason I chose racing in Heart of Courage, is because it is a big sport on many reservations. A few youth my sons grew up with now race. My next book, out in 2013, will include Spupaleena racing with a team against other relay teams, which is also big in our area. It’s called the pony express racing, or relay racing. It is big at our Ferry County fair in Republic, WA and in Pendleton, OR as well as surrounding venues.
Heart of Courage Synopsis: Knowing she encompassed the skills to race against young men, Spupaleena begins her intense training, despite her fellow racer’s cruel insults, and her father’s opposition to this unconventional sport for women. She draws her strength from God, but does she have the spirit to compete and win? View the Book Trailer for Heart of Courage.
Change of Heart and Heart of Courage are available as print or e-books at Tate Publishing , Amazon.com or can be ordered at your local bookstore or as audio books at The Audio Book Store.
A third book of the series, working title Heart of Passion, will be out summer of 2013, and is a continuation of the first two. There is more horse racing but in a relay setting. Revenge, hate, hope, and forgiveness all encompass Spupaleena’s world.