Today we're talking with Conda V. Douglas, whose short story Changing Woman Ways was recently released by Damnation Books, the same folks who published my horror short story Dannevirke. It's an interesting tale steeped in Navajo lore. Having lived for twelve years in Arizona, I really enjoyed it. I've been to Navajo country, although I've never known any Navajo. During my time in Tucson I worked with lots of Tohono O'odham and Apache but those are very different societies so it was nice to read about a society I don't know much about. The Desert Southwest is one of the last places in North America you can really experience Native American culture. Let's give it up for Conda!
Your story was based on your childhood with the Navajo. Tell us a bit about that.
Now when I look back at old photos, it seems almost odd to see my blue-eyed dad working alongside his good Navajo friend, the Singer, Fred Stevens, Jr. My famous artist dad, Luther A. Douglas, was the first man to preserve Navajo sand paintings. So we spent a lot of time with Fred and his family. It never occurred to me until I was about 12 that not everybody knew what a sand painting ceremony was, much less about the different ones. I now know how fortunate my childhood was--one filled with the fantastical of Navajo gods.
Given your experience, how accurately do you think Native Americans are portrayed in American fiction?
The best I can say about this, is it's quite a bit better than it was. Writers like Tony Hillerman and Sherman Alexie have helped by representing the Native Americans as being...people. Individuals. Complex and complicated and impossible to fit into a clichéd box. Yes, there are cultural differences, but I find cultural differences between different towns where I live in Idaho! Writing with the cliché is a lazy form of shorthand. I believe we all prefer the richer read of writing that is about various individuals who may be different and impacted by their culture--but then show how and why.
Tell us about your writing career. How did you get started, and how did you get to where you are today?
Thanks to a wonderful teacher in fifth grade, Mrs. Loringer, I discovered that writers were not gods. And if they weren't then I could be a writer too. I learned, early on, that there was one path to my writing success: read, write, edit, submit. And repeat, repeat, repeat.
What are you working on now?
My newest w.i.p. is about a young gal who can alter reality with her art. She doesn't know she possesses this ability until she brings the dead back to life. Then she doesn't want the skill. Trouble is, somebody else does.
Where can we find you and your work?
If you visit my blog where you'll find out lots about my various published articles and short stories and links to same. And various odd things about me and my creative life. Plus the occasional recipe.
And thanks Sean, for the opportunity to speak to your readers.