For longtime readers, you may notice something different about this author interview. The five questions slot is usually reserved for female-identifying authors, but with a book featuring a female Native American protagonist, I thought we could make an exception!
I am really loving how so many new books are bringing new perspectives to some of my favourite genres, especially the gothic. After utterly falling for Mexican Gothic, I couldn’t resist getting my hands on a Native American-inspired gothic tale.
In this interview, we ask debut indigenous author, Nick Medina, about his inspiration, Native American folklore, and how his gothic style differs from the traditional Victorian-era narratives.
Sisters of the Lost Nation is out now.
What inspired you to write a horror novel set on a fictional reservation and with a female protagonist? How did you find Anna’s voice?
I got the idea for the story after reading an article about a Native American girl who went missing in 2017. Her sister’s been searching for her ever since. I never considered anyone other than a female protagonist. It just felt natural. And essential.
I think a lot of character development happens at the subconscious level. For the most part, Anna came to me feeling like a fully formed character, like someone I already knew. A few of her traits, though, were influenced by a couple of people I know.
The cost of forgetting tradition is a major theme in the novel. Why was this an important theme for you to explore?
Whenever something moves from one state to another, there’s the opportunity for something unexpected, or even horrific, to occur. In Sisters of the Lost Nation, the Takoda Tribe is adjusting to a new reality in which they must endure the positives and negatives brought about by a newly built casino and resort on its reservation. I wanted to explore the theme of forgetting tradition because it allowed me to highlight—and intensify—the downside of giving up something that’s been valued for generations. From that comes the question: Is it worth it? For some, the answer will be Yes. For others, it will be a resounding No.
How much of the mythology you use in the novel is based on ‘real’ folklore and how much is created for the specific story? Are there any Native American folkloric tales that are just too scary to tackle? What are some others on your wish list to cover?
Aside from the story told by Anna’s uncle at the start of the book, all the Native folklore is based on “real” folklore. I made slight changes to the stories so that they’d mesh well throughout the book, and so that they’d make sense within the Louisiana setting, but that’s as far as I went. As a horror lover, I haven’t come across any Native tales that I think are too scary to tackle. The scarier the better, as far as I’m concerned. I can’t say that I have a wish list of stories to include in future novels, but there are some horrific and fascinating Native creatures, like the owl-women who are said to eat children. A lot of Native American monsters engage in cannibalism.
Native American mythology mixes well with gothic tropes. But what sets this particular style of gothic narrative apart from the British Victorian-era gothic?
Considering the cultural differences between the Victorian-era and Native American history, it’s interesting how well Native mythology mixes with traditional gothic tropes. What sets Native mythology apart from Victorian-era Gothic is the intention of each. During Queen Victoria’s reign, religion and morality were regarded with the utmost importance. In response, much of Victorian-era gothic literature questioned and critiqued the moral standards and expectations of the time. Native American mythology, on the other hand, often seeks to explain the unexplainable, such as with origin stories, or to teach life lessons. Much of Native American mythology contains a warning.
Why should we read Sisters of the Lost Nation? Pitch us the book!
You’ll find mystery, drama, suspense, horror, and heart in Sisters of the Lost Nation. The story revolves around the very real social issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, providing information about the epidemic while building a pulse-pounding mystery. You’ll experience highs and lows, and emerge with an understanding of someone’s reality that might be very different than your own.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Nick Medina appreciates blues-based music, local folklore, and snowy winters. He has degrees in organizational and multicultural communication, and has worked as a college instructor. He enjoys playing guitar, listening to classic rock, exploring haunted cemeteries, and all sorts of spooky stuff. Connect with him on nickmedina.net, Instagram (@nickmedinawrites), and Twitter (@MedinaNick).