I Am Not My Main Character

Apr 13, 2022 | 2022 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Marcie Rendon

My protagonist in the Cash Blackbear crime series is a nineteen-year-old Ojibwe woman who has aged out of foster care in the early 1970s. She drinks beer, smokes cigarettes, and works as a farm laborer in the Red River Valley of the North. Short and lithe with waist length dark hair, she shoots a mean game of pool at barroom billiard tables. And she helps the local county sheriff solve crimes.

Someone once told me that men are rarely asked if they model their main character after themselves, but it is a question women authors are often asked. The first time I was on an author’s panel and asked the question, I deflected it by turning to the male author sitting next to me and asking, “Is your protagonist modeled after you?”

Marcie Rendon

Another question often asked of me as a Native American author is, “Do Native Americans all have dreams and intuition in the same way your main character, Cash, does?” I respond by telling the true story of Frances Densmore, ethnomusicologist, who, after visiting Ojibwe tribes in the early 1900s and recording our music in the belief that we would soon all be dead, said, and I paraphrase, ‘The Ojibwe people are all schizophrenic because they see and hear things the rest of us don’t.’ In my opinion, Cree singer, Buffy St. Marie, has a much more accurate perception. She says, “You think I have visions because I am Indian, I have visions because there are visions to be seen.”

My character Cash keeps finding herself in physical confrontations way beyond her capabilities. So many times, in fact, that she finally sets out to learn judo to compensate for her small size. My personal knowledge of judo is a high-pitched scream if need be.

Years ago, I had decided to write crime fiction, not because I ‘know’ crime or am a criminal, but because that is the genre I love to read. I wrote three pathetic crime novels that will sit forever in a box in my garage and hopefully the mice have eaten most of the words. I determined that I didn’t know how to write this genre and sat down to write a chick lit story about a woman who goes to Nashville to break into the music industry. Cash, literally and figuratively, appeared over my right shoulder, shook her head, saying ‘no, no.’

She gave me another story to write; her story and as long as I write her story, it seems to work. I wish I were as smart as Cash, as tough mentally, emotionally, and as bigger-than-life as she is. Instead, about all I have in common with Cash is a somewhat good ability to shoot pool.

So, when people ask, “Is this story autobiographical? Is Cash’s story your story?”, I have to shake my head no, and say, “I wish.”

As writers, as authors, I think we need to learn to follow the muse, listen to the voices and stories in the shadows of the room. Bring them to the light. Put them on the page. They are not us, but when we let them, they are the better and best parts of our overactive imaginations.

There are three books in the Cash Blackbear series so far. Murder on the Red River and Girl Gone Missing are currently available (Soho Press). The third in the series, Sinister Graves will be available in October 2022.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode goes up next week.

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Marcie Rendon is a citizen of the White Earth Nation. Listed in Oprah Magazine’s 2020 list of 31 Native American Authors to Read Right Now, Rendon also received Minnesota’s 2020 McKnight Distinguished Artist Award. Sinister Graves will be released by Soho Press, October 2022. Girl Gone Missing, Rendon’s second Cash Blackbear novel, was nominated for the Son’s Sue Grafton Memorial Award, 2020. Murder on the Red River received the Pinckley Women’s Crime Novel Award 2018. Both available from SoHo Press. Rendon writes children’s books, Stitches of Tradition, Heartdrum publisher, will be released in 2024. She has four plays published. Out of Hand Theater will produce her script, Say Their Names, in their 2022 Theater in Homes project. Sweet Revenge had a staged reading at the Playwright Center, 2021. Rendon curated TwinCities Public Television’s Art Is…CreativeNativeResilience 2019. Diego Vazquez and Rendon received the Loft’s 2017 Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship for work with incarcerated women.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.

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