Mark Reps has been a writer and storyteller his whole life. Born in small town southeastern Minnesota he trained as a mathematician and chiropractor but never lost his love of telling or writing a good story. As our Author of the Day, Reps talks about the inspiration behind Native Blood, reveals a bit more about Zeb Hanks and tells us what he is working on now.
Please give us a short introduction to what Native Blood is about.
The ritual killing of a young Apache girl on a reservation in rural Arizona takes the reader through many complex layers of relationships between Apache and Anglo cultures. The myth and spiritual fabric of the Apache community pulls Zeb Hanks, a small town sheriff, through a personal journey, making the murder not just a crime to solve but a cathartic passage.
The dead never leave us but they do whisper ghost stories that bring the past back to life. Jake Dablo is a drunken, washed up lawman because of his inability to solve the murder of his only granddaughter. Seven years after her death the granddaughter of his lifelong friend, Medicine Man Jimmy Song Bird, is murdered in exactly the same ritualistic fashion. The pair join forces with the current sheriff's team to solve the murders. The closer to the truth they get the more each man grapples with his own conscience. Ultimately the intersection of two cultures and four men who are community pillars opens larger questions about the collision of the old and new west. When the dead are buried and the ghosts finally die, each character is not the same. For they have lived each day of their life knowing that a murderer and his mark opens as many doors as it closes.
What inspired you to write this book?
After hiking in Araivaipa Canyon with my wife and son, roughly 20 years ago, we stopped on the San Carlos Apache Reservation and picked up the local newspaper. Amongst many items stuffed near the end of the paper and tucked between totally unrelated stories were a few paragraphs about the death of a child. I drove, my son read the story aloud and an idea for a mystery grew inside of me.
Why did you use the ritualistic killing of a young Apache girl as the catalyst for this book?
Because of another story I read about the ritual killing of a young girl. I wept as I read it and thought about how it must have effected everyone in her life. Her story became the general background for the emotions of Native Blood.
Tell us more about Zeb Hanks. What makes him tick?
Zeb is complicated, simple, broken, clear and clean of mind and soul, yet totally flawed in his own way. As we meet him, and he grows significantly throughout the series, he is naive, macho, inept with relationships with women, spiteful of his father and generally suffering the pains of growing into himself. He is a sheriff who believes in the law but believes the law includes old fashioned western justice. He has been mentored throughout his life by former sheriff, Jake Dablo, now his deputy and Apache medicine man, Jimmy Song Bird. While Zeb learns what it means to be a real man, a real sheriff and a human being he suffers the pains of loss and learning. He is a man who can choose his friends with the best of them, but make fatal flaws when joining forces with others. In other words, though a fictional character, he is a real man.
Your story touches on the prejudices and respects of the Native American and Anglo residents - why did you take this approach?
The conflict between Whites and Indians is real and long lasting. There has never been anything close to justice for what the Whites have put upon the Indian nations. I don't purport to carry the torch for the Indians. I don't detest what the Whites have done. I merely want to tell a great story about how I view the world of Indians and Whites as they interact as regular human beings.
Why did you pick Safford, Arizona as the backdrop for this series?
I have been hiking in the area and visiting the health spas there for the last 30 years. It is a second home. I feel like I am accepted on the Rez and in town as just another guy.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I am a Doctor of Chiropractic for 37 years and an acupuncturist for the same amount of time. I practice half the year, part time and treat what is generally considered not well treated by conventional methods using chiropractic and a special acupuncture known as transformational acupuncture. I play many sports, do crosswords, read, had a multi-paper natural health care column for seven years and have dabbled in a few other things.
How do the other books in this series tie in with this one?
The books are all related and are best when read consecutively as one leads into the next. Characters in a long series come and go and it is best to get the original introduction to each of them by starting with Native Blood. The stories are unique and have some linkage but are stand alone novels. It is just best to acquaint yourself with the characters as they grow and develop.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope they get a decent idea of who ZEB HANKS is and an idea of the old west versus new west. I also hope they get an understanding of the relationship between Indians and Whites.
What has surprised you most about reader reactions to this series?
I am most surprised by the large cadre of readers who can't wait for the next book. I am shocked at what passion rises in people when they read. For me it is almost as easy to write a book as to read one, sort of. Many people read two or three books a week year in and year out. I applaud that and find it amazing. I was also surprised after selling hundreds of thousands of books that the audience ranges from kids to the elderly. I had, prior to releasing the books, thought of reading as a lost art. It definitely is not. People love to read and love a good mystery and love the twists and turns that comes with the tale.
When working on a new book, what’s the first thing you do?
It varies greatly. I have started and the end and written the book backwards. I have started in the beginning and written chronologically. I have started in the middle and worked my way in both directions. I have come up with ideas in dreams that have totally changed by books. Also, I have learned that numerous rewrites are necessary and inevitable and have come to enjoy that part of writing.
Talk to us a bit about your writing habits. Do you write early in the morning, or through the night? Pen or laptop?
I always writing on a computer and during the day. I have gone months writing 8 hours a day and weeks without writing a word. I never have had writers block and don't even know if it is a real thing. I love writing and whenever I find the time I write. I have numerous completed books that have not yet been published that are not in this series.
What are you working on right now?
Book 8 in the ZEB HANKS: Small Town Sheriff Big Time Trouble series. It is not yet titled but it is full of mysticism and is of course a mystery that Zeb must solve. Zeb is falling in love and growing in that way, which of course, leads to issues as his girlfriend, Echo Skysong is a three time Afghanistan Special Forces war veteran with PTSD. So, since I have treated PTSD in patients I have some working knowledge of it and use it in the story. I want to raise the awareness of PTSD to the general public to a higher level of consciousness.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Check out my web page at www.markreps.com. You can contact me from that page. Check out my author page on amazon.com. Check me out on goodreads.com. I respond to almost all of my reviews and I thank all of you who have reviewed my books and encourage more of you to do so. I am open to criticism as I write for my audience I want to know what they are thinking.
Lisa when you read this please send Naomi any of the contact info I may have forgotten.