Meet Mike Orenduff, author of the Pot Thief Mysteries
Writers can set their stories in a real place or invent one. Either way, it has to be a place the reader wants to spend some time in. Henning Mankell sets his mysteries in a real place -Southern Sweden, an area called Skane, and he puts a map at the front of the books. Ed McBain sets his mysteries in the 87th Precinct of a mythical city with boroughs named Isola, Calm's Point, Majesta, Riverhead, Bethtown and Smoke Rise. You’d think a writer as good as Ed McBain could come up with better names.
My stories are set in New Mexico, which places me in good company. Tony Hillerman, Steven Havill, Michael McGarrity, Judith van Gieson, Sandi Ault, Nevada Barr, Martha Grimes, Dorothy Hughes, Nancy Pickard, and Stuart Woods have also set one or more of their books in the Land of Enchantment. There must be a reason why so many stories are set in New Mexico and so few in North Dakota.
I think it’s because New Mexico has a distinctive geography, history and culture. Because my books have an underlying anthropological premise about human cultures, the New Mexico blend of Native American, Hispanic and Anglo cultures suits my purposes.
But one thing a writer must keep in mind is that although you are writing a story set in New Mexico, you aren’t writing it for New Mexicans. After all, New Mexico contains less than one half of one percent of the nation’s population. If you want royalty checks worth cashing, you need Californians, Floridians, and New Yorkers to read your books. And they will do that if your book takes them to an interesting place well described. What I like to do is add bits about New Mexico that work on two levels – something about the state that works for all readers but also contains an inside joke, so to speak, that will likely be noticed only by New Mexicans.
Here is a passage from one of my books: “She was an older sister and a second mother. She taught me Spanish the old-fashioned way, by talking to me in that tongue from the day I came home from the hospital. Consuela fed me caldillo, carne adovada, posole, and sopaipillas. For vegetables we had frijoles, calabazitas, arroz con chile verde, and verdolagas she gathered wild. Her cooking molded my palate. I’m as likely today to go to a French, Italian, or Japanese restaurant as I am to take up skateboarding.”
I think I’ll stop here; I’m getting hungry.
Buy Link for the latest book: http://tiny.cc/hkps0
“Hubert Shuze, pot thief extraordinaire, operates an ancient pottery resale shop, not entirely legally, in the middle of Albuquerque's town square. His activities, both in the selling and creating of ancient pots and their knock-offs, tend to get him mixed up in an assortment of marginally ethical activities, murder generally being the most profound. Shuze operates by a complex set of ethics that allows him to sell questionably legal pots, burglarize, and launder money -- but never to lie, cheat or steal.
Along the way, Shuze, a perpetual student of life, educates us on his philosopher du jour. His previous novels featured the philosophies of Pythagoras, Ptolemy and Einstein. "The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier" is a quirky repast of piñon-infused chimeneas, New Mexican sunsets, and a delightful band of foodie misfits. It is best enjoyed in the fading glow of a Southwestern sunset, a fire crackling beside you, a faithful dog at your feet.” The El Paso Times
Information about the books:
The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy, The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein, and The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier are published by Oak Tress Press and are available as paperbacks in many Barnes & Nobles, Hastings, and Independent bookstores and as ebooks on Kindle and Nook readers.
Mike Orenduff grew up in a house so close to the Rio Grande that he could Frisbee a tortilla into Mexico. He came by his love of pueblo pottery during weekends, buying small pots from the pueblos his family visited and – in one case – acquiring one when his sister traded chocolate chip cookies for it. His love of pottery expanded to a general interest in archaeology which he studied as an undergraduate.
While in graduate school at the University of New Mexico, Mike worked during the summer as a volunteer teacher at one of the nearby pueblos. He went on to serve as President of New Mexico State University and as a visiting faculty member at West Point and President of Bermuda College. After retiring from higher education, he rekindled his love of the Southwest by writing his award-winning Pot Thief murder mysteries which combine archaeology and philosophy with humor and mystery. Among his many awards are the New Mexico Book of the Year, the “Lefty” national award for best humorous mystery and two “Eppies” for the best eBook mysteries.
His first book, The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, was described by The Baltimore Sun as, “funny at a very high intellectual level and deliciously delightful,” and his latest, The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier, was called "the perfect fusion of murder, mayhem and margaritas” by The El Paso Times.
Thank you, Mike, for visiting me today and talking about the importance of setting in your books.