My sister-in-law married a Native American and I vacationed with them several times on their Pueblo in New Mexico. Being there was much like being in a foreign country: hearing a language I couldn't understand, listening to music I wasn't familiar with, and visiting family in homes that were built hundreds of years before. The Pueblo touched something deep inside me and gave me a sense of peace that I've felt few other places.
I wondered how it would be to enter that world as a teenager: if the effect would have been as profound. One day at work I told my manager I'd nearly finished a huge project I'd been working on, and when I had, I'd be so happy I'd be dancing on a cloud. When I returned from the corporate office after submitting the project, I found a sign on my desk that read, "Cloud Dancer." The instant I saw it I knew that it was the name of my heroine and I began writing Pueblo Summer.
I returned to the Pueblo during the week of the annual Feast and helped my sister-in-law prepare the food Erin helps make in the book. And, of course, I watched all the dances. Somewhere in my ancestry there is Blackfoot blood. I can't be sure, but I think that might be why the rhythm of the drums goes straight to my feet. I found it impossible to walk around during those dances without my pace matching their beat.
When Pueblo Summer was complete, I sent it to my sister-in-law, who is a teacher. She and her husband edited it both for accuracy as well as observance of the Pueblo traditions. My brother-in-law was generous with his time and he helped me learn the words and phrases used in the CLOUD DANCER series. I find myself still using some of those terms, like ma'a and saucha.
Soon after finishing Pueblo Summer I wrote Second Summer and I've just completed Summer Ghost, the third of the CLOUD DANCER trilogy. In every book I've been as respectful as possible to the Pueblo culture and portrayed it as accurately as I could. So, while Erin and Neyse are only characters, the Pueblo is very real and, for me, every bit as wonderful as they think it is. I hope that if any of my readers should be inspired to visit a Pueblo, they will be respectful and mindful of Erin's lessons there.