By Lizzy Scully
This November, Publishers Weekly named Sandi Ault’s book, “Wild Inferno,” as one of nine of its best books of the year. A resident of Pinewood Springs, Colo., Ault has written two novels in her WILD mystery series and has a third coming out February 2008.
After being severely injured in an automobile accident, Ault’s life changed drastically. However, the difficult recovery period opened up a new and exciting chapter of her life. A journalist and editor, she found she couldn’t deal with the stress and pressure of the fast-paced newspaper world with a head injury, but wanted to keep up her writing skills. So, she began writing her first murder mystery novel.
“To keep my hand in it, I decided to write something longer so that I had to try to keep my short term memory going,” she said. “My neurosurgeon thought it was a great exercise for me.”
What followed was what Ault calls a “Cinderella story.” Rather than receive countless rejection letters as most new book authors do, Ault found dozens of agents who wanted to represent her books.
“I picked the agent I liked the best, and when we sent it to the publishers, we had so many offers we had to have an auction,” she said. “I had instant success.” Then Ault’s first book, “Wild Indigo,” won the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark – Edgar award and both it and “Wild Inferno” made it to numerous bestseller lists. Ault’s best book is yet to come.
“I think the next one is the best thing I’ve ever written,” Ault said, an excited tone to her voice. The story includes an abandoned boarding school on Native American lands, a murder (of course), her famed heroine and sleuth Jamaica, Jamaica’s wolf companion, and a mountain lion that “represents native cultures and the West living on a knife edge.”
Ault’s stories are steeped in Pueblo culture and set in the wide-open landscapes of the Southwest, which are both “vanishing. I’m hurrying as fast as I can to capture the Wild West while it is still here,” she explained.
Her stories are also infused with experiences from her own life. Wolf characters appear in each novel and are based on the wolf companions she’s had for many years; her novels are set in the West, a landscape she lives in and has explored extensively; and they have Native American characters, based on her experiences and friendships with the Pueblos. Plus, “Wild Inferno” opens with a raging fire and includes information that Ault gleaned from her work as a Type 2 Fire Information Officer. The “dramatic” and “exciting” job offers the perfect opener to grab the reader’s attention, she stated.
Ault believes she is “very good” at drawing people into her stories. Compared to Tony Hillerman and Nevada Barr, her books are experiential, much like her favorite mystery author, James Lee Burke. “I’m not a plot-oriented person,” she stated. “It’s more texture. It’s place. It’s sensual. People seem to love it.”
Clearly they do. Her publisher will keep her busy writing one book per year, and doing conferences, book signings and other writing-related events.
Though excited, this means Ault doesn’t get much sleep these days. “I can’t write on the road,” she explained, “so what I end up doing is holing up for long periods of time – four to eight weeks – and then I just work night and day. I don’t stop unless I have to eat, pee or go to the market for coffee.” She likens these periods to the Pueblo Indian’s “quiet time,” when they close the reservation to tourists and “live in the old way.” They put their moccasins and blankets back on, while Ault hangs out in her “jammies.”
“It’s cool,” she added. And it works.
According to Publishers Weekly, “The dramatic background … and a smooth blending of plot and Native American lore and rituals make Ault’s sequel to her impressive debut (Wild Indigo, 2007) a richer novel than her first.”
In regards to Publishers Weekly’s praise, Ault said she’s “just awestruck. For them to say my book was one of the best books of 2008 is just one of the highest acclaims. I’m in such wonderful company.”
For more information on Ault’s books, visit: www.sandiault.com. Both her books are published by Berkley Prime Crime/Penguin USA and are available at booksellers everywhere.