Monday, September 27, 2021

Samantha Specks Interview - Dovetails in Tall Grass

Photo Content from Samantha Specks

Samantha Specks is a licensed independent clinical social worker. Dovetails in Tall Grass is Samantha’s debut novel. Currently, she is writing Dovetails of a River, which is set at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. She and her husband live in Houston with their baby (Pippa) and fur baby (Charlie). When not in Texas, they enjoy spending time on the lakes of Minnesota and in the mountains of the Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado.


Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
As humans we are wired for connection -- and stories connect us. It makes sense that we love them! Storytelling lets us escape, lets us grow, lets us distract, lets us learn. Storytelling brings the past to life, immortalizes the now, and puts the future into our hands.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
The most rewarding part of having a book out in the world is listening the reactions, thoughts, questions from readers. It’s so interesting to hear how different parts of the book resonate with different people. Some are drawn to the sister story line, others to the father-daughter relationship, others to the death of a main character. It’s neat as an author to hear how even the smallest detail can stand out to someone!

Many readers have said they didn’t know about the US-Dakota War before reading Dovetails in Tall Grass… and now they can’t stop thinking about it. That’s “mission accomplished” for me.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’m currently writing Dovetails of a River, a sequel to Dovetails in Tall Grass, that is set at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. I’m writing fast as I can. I can’t wait to connect with readers about this next one!

  • “I had new purpose in my steps but confusion in my heart. I hadn’t realized what a selfish feeling hope could be.”
  • “Part of me wished I could settle into the dance that was life here. Learn the steps. Comply as Otto and Ida seem to do so easily. A warmth spread through me at the thought of my siblings. How could I love people so much that I was willing to walk away from?”
  • “In the terrible morning, I hoped he saw me. A daughter determined. A daughter focused upon her people. A daughter who knew what she needed.
  • “The forsaken north winds shrieked through the barren town and blasted the office windows with swirls of confused snow. My mind drifted back to the glowing October dance floor. I could still feel the stranger’s warm hand on mine.
  • “I pulled my buffalo blankets up to my face, and my pillow grew damp as it collected my sadness. Grief crawled around me, and somewhere in the hopelessness, sleep took my hand and pulled me far away.”
  • “In the wonder of that night and under the protection of those stars, little did I know what was coming for me. What was coming for us all.”
  • “What’s that?” my father seemed exasperated. My throat swelled under the pressure. I simply shook my head to indicate I didn’t know. I was a ghost of the confident woman I’d acted like in the store just an hour ago. My competence, my intelligence, were shadowed by my feeble voice and small frame.
  • “Speak a prayer of hope into the leaves,” my aunt said as she stood up and leaned into my ear. “Then tell the wounded that tea eases pain. And it will give them hope.”
  • “Mint eases pain?” I asked, uncertain.
  • “That’s what hope does. It takes away a bit of our pain.”
  • “Destroy ourselves first? The plan was a horrifying thought. Fear sank its fingers down my throat and around my stomach. “”
  • “And suddenly, I knew with conviction exactly what I had to do next. Anything I could to not let another good man die. “
  • “But instead, I kept galloping west—as a devastated, angry, blood-curdling scream burst out of me. It kept coming out of me. Endless. A scream no one else on this earth ever heard. “
Can you tell us when you started DOVETAILS IN TALL GRASS, how that came about?
Though Dovetails in Tall Grass is about events in 1862, for me the story started on Christmas 2005. A bitter wind blew snow over a country road. I was a high-schooler, cozy riding in my parents’ Suburban making the final turn to my grandparents’ home, when my blue eyes spotted something new. Headlights illuminated shapes moving across the darkening horizon. A group of men on horseback. Curious, I asked my parents why people were riding in the cold. My mother explained: “They’re Dakota who are marching to show they haven’t forgotten what happened here long ago.” Since that winter night, I've spent the last 15 years of my life learning what they haven't forgotten. And just like Emma and Oenikika, I’ve grappled with the complex history of the place I call home and finally found the courage to use my voice to tell this story.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
After finishing Dovetails in Tall Grass, I have a few hopes for a reader…

I hope a reader sets the book down and thinks, “Wow, I can’t believe I didn’t know more about this time in history…” and they instantly google “Chief Little Crow” or “Dakota 38+2 Riders” -- and maybe even search for “Emma Heard” or “Oenikika” because these characters feel so real, they must be part of the actual history.

I hope this is a novel that makes a reader look forward to her book club meeting – that it brings out lively, engaging, dynamic conversation in a group. And that she chooses to chime in a few more times than she usually does in that discussion.

And finally, at the end of the day, I hope a reader will remember Dovetails in Tall Grass as a novel that made her think, feel, and question – the book she recommends when someone asks her, “Have you read anything good lately?”

  • 1) I write most mornings at a coffeeshop with my airpods on noise-cancelling mode.
  • 2) The character Emma Heard and her family were inspired by Isaac Heard, the actual court reporter during the military trials that followed the war.
  • 3) The United States Congress abrogated and annulled all treaties with the Dakota-Sioux and issued and the Dakota Expulsion Act and Ho-Chunk / Winnebago Removal Act in 1863 – making it illegal for any Dakota to live in Minnesota. This law has never been repealed. As of 2021, the Dakota Expulsion Act still stands in the lawbooks.
  • 4) Dovetails in Tall Grass is my first novel. Before creative writing, I previously worked in radio and wrote and produced pieces for the on-air broadcast.
  • 5) I tried to work in as much of the actual history as I could into the story… from the weather to the names of streets –many factual bits of history were incorporated into the story.
  • 6) My first draft of the novel was about 120,000 words. Then it shrank to around 85,000 words and the finished manuscript was 95,000.
  • 7) An early draft of Dovetails was given one of the highest manuscript scores ever by the betareaders at the The Spun Yarn.
  • 8) The US-Dakota War of 1862 was the largest mass civilian casualty event in United States History until September 11th, 2001.
  • 9) After reading the book, you’ll recognize where the names of many Minnesota cities came from (Chaska, Shakopee).
  • 10) After the hangings on December 26th, the executed men’s bodies were cut down and buried. Quickly, many local physicians unearthed the bodies to be used as medical cadavers. The Dakota man, Cut Nose, had aggravated a local doctor years before the war– stealing the doctor’s horses while the Mayo family was crossing a river. After Cut Nose was hanged in the mass execution in Mankato, Dr. Mayo, went to retrieve the body of the man who had wronged him years earlier. The doctor kept the body of Cut Nose in his office to educate his sons on human anatomy. These two sons went on to begin the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota – regarded as one of the most respected hospitals, dedicated to research, today.
What part of your characters did you enjoy writing the most?
I wasn’t expecting it, but I really enjoyed developing romances for both my main characters. My goal was to make healthy, strong, partnerships for these young women that were dynamic and complex. I think readers will really root for both love stories to make it through the difficulties they each face… you’ll have to read and find out if they do!

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
What an interesting question! I would introduce Emma Heard, the settler protagonist in Dovetails, to Laura Ingalls. Laura lived on the same Minnesota prairie as Emma and Oenikika, just a few years later. In the Little House on the Prairie, the Ingalls family had mostly negative and racist views of the Native people whose land they lived on. After what Emma goes through in Dovetails, she and Laura could have a very meaningful conversation.

As war overtakes the frontier, Emma’s family farmstead is attacked by Dakota-Sioux warriors; on that same prairie, Oenikika desperately tries to hold on to her calling as a healer and follow the orders of her father, Chief Little Crow. When the war is over and revenge-fueled war trials begin, each young woman is faced with an impossible choice. In a swiftly changing world, both Emma and Oenikika must look deep within and fight for the truth of their convictions—even as horror and injustice unfolds all around them.

Inspired by the true story of the thirty-eight Dakota-Sioux men hanged in Minnesota in 1862—the largest mass execution in US history—Dovetails in Tall Grass is a powerful tale of two young women connected by the fate of one man.
You can purchase Dovetails in Tall Grass at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you SAMANTHA SPECKS for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Dovetails in Tall Grass by Samantha Specks.


  1. I try to do something physical. Even just get up and walk around to change the vibe. It usually works for me.

  2. Swim, Read The best thing IMO is occupying yourself with anything like a new hobby or other self-improvement.