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The harsh landscape of the Great Plains has always played a prominent role in your work. Is it ingrained in your fictive sensibility?

It probably is. I don’t feel at home in the writing -- I don’t know where I am setting down my feet or where the characters are -- unless I have this visual backdrop for them.

Your characters really linger in the mind. Do you ever feel like your characters get away from you or do you, as Nabokov has said, feel that your characters are "galley slaves"?

They're certainly not galley slaves. I cannot call them up at will. When I was younger I used to take it for granted that they would be there when I needed to write about them. That's not true anymore. I've used up a lot of the emotional weight of my childhood experiences. I have to keep replenishing. I don’t know where it comes from, but whatever it is, I find I need a lot more solitude than I used to, that I have to make a conscious decision to be reclusive and barricade myself. I find I have to make certain commitments to writing that I used to take for granted.

Morrison has stated that she dislikes being labeled a "black writer." Do you feel pigeon-holed or limited by being called a "Native American" writer?

It's an academic distinction. It's made to attract people to courses where you can lump authors together. There's a mixture of people and characters in native fiction. I'm mixed. There's no other way I would have the artistic truth and veracity to write about all those characters. Labels make a good headline I don’t dislike it, but I find it tedious.