Beating Fear with Knowledge

I think most writers are worriers. Will the readers like the story? Did I have typos/mistakes? Does the plot make sense? Am I not offending the culture of the people I write about? Am I doing justice to the cause? Am I entertaining as well as educating?

Yes, all of these things go through my head as I write a book. I feel bad I can’t get to every book by every author in my genre- mystery/suspense/crime fiction. But I spend most of my time reading books to help me better understand my characters. Because I write Native American characters and I am not Indigenous myself, I feel I must read and learn all I can about the culture and dynamics of the tribe and people I write about.

I have some tribal members who respond to my questions, but I’ve yet to find someone to openly allow me into their world. Which makes me worry, I’m not portraying them as well as I should be. Every time I think about that, I get a knot in my stomach. I want to show them for the inventive, resilient, good-natured people that they are. I also want to show the dynamics that have made them who they are.

An author friend, Carmen Peone, who helped me with my Shandra Higheagle mystery series, that is partially set on the Colville Reservation where she lives, told me about a Choctaw woman author who has a workshop to help Native and non-Native writers better understand their characters. I spent all last week watching, listening, and taking notes. Then I picked up a book I purchased a month ago about a woman who grew up in the area near where my series, takes place and am learning more about the culture and family bonds within the culture I write about.

I have the two closest powwows written into my calendar to attend. I have attended both of them once before, years apart. This summer I will attend both and try to do what Sarah Elizabeth Sawyer suggested for attending a powwow. She had a lot of good insights even though her tribe is in Oklahoma, and I write about Oregon tribes.

One of the series that I work so hard to perfect the cultural dynamics is my Spotted Pony Casino mysteries set on the Umatilla Reservation outside of Pendleton, Oregon. Book 4 in the series released this month.

Lies, deceit, blackmail.

Murder ends it all.

Or does it?

When an employee at the Spotted Pony Casino is caught leaving early, Dela Alvaro, head of security confronts the woman. The lies the woman tells only piques Dela’s curiosity. After witnessing the employee threatening a man, she is found murdered in her car parked in the driveway of her home.

Upon learning the woman used her job at the casino to blackmail men, Dela feels compelled to solve the woman’s murder and teams up with Tribal Officer Heath Seaver. Not only does the duo have a death to solve, but there is also a mystery behind Dela’s dead father. Not to mention, her mom just announced she’s marrying a man Dela has never met.

I’ll leave you with something one of my readers sent me in an email. It made my day!

“Your characters are so full of life and personality, I find myself thinking they’re real folk! The sign of a great writer! I just finished the Squeeze. Loved it, love Dela! And when I get up your way, I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee. You are an inspiration for other NW authors and a marvelous advocate for our indigenous peoples. Please keep bringing up the issue of missing people…it needs to be kept alive or nothing will change. Thank you for all you and your posse do to make Oregon a better place. You have my support, 100%. And I’ll await your next book, whoever you choose to write about. I already know I’ll love it.”

2 thoughts on “Beating Fear with Knowledge

  1. Great post, Paty! I can identify with the issue of quaking in my boots when portraying another culture. I am currently writing my next suspense novel, which involves gorillas, wolves, a Native American/Hispanic FBI agent, and a wildlife expert. I am a hiker/kayaker/snowshoer/scuba diver and a lifelong lover of all animals, but I’ve never spent time with gorillas or wolves. But I try to read as many studies of wildlife that I can find, and all the books I can lay my hands on about the specific animals and professions I want to include. It’s intimidating, for sure. We can only do our best and hope that our readers will forgive us for any mistakes we make.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Pam. Yes, I agree with do the best we can researching and talking to the people we are writing. Or in your case studying the animals, I don’t think you would have much of a chance interviewing a wolf or gorilla. LOL


Comments are closed.