Thank you for having me at the Write Way Café!
The research I love to do is one that comes from my time as a freelance human interest reporter. While I’m an introvert and prefer to hide in a corner or the back of a room when in a group, I love one-on-one time with people and asking them questions about their occupations.
That’s what I’ve had to do several times when giving a character an occupation or ethnic background that I’m not familiar with.
The most recent was preparing to write a book about an amateur sleuth who was half Native American. This is a contemporary story and I wanted to discover how a person growing up in the 21st century with this background would feel. I happened to run into an author who had lived a life similar to what I wanted to use. We conversed at a conference and she emailed me with her feelings and thoughts on growing up not a full blood American Indian and not Caucasian. After discussing it with her, I realized it was an emotional ride. One I didn’t think I could fully write. Knowing this, I still made my character half Native American and half white but had her brought up ignoring her American Indian heritage at the request of her White mother and stepfather. This way I could have her discover her roots with an inquisitive and hesitant heart, much like I could see myself doing.
I wanted this character, Shandra Higheagle, to be an artist. I decided as a nod to her heritage she would be a potter. But I wanted to make her a unique potter. Discussing this with my artist brother, he put me in contact with a potter who digs and purifies the clay he uses in his work. I spent an informational and fun afternoon with “Olaf”. He told me how he finds good clay soil and the tedious process of cleaning the clay. To use this type of clay, helped to show my character’s love of the earth and her art. The steps Olaf showed and explained to me, gave me a greater appreciation for all that he, and my fictional character, go through to prepare and make an artistic piece. He showed me kilns he’d made and purchased ones as well as the different ways to fire pottery and ways to change glazing effects during the firing process. I came away from my time with Olaf more versed in clay, pottery, and the dedication an artist puts into a piece of pottery.
An interview I did six years ago was one of my most fun interviews. I came up with the idea of a story about a bareback bronc rider. Since four-time National Bareback Champion Bobby Mote lived only twenty minutes from me, I called him up and asked if I could interview him to understand what my character would be like and how he would live and go about his occupation. I was thrilled when he agreed and we set up a time for me to go to his house. I was greeted by Bobby, his kids, and his wife, Kate. He was very forthcoming about his workout routine, his family routine, and his rodeo schedule. I learned what goes through a bronc-rider’s mind as he climbs onto a horse, how they treat their body like any other athlete and was given a family’s view of the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. Kate told me what it was like to travel with and watch her husband compete and what it was like dealing with kids on the road. While my character isn’t married, I gave him a married traveling partner. Not only did I get realistic and firsthand knowledge of a rodeo participant, I was able to draw out emotions and thoughts that I could use in my character.
I use interviewing people whenever I come up with an idea for a book and I don’t have the knowledge or am unable to discover the personal information I want to make my character ring true.
These are only a few of the interviews I’ve done over the years to makes sure my characters behave as they should in their occupations.
You can get the first book of the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series, Double Duplicity, free at all ebook venues.
I re-released Bridled Heart, this month. It’s the contemporary western romance I wrote after interviewing Bobby Mote. It’s available until December 10th for $0.99.
Contemporary western romance
Holt Reynolds let his sister down when she needed him most. Seeing similarities between his sister and Gina, he can’t get visions of the woman or her poignant music out of his mind. He vows to find a way to free her of her past and prays it doesn’t resurface and destroy their chance at happiness.
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Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 25+ novels and over a dozen novellas and short stories of murder mystery, western romance, and action adventure. She has garnered a RomCon Reader’s Choice Award for Contemporary Western Romance, and an EPPIE Award for Best Contemporary Romance and a RONE Mystery Award. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. She and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.
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