Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Weaving Fact and Fiction

Putting together historical facts with the fictional people I’ve produced in my head is harder than just whipping out a completely plausible story.

The “Spirit Trilogy” as I call my books - Spirit of the Mountain, Spirit of the Lake, and Spirit of the Sky – came to me as an idea about Native American spirits. They are complete figments of my imagination but I was interested in incorporating this idea into a tribe I grew up hearing about and admired from the history I’d read about them. So I placed my spirits in the Nez Perce (Nimiipuu as they call themselves) band that summered and wintered in the county where I grew up.

They were a peaceful group who had welcomed Lewis and Clark and the Whitemen who straggled in and eventually began to take over the areas the Nez Perce had called home for centuries.  Reading all the books I could find that were written from both sides, I tried to envision what life was like for the Nez Perce and to write a story as historically accurate about their life as I could and all the while weaving in the spirit element I’d manufactured.

The first book, Spirit of the Mountain, took a lot of digging into information on Nez Perce websites, books, and contacting members of the tribe to make sure the information I wanted to use in my books was factual and didn’t go against their beliefs.  In the first book, I only had to stay true to their way of life.

Spirit of the Lake, again, dealt with their beliefs and how they tried to live with the Whiteman to avoid being put on a reservation. I used information from Nez Perce websites, visited the Spaulding mission, and my contacts with the tribe to ensure I kept true to the facts and let my imagination go wild with the paranormal aspect of this book.

The last book was the hardest. Spirit of the Sky dealt with the nontreaty Nez Perce fleeing to freedom. The band I’d showcased in the two previous books were part of the nontreaty bands who hadn’t signed the treaty that took away all the land they migrated to throughout the seasons.  They tried to live with the Whitemen who steadily flowed into the area of their summer and winter homes, but the Whites wanted the Nez Perce gone and the Army came in to make them move.

The nontreaty bands had finally agreed to move to the reservation when some hot-headed young warriors decided to take revenge. This one act was the catalyst that put the nontreaties on the run. They knew that after the killing it was unlikely the Army would keep their promises.

And that began the four month, 1400 mile pursuit by the Army. Spirit of the Sky, begins two weeks into the pursuit and follows the horrors and triumphs of the Lake Nimiipuu band. Using books written by both sides, I made a time line and highlighted the things I found significant at each clash between the groups. I used this as my plot line and interspersed the meetings between a cavalry officer and the Nez Perce Spirit into this plot line using the factual information to springboard their interactions. The hardest part was keeping each side’s POV focused on their situation, thoughts, and feelings.

Blurb for Spirit of the Sky
To save her from oppression, he must save her whole tribe. To give her his heart, he must desert his career…
When the US Army forces the Nimiipuu from their land, Sa-qan, the eagle spirit entrusted with watching over her tribe, steps in to save her mortal niece. Challenging the restrictions of the spirit world, Sa-qan assumes human form and finds an unexpected ally in a handsome cavalry officer.
Certain she is a captive, Lt. Wade Watts, a Civil War veteran, tries to help the blonde woman he finds sheltering a Nez Perce child. While her intelligent eyes reveal she understands his language, she refuses his help. But when Wade is wounded, it is the beautiful Sa-qan who tends him. Wade wishes to stop the killing—Sa-qan will do anything to save her people.
Can their differences save her tribe? Or will their love spell the end of the Nimiipuu?

     She smiled and his heart leapt into his throat. He thought her beautiful from the first moment he saw her standing in the river fiercely protecting the child, but watching her tense face relax and smile, he was smitten. A light and pleasing calm washed over him for the first time in a very long time. He could only bask in the moment briefly. They were enemies.
    “I am from the sky, and I watch over the Nimiipuu.” She nodded her head and flashed him with yet another smile. “You may call me Angel.”
    “Only if you call me Wade.”
     She nodded. “Let me check your wounds. You have moved around.”
     “Why are you taking such good care of me when your warriors left me for dead?”
     Her sunshine gaze peered straight into his eyes. “You saved my niece at the village and the wounded from the Bannock scout. You do not have the thirst to kill like the other soldiers.” She bowed her head and removed the blood encrusted bandage from his shoulder. “The Nimiipuu need you.”
     Her touch warmed his body, tingling the areas around his wounds. He glanced at her small, delicate hands hovering over his injuries. He shut his eyes, and then opened them. Her hands shimmered as if in a fog. His pain subsided, in fact, his body felt well rested.
     A soft lyrical chant rose from her lips as she continued to hover her hands over his wounds. Her eyes remained closed, her light lashes resting on her sun-kissed cheeks. He’d never seen a woman as beautiful as this. He had to learn her true origins and return her to her family.

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You can learn more about Paty at her blog;  her website; or on Facebook;!/paty.jager and twitter;  @patyjag. 


Lyn Horner said...

Paty, thank you for sharing this fascinating insight into your historical research for the Spirit Trilogy. I can see you enjoy researching as much as I do. It's a perk, not a chore, for me.

I also love the excerpt from Spirit of the Sky!

BTW, you've just given me an idea for my next post -- how I researched the Kiowa Indians for Dearest Druid. Thanks!

Meg said...

Great excerpt, Paty. What GORGEOUS covers for all your books!

Ciara Gold said...

I agree with Meg. Your covers are wonderful. And I truly enjoyed the excerpt and learning a little more about the Nez Perce.