Monday, March 20, 2017

Writing What I Don't Know by Paty Jager

My latest Letters of Fate book is off to my first reader or the new term "sensitivity reader". This is the new term being used in writers circles for readers who are the first reader when a writer finishes a book. These readers know more about a character's culture than the writer and they read to make sure the writer has depicted the character or characters properly.

I have used what I call an expert reader, on several of my books. I tend to find something that fascinates me and decide to dive into the story even though I may not know be of that character or characters heritage or religion. When this happens I always make sure I have someone I can call on to help me out and to be the first reader when I finish a project.

This time my hunt for a small, nearly unknown Indian school that I could make things up as I went turned out to be a much bigger project. After writing a third of the book, I discovered from my back and forth emails with a specialist on Mormon history, that there was indeed more information out there than I'd found so far. I had to go back and revise and cut and change the plot of the story. But the change not only added for the history to the story, it also upped the chemistry in my hero and heroine. Which delighted me. I like a little spice in my stories and the way the book had started it was too sweet to push them into the scenes I'd envisioned when first brewing up this story.

Henrí: Letters of Fate, started out being about an Indian school. Henrí Baudin is a half Shoshoni-half French hero. He receives a letter to bring him to the Salmon River Valley in the Oregon Territory in 1858 to help his Shoshoni band. The first version he was asked to come because the teachers were being mean to the Shoshoni students. But upon further research, I realized the school wasn't as I'd first thought. In fact, the Shoshoni children attended the school in the stockade the mission built sporadically.

But I'd learned the concessions that were made for the Mormons or LDS church members to build a mission in the valley. These concessions were not help up on their side and they befriended other tribes who were the enemy of the Shoshoni. Using these factual instances in my book, it added more conflict and drama, and heightened the overall emotional feel of the book. That allowed me to bring the steamier chemistry to the hero and heroine.

Back to my "sensitivity reader". I know very little about the LDS religion, but I know how to find people who do. My expert has been exactly what I needed. She not only knows the religion but a lot about the history too. I didn't want to portray the characters in a way that was degrading but as with all cultures and religions there are always a few bad nuts in the bunch. And my westerns always have my hero fighting some kind of wrong.  Justice is the theme of my westerns. 

Henrí: Letters of Fate will be released in April. 

Do you appreciate when the author goes the extra mile to make sure a culture or religion is portrayed correctly? Or do you just read a book to take you away from everyday life and don't particularly care if the depiction of the characters is accurate?

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 30+ novels, dozen novellas, and short stories of murder mystery, western romance, and action adventure. She has a RomCon Reader’s Choice Award, EPPIE, Lorie, and RONE Award. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. This is what readers have to say about the Letters of Fate series- “...filled with romance, adventure and twists and turns.” “What a refreshing and well written love story of fate and hope!”

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Heather Blanton said...

Interesting info, Paty!

Zina Abbott said...

Sensitivity reader is a new one on me, but now I think of it, that is exactly what I lined up for my latest work in progress. Good thoughts.

Paty Jager said...

HI Heather, Thanks for stopping in!

Hi Zina, It was a new title to me until there was a huge discussion about it on a loop I'm on. I always called them my expert on a subject who was reading. Sensitivity reader is less words. ;) Thanks for stopping in!