Just in time for Indigenous Peoples Day, I’m pleased to share the words, this month, of Paty Jager, author of several mystery series, some of which feature strong indigenous Americans. I discovered her through the Shandra Higheagle mysteries, and her most recent novel is Double Down, book 3 in the Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries, published by Windtree Press, an author cooperative.
While Paty herself isn’t indigenous, she is passionate about highlighting indigenous culture and connecting to real issues faced by indigenous people. I refer you to the final question below for her own thoughts on the subject. (I would love to feature an indigenous American author at some other time, and also any BIPOC-identifying authors of fiction. Contact me if you are interested.)
What is your favorite book (or other source) about the craft of writing? Why?
Paty: My favorite book on the craft of writing is Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation & Conflict. No matter what genre you write the information in this book will help you craft a story that keeps the readers wanting more due to the conflict and forward motion of the story and will engage the readers with your characters.
What do you like most about writing a first draft?
Paty: Writing a first draft is where a writer can let their imagination go and write anything that comes to them about the story, the characters, the setting. It’s where you just let the story flow and write it all down, no matter the holes or the repeating. Then the next round, you go through and fill in the holes and make the story more coherent. With each draft, the story becomes more fleshed out and tighter. That first draft is freedom. The freedom to write whatever comes to you about the story and characters you are writing. There are no rules, no grammar cops, no pattern you need to stick to. Just the purest form of your thoughts.
Sarah: Freedom. What a wonderful word to describe this part of writing. The free writing, the freedom not to be perfect, the freedom to explore. That captures very nicely one of the things I love about writing.
What is your favorite part of revision?
Paty: I don’t have a favorite part of the revision process. While above I said that the first draft is the freedom to write whatever comes to mind, it’s true to a point with me. I write the story I see in my mind. Then the next day, I read through what I wrote the day before—fixing typos, spelling and tightening the sentences—then I move on and write more.
When I get to the end of the book, I only need one more read-through to tie up any loose ends or add in something I discovered toward the end of the book. Then I send it off to my critique partners, and they send it back with their suggestions. I rework those and send it off to beta readers (people who are specialists or have knowledge about things I do not—like law enforcement, medical, and legal). I fix what they find. And then I send it off to a line editor, and after I go through it one more time, I sent it off to a proofreader.
So for me, my favorite part of revision is when my CPs or beta readers find something that I can add to the story to enhance it—whether it’s showing something about a character or getting more technical information about something law enforcement, medical, or legal related.
Sarah: I love how you outlined all the parts of writing, and ultimately do come to a favorite part—the input of others to your story. Thank you for highlighting this valuable point, which resonates with conversations I’ve had recently about the responsibility of the writer to do the research to ensure that their story captures experience our characters should have. Because if we only write what we know, our characters and stories will be inevitably narrow, no matter how broad our experience.
What book (not about writing) are you reading right now or have you recently finished that you would recommend to others? Why?
Paty: I just finished listening to Hollywood Ending by Kellye Garrett. I enjoy learning more about the Hollywood lifestyle in this series. The main character feels like a real person while all the secondary characters feel like stereotypes to fit the Hollywood scene. If you like a mystery with humor and human emotions, you’ll like any of Kellye Garrett’s Detective by Day mystery series. To recommend an excellent read that I am waiting for the next book in the series, I would suggest Sujata Massey’s series “A Mystery of 1920s India” (Perveen Mistry). This series is about a young woman lawyer, which was practically unheard of at that time in India, and the murders she solves.
Sarah: Having recently read The Bangalore Detectives Club, by Harini Nagendra, I’m looking forward to checking out the book by Sujata Massey, if not for parallels then because of the burgeoning women’s empowerment. I’m also a huge fan of Kellye Garrett’s books.
Can you give an example of how you have been kind to someone else recently, in real life or through one of your characters?
Paty: I would say the biggest act of kindness I’ve accomplished recently was sending money from the sale of my book, Stolen Butterfly, a Gabriel Hawke Novel that deals with Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women to an organization that educates and trains Indigenous women, children, and men how to stay safe. When I chose this topic for the book Stolen Butterfly, I made the decision to give part of the proceeds from the sale of the book to an organization that works with the MMIW movement.
I also send red dresses to Sharon Davis, an artist who has an outdoor display of red dresses to remind people of the Indigenous women and children who have been lost and never found. I pick up the dresses at thrift stores and send them to Sharon as she changes out the display every 4 months because the clothing becomes weathered.
I am not Indigenous but I feel for how they have been treated over the years and that is why I use Indigenous characters in my mystery stories to help show that they are people just like everyone else and have a resiliency that will have them on this earth long after the rest of us are gone.
For more about the Red Dress project see: