November 17, 2008

How my life shaped my writing

First off, thank you Anna for having me here today!

I’ve dabbled in different venues of writing over the course of my lifetime. First as a child writing plays for stuffed animals, then at thirteen writing stories of love and lust that my friends and I passed back and forth adding scenes, to witnessing what words can do when an English teacher read one of my assigned fiction projects to the class- all the way through writing children’s stories for my kids, writing murder mystery when I wanted to kill someone (killed that person off in two manuscripts), writing for the local paper when it fit my lifestyle, and then to finally settle into historical western romance.

Each stage of my writing had to do with what was going on in and around me at the time so it only makes sense that I find myself writing about history- American History, specifically the 1800’s has always been my favorite subject. I love museums, historical sites, and finding bits of history that were so integral to life when this country was spreading and growing.

I think having grown up in a semi –isolated part of the state that was slow to get technology it brought out the pioneer spirit in me. Until I was twelve, my paternal grandparents lived with us. There were seven people in a three bedroom, one bath farmhouse. We had a woodshed where we chopped kindling and stored the wood for the cookstove. When we did get an electric range we still had a wood heating stove and used the wood cookstove when the power went out which was fairly often when I was young. When the power went out we used kerosene and oil lamps, the outhouse, and hauled buckets of water to the house from the ditch. And it was usually in the winter that the power went out. And on many occasions the pipes from the well to the house froze, and we had to haul water to the house.

My family had a small herd of dairy cows and used an old hand crank separator to separate the milk from the cream. We used the milk for ourselves and the hogs we raised. We made our own butter from the cream and sold the rest to the creamery. We raised 100 chickens every year, butchering all but thirty, which were laying hens. I hated the smell of the wet feathers after you dunked them in the boiling water to loosen the feathers. And disemboweling them and cutting them up- I’d always offer to fold clothes, clean the bathroom or whatever other chore I could think of then spend hours smelling the feathers and butchered chickens. My grandmother sold extra eggs to neighbors and the local grocery store.

These are all events in my life that easily happened in the era that I write about. I can feel the woodstove, hear the clank of the metal plates as grandma put more kindling in the fire. Smell the acrid smoke that slipped through the chimney that went through my bedroom. I more or less lived the life I write about.

Now, the outlaws and heroes. Those are the characters I dreamed about while riding my horse in the Wallowa Mountains bareback, reclining with my head on my horse’s rump, staring up through pine trees at the blue sky accented by fluffy, white clouds. My heroes and outlaws were shaped by my over active imagination! They all thought I was gorgeous ( in reality I was an overweight child) So in my dreams I was slender and beautiful and had both the hero and the outlaw fighting over me.

And if you read Outlaw in Petticoats my latest release from The Wild Rose Press, you’ll see that Maeve, the heroine, indeed, is fought over by both the hero and the outlaw. Which doesn’t set well with her independent nature.

Here is the blurb for Outlaw in Petticoats, which is in contention at the Love Western Romance website for 2008 Best Western Romance. If you have read or read the book and like it please go to in the month of December and vote.

Maeve Loman has had her heart crushed before; she isn't about to have it happen again. When she takes Zeke Halsey up on his offer to help her discover the truth about her father, she's sure she can control her traitorous body and not fall for the man's considerable charms.

Zeke Halsey has wanted Maeve Loman since he first set eyes on the prickly schoolteacher. Even as she thwarts his advances, he sees the desire burning in her eyes. He knows she feels abandoned and uses bravado to keep people at arm’s length. Offering to help her find her father, he hopes to prove he’s not going anywhere.

If you are a writer, what shaped the genre you write? If you are a reader, what is your favorite genre to read and why? I’ll pick a name from the comments and send the winner an outlaw candy bar and book of your choice.


Terry Irene Blain said...


Love your story about how you grew up. Brought back memories of when I was little - we lived with my paternal grandparents in a small town in the midwest and there was the garden and the chicken. The cows were kept just outside of town and I used to go with my grandpa to milk the.

And all the relatives lived around and grew up listening to stories of when my grandparents were kids. This is where my love of history comes from, and why I ended up teaching American History and Western Civ at college.

An although my Masters is in Tudor and Stuart England and a second BA in European Studies (a long story!), when I started to write it was the frontier/west that really drew me.

I really enjoy frontier/western stories, as it's the history of our country, and like you and me, the history of our families.

escape to the past with a historical adventure...

Paty Jager said...

Thanks for stopping by Terry! Yes, extended families and growing up in a culture that knew how to take care of themselves made me very self sufficient.

Susan Macatee said...

Hard to answer, Paty, since my writing is presently all over the place. My vampire stories are inspired by the TV soap Dark Shadows, Anne Rice and other authors whose vampire stories inspired me to want to write one of my own.

My American Civil War stories are inspired by my experiences as a CW reenactor as well as all the research I've done on the Civil War, including visiting battlefields and historic buildings to take in the atmosphere.

And my science fiction romance is inspired by all the sci-fi books, TV shows and movies I've read over the years, starting in my teens.

Outlaw in Petticoats sound like a fantastic read!

Jannine said...

Hi Paty:
I started out writing western romances. I think growing up in So. Calif. and watching westerns on tv and at the movies were what got me started on the western genre. And the idea of a larger than life hero, his horse and his attempt at love seemed terribly romantic.

I've concentrated primarily on Italian medievals in the last several years. Growing up Italian was a definite influence. Like you, my grandparents lived with us for a time. In italian households, it's not uncommon for the elderly relatives to live with their children.

Glad to see you here.

Paty Jager said...

Thanks Susan! Wow, you are all over the place! LOL

Paty Jager said...

Hi Jannine! It is true, how we grow up influences what we write. There is a little bit of every writer in their work.

Helen Hardt said...

Hi Paty! Like Susan, my romance writing is all over the place. I've written historical, contemporary, paranormal, and most recently, erotic. It makes sense that I'd eventually try erotic since even in the other genres, my writing tends to go hot. As a reader, I read all the romance genres with the exception of romantic suspense and inspirational. I love to read fantasy/sci fi romance, but I don't think it's a genre I'd ever try to write. I also love to read good young adult literature, and the occasional thriller. And I'll always go back to the classics from time to time.


robynl said...

I grew up on a dairy farm and then a mixed grain farm where cows were milked every day, twice a day. We separated the milk also and sold cream. Chicken butchering day had me doing anything but after I got home from school. Oh that smell!!! I could not get my hand to enter the chicken cavity to eviscerate it- the feel was terrible.
I love contemporary romance for reading because of the lightness and easy reading. I love Western, comedy, etc.

Paty Jager said...

Hi Helen! Thanks for stopping by! I'll read just about anything except horror or SciFi.

Paty Jager said...

Hi Robyn,

It's good to know I'm not the only one who ran from chicken butchering! LOL

Miss Slick One said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Miss Slick One said...

My fav genre to read is fantasy (that includes sci-fi as well).
As a (beginning) writer, I lean towards romantic fantasy when I write.
I have yet to finish a book LOL

Phyllis Sherer in SC
(sorry, had two mis-spellings so I went back to correct them)

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

What a great blog. I also do the same thing when I write my stories. We live in the mountains so that atmosphere shows up in my descriptions and I had grandparents who lived in gold country as well. It is fun to go back into those memory banks and pull out childhood details to give your stories a bit of you...

Paty Jager said...

Hi Phyllis, Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Thanks,Paisley. Growing up in rural areas I think gives a writer a more grounded feel to their projects. And history in a writer's family can spring board into so many wonderful stories.

Lauri said...

I love your history!

I grew up in Kansas but spent my summers in northern Minnesota and moved back here after getting married. A large piece of my heart remains in the wheat fields of Kansas, and with the cowboys, so that's where my inspiration and love for western romances comes from.

Great interview!

Nicole McCaffrey said...

Interesting blog. I've always credited those Saturday afternoon westerns I used to watch with my grandma for inspiring my love of the old west, but there's no real explanation for my fascination with the Civil War. All I knew was from the first time I learned about it in history class, I was hooked.

I grew up on stories of the depression and WWII so one would think I'd be more inclined to that era in history, but not so far!

Great blog, Paty!

Paty Jager said...

Lauri, Thanks for stopping by. Gee, I never could have guessed you have a soft spot for Kansas! ;)

Nic, Glad to see you! Yeah, I think I've heard enough stories about growing up in Nebraska from my dad that I could write several books about that area in the early 1900's. LOL

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Congrats to Robyn. She won Paty's drawing.

Thanks Paty for guest hosting and thanks to everyone else for stopping by.


robynl said...

wow, I won. Wonderful. E-mail to Paty on it's way. Thanks.

Virginia said...

This book sounds like a great read.