07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Monday, July 4, 2011

How my world shapes my writing

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 and all the way through writing children’s stories for my kids, writing murder mysteries when I wanted to kill someone (killed that person off in two manuscripts), writing for the local paper when it fit my lifestyle, and finally settling into 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 the west. Where I live and the American history I love. 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. The power went out often so we used kerosene and oil lamps, the outhouse, and hauled buckets of water to the house from the ditch. Looking back, 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 than 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 heat of 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 standing in the middle of my bedroom. I'd stand as close to it as I could on cold winter mornings as I dressed. Growing up, I lived the life I write about in my historical westerns.
And now, ranching with my husband, I've encountered many of the obstacles that I write about in my contemporary westerns.

And I grew up in the land of Chief Joseph's Nez Perce and have always had a fascination for them and believe I saw an apparition of a Nez Perce warrior one summer day while riding my horse in the mountains. That moment has stuck with me, and I believe the catalyst that pushed me to write the spirit trilogy.

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 couple of other goodies.



Graphic by: http://www.holidaygraphics.com
Photos: Paty Jager


Robin Weaver said...

Wow, Paty. What an interesting picture and post.

Judith Ashley said...

Hi Paty,

I write about the women who've shown up in vision after vision afer vision.

I read historicals mostly because a well-written historical feels more real to me than some of the contemporary books that I also read.

When our real lives mesh with our writing lives, magic is often the result.

Diana Mcc. said...


What an interesting life you've led. The background material you've lived shows through in your books.
Diana Mcc

Tam Linsey said...

Sounds like you have a lot to draw on in creating your world. I was raised in the city but am teaching myself (and my kids) all those things you talk about. I love the biology of living off the land, so that shapes a lot of my writing - advanced biological technology.

Paty Jager said...

Sorry, I'm late in responding. I've been out in the boonies for six days haying. I'm back home for a few days before I have to go out and supervise the irrigating.

Thanks, Robin!

I agree Judith. I think a writer needs to have experienced something of what they are writing about to be able to convey it int he story. Whether it's setting, time period, or character believability.

Hi Diana, I try to use what I know to make my books real. Thanks!

Tam, I think everyone should know where their food comes from and how to survive if things get as bad as they did during the depression. Those who lived off the land fared much better than the city dwellers.

Paty Jager said...

Diana, You're my winner. Send me your snail mail address to hihocowpatyatyahoodotcom and I'll send your goodies your way.

SamMarie Ashe said...

Paty - loved your post! Thank you so much for sharing. What an awesome way to grow up. :)

Sarah Raplee said...

I love the way your own experience as well as your extensive research enhances your books!

I heeded the advice to 'write what you know'and 'write what you read' and so began by writing a contemporary romantic suspense story set in Iowa, where I lived for 21 years.

Both my hero and my heroine have issues around self-acceptance and belonging. I know what it's like to feel like an outsider. I grew up on a tropical island where I was the only white girl in my fifth grade class. A ten-year-old placed in a strange culture where she is the odd one learns a lot about life, people and community.

Great question!