While working on a new historical title, I realized that my most difficult challenge of all times existed in this project. I realized I needed to step into the head and heart of a Navajo male in the 1930s
, and I didn’t know a thing about the culture or the era. New Mexico
What was I thinking when I agreed to write this novel? How could I ever conduct enough research to make my story credible and compelling? For that matter, how could I create a story that was unpredictable and realistic? Those vital ingredients rested in my character and his role in my story. What my character would take for granted, I would find interesting, fascinating, even frightening. The project needed to be written in such a way that a Navajo Indian could pick up the book and believe the author had spent a considerable time with these Native Americans.
I sighed. Aren’t all of our historical novels supposed to appeal to the reader in the same way?
Ever been in my shoes - or moccasins - for lack of a better word? Research is time and money invested in a worthwhile project, and a professional writer needs to work smart. Wise use of my resources was in order. If I’ve learned anything over the past twelve years of publishing, it’s that going to the source of information is the best. I Googled the Bureau of Indian Affairs and searched for “Navajo.” Ah, a phone number in
Another concern was to phrase what I needed in the research in such a way that cultural sensitivity was not an issue. I despise the phrase “politically correct,” but we are a nation of proud people, and I wanted the Navajo who offered the research to know how much I valued and respected them. After a few calls, I was directed to the Navajo Library and Museum. After another call, I was directed to the museum’s curator. Bingo. She loved talking about the Navajo’s, and her enthusiasm sparked mine. She offered great assistance, and now I’m feeling good about the project. New Mexico
That’s what good research is all about: digging for facts and being persistent. Knowing what you need to make your story credible doesn’t have to be daunting. And don’t settle for mediocre information. Your readers deserve a story that takes them away from their world and into the one you’ve written - just for them.
Releases March 2010
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