Wednesday Author Interview: Paty Jager
Today, Bookin’ It would like to welcome versatile writer Paty Jager. Paty, it’s so nice to have you here with us. Let’s get started with you telling us a bit about about how you became a writer. When did you decide that’s what you wanted to be, and what steps did you take to prepare for a writing career?
PJ: I’ve always been a voracious reader and wrote stories to entertain myself, my family, and my friends. It was when my children started school, and I had some spare time that I decided to try writing. I took some community ed writing classes. The one that I feel helped me the most was with an instructor that pounded into us, “if you don’t believe in your writing, no one else will.” I used that motto to get my foot in the door of the local newspaper. I wrote a story about a storyteller who did an assembly at my children’s school. I called the local newspaper editor and told him I had a story for him. He laughed at me and asked is it any good. Using the teacher’s motto, I said, “Yes, it is.” He humored me and said to bring it by the newspaper office before three that day, because he had a reporter doing an interview with the storyteller the next day.
I drove to the newspaper office and asked for the editor. He walked up to me with a grin on his face. “So you think this story is good?” I answered without wavering, “Yes.” He read it and was quiet a moment, then said, “It is good. We’ll run this and I’ll just send a photographer out tomorrow.” A week later the editor called me and offered me the job of freelance human interest reporter. I wrote for the two local papers for several years while honing my novel writing skills. It was actually through the Romance Writers of America that I learned writing craft and the business of writing.
BI: Wow, that’s a great story, and a wonderful example of what believing in yourself can accomplish! Thanks for sharing it with us. Now let me ask if you were inspired by any particular authors, past or present, and what is it about their work that impresses you, or moves you?
PJ: When I was avidly reading mysteries, I enjoyed Agatha Christie, Sue Grafton, and Dick Francis. They each have a different technique for showing the reader their characters. I like stories where the characters feel real, not cookie cutter. Then I discovered romance books. Again it was the characterization that drew me to Nora Roberts, LaVyrle Spencer, and lately, Kathy Otten and Nicole McCaffery’s books.
BI: I have always loved the Sue Grafton mysteries, myself. I’m not sure what’s going to happen when she gets to “Z,” though. Paty, what genres do you read most often for pleasure…those books you gravitate toward the minute you walk into a bookstore?
PJ: I tend to head to the mystery section of a book store and gravitate toward the romance section. I can be swayed into another section if a cover or title catches my eye. I’ll read anything but scary. I can’t deal with scary. The abominable snowman on Rudolph the Red-nosed reindeer scared me as a child and I don’t watch or read anything that is scary. I even close my eyes during commercials for some of the new shows.
BI: Well, we differ there, I guess. I love scary, myself. Just not gruesome, so much. Let’s get down to some particulars about how you write. Do you have a dedicated workspace, and are you consistent with the amount of time you spend writing each day?
PJ: At the moment my dedicated workspace is a two foot by four foot folding table tucked against the wall in our 200 sq. ft. cabin we’re living in as we build a house.
BI: OMG, stop right there! You’re living in a CABIN? Be still my heart! Okay. I’m calm now. Continue. 😀
PJ: Before we sold our place in June, I had a loft with two large bookcases full of my reference books and a view of the Cascade Mountains. Hopefully, by Christmas we’ll have our new house finished, and I’ll have a dedicated office to hold my reference books and write. When I’m not building a house, I spend four to six hours a day writing, with a couple of those hours on social networking. In the summer during haying, there are days I don’t get on the computer, but I carry a notepad and pen with me and when an idea for a scene or book hits, I stop the swather or semi-truck and write it down. My husband has stopped worrying when he sees the equipment I’m driving stopped in the middle of the field. I also like to get in a ride on my horse several times a week.
BI: I understood everything about that except the swather. Definitely reaching for my Funk &Wagnall’s as soon as we’re done. 🙂 Moving on, though, do you use visual aids, like Inspiration Boards/Photos or maps of your book’s setting? What reference books or other material do you consult most frequently as you write?
PJ: When I’m working on a book, I gather as much information about the area and for my historical books the period in history. I like to use maps of actual towns, even the westerns. I’ve found Sanford maps for every real town I’ve used in books. If the town is fictional, I draw the streets and businesses on my own map. I dig into the flora and fauna of a setting for a book. For my historical western Improper Pinkerton, I had set a ranch in an area north of a real town and later discovered at the time of my story that area was a swamp. Had to change that. When I wrote my Isabella Mumphrey Action Adventure books, I couldn’t travel to the areas, but I found others who had and asked them questions and went online to the travel sites and read local papers and magazine articles about the areas. For my mystery books I tend to consult my son-in-law who is an officer of the law in drug enforcement.
BI: I do the same thing about my fictional towns. I’m always afraid I’ll plop them down on something that’s already there, or like you did with your swamp. Maps help! When you have an idea for a new book, do you sit down and start typing, or do you start with an outline, and figure out all the major plot points first? In other words, is your working style structured and organized, or more organic and free flowing?
PJ: I’m not a plotter/outliner but I’m also not an organic, free flowing writing. I tried that in the beginning. I wrote in circles, wasting the first 100 pages on stuff that should have been lightly added throughout the story. But I also learned I’m not an outliner. I can’t stay with an outline once I get writing. What I have is a little bit of both.
BI: Ah-ha. Neither a Plotter nor a Pantser…a Planster, then.
PJ: I start out with an idea/premise or character and start “what iffing” until I’m happy with the basis of the book. Then I do character sketches of the main characters and a conflict chart. Then I know where the book should start. Once I’ve done that, I write a six stage plan for the book. This is just jotting down what I perceive to be the major turning points and the climax. That is setting up a romance book. While I write up the six stage plan, I may not follow it completely as the story starts forming, sometimes a better conflict will come up.
When I start a mystery, I have my two sleuths I know, and then I come up with the murder victim and make a chart that has the possible murderers with their motives and red herrings. I then write a six stage plan that reveals the clues and red herrings. But again, I don’t stick to my plan. As the story progresses, I subconsciously put in clues and the person I originally thought would be the murderer can change with a clue that comes out or the actions of a character. So while I plan/plot I never stick with it and go organic. 😉
BI: I think that makes perfect sense. Characters have a way of doing things you didn’t expect, and then you have to adapt the story. Works for me. Back to your reading habits. Do you prefer reading eBooks, or print? Why?
PJ: I prefer reading. 😉 I like that ebooks can be read easily in the dark and you can carry several (hundreds) books everywhere you go. But there is a lot to be said for a book that can be read to the end without having to recharge the battery. 😉
BI: True. Now it’s time for you to tell us about the books have you published, and where we can buy them.
PJ: I have a western historical romance series, The Halsey Brothers. There are seven books with an eighth coming out in 2015. They are Marshal in Petticoats, Outlaw in Petticoats, Miner in Petticoats, Doctor in Petticoats, Logger in Petticoats, Laying Claim, and Staking Claim.
And I have several single historical westerns: Gambling on an Angel, Improper Pinkerton, and a book I wrote with Lauri Robinson, For a Sister’s Love. You can purchase them at all major ebook venues. Marshal in Petticoats is also in print and audio.
I have six Western historical novellas- Western Duets, Christmas Redemption, Schooling Miss Burke. Two contemporary Western Romance books. Perfectly Good Nanny, which won an EPPIE award, and Bridled Heart.
Then there are the books of my heart- a historical romance spirit trilogy set among the Nez Perce Indians of NE Oregon. There was a lot of research into the writing of this trilogy. They have three sibling Nez Perce spirits. Spirit of the Mountain, which won a Paranormal Lorie Award, Spirit of the Lake, and Spirit of the Sky. They are available in both ebook and print formats at major online bookstores.
I also have an action adventure series about a genius young woman who is an anthropologist. She’s a cross between Indiana Jones and MacGyver. Secrets of a Mayan Moon; An Isabella Mumphrey Adventure won a RomCon Reader’s Choice award, Secrets of an Aztec Temple; An Isabella Mumphrey Adventure, and Secrets of a Hopi Blue Star; An Isabella Mumphrey Adventure. These are available in ebook and print formats.
I also have stories in three anthologies- A Sweetwater Springs Christmas: A Montana Sky Short Story Anthology, Rawhide ‘N Roses, and A Gift of Christmas An Anthology. All available in ebook and Sweetwater Springs and A Gift for Christmas are also available in print.
BI: Wow! That’s quite a list of work. You must be about 186 years old to have done all that! 😀 Seriously, I’m very impressed! Are you currently working on a new book? When do you expect it to be available?
PJ: I am excited about my current book/project. I have gone back to my roots and have been writing a mystery series. The first book Double Duplicity; a Shandra Higheagle Mystery is available now for pre-order and will release January 10, 2015. Book two, Tarnished Remains will be available February 10, 2015 and Deadly Aim will release March 10, 2015. I’m excited about this mystery series. It gives a nod to my interest in Native American culture with the amateur sleuth being half Nez Perce and a potter. Her Nez Perce grandmother recently passed away and is showing up in Shandra’s dreams, helping her discover clues to solve the mysteries.
BI: Thanks, Paty. We’ll definitely be looking for those. What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?
PJ: The best thing about being a writer is being able to write down stories that dance through my head and bring characters I enjoy to readers who also enjoy them. The worst part is promotion. It’s a rare writer these days who can just write and ignore connecting with the readers and getting their work noticed.
BI: I sure agree with all of that! How about a Bonus Question: Are you self-published, and if so, what have you learned from the process, overall? Positives and negatives?
PJ: I’m what’s called a hybrid author. I started with a small publisher and still have some work with them, but 80% of my books are self-published. I would not have tried self-publishing if I hadn’t been with a small publisher first. There was so much hands-on with the small press that I learned most of the facets I needed to self-publish.
Self-publishing gives me the ability to help design my covers and to publish on the date I want to publish. The negatives are there are so many people self-publishing that it has glutted the markets making it hard to get noticed in the sea of thumbnail covers. It also means I have more hats to wear than just writing the booking and making it shine. I also have to get it edited, major input on the cover, format the ebooks and the print books, upload the books, proof the books, keep up the with updates at all the ebook venues and even the formatting of books. Self-publishing takes up more of my day than just writing the book. But in the end I wouldn’t want it any other way.
BI: Well, with as many books as you are turning out, I can see why that would be an enormous job for you. It’s hard enough with two books a year (my aimed-for schedule). You really are a busy lady!
PJ: Thank you for having me on your blog, Marcia.
BI: It’s been my pleasure, Paty. Thank you so much for joining us today. Best of luck to you with the sales of your newest works, and with all your endeavors, past and future.
Award-winning author Paty Jager and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. On her road to publication, she wrote freelance articles for two local newspapers and enjoyed her job with the County Extension service as a 4-H Program Assistant. Raising hay and cattle, riding horses, and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.
All her works have Western or Native American elements in them, along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her penchant for research takes her on side trips that eventually turn into yet another story.
Pre-Order Paty’s latest book here: