by Liz Fichera, author of Hooked (Harlequin Teen)
As an author, you learn quickly that you can’t write a book that everyone will love. When you write characters that are outside of your race, gender, cultural background and your own life experiences, it becomes even more complicated. When the latter happens, readers can become hypercritical, sometimes even suspicious.
Write what you know? That’s what a lot of the experts caution. Me? I say, push the boundaries and learn and write about what you don’t know. As a reader, I’m much more interested in stories with characters who are different from me, who live in places where I’ve never lived, who think thoughts that I haven’t considered. I’m the same way as a writer. Why would I only want to read and write about white, middle-class women who grew up in the Midwestern United States?
I happen to enjoy writing stories with Native American characters. I live in the American Southwest, having moved to Phoenix, Arizona, from Chicago shortly after graduating from college. I’m surrounded by Native American cultures like the Hohokam, Gila, Pima, Navajo and Hopi, to name just a handful. I’m fascinated by their history, their legends. Frankly, when you look at history, it’s a wonder that these cultures have survived at all, and it’s a testament to the strength and spirit of the Native American people that they still do.
That said, it would be foolish to write a character with life experiences different from your own without doing your homework and research. If writing a historical story, there are perhaps museums and history books to refer to. When writing contemporaries, it becomes more of a challenge. You rely heavily on personal observations and your critique partners who, hopefully, have lived the culture and characters you’re attempting to project on your pages.
When I decided to write a young adult contemporary called Hooked, I knew that I was going to have to extensively research the Gila River Indian Community, life on the reservation, and if that wasn’t enough, the sport of golf. My life is fuller for having done the research, not to mention gaining Native American beta readers, several of whom I now count as close friends. Regarding golf? Unfortunately, my swing hasn’t improved very much, but I still love the sport.
And I’d do it all over again in a second, pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and wouldn’t change a thing.
Hooked is available from Harlequin Teen on January 29, 2013. Follow Liz on her blog tour
for more information and a chance to win a grand prize pack, including a copy of Hooked.