Monday, June 24, 2013

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW - By David Thurlo

Write what you know, we’ve all heard that advice. Aimée and I have managed to use our very different backgrounds to create scenes, settings, and characters for dozens of stories over our careers. In our upcoming Heartwarming novel, Homespun Christmas, we both shared our unique experiences in developing our character-driven story.

Our male protagonist, Joshua Nez, is Navajo, and the Navajo Nation was my turf, so I was able to give the book something more than a story. I’d grown up there, and have always considered Shiprock my home.

Like it was in our fictional town of Independence, I’ve seen first hand what happens to a small town when the largest provider of jobs moves on. It happened to my family when we lived in Shiprock, and to this day, I’ve never forgotten the anxiety and sense of helplessness that comes with it. My family and I had to leave home and relocate. Like Joshua, I returned years later, but the place had changed and I was faced with what was in essence a different world and a new reality.
Aimée’s background and experiences also play a major role. In Homespun Christmas Joshua is an architect, and we were able to draw from the experiences of Aimée’s brother-in-law, an architect, who opened a new business at the beginning of the recent recession.

Myka, the heroine in our story, is an expert craftsperson, and Aimée is an avid crocheter and loves to knit. Those skills helped create the story line that centers around a community of crafts people rebuilding their economy.

We’ve also rescued our share of large animals, and know what it’s like to nurture a relationship with a big dog who has lost all trust in humans.

A writer also has to be able to research and learn, then write about what they didn’t know. For Homespun Christmas, we learned about Churro sheep and camels first hand from those who own and breed them. We’ve also learned about processing wool, spinning, and weaving.

When you love what you do, it shows in what you create. Our books are meant to entertain, and show the reader a part of New Mexico they may never otherwise discover. If we achieve that goal, then what better way to celebrate than by sitting down together, placing our fingers on the keyboards, and doing it again? - David Thurlo

11 comments:

  1. David, you got it so right about what we put in our books. I grew up in a small Oregon town, but was lucky to have a wonderful library run by volunteer workers. I didn't come to fully appreciate them until years later. My sister and I went to the library every week and checked out the full amount of books they allowed. Then we traded, so each of us got to read twice the allotted amount. The stories let us travel to places we didn't think we'd ever get to see. And when by chance I did get there, I actually felt as if I'd seen the city or area before. So many people don't realize how much reality is in our fiction books. I love New Mexico. My sister in law taught for years on the Navajo reservation outside of Gallup. Now she is training teachers in the Grant's school district to teach the new core curriculum. I'm looking forward to reading your book.

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    1. Roz, thanks for sharing your connection to our world. Shiprock didn't have a town library, but the state library had a bookmobile, and once a month I checked out the maximum, of course. During summers, I split my hours between reading and baseball! One of my favorite moments recently was when Aimee and I were invited to speak to young writers at my old high school library. The school is within easy walking distance of where I grew up on the Navajo Nation. - David

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  2. I love Christmas stories and am completely intrigued by the elements you describe in HOMESPUN CHRISTMAS. Aimee is always mentioning how much she loves camels, and I just imagine how the one in your book relates to Christmas. Needlework has been an important part of my life, too, so I can't wait to see what the two of you have embroidered into your story. (When I was a teenager, I read LAUGHING BOY, a Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Oliver Lafarge, book about a young Navajo. It was a remarkable glimpse into that life.)

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    2. We had a great time with the Christmas story. And there are so many connections in our tales, and our lives. Years ago, one of my students did a report on camels, and included a tuft of hair from one of the animals. It turns out he's the son of the state senator who showed us the camels. Aimee is a genius with her needlework, and has won blue ribbons in the state fair for her centerpieces. As a minority growing up on the Navajo Nation, I really learned to appreciate the culture. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Sounds like an awesome book. I am a mile outside the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Reservation. Have been for more than a decade. I liked it better before the casinos moved in.

    Aimee, I crochet too!

    And, my August release has a three-cheeked camel that bonded with an autistic girl. Love those animals.

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  4. I love crocheting. I gave Hank the Camel a starring (supporting) role in Falcon's Run, our new Harlequin Intrigue. The camel plays a part in Homespun only in that camel hair makes awesome yarn!

    I've been told that casinos are a great place to have dinner, but I've never tried it. I'm not a gambler, so the casino part doesn't interest me. I'm waaaayyy to cheap. LOL!

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  5. What a great post, David! It’s wonderful to learn how your and Aimee’s backgrounds contributed to Homespun Christmas. I absolutely love this book, and I can’t wait to see what the cover artists create!

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  6. Thanks so much, Dana. We really enjoyed working on this book and putting our ideas and experiences together in a new and different direction. We can't wait for it to come out. - David

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  7. Such an interesting post, David. I love stories that are clearly rich with experience. Knowing your background makes me want to read your stories even more!

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  8. My apologies for this late comment, but I enjoyed your post. The topic resonates because their is inside knowledge- tiny details and nuances, one can put in a novel if the author has experienced them. My next novel features an autistic child and I'm drawing on my own experiences with my autistic niece. There is a level of knowing that can't be manufactured unless you've gone through it. I'm looking forward to your novel!!

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