Monday, September 28, 2015

CHARACTERS FROM OTHER CULTURES

Love’s Dream Song has a cover. I’m so excited that I can share that with you today.

Designed by Debora of arenapublishing.org


Sandra here to welcome you to another fun day in Seekerville. I have my favorite Chocolate Velvet coffee for the coffee drinkers. Because it is fall, I have apple cider which you can have chilled (for us desert rats) or heated with cinnamon and spice.


It is too hot here in the desert to bake, so I dashed to the bakery and bought pumpkin bread. I also have an assortment of fresh fruits to choose from and a lunchmeat and cheese tray.  So help yourselves and let’s talk writing.

Have any of you writers written characters from a culture other than your own? Love’s Dream Song is set on the Navajo Nation in Northern Arizona and has many characters that are Native American.



Sharable made by Amber Stokes


One of the first rules I learned when I finally hooked up with RWA and took writer workshops, was that one should not venture into using characters from other cultures if you, the author, were not from that culture. This is very sage advice because in spite of the fact we state, in this country anyway, that we are all created equal—we simply aren’t all the same. Different cultures have different sets of values and traditions and behaviors from each other. This is what sets them apart.  If any of you have traveled to other countries, you will know this.

Now basically, I do believe we have many similarities that are common to each and every one of us. We are all human beings. We all have families. We all have the knowledge of God written in our hearts. We all have emotions and feelings and do react to them.  Often our different cultures define how we configure and act upon these basic similarities. And often they are remarkably similar.

Sharable made by Amber Stokes


So with that being said, how do we write characters from other cultures? Personally I love reading about different cultures, different places and different ways of doing things. In college, I studied many different cultures. My major in college was sociology with a minor in anthropology. My master’s degree was in bilingual/multicultural education. Growing up in the Southwest, I was surrounded by many different cultures and found them all fascinating.

Even though I’m Anglo, I feel comfortable writing Hispanic characters. I’ve been so immersed in Hispanic culture. My husband is half Hispanic and we have relatives in Mexico. We have traveled extensively in Latin America. I also taught in the bilingual program for over 25 years and that was predominately with Hispanic children. Working with them and their parents gave me tremendous knowledge and a good sense of their culture.

I have traveled extensively, but haven’t even been to a fourth of the countries that there are on this planet. So guess what? I love to read about them. Some of my favorite books are those that are set in different countries and show us different cultures.

Am I seeing any raised hands here?

Sharable made by Amber Stokes


The experts in craft always say “write what you know.”  But have any of you ventured out there and written characters from other cultures and/or countries? I know Walt has. Ruthy has. Julie has. It’s a safe bet to say most historical writers have because even if they are writing characters in the same country as they are, the times have changed and many cultural customs as well.

So how do we do this without digging ourselves into problems from critical readers?

I will share with you what I did specifically for Love’s Dream Song. I wanted my heroine to be Navajo and my hero Apache.  I have worked with people from both tribes, but do not really have expert cultural knowledge. So here is what I did:

Made my heroine, Autumn O’Neill, half Navajo. She was given up for adoption and raised by Anglo parents.
Made my hero, Jess Barron, half Apache. His forefathers developed the ranch he lives on and his father married an Apache woman.
When the culture uses another language, put foreign words in sparingly to give the reader the knowledge that they are using the other language, without frustrating the reader with too many words that are often impossible to pronounce, let alone read.  We don’t want to slow down the reader. smile
Did tons of research
Visited the locations and devoured all resources available on site.
Worked on the reservation and found beta readers who helped me with cultural discrepancies I had written into the story.



This last point was really a blessing I didn’t plan on. I “happened” to be assigned to work on the reservation through ASU right after writing this novel and met these wonderful women who were just as interested for me to get it right as I was. Some of the discrepancies they found were quite humorous.  I wrote about these in my post entitled  Coincidence or Miracle. 

Sharable made by Amber Stokes



My favorite example was a scene I wrote where Autumn, who is trying to discover her Navajo roots, is helping a professor with his anthropological project on Navajo land. She hikes and stops at a canyon rim where she is looking out at ancient Anasazi ruins and is picturing in her mind how a young maiden would sit there waiting for her lover to return from the hunt. So in my mind I described her sitting there with long hair flowing in the breeze. Sounds romantic, right? Well the ladies all laughed and said, “Sandra, the only time maidens let their hair flow free like that is when they are in mourning.”   Ooops.   I was certainly glad they had found that passage.  Smile


So have any of you used characters from other cultures?

If so, please share some tips that helped you.

Are you planning to use characters from other cultures and have questions?  I certainly am not an expert, but if I don’t know the answer, I bet we can get answers to questions from our readers.

Readers, let us know if there are some things that bug you about use of characters from other cultures.

If you comment, your name will be put in the cat dish to win a copy of your choice of an ebook or print copy of Love’s Dream Song.

And I have a lovely handcrafted tote for a kindle or tablet made by my friend Diane.



The release date for Love’s Dream Song  is October 17th. It is already available for pre-order on Amazon.



On Tuesday, October 6th,  Sherida Stewart will be posting a review of Love’s Dream Song on her blog Tuesday Tea.







Sandra Leesmith  writes sweet romances to warm the heart. Sandra loves to play pickleball, hike, read, bicycle and write. She lives in Arizona with her husband and during the hot summers she and her husband travel throughout the United States in their motorhome where she enjoys the outdoors and finds wonderful ideas for her next writing project. You can find Sandra's books here. Three of Sandra's most popular books are also audio books at Audible. You can read more posts by Sandra here.





Sandra is also excited to announce that she has a novella coming out in the Seeker anthology A Heart Full of Christmas. This is also available for pre-order.













110 comments:

Christy Gill said...

I've written 3 novels based in other cultures with no American influences involved. Like you, my international interest is based on my extensive travels, research, and my British husband. However, I was told that trad CBA wouldn't be interested in anything international at this point, so I started writing something with a US setting hoping to move to international setting eventually. Not sure how that will play out for my future as an author but I do have an audience interested. Now to get a publisher interested. ;)

LeAnne Bristow said...

I love learning about other cultures! While I was going to college in Yuma, AZ, I had to explore another culture for an ESL project so I visited a story teller from the Cocopah tribe. It was the most interesting afternoon I ever spent. There are some things you just can't learn through google, so you've got to visit them in person and talk to the people there. At least, that's what I'm telling my husband to try to convince him to go to Ireland. "Honey, I have this great story idea. We just need to go to Ireland for a month...." So far, he's not convinced.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sandra, this is so full of good information! I mean, chock full... and I can't wait to read this book!

Writing Lena's character for "Refuge of the Heart", I had to research Chechen customs and ways, and life in Grozny and Chechnya before the war and during the war... but I also had to mentally step into Lena's shoes. In my head I knew what kind of heroine I wanted her to be. Someone who'd been victimized, but rose above the "victim" mindset.

And that was the delicate part because it was like creating two women. Lena before the war, and Lena the refugee, post-war.

Now I see how Vince and Sherida were reading Love's Dream Song! For reviews! Mine is preordered, and can't wait!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Christy, about seven years ago I was at the ACFW conference and I was peddling "Refuge of the Heart" and heard no, no, and no. No one wants a Russian heroine, no one wants books about war....

So I shelved it.

Last year, seven different publishers asked to see it when my agent shopped it, and it's a new release right now from Franciscan Media. Those unsold manuscripts are like money in the bank! Hang in there and keep writing!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

LeAnne, I'm convinced! I'll come along!!!

Cindy W. said...

i love reading about other cultures. I lived for four years in Japan in my youth and I still remember so many things about the Japanese culture of that time. For over five years, I was involved with the Deaf Community and they too have a culture. Then living in Southern California there is a 'melting post' of cultures. It is fun learning about the different cultures and getting to know the people.

I love the Kindle tote and would love to be in the drawing to win!

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Evelyn said...

I love reading about different cultures, it's truly interesting. It's one of God's gift to us.
I had been in one of international school in Indonesia and I've had the pleasure of knowing people from Korea, Philippines, India, Canada and USA. The way to know their cultures is by living together with these people. They usually tell us how they do some events that are important to them. We recently do Mid-Autumn Festival or as the Koreans call it "Chu Seok Day". This event is also famous in China as my family is Chinese and we ate mooncake, which I really love. It is exciting to see people get excited in their tradition.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Love your meme's Sandra. Well done.

I really like contemporaries with Chinese and Japanese heroines. Why? I have no idea. ")

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Christy and Evelyn!!!

Pass the coffee and the croissants.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Great post! First, let me say I know so little about Navajo and Apache culture that I would snag this book right away. I love reading about other cultures and although I've traveled in AZ and have two Navajo friends, I really don't know that much about the area where your book is set. Very cool.

I've written characters from other cultures (the South! kidding!) and you really have to walk a fine line as an author. You described the process perfectly. I'm familiar with the Hispanic culture but I have to remember that the part I know, is not the part everyone knows. I've lived in several countries, have a linguistics degree, work and live with immigrants on a daily basis but what I know is only a slice of what's out there. I like how you shrank that bull's eye (from critics) by making your characters have a foot in both cultures, but also have specific cultural backgrounds from each other. That could be good for both of them. I can just see how that conflict (and understanding) can arise because I see people from two different villages in Mexico not understand each other's customs even while being raised just a few hours apart.
Um, can't remember what else I was going to say... I had another point. LOL. Anyway, great post!

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Oh! I remembered the other thing I wanted to say! (Chalk one up for the aging brain.)
You're SO right that beta readers are important when working with other cultures. And not beta readers who are somehow slightly associated with (married to, worked with, have a cousin who married, etc. ) that culture, but really do come from that culture.
I don't like to friend people randomly on facebook but I noticed a priest commenting on several of mutual friends' threads and he lived in Natchitoches, Louisiana. I also saw he was Creole.
One of my characters in my Cane River series set in Natchitoches is a Creole priest who serves in the tiny Isle Brevelle historical church that's part of the national park there. I really struggled for a while about whether to try and friend this real life person... but it's worked out perfectly! He was completely understanding (and does not in any way think I'm insane) about answering questions. He's even said Mass at Isle Brevelle and could give me all sorts of great information like whether he said the sermon in Louisiana Creole and whether they had air conditioning, haha.
Writing outside one's culture is scary (I get nervous every time a review starts "I live in Natchitoches" or "I'm Creole" because I think of all the things I might have gotten wrong) but I think with all the steps you described, readers will love the story.
Again, great post Sandra!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning CHRISTY, Wow, that's great background resources. Sounds like you have some wonderful ideas. And yes, you do have to get in the door by staying within guidelines, but always write that story from your heart. Like RUTHY said, for years, no one wanted her European heroine and then all of a sudden six did. This business is crazy. So hang in there and best wishes.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi LEANNE, You stay persistent and we'll wave as you fly overhead to Ireland. smile
Research is a terrific excuse to do many things. But JULIE did wonderful Irish characters and has never been there so there is much to say for Google. But you get so much from going there.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi RUTHY, Yes, I LOVED your characters in Refuge of the Heart. I read that years ago and the story still stays with me. I love the opening scene btw.

And yes, Amazon gave me ways to give out copies for reviews. Way cool.

Sandra Leesmith said...

So see LEANNE, RUTHY gave us another example of doing it well without going there.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi CINDY, Wow, four years in Japan. How blessed you are to have that experience. So will we see a book set there one day?

And yes, growing up in California is truly exposure to so many different cultures and nationalities. I am thankful for those experiences.

Your name is in the bowl. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning EVELYN, Thank you for sharing about the tradition of "Chu Seok Day" and eating the mooncake. Now I'm wondering what the mooncake is like. Is this day going to be in one of your books? I hope so.

Yes, it is a gift from God to have all of this diversity. Makes life more interesting, don't you think?

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi TINA, I love those sharables also. That is what Amber called them. It was so sweet of her to make them for me because you know better than anyone how tech UNsavvy I am. chuckle.

Sandra Leesmith said...

And TINA, it is really exciting to greet new people to our site. TINA is such a gracious hostess. I think she sends surprise welcome packets to newcomers. How sweet is that?

kaybee said...

SANDRA, this is a good post and so relevant right now. In my Oregon Trail series I have a Native American man, a free black man and a black woman who is a former slave. Also a lot of Irish people. The Native man and the blacks had relatively small parts to play in the first two books, but will come to the fore in the third and I really need to get inside their heads, so I'll be doing heavy research. For the Irish, my big issue is trying to stay away from cliché. What I do is play on universal human hopes and fears, like the Irishmens' fear of their landlords and their desire to own their own land and the black woman's fear of going back into slavery, and then I layer in the details. If you can get the "heart" of a person, the details will follow. But it's still work.
RUTHY is right (I should have that printed on a shirt). What goes around comes around.
Kathy Bailey
Waiting for the next wave in NH

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi VIRGINIA, You are too funny, but so correct. When I wrote CURRENT OF LOVE which takes place in the south, I called friends of mine who lived in the South to read it and make sure I had the Southern Culture correct. Margaret Daley was so sweet to help me with that. So yes, there can be several different cultures within the same country.

And yes, BETA readers are key. Do you really think it was by "chance" that you came across that priest on Facebook? Every book I write, I end up meeting the people I need to help make the story more authentic. I love that you found him and that he is helping you. So cool.

Now I can't wait to read this.

kaybee said...

I'm from New Hampshire and we didn't even HAVE diversity until about 30 years ago. Sigh. Manchester is our largest city and when I was growing up there was a small Greek community, a small Polish community and a large French-Canadian community, but that doesn't count as diversity for me because I AM French-Canadian. During my children's lifetimes the area exploded and we now have people from Nepal, Somalia, the Middle East and several Hispanic countries, which is all to the good. I am loving it. SO much better than the white-bread world I grew up in.
KB

kaybee said...

SANDRA, I could never write the South without a coach. All I know about their culture is sweet tea.
KB

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi KATHY (KAYBEE) Wow, your story sounds exciting and what a lot of American history packed into just the mention of the ethnicity of the characters. You will have lots of research to do and I bet you'll be like VIRGINIA and I and meet someone from those cultures that can help you. Keep your eyes and ears open because you never know where those encounters will suddenly pop up.

And you are right to be careful of CLICHES. Those can really be a problem and some readers will be quick to point that out. I really like your strategy of playing on the human hopes and fears.s That is really nailing the key to deep characters. I'm going to add that to my list. Thanks.

I'll be arriving in NH Tuesday. I will wave. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

KB, I'm the same with French Canadian culture. So see, Now we know who to call if we need some coaching. God is good. smile

Jill Weatherholt said...

Chocolate Velvet Coffee...YUM! That sounds delicious, Sandra. I've never written a character from another culture. It sounds like it would be both challenging and exciting. I love to read about the Asian culture. One of my favorite books is The Joy Luck Club.
Ruthy, I love your success story about "Refuge of the Heart." Yay!

Caryl Kane said...

Hello SANDRA! I love learning about other cultures. Your books sounds amazing!

psalm103and138 at gmail dot com

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi JILL, Yes, please help yourself to more coffee. I enjoyed that book also. And if you get a chance to read REFUGE OF THE HEART, you will love it.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Very interesting, Sandra. So this is a turnaround for me because I am a Canadian, and yet most of my stories take place in the American Old West. The exceptions are my Mountie stories which are set in the Canadian Prairie provinces, and my A Cup of Christmas Cheer short story which is set in 1911 York County, Ontario.

If we're speaking of diversity though, the Old West is a very unique culture and contains its own set of customs, language and fashion.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi CARYL, Love the spelling of your name. Reading good books set in different cultures is a wonderful way to travel. One of my favorite ways. smile

Happy reading.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi ANITA MAE, Great to see your smiling face. And yes, the Old West does have its own culture and set of values. I think that is why they are so popular because they embraced values and courage that we all admire.

I would love your stories set in Canada. My hubbies parents had a summer cabin in Northern Saskatchewan and we'd go there often. We've also traveled extensively throughout Canada and it is full of its own wonderful history and culture.

Good to see you again.

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, Sandra! I love stories set up on the Rez, so am looking forward to your new book! Such an amazing setting. Northern Arizona is filled with fascinating cultural diversity--Anglo, Hispanic, Navajo, Hopi, Apache... Because I'm sensitive to the cultural differences--even between tribes--I haven't had any main characters who are full-blooded Native Americans even though I work and socialize daily with people from those backgrounds. It makes a difference, too, as to whether someone was raised on or off the Rez or how traditional their families are. I have had Hispanic and part-Hispanic heroes/heroines, as well as black, Hispanic & Native American secondary characters. Like you, I love reading books set in varied cultures.

Mary Hicks said...

Good post, Sandra!

It's a wealth of good information. This article goes in my 'To Keep" file. :-)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi GLYNNA, And I love your characters. You do a great job with them.

And you are so right. There is much diversity within each culture. And here in the Southwest, it can depend on what generation in America. For example immigrants newly arrived have a whole different set of values and culture than second generation and third generation folk from the same ethnic background. Lots of variables. smile

Have a great day.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi MARY, Thanks for the encouragement. Glad this helps you.

Happy writing.

Myra Johnson said...

Sandra, your new book sounds so intriguing!

Boy, wouldn't writing be boring (at least for me!) if we could ONLY write what we know? I've learned so much from research and visiting locales where some of my stories are set. And I have to say, this kind of learning is a lot more fun than when I was in high school!

Myra Johnson said...

Also wanted to add that having grown up in South Texas only a few miles from the Rio Grande, I was surrounded by Mexican-American influences. Those memories definitely played a part in the inclusion of Latino characters in some of my books--the latest of which is my upcoming Love Inspired romance, Rancher for the Holidays.

Wilani Wahl said...

I have not written any from different cultures, but who knows what the future will hold as I continue to write and learn.

I am looking forward to reading your new book

Sandra Leesmith said...

HI MYRA, Yes, yes, my favorite part of writing is the research. I love interviewing people, digging around for gems of information. I think that is why I love to write.

Have a great day.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Yes, MYRA and you did a great job of it. Definitely an interesting influence in our American culture.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi WILANI, Go for it. The more you write, the more you'll venture out there into unknown waters.

Happy writing.

Marianne Barkman said...

Good morning, SANDRA, TINA, and fellow villagers. Great post, Sandra. I love it. I love the IPad case and am looking forward to reading Love's Dream

Kav said...

So excited to start reading Love's Dream Song! Especially so now that I see that diversity is at the heart of it. I would really love more diversity in my reading and am so frustrated by the powers that be in publishing that keep saying 'we' won't read diverse characters and settings. Just look at all the comments here so far -- not one said, "nah, I'll pass on diversity." Gah!

Kelly Blackwell @ Heres My Take On It said...

Good morning Sandra! I have always been mortified by the idea of writing a character of another culture and since I am a very fresh writing newbie, I imagine it is better for me to hold off for now (but I definitely do love to read them). I have always been interested and exposed to many cultures from my youth and do enjoy reading stories that invite you right in! I believe that your tips really will help in all writing because there are certainly many aspects of a character that we can culturally relate to that are still going to be different for us. That is what makes life and reading so much fun!

I look forward to your book!

And I do have to also ring a bell for Refuge of the Heart! I am not finished yet but it is definitely a treat!




Sandra Leesmith said...

HI KAV, So glad you are excited to read Love's Dream Song. And yes, I can't believe the publishers aren't into the diversity thing. Could be the editors don't know the cultures so are hesitant to approve them when they don't know if they are true to the culture.

Its like in children's publishing. The publishers all say "we don't accept rhyme yet children love books that rhyme. ????

Probably cause the editors aren't sure what makes a good rhyme. That's the reason I'm guessing.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi KELLY, Yes, you are wise to stay with what you know to start with. Then venture out later when you have more experience. At least do so if that is what you are comfortable with. We all have different comfort levels which is what makes this business so fun.

Happy writing.

Sandra Leesmith said...

HI MARIANNE, Isn't that case great? I have one I use all the time. She even made it with a zipper pocket inside. Love it.

I hope you enjoy Love's Dream Song.

Marianne offered to review it which is why she has a copy already. Amazon lets us give them to reviewers. Thank you Marianne.

Sandra Leesmith said...

KAV is reviewing also. Thanks a bunch Kav. I'm assuming you received your copy?

DebH said...

I happen to love reading about other cultures too, Sandra. Have always been fascinated with other cultures. I've traveled to the Ukraine, the Middle East, Greece, Germany (for six months), and Honduras. Of course I've touched down in a few countries as I've traveled to those destinations and have always been fascinated by other cultures.

I've long had interest in the Native American culture. Since grade school - don't know why - just have the avid interest. The interest was fanned when my best buddy for a summer missions trip when I was 13 was a girl named Joy who was/is Cheyenne. A huge regret that I've lost contact with her - but the warm memories of our friendship is what I believe gives me such great interest in any stories related to Native American culture. Probably why I wished I was part Native American when I was younger as well. *heh*

Would love to be in the draw for the prizes offered. I need to go pre-order Love's Dream Song pronto. Oh, so many wonderful Seeker books, so little time... *sigh*

DebH said...

What, Sandra? Publishers don't like children's books that rhyme???
Um, does the name Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Suess) ring a bell????
Since when did children stop loving those classics?

Weird.

Vince said...

Hi Sandra:

Talk about coincidence! When I went to Seekerville early this morning, I was distracted and taken away from my computer. I came back and opened a second Seekerville page but was distracted again. When I came back the second time after about an hour, I read your whole post about "Coincidence or Miracle" and was shocked when I came to the end and saw that there were already 113 comments!

I thought, "What kind of conflict do you have going on this morning that would generate so many comments?" Then I saw it was an old post.

This made me think of a story I remember from my first year in grad school.

In Eastern philosophy there is an ancient saying that goes:

"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."

A fellow philosophy grad student along with his best friend, a psychology grad student, did a research paper on this phenomenon showing how the brain subconsciously works to filter out and preselect info that the conscious mind is seeking. A good example of this was how mothers can hear a baby cry when they are sleeping while still filtering out all the other louder and more distracting sounds.

Well, the two showed this paper to an old philosophy professor, I was his reading assistant, and he told them this:

"So that's how God works these miracles. You know God loves philosophy and science so much that He will never let you find His fingerprints on any of His miracles."

That professor was both wise and wily.

The coincidences seem to go unbroken.

Vince

cathyann40 said...

Sounds like a great book. I'd love to win a copy.

Vince said...

Hi Sandra:

I'm just wondering why Jess is an Apache. Hillerman loved to play the natural conflict between the Navajo and Hopi tribes in his stories. The two tribes have been long time enemies and still have major disputes to this day. Would Autumn's Navajo relatives ever accept her if she married a Hopi? "Couldn't you have least married a nice Navajo boy?"

BTW: I have found a good way to get into another culture very deeply and very quickly is to ask a thought member of that culture a question like this:

"How does one think like a Hopi?"

It is said that the Hopi language has no future tense!

"First find out how the language has shaped their world and you won't find yourself a stranger in a strange land."

This is why I find all languages so fascinating.

Vince

Debby Giusti said...

Look at all the comments and it's not even noon! You've hit a nerve, Sandra! Loved your info about using the Indian culture and laughed about the woman letting her hair down. So true that it's hard to know everything about another culture. Sounds as if you've done your homework. I know the book will be a wonderful story!

The military way of life is like another culture. That's why I enjoy writing what I know. Even one or two mistakes in a story can alert a savvy reader to an author's lack of understanding of a certain lifestyle. Which you've explained so well.

Reaching for a piece of pumpkin bread and a cup of coffee! Thanks!

Sandra Leesmith said...

HI DEB H. Yes it is true. You always hear "We don't accept rhyme" Yet they all publish rhyme and its very popular. One of my children's books is in rhyme and it is the most popular of all my books. I think publishers let agents screen the rhyme for them. I am guessing on that. Who knows. Crazy business.


Thanks for the interest in Love's Dream Song. I'm sure all those international experiences will show themselves in your writing. smile. Can't wait.

Sandra Leesmith said...

HI VINCE, I'm so glad you found your way back to this post. And yes, I've read studies about how your brain gets selective when you focus on something. Like a person deciding to buy a new car and suddenly they are seeing car ads all over the place.

I do believe that our brains do much more than we give them credit for. (yikes don't let Grammar Queen see this sentence)

And I LOVE this comment of yours: "So that's how God works these miracles. You know God loves philosophy and science so much that He will never let you find His fingerprints on any of His miracles."

That professor was both wise and wily.

How clever of you to use the wise and wily thing today. Go VINCE.


Sandra Leesmith said...

VINCE I have no clue why I decided that Jess was Apache. I think it might be because of the conflict between Hopi and Navajo. That would have been a lot to overcome and I don't know enough about the cultures to pull it off. I'm thinking anyway. I really was fascinated by Apache culture so maybe that is why also. I mean he is the hero.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi CATHYANN, Thanks for joining us. Your name is in the dish.

Have a great day.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi DEBBY, Yes, you do understand what I'm saying because there is definitely a military culture. My current wip involves a retired Army Colonel so I have found two wonderful men who have been helping me with that aspect.

I think I'll join you for another cup of coffee. Just played a couple games of pickleball so will enjoy the pumpkin bread as well.

Pam Hillman said...

LeAnne, I'm with you there on wanting to go to Ireland. Seekerville road ... uh ... AIR trip. Julie, you in??? :)

Missy Tippens said...

Sandra, so interesting! It sounds to me like you had plenty of background to write your characters. I think the most important step is to have someone from that culture proof the story.

Janet Dean said...

Sandra, thanks for your insightful post! You're well traveled and have credentials to write believable Native American and Hispanic characters. Yet you recognize there's so many details you could get wrong. I'm impressed you had Beta readers from the same culture to ensure you got those details right, like setting you straight on your heroine wearing her hair down. Even writing historicals with characters from our culture can be tricky when we take things for granted.

Love's Dream Song sounds wonderful! The cover is gorgeous!

Janet

Pam Hillman said...

When Sandra asked if we'd written characters from diverse cultural backgrounds, at first I couldn't think of much of anything. Then I remembered that I had several cultures in Shanghaied by the Bride (Oregon Trail Romance Collection, Barbour).

The hero and heroine are just sort of hodgepodge Americans migrating west on the wagon train, but I wanted a couple of suitors for the heroine and I have an Italian and an Irishman. They were fun to write and since they were secondary characters, they weren't "talking" on stage too much.

So, one way to get comfortable writing about different cultures is to slowly sprinkle in secondary characters in your writing.

Sherida Stewart said...

Hello Sandra! You know I love the cover of Love's Dream Song! And this story is amazing! I like to learn about other cultures through books.

In my current WIP, the hero is from a pueblo. Reading your coincidence or miracle post, I was reminded of meeting mystery author Sandi Ault at a conference. I asked her about the Tanoah Pueblo featured in her Wild mystery series. Being a newish New Mexico resident, I'd never heard of that Pueblo. She told me she'd made it up. "Can you do that?" She smiled at me, a newbie writer, and said authors write fiction. By using a fictitious Pueblo, she could use cultural elements from different Pueblos to add the authentic feel to her stories without pinpointing a certain people. So when developing my Santa Fe story, the hero became a member of a non-existent Pueblo, but the story can highlight some Pueblo culture. I've toured the Taos Pueblo and talked with some villagers, but I still need to do more research.

Thank you for mentioning Tuesday Tea. I'm also planning on serving pumpkin bread on the review post since squash is one of the Navajo Three Sisters....appropriate treats for your story.

Kav said...

Yes, I did receive my copy -- last week. I sent you an email, but it must have got lost in cyberspace. It does that from time to time with that account. Just sent you another from my other email so hopefully you'll get that one. :-)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks KAV. I've been traveling last week so kind of sporadic on email. sigh. Thanks for letting me know.

Sandra Leesmith said...

PAMMERS I LOVE the idea of a Seeker trip to Ireland. Yay. Let's pack up and go.

Sandra Leesmith said...

MISSY you are so right. It really does help to have those expert eyes on the project. One has no idea what silly things they might get wrong and that will make the story unbelievable.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hey JANET, Wouldn't that be a kick to get Beta readers from the past. Maybe they'll develop time travel and we'll be able to get real Beta readers from the past. That is assuming they can read. chuckle

Sandra Leesmith said...

PAMMERS what a great tip. Start with the secondary characters and test the waters. Thanks girlfriend for the wonderful advice.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi SHERIDA, I"m so excited for Tuesday Tea. I'm very appreciative of you taking the time for me.

And I'm really intrigued with your story idea and characters. Great idea to make up the pueblo. So clever and a great testimony of why it is cool to meet and network with other writers. We get some good ideas like that.

How cool about the pumpkin bread. See I learned something new today also. smile

Lyndee H said...

Congrats on the new book, SANDRA! You are writing something I've never thought about. I'm entrenched in the Civil War era and that's as much as I can take on. I can't imagine become expert enough to add a character from another culture during that era. On the other hand, I never say never!

LeAnne Bristow said...

So I'm feeling the excitement of a roadtrip, Ruthy, Pam and Julie! I'm leaving on a jet plane....don't know when I'll be back again.....hmm hmmmm hmmm (sorry, that's all the words to that song I know) :)

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, LeAnne! And oldie but goodie song. :)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi LYNDEE, Thanks for joining in and don't worry about your current wip. Some stories just don't lend themselves to different cultures. But some day, you might need a different character and there have been some great hints added to this post in the comments.

Happy writing.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Okay LE ANNE, Those words are perfect. So I'm packed. Let's go. I'm sure the others are game.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Shhhhh MIssy. We don't mention the word "oldie" The goodie part is okay. chuckle.

CatMom said...

What a fascinating and fun post, Sandra!
Thank you so much for sharing how you went about writing your story to get the details accurate (had to chuckle over the maiden with the flowing hair, LOL - - good thing those ladies caught that - - I would've never had any idea that meant being in mourning).
Even though I've never attempted to write a story with characters from another culture, I'm saving your post for when I do one day. *smile*
Congratulations on this newest book - - such a lovely cover!
I'm celebrating having another heart-related test behind me, so I've baked a BIG Georgia peach cobbler - - extra cinnamon and sugar. Please enjoy! :)
Hugs, Patti Jo

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh my goodness PATTI JO, Georgia peach cobbler!!!!. Oh yummy. You make the best and so sweet of you to share those Georgia peaches.

I sure hope those tests are looking good. Praying for them. smile

Happy writing.

Sandra Leesmith said...

MARIANNE I sent you an email.

Marianne Barkman said...

Sandra...I have the book on my kindle...but it just says they will let me know when it is available?

Natalie Monk said...

Hi, Sandra! Very cool post! Thanks for giving us some insiders on what goes into writing about other cultures than our own!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi NATALIE, Thanks. How are you doing? Have you recovered from the conference yet? I bet your head is still swimming with all that stimulus. Talk about another culture. chuckle

Janet Dean said...

Sandra, I'm grinning at the notion of Beta readers traveling through time from the past to the present and helping me out. The closest I can think of to that are historians. I need to make more friends. LOL

Janet

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi JANET, You are tooooo funny. But smart thinking. I hadn't thought of historians.

The Artist Librarian said...

Awesome points --I agree with all of them! I'm Asian American, but I'm like, 4th or 5th generation, so I feel really removed from my ethnic culture (I'm definitely American, LOL). But I do admit it's a thrill to see Asian characters (especially in Christian fic) because I don't usually see them!

I recently read "El Deafo" by Cece Bell - a Newberry Honor graphic novel memoir about her childhood after loosing her hearing and in the end, she had an author's note where she emphasized that her book was based on her personal experience and wasn't meant to be representative of all of Deaf culture. I really liked that --there are so many variations/possibilities within a community. There is no "one" definitive "African American experience" or Latino or whatever.

While it's understandable that people can get so passionate about a book when they fell it's not an accurate representation of their culture or community, I don't think that most authors would claim to be their work to be the authority/only story about whatever group of people they're writing about. If someone utilized all of your suggestions, I think that they would have done pretty much all they possibly could to write an accurate depiction of that culture regardless of what anyone else thought.

That being said, I have several classmates that are indigenous or Native American and one thing I've heard them talk about is that one mistake authors often make (especially with side or minor characters) is that they'll just call them Native American and leave it at that. As you mentioned, there are so many different (I'm sure I'm using the wrong verbage) tribes, clans, specific names (e.g. Hopi, Navajo, Apache, etc.), many will not use such a broad term as "Native American" to describe themselves. Also details of a culture can vary from tribe to tribe, so specificity can be important.

Deanne Patterson said...

An author writing about another culture can be a wonderful thing or so not wonderful. I've experienced both in what I've read. An author that will remain nameless, writes about Native Americans in her romance books and the books are so authentic . The setting is there,everything is there up to the explanation of how illnesses are treated.I can tell she has really done her research for her books. I have also read other books about different cultures and they were very lacking in detail and authenticity. One featured a meal as the only cultural difference. I very much appreciate authenticity in what the author says they are portraying in the story.
Deanne Patterson

Vince said...

YANKEE ALERT!

The New York Yankees are playing for their 10,000th win tonight! The game is just starting. I wonder where Ruth is?

Vince

P.S. There are also sport cultures.

Loves To Read said...

Your book sounds very interesting Sandra! I'm s reader, not an author, and I love stories that involve different cultures and locations. Please drop my name in the cat dish for the free book!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Dear ARTIST LIBRARIAN, Wow, you hit the nail on the head. What great insight you have. And yes, we do have so much diversity within a culture--within a single family actually. Our God does love variety. smile

Thanks for the input and sage advice. I'm sure it will help others. ANd yes, there are many nations within the realm of what is politically correct to call Native American. Even tribal names like Navajo aren't the real name. The Navajo call themselves Dineh or translated - The People.

so good points. Thanks for the contribution.

Happy writing.

Tanya Agler said...

Sandra, I always like reading what others remember about each writing conference they attend. In my last book, I tried for the first time to incorporate more diversity, and I'll see what readers say about whether I'm successful or not. I always love reading about other writers research methods and connections to learn more about this wonderful world God created.

Thanks for the insight.

Sandra Leesmith said...

HI DEANNE, Thanks for contributing to the readers point of view about authenticity in writing. It is so important to make your characters believable no matter what world they are in. I imagine sci fi writers have so much fun creating their own world. But it has to be believable to the reader. That's the key. Thanks for pointing that out.

Happy reading.

Sandra Leesmith said...

VINCE you are a hoot. Yes, you are right. There is definitely a sports culture. I imagine RUTH is either watching or writing.

Enjoy the game.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi TANYA, Yes, we do have so much fun learning all about the wonderful creation of our God. smile So glad you appreciate it also.

Happy writing.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi LOVES TO READ, I love your "handle". What a wonderful thing to be known by. smile We love input from readers so thanks for joining us.

Your name is in the cat dish.

Happy reading.

Sandra Leesmith said...

VINCE, I was looking at the time. Its late in NY. RUTHY could be in sleep land by now. She likes to get up early to write. And she is dedicated. smile

We'll cheer for the Yankees for her. Ra!!Ra!!

Chill N said...

I've written other times, but not other cultures -- although I do enjoy reading about them. It's always fun to pause while reading and say, "I didn't know that!" And wow were you fortunate to have beta readers when you worked on the reservation. What a resource.

Best wishes for the new release!

Nancy C

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi NANCY, Thanks and yes, it was a real blessing. I have always been blessed with wonderful people around me when I've been writing different stories. There are lots of scientific theories as to why, but I like to think they are miracles. smile

I'm like you. I love those aha moments when we learn something new.

Sandra Leesmith said...

I'm off to bed as have an early flight tomorrow. Thanks for joining us today. I will check comments in the morning in case there are any late arrivals. Hope you all have a great week. Be sure and join us for our birthday bash in October. Yay!!!

Can you believe its October already? Whew!!! Time does fly.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks again and have a blessed week.

Thanks to all who joined us today.

Check out the weekend edition on Sundays in October for winners.

Happy reading.

Happy writing.

Edwina said...

Sandra,
Your post makes a great point. My pet peeve with respect to characters from a different culture is they are acknowledged in the book as a different culture, but they are written with generally the same characteristics, motives, goals etc., as the other characters in the book, i.e., there is no difference between the character from a different culture and the other characters in the book.

Please put my name in for the drawing.

Blessings!

jubileewriter said...

I enjoyed this post. Both my daughter-in-laws are from other cultures. Maribel was born in Mexico and Anabelle in the Philippines. What you see on the surface is not always the essence of their culture. I took a few mission trips to the Philippines and observed a different lifestyle and worldview there.
Where I live Aurora, Illinois has a large hispanic population so much of that culture comes through all around me.
My first novel has a few hispanic characters. I asked Maribel and her sisters to read the spanish dialogue of my Mexican characters. I'd copy pasted it from a translation program from the web. They graciously corrected the more formal terms to fit Mexicans. I too only sprinkled in the foreign words. I help the reader understand by having the Anglo characters respond in english.
Great post, good reminders.
Cindy Huff

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi EDWINA, I so agree with you. I like characters who truly reflect their culture. And as was said by another commenter, there is just as much diversity within a culture and between cultures.

Thanks for joining us.

Sandra Leesmith said...

HI CINDY, Thanks for joining us. And how fun your family gatherings must be. You have more holidays to celebrate. smile We always celebrate every holiday we can.

And how wonderful that you have Beta readers within the family. Makes it easier for sure.

Happy writing.

Deanna Stevens said...

Yes! Some of my favorite books are those that are set in different countries and show us different cultures too...
Toss me into the cat dish please, nice giveaways :)

Karen Hadley said...

Susan, your books sound amazing, your a new author to me. I glad you write the culture into your books. I enjoy reading fiction especially when I can learn from the historical truth of the time, place and the character's heritage.
Thank You!
karenskrayons(at)gmail(dot)com

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi DEANNA, Thanks for joining in. Your name is in the cat dish.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi KAREN, I'm glad you found us. We love getting it right so our readers will have that special experience.

Happy reading.

Walt Mussell said...

I'm catching up on my Seekerville, as I've missed the last few days with it being quarter end at my office.

Sandra, thanks for mentioning me. As you pointed out, I've written characters from other cultures, primarily Japanese, but also Indian (one Syrian).

I think the foreign word comments apply more to the context than to the usage. I'll throw in foreign words when I can have a character answer and immediately convey what was said or the meaning is obvious, given the scene. For example,I have one novella in process where a Japanese character, in a critical scene, jumps up and yells "kore wa nan da." I feel certain from context that readers will know that my character just said "what the $#@^!"

Oddly, in my published Christmas novella, I have a heroine who is of native American descent. I based her on the woman who took our tickets at one of the entrances of Grand Canyon National Park. She was beautiful and I was convinced she was descended from one of the local tribes in the southwest. I started researching all of them, deciding she must be Yavapai. I then called one of Grand Canyon offices and asked, stating that I was a writer and why I was calling. I provided the entrance, date, and time and said I wanted to know what tribe she was descended from. I didn't need to be so detailed. Apparently, every male who works at Grand Canyon National Park knows who this woman is.

It turned out, though, that she wasn't Yavapai. When I asked what tribe the woman was from, the worker I spoke with said "Aztec." (In other words, her family was from Mexico.)

Sandra Leesmith said...

HI WALT, What an interesting observation and how funny that she turned out to be Mexican instead of one of the local tribes. Just goes to show you can't generalize. chuckle.

And yes, you have written many characters from different cultures. I think you aer ahead of your time and it will come. People are more open to other cultures as our world shrinks via the social media.

Thanks for stopping on by.

Happy writing.