(Yes, I know that’s terrible grammar, but "On Writing About a Culture of Which I’m Not Really a Part" sounds terribly stilted.)
My heroine, Deputy Tempe Crabtree is an American Indian and I’m not. My closest relationship to native people are my daughter-in-law and a four-year-old great-grandaughter. When I first created Tempe, her native blood wasn’t a big part of life. With each book, she learns more and more about her roots. I’ve learned right along with her.
Tempe belongs to the Yanduchi tribe which is part of the Yokuts. Yanduchi is not a real tribe, though quite similar sounding to one. The Yokut Indians have many off-shoots and were and are located all over the Central Valley of California. The Bear Creek Reservation where many Yanduchi live has a strong resemblance to the Tule River Reservation which is located fairly close to where I live.
In looks, Tempe resembles my daughter-in-law who is part Yaqui, but her personality is her own. I've also been very much influenced by two female law enforcement officers I know.
Whenever I’ve put Yokut legends in a novel, the legends are true. Calling the Dead has quite a few that seemed to fit what was going on in the story. A future book, Dispel the Mist, is based on a Tule River Indian legend that isn’t well-known, but oh, so much fun to write about. To find out more about the legend, I was invited to go along with the anthropology class to the Tule River Reservation and visit the Painted Rocks.
Though I have attended Pow Wows and visited with our local Indians as part of my research, much of what I’ve used has come from books, especially when I’m writing about supernatural and spiritual aspects of the culture. I want to be respectful and that’s one of the reasons I always emphasize I’m writing fiction.
The town of Bear Creek is a fictionalized version of the town I live in, though I’ve moved it a thousand feet higher into the mountains. In all the years I’ve lived in my little town, there’s only been one murder and a second in a mountain community several miles above us. Bear Creek isn’t so lucky. The worst that happens on the real reservation are vehicle accidents on the narrow, winding road leading to the reservation and it’s casino.
Fortunately, I’m thrilled to say, the Native Americans who’ve read my books seem to like them.
My latest, Judgment Fire, besides investigating the murder of a battered wife, Tempe participates in a Starlight ceremony that opens her eyes to some buried painful memories of her highschool years.
Writing this series has brought me great pleasure and some faithful fans.
Marilyn http://fiction foryou.com
P.S. I met in person half of Evelyn David this past weekend at Love is Murder. Actually I'd met her before though I didn't realize it. We all had a great time at LIM.