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 work has 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.
Q: Double Duplicity might be described as a murder mystery with a supernatural twist: Can you tell us a little more about the book?
A: On the eve of the biggest art event at Huckleberry Mountain Resort, potter Shandra Higheagle finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. She’s ruled out as a suspect, but now it’s up to her to prove the friend she witnessed fleeing the scene was just as innocent. With help from her recently deceased Nez Perce grandmother, Shandra becomes more confused than ever but just as determined to discover the truth.
Detective Ryan Greer prides himself on solving crimes and refuses to ignore a single clue, including Shandra Higheagle’s visions. While Shandra is hesitant to trust her dreams, Ryan believes in them and believes in her.
Can the pair uncover enough clues for Ryan to make an arrest before one of them becomes the next victim?
Q: Your protagonist is a potter. Is her job the most important part of her life, a way to express her creativity, or just a paycheck? How does her job color the way she approaches solving this mystery? Does it draw her into the murder?
A: Shandra Higheagle is a creative soul. She bought the ranch on Huckleberry Mountain because it had pockets of clay she could purify and use in her artwork. Her Native American heritage draws her to nature and nature feeds her creativity. She creates art pieces with her pottery to express herself not pay the bills. But she’s acclaimed and can live off her art and giving classes. Yes, in a way her art does draw her into the murder in Double Duplicity. There is a large art event approaching. One of the local gallery owners calls to discuss putting more of Shandra’s work in her gallery. When Shandra arrives at the gallery she finds the woman murdered.
Q: What inspired you to write Double Duplicity? How did this idea become a book?
A: I’ve wanted to write a mystery series for many years. When my brother, a bronze sculptor, told me a fascinating fact about a 300 pound bronze statue that would make a great weapon in a mystery novel, I started “stewing and brewing” to come up with the right protagonist and story. I needed something to do with the art world- an artist. I needed something to stay true to my tagline: Tales of romance and intrigue starring cowboys and Indians – Shandra Higheagle with a Native American background, and the crime that uses the 300 pound statue. That is how the book and the series came to me.
Q: What kind of research did you do, specifically with regard to the Nez Perce and the visions experienced by Shandra?
A: This isn’t the first time I’ve written about the Nez Perce. I have a historical paranormal romance trilogy with shapeshifting spirits that required extensive research. I read many books on their culture and myths as well as became friends with several Nez Perce people. The spirit books have been well received by the Nez Perce community. For the contemporary mysteries, I’ve been corresponding with authors of Native American heritage. Visions are a part of their heritage.
Q: What are some of the issues when writing about a community like the Nez Perce and representing them to the wider world?
A: There is always the worry what you write will upset someone. But I have the deepest respect for the Nez Perce and try to always make that come through in my writing. A friend who lives in the Colville Indian Reservation is taking me there to meet people and do research for an upcoming Shandra Higheagle Mystery.
Q. Are you a “plotter” or a “pantser?”
A: I’m a little of both. While I like to have my main characters well thought-out, the suspects and their motives (red herrings) listed and know where the story will start and end, after that I take off and start writing without an outline or synopsis.
Q: Are you working on a sequel? What’s next?
Shandra Higheagle is digging up clay for her renowned pottery when she scoops up a boot attached to a skeleton. She calls in Weippe County detective Ryan Greer. The body is decades old and discovered to be Shandra’s employee’s old flame.
Ryan immediately pegs Shandra’s employee for the murderer, but Shandra knows in her heart that the woman everyone calls Crazy Lil couldn’t have killed anyone, let alone a man she loved. Digging up the woman’s past takes them down a road of greed, miscommunication, and deceit. Will they be able to prove Crazy Lil innocent before the true murderer strikes again?
The dead body of an illicit neighbor and an old necklace send potter Shandra Higheagle on a chase to find a murderer. Visions from her dead grandmother reveals Shandra is on the right path, but the woods are full of obstacles—deadly ones.
Detective Ryan Greer believes Shandra’s dreams will help solve the mystery, but he also knows the curious potter could get herself killed. He’s determined that won’t happen.
Until he’s blind-sided. Are Shandra’s powers strong enough to save them both, or will the murderer strike again?
You can learn more about Paty at her blog Writing into the Sunset, her website, Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter.
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