Research: Fact for Fiction

tarren meusyResearch fascinates me. I love it because most of my research is face to face or over the phone interviews with Colville Tribal Members. In the past, many had been elders.  Some of them are friends and some of family members. Some have passed away. Because I’m married to a Colville tribal member, I am fortunate to be able to speak with such influential folks on the reservation––right where I live.

Lately I’ve been working on a book about a young girl who wants to jockey in the world famous Omak Suicide Race, which consists of racing a horse down a steep hill, through water, up onto a dike, and into the Omak rodeo arena. Some folks have concerns for the horse’s safety, but I must tell you these horses are just as much athletes and warriors as are their jockey’s.

These animals are trained for ninety days prior to the race each year. Some race on flat tracks as well. Some of these horses were to be put down, but found their calling on “the hill” and were saved and have become successful.

I know much of past research about Native Americans came from the non-native point of view, but I’m blessed to dig deep and go straight to the horse’s mouth, if you will. That is where fabulous facts rest––from generations of oral legacies.

So far, I’ve been able to talk with three Native men and women involved in the event. They have shared what the Suicide Race means to them and it’s one of honor. A rite of passage. I was brought up watching horse and warrior run this race. Become men and women and represent their heritage with pride. And now to create a factious story based on truth and fact is nothing short of an honor.

This year I will sit in the stands and observe the event with fresh eyes. Not as a spectator, but as a writer, watching every little move, gaze, and ripple of muscle on horse and human. I will notice fear, courage, relief. I will cheer for those I know and those I don’t. And pray for all.

Yes, research digs up nuggets of new and fresh information and enlightens me to the past and present. It gives me a connection to the things of this world I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I’m thankful I became a writer and author and I’m thankful I married a Native American and have had the opportunity to learn and be a part of such a rich culture.


~ Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.  – Henry David Thoreau

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  1. Jean Sutton says:

    I love the Suicide Race and will look forward to your new book! Your stories are amazing and although fiction, the facts are real.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Thank you! I look forward to writing it. Plots keep spiraling in my mind and is almost ready to work its way onto the pages.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      It is, Brigid. I know many of the young men who ride, and we just sit and pray for their safety! But it is a fun race.

  2. Alice Trego says:

    I loved reading this, Carmen! I agree that watching an event, to see it with fresh eyes and from a writer’s point of view, just makes the writing more believeable. Your mention of the Omak Suicide Race made me wonder how you’re going to incorporate what you find on your “fact-finding” mission into your next story. I’m excited for you!

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Alice, Thank you! The book I’m researching is young seventeen-year-old Native girl who wants to have this event for her senior project, and then decides she wants to enter the race herself and all the trials she goes through to even enter the trials for it. There are a handful of woman who have run it, but it’s rare. I’m glad you stopped by!

  3. That’s great you can watch the stampede and use what you feel and see in your book. That is the best way to get accuracy in books. I appreciate you helping me with reservation information.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Paty, This year I actually messed up, my husband caught it, and I can’t go, but I am going to go over for some of the trial runs and get some photos. I have some from the past couple years as well. I can’t believe I set up a cowgirl event at my house that weekend. I got the dates mixed up. But even the trials will be wonderful, and like I said, Iv’e seem this race multiple times. It’s always a thrill. And you are welcome. It is my pleasure and was fun taking you on a tour. Can’t wait to read your book when it comes out.

  4. I have watched the Omak Suicide Race and found it exciting. I loved the Omak Stampede; in fact, wrote an article about it. Thanks for the additional information, Carmen.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Mary, did you sell the article? How wonderful! Yes, this is a great event. I normally do a book signing but taking a year off. If you ever come back for it, let me know. I’ll come over and meet you.

      1. Yes, I sold the article to RV Life, a local magazine that has published about 90 of my articles. In fact, I’m writing another article for them right now. Also, my recent blog about the Seattle Ferris Wheel was published by them this month.

        1. Carmen Peone says:

          What a neat place to have that article. I really enjoyed the Seattle Ferris Wheel blog post you did. I’m glad you have such a perfect magazine for your travel articles.