Writing What I Need to Know

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by Precarious Yates

There’s an old adage that says, “Write what you know.”

While I understand the importance of this saying, I approach writing from a different paradigm.

I write what I need to know.

Many of the books I have written have taught me a lot.

Last year, I released a book under my other pen name, Joanna Emerson. The Mapmaker’s Daughter taught me the extent of the trauma the Irish experienced during English occupation, especially as it pertains to the Potato Famine. Even though I had lived in Ireland for 4 years, I didn’t know the depth of the issue. I put what I learned into a steampunk story. Steampunk is a genre that is alternate history, imagining what it would be like if there were flying machines filling the skies in the 1800s. If you’re interested in checking out this genre, I invite you to download The Mapmaker’s Daughter.


It will be free through St. Patrick’s Day.

Writing Hannah’s Civil Pirate gave me insights I would not have otherwise had in regards to enslaved African Americans in South Carolina. I knew facts. I knew so many Civil War facts that I could rattle them off with almost clockwork precision. I needed something more. I needed empathy. I needed to know what it felt like to be a black woman in Charleston, SC in the 1850s. This insight helps me understand my friends whose descendants were enslaved. It taught me that even if my own ancestors didn’t enslaved people, it’s still important for me to say, “I’m sorry.”

Hannah’s Civil Pirate, written under the name Joanna Emerson, will be available on April 5.

The next book that I will be releasing this summer is 4 Dreadful Judgments, book 4 of Revelation Special Ops. This book has taught me that even though many books are written with stereotypical characters, it’s important to challenge stereotypes. I don’t want to just challenge the stereotypes prevalent in society at large. I need to challenge the stereotypes that exist in my own mind and heart. All of them. The visible ones and the invisible ones. The stereotypes that make writing easier, and the stereotypes that fuel the current vitriolic rhetoric that’s so pervasive right now. I need to challenge them all. Because the best writing challenges the reader, even when the prose is simple. And the best writing is anything but simple.

This is why I write what I need to know.

What do you need to know? And what story is fueled by this need?

About the Author:

Precarious YatesPrecarious Yates has lived in 8 different states of the Union and 3 different countries, but currently lives in Texas with her husband, her daughter and their big dogs. When she’s not writing, she enjoys music, teaching, playing on jungle gyms, praying and reading. She holds a Masters in the art of making tea and coffee and a PhD in Slinky® disentangling.


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