Jane Kirkpatrick discusses “Everything She Didn’t Say”

When: 5 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Sunriver Books & Music, 67100 Beaver Drive, Building 25-C

Cost: Free, registration requested

Contact: sunriverbooks.com or 541-593-2525

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When: 6 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Herringbone Books, 422 SW Sixth St., Redmond

Cost: Free

Contact: herringbonebooks.com or 541-526-1491

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When: 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 18

What: Kirkpatrick will discuss how genealogy helps shape her stories

Where: Bend Genealogical Society program meeting, Williamson Hall at Rock Arbor Villa, 2220 NE U.S. Highway 20, Bend

Cost: Free

Contact: orgenweb.org/deschutes/bend-gs or 541-317-9553

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When: 6:30 p.m. Sept. 21

Where: Paulina Springs Books, 252 W. Hood Ave., Sisters

Cost: Free

Contact: paulinasprings.com or 541-549-0866

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When: 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 26

Where: Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 2690 NE U.S. Highway 20, Bend

Cost: Free

Contact: stores.barnesandnoble.com or 541-318-7242

Bend’s Jane Kirkpatrick is the bestselling author of 32 books, most of them historical Western fiction inspired by the lives of real women. Her latest novel, “Everything She Didn’t Say,” based on the adventurous life of Carrie Strahorn, will be released Tuesday. Kirkpatrick will discuss the book at several upcoming events in Central Oregon.

Kirkpatrick describes her stories as “studied fiction.” After conducting extensive research, she takes the facts about a historical figure and uses fictionalized details to flesh out her personality, character and relationships, and fill in any gaps about the events in her life. While it might be easier to write straight historical fiction, Kirkpatrick has a good reason for sticking with her more challenging style.

“Plotting is not my strong point,” the self-deprecating author said. “So having a story sort of plotted out as to who those people were sort of gives me a baseline for the storyline. I feel in some ways that I have this gift in another person’s life that I can look at and glean from and weave in the fiction.”

But there is also a deeper reason Kirkpatrick bases her stories on real people and events. Fans have told her they find it more encouraging to read about someone’s life when they know the character truly endured the difficult experiences recounted in the story.

“There’s a level of inspiration and hopefulness that people get from reading about a person who actually walked on this Earth,” Kirkpatrick said. “It makes them consider that ‘maybe my life could have some significance or meaning that I haven’t thought about,’ and then the importance of the story steps out of that generation and into this generation.”

The idea for “Everything She Didn’t Say” came from one of Kirkpatrick’s fans — Carol Oxley of Redmond. Oxley gave Kirkpatrick a copy of Carrie Strahorn’s two-volume memoir published in 1911. Strahorn was the wife of Robert Strahorn, a railroad promoter, investor and writer with whom she spent 25 years traveling throughout the American West in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

After reading the memoir, Kirkpatrick was impressed by Carrie Strahorn’s adventurous spirit and role in helping establish several towns in Oregon, Idaho and Washington. But she also found herself wondering about all the things Strahorn seemed to have omitted.

“To me, it just left out all the things you would want from a memoir — her inner thoughts,” Kirkpatrick said. “There must have been so many disappointments, and it had to have been a difficult life, but she just made light of that. Everything was just happy-happy. As I read it I thought, ‘what isn’t she telling us?’”

Such unanswered questions intrigue Kirkpatrick and form the foundation of her novels. In Strahorn’s case, Kirkpatrick found it interesting that a well-educated woman from a prominent family chose to live this nomadic existence. Strahorn remained a devoted wife to Robert despite the financial ups and downs that his career brought them, the lack of children of their own and the fact he rarely reciprocated the nurturing and support she showered on him.

“Throughout the two volumes of this amazing memoir she wrote, Carrie constantly talked about ‘pard’ (her nickname for Robert — short for partner) doing this and that,” Kirkpatrick said. “Then, he can’t find more than three sentences to write about her in his own memoir and raves on about himself. That told me a lot.”

Envisioning and exploring Strahorn’s marriage, loneliness from frequent moves and heartbreak over not having children were critical in Kirkpatrick crafting a relatable central character. The author actually undertook extensive rewrites of her early drafts to make Strahorn a more empathetic character and help find that vulnerability earlier in the storyline.

“I had to write the whole book before I realized that Carrie wasn’t really writing a memoir about her and Robert’s life, but was writing a memoir about her love of the West,” Kirkpatrick said. “I rewrote it so it wasn’t just about a rich woman going West. She had to overcome challenges and struggles, even though she had a lot going for her.”

The prolific author recently put the finishing touches on the epilogue of her next book. It’s about a group of travelers stranded in the Sierra Nevada mountains for several months a year prior to the infamous Donner party tragedy. As with all her novels, Kirkpatrick has found a little-known story that incorporates an uplifting message.

“It is one of those fabulous stories of community,” Kirkpatrick said. “If you compare it to the story of the Donner party and the terribly different outcomes, it’s just incredible.”

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