For today's post, please allow me to welcome guest author Heidi M. Thomas.
Heidi grew up on a working ranch in eastern Montana. She had parents who taught her a love of books and a grandmother who rode bucking stock in rodeos. Describing herself as “born with ink in her veins,” Heidi followed her dream of writing with a journalism degree from the University of Montana and later turned to her first love, fiction, to write her grandmother’s story.Heidi’s first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, has won an EPIC Award and the USA Book News Best Book Finalist award.Follow the Dream is the second book in the “Dare to Dream” series about strong, independent Montana Women.Heidi is a member of Women Writing the West, Skagit Valley Writers League, Skagit Women in Business, and the Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She is also a manuscript editor, and teaches memoir and fiction writing classes in the Pacific Northwest.
Heidi, please tell us about your book, Cowgirl Dreams
This is the story of Nettie, a young woman who has a dream—to become a rodeo star, against many obstacles, including her own mother. She is a strong, independent woman who has a goal and will do almost anything to achieve it. The book loosely parallels the life of my grandmother who rode steers in Montana rodeos during the 1920s. It is suitable for both adult and young adult readers.
What made you select your grandmother’s tale to tell?
This was such a fascinating thing, having a grandmother who was a rodeo rider (she rode wild steers). I thought it was incredibly brave and so unusual, and of course that prompted the writer’s question “What if?” I just had to write a story about her.
Can you tell us a little about the sequels…?
The sequel to Cowgirl Dreams has a working title of Follow the Dream, and it is the second half of Nettie’s life, after she marries. Her dream of rodeo stardom lingers, but family obligations, drought, and the Great Depression delay that dream further.
I've just started the third "Nettie" book in the series, working title "Nettie's Cowgirls." This will take place during the 1940s, when women area losing their place in the competitive arena with men. Nettie is fighting this trend.
The fourth book in the series, working title Land of Milk and Honey, is about the next generation, Nettie’s son and his German war bride. This one is based on my mother’s story, when she meets my father, an American soldier during the occupation of Germany after the war ends, and after he is shipped home, accepts his proposal to come to America and marry him. Again I see this as a very courageous venture, moving so far from family, to a foreign country where she didn’t speak the language, where she was regarded as “the enemy,” and where she didn’t know anyone except this man she hadn’t seen in two years.
The fifth book, Rescuing Samantha, is purely fiction, but my character is Nettie’s great-granddaughter, who moves from the big city to the old family ranch, hoping to make a go of raising thoroughbred race horses, again against financial and climatic odds.
Tell us about the classes you offer in beginning fiction and memoir writing.
After I’d started sending out queries on my first book (which is now the third in the series), I received a couple of comments from agents or editors, stating that my characters were “flat.” I didn’t know what that meant or how to fix it, so I enrolled in an extension course in fiction writing through the University of Washington. After that, I thought I would like to share what I had learned with other beginning writers, so I stepped out of my comfort zone and started a community fiction class. And because most of my novels came from family history, I realized the importance of preserving those family stories and memories, so I now teach a memoirs writing class as well.
You also offer editing services?
Yes, my degree is in journalism and I had quite a bit of experience editing in that genre (I had the world’s best copy editor on the newspaper where I worked!), and later when I started writing fiction, I was in a great critique group where I could hone my fiction editing skills as well. As my skills increased, I began editing for others outside the group and have had great feedback from my clients. I belong to the Northwest Independent Editors Guild.
When do you find time to write, Heidi?
That’s the million dollar question, especially now with adding marketing to my list of things to do. I’m trying to learn to better prioritize my tasks, make lots of lists, and try to remember to “do one thing at a time.” I do have a tendency to try to do everything at once—but that’s a little like walking a tight rope while juggling my mother’s best china.
What does your family think of Heidi the author?
Oh, they’re so very proud—and supportive! I couldn’t have done this without my family’s love and cheering me on. I’m so fortunate!
And the last word, Heidi…?
You know, it sounds a bit cliché, I suppose, but having this book published (after 10 years in the process) is a dream come true for me. And I’m struck by the realization that we all do need to have a dream. My advice for other writers is to persevere—never give up!
Cowgirl Dreams is available through my website http://www.heidimthomas.com/ (for an autographed copy), and from my publisher Treble Heart Books http://www.trebleheartbooks.com/SDHeidiThomas.html
Thanks for stopping by Heidi.
Please visit Donna McDine's blog at http://donna-mcdine.blogspot.com/ on Thursday, September 30 where she will be featuring Kathy Stemke.