Monday, September 5, 2011
Interview with Historical Fiction Author Heidi M. Thomas
Hello, Heidi. Please tell us about your new book.
But life during the Great Depression brings unrelenting hardships and unexpected family responsibilities. Nettie must overcome challenges to her lifelong rodeo dreams, cope with personal tragedy, survive drought, and help Jake keep their horse herd from disaster. These challenges are enough to break any woman, but will Nettie persevere?
Where did you get your inspiration for this novel?
Both books are based on my grandmother who rode bucking-stock competitively in Montana during the 1920s and ’30s. She died when I was twelve, so I did get to know her, ride with her, and knew that she preferred the back of a horse to domestic duties any day.
I love the fact that you based your story on your grandmother’s life. A Reviewer wrote, “I enjoyed this bittersweet novel with its accurate depiction of the lives of cowgirls in 1930s Montana and its tender portrait of a marriage.” Tell us your thoughts about this and why she refers to your novel as bittersweet.
Nettie is torn between her rodeo dreams and her love for her family. The hardscrabble years of the ’30s force them to seemingly abandon their rodeo hopes while trying to survive and keep their horses from starving. She has to make some difficult choices about her dreams when things go in a different direction than she had planned.
Your book sounds intriguing to me. What kind of research did you have to do?
My father told me many anecdotes about growing up with a cowgirl as a mother. I read non-fiction books about the cowgirls of that era, talked to other relatives who remembered my grandmother, and actually found the original homestead where my grandparents lived when they were first married. I also have a scrapbook and photo albums she made.
Wow! I bet your love and respect for your grandmother grew so much as you discovered all the many things about her. Now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.
I grew up in isolated rural eastern Montana during the 1950s and ’60s, living a life that was somewhat similar to the way my grandparents lived, so I could understand first-hand what they experienced. I attended a one-room country school with a total of four students, and when I went to high school, I lived in a dormitory during the week and came home on weekends. This dorm, which closed in the 1990s, was, to my knowledge, the last public high school dormitory in the U.S.
Oh my gosh! Only four students? Now that’s small. You can’t get better education than one on one. Your teacher had very little to distract her with only four students. I’ve heard of dormitories for high school in England, but I hadn’t heard of them in the states. Interesting! I learn so many things when I interview authors. Thanks, Heidi, for a wonderful interview.