Monday, September 5, 2011

Interview with Historical Fiction Author Heidi M. Thomas

Heidi Thomas teaches Memoir and Beginning Fiction Writing in her community and does freelance editing. She is also a member of the Northwest Independent Editors Guild. Heidi lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with a wonderful, supportive husband and a pesky cat. She is also the author of two historical fiction novels and is working on a third in her “Dare to Dream” series. Follow the Dream has won the National WILLA Literary Award, named for Willa Cather and awarded by the Women Writing the West organization.

Hello, Heidi. Please tell us about your new book.

Follow the Dream is the sequel to Cowgirl Dreams. Both books emphasize a strong, independent western woman who gives her all to pursue her dream of rodeo competition. As Follow the Dream opens, Nettie seems to have achieved this dream. She’s married to her cowboy, Jake, they have plans for a busy rodeo season, and she has a once in a lifetime opportunity to rodeo in London with the Tex Austin Wild West Troupe.

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.


My Hyer Space said...

Enjoyed interview. Sounds like a great book. Thanks for this opportunity to win. agent3547 at aol dot com

Heidiwriter said...

Linda, Thank you for hosting me on your blog! I just want to add that since we did this interview, I've learned that Follow the Dream has won a national WILLA Literary Award, named for Willa Cather and awarded by the Women Writing the West organization.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Heidi, what a wonderful history you have. I want to write a story of my grandmother's life, too. Best of luck with your books.

Wilma F. Smith said...

Heidi, I enjoyed this interview! Congratulations on your WILLA Literary Award, well-deserved. I loved both of your books and was amazed at the courage and determination of your grandmother. I think you have inherited those qualities. All the best, Wilma Smith

Heidiwriter said...

Our grandmothers left us a legacy of wealth that has nothing to do with money! Caroline, I encourage you to write about yours!

Linda said...

Sounds like a very interesting read!! A woman in a rodeo? Haven't heard of it before. And I love historical reads--and this during the great depression. Please enter me. Thank you!

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

Heidi, I've read posts about your book. What a wonderful idea to write your grandmother's life in such a way. Congratulations on the WILLA win. That is super.
There are so many real stories out there just waiting for us to reach out and grab them. My email is vebrotherton at gmail dot com

Margaret G. said...

I really enjoyed Cowgirl Dreams and,though I haven't yet read Follow the Dream, I plan to since it sounds equally good. It's a fine thing to bring such lttle-known stories of actual western life to a borader consciousness.
Congratulations on the Willa award!

historywriter said...

Congrats on Follow The Dream receiving a WILLA. A great honor. The novel brings to life a near forgotten time when ranchers were not only facing financial collapse from the Great Depression but terrible environmental conditions. Well done.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Your grandmother sounds like she was a tough woman!

Bob Sanchez said...

Interesting interview, Heidi and Linda. Thanks!

Erin Aslin said...

Congratulations o n your WILLA Literary Award, Heidi!

I enjoyed your interview, very interesting. Your book sounds like a great read, thanks for the opportunity to win it

apple blossom said...

love reading historical fiction love to win thanks for the chance

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Charity said...

Wow! A school of only four students:) This book looks like it has an interesting theme. Please enter me. Thanks!


ruthhill74 said...

I love reading historical fiction, and it doesn't get much better than the Old West. Please enter me!

Arletta Dawdy said...

Cowgirl Dreams certainly captured the feel of the era and your grandmother's tenacity. I look forward to your Willa winning #2 in the series...there will be a #3, right?
Yes, please enter me:

chirth7 said...

Wow what a legacy your grandmother left for you. That's amazing. I don't know much about that way of life, but it sounds fasinating to read about.
Thanks for the giveaway!


joannie said...

hi i am entering this giveaway because my husband does not read enough but i believe with story being based on your grandmother during this time he woll kill to read he likes western type real life rodeo people. Thanks joannie jscddmj[at]aol[dot]com

Linda Weaver Clarke said...

Congratulations, Joannie! You are the winner of this award winning book. I know you'll enjoy it. Thanks, everyone, for visiting my blog. Stop by each week and check out the new book giveaways.

Heidiwriter said...

Congratulations to Joannie!!
And Thank You again, Linda, for featuring me on your blog.