Monday, May 19, 2014

Interview with Western Writer Heidi Thomas

Heidi M. Thomas 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. Heidi’s first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, has won an EPIC Award and the USA Book News Best Book Finalist award. Follow the Dream, a WILLA Award winner, is the second book, and Dare to Dream is the third in the Dreamseries about strong, independent Montana women. Heidi also teaches memoir and fiction writing classes in north-central Arizona.

Welcome back to my blog, Heidi. Dare to Dream is the third book of the “Dreams” trilogy. Please tell us about your new book.

This new book takes place in the 1940s when women’s participation in rough-stock rodeo was declining, partly due to the world wars and partly because the all-male Rodeo Association of America did not include women’s events in their sanctioned rodeos. Just as Nettie Moser has regained her heart and spirit, following the loss of a dear cowgirl friend in a freak rodeo accident, she is barred from riding. She is determined to “do something” about this outrage, but her fury at the discrimination can’t change things for women—yet. She begins mentoring a couple of teenage neighbor girls in trick riding, the only thing left for women. Against the backdrop of ranching and rodeoing is also the heart-rending affect of WWII on the Montana home front and for Nettie’s family.

Where did you get your inspiration for this trilogy?

My grandmother was my inspiration. She was a real Montana cowgirl who rode bucking steers in rodeos—these were the big wild range animals that were a lot bigger than the steers we see the kids ride in today’s rodeos. After she died when I was 12, my dad told me she had done that, and it stuck in my head until I was an adult and started to write books.

That’s impressive. I bet you felt close to her as you wrote this story. What kind of research did you do for this book?

I got a lot of first-hand information from my dad about growing up with cowboy parents. I also read a number of books about the old-time cowgirls who competed in the heyday of women’s rodeo, and read articles that related to the times and what Montana was like during those eras. Since I grew up on a ranch, I had first-hand knowledge of that lifestyle and could somewhat identify with the homesteaders of the early 1900s because we didn’t have electricity until I was six and no indoor bathroom until I was in high school.

I know this series is based on your grandmother’s rodeo experiences in the 1920s and I think it’s interesting when authors add real life situations to their stories. Did you follow your grandmother’s experiences perfectly or use her as an example for this book?

A little of both, actually. Although the timeline follows some family history, my Nettie character in Dare to Dream is more fictionalized than in the first two books, since she didn’t actually go on to rodeo that late in life and to my knowledge did not mentor other cowgirls (except me).

When I was eight, my grandparents bought me my first horse, a little black Welsh/Shetland cross named Money. Big mistake. That pony was a stubborn little cuss, and he knew he had the authority over that little eight-year-old girl on his back who just wanted to ride with her dad and grandma. He refused to budge, no matter how much I urged him to. Grandma jumped on his back—gonna show him who’s boss—and he proceeded to buck with her. Money immediately went back in the horse trailer and my next horse was a gentle strawberry roan who was my pal on many a roundup for many years. (Needless to say, I did not follow in my grandmother’s rodeo footsteps!)

Thank you, Heidi, for this wonderful interview. I don’t know anything about cowgirls and rodeos, so I learned something new today. When I was a kid, I watched Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and wanted to be like her. But that was all I knew about cowgirls. Haha. The next stop for Heidi's tour will be Tuesday at Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s Blog.

You may read the blurb below about this awesome book.

Blurb: Montana cowgirl Nettie Brady Moser has overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles on the journey toward her dream of being a professional rodeo rider. In the 1920s she struggled against her family’s expectations and social prejudice against rodeo cowgirls. During the Great Depression, marrying Jake Moser and then raising their son took priority over rodeos. And then she was devastated by the death of her friend and mentor in a rodeo accident.

In the spring of 1941, Nettie, now age 36, is regaining her heart and spirit, and she is determined to ride again at an event in Cheyenne, Wyoming. To her dismay, the male-dominated Rodeo Association of America enforces its rule barring women from riding rough stock and denies her the chance to ride. Her fury at the discrimination can’t change things for women—yet.

Based on the life of the author’s grandmother, who rode rough stock in Montana in the 1920s, this sweeping rodeo saga parallels the evolution of women’s rodeo from the golden years of the 1920s, producing many world champion riders, and shows its decline, beginning in the 1930s and ending with World War II in 1941.


Heidiwriter said...

Linda, thank you for hosting me on the beginning of my second week of blog touring Dare to Dream!

Everybody, be sure to leave a comment and you'll be entered in a drawing for a copy of one of my books!

Mary E. Trimble said...

Very interesting interview with this Montana lady! Heidi manages to impart the spirit of Montana in her writing. I've read her first two books and am looking forward to the third of this fine trilogy.

Heidiwriter said...

Thank you for your kind words and compliment, Mary!

Shanna Hatfield said...

Congratulations, Heidi!

Michelle Willms said...

This sounds like a wonderful book. I was a child rodeo participant, attending different rodeos each weekend. I was a barrel rider and my dad was a roper. He also rode bulls and broncs. So, I'll really enjoy reading this book. It'll really bring back the memories. michelle_willms at yahoo dot com

Heidiwriter said...

Michelle, I admire you for participating in rodeo--sounds like a fun "family affair." I rode horses with my grandmother, but never rodeoed.

Sonja said...

Ah, cowboys are always an interest to me. It sounds really fun to read!

Heidiwriter said...

Thank you for stopping by, Sonja. I think it's a fun book (but I'm not prejudiced!) GRIN

Susan J Tweit said...

It's a treat to "hear" you talk about your grandmother and your childhood, Heidi, and also to learn more about your latest book. Congratulations!

Heidiwriter said...

AND the winner is...Mary Trimble!

Linda Weaver Clarke said...

Congratulations, Mary Trimble. I know you'll enjoy this book.