Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesday Promo- Heidi Thomas

THANK YOU to all the service men and women who have been in the military and still are.

I'd like to welcome fellow Women Writing the West member Heidi Thomas!

Raised on a ranch in isolated eastern Montana, Heidi Thomas has had a penchant for reading and writing since she was a child. Armed with a degree in journalism from the University of Montana, she worked for the Daily Missoulian newspaper, and has had numerous magazine articles published.

A tidbit of family history, that her grandmother rode steers in rodeos during the 1920s, spurred Heidi to write a novel based on that grandmother’s life.

Cowgirl Dreams is the first in a 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 an avid reader of all kinds of books, enjoys hiking the Pacific Northwest, where she writes, edits, and teaches memoir and fiction writing classes.

How do you feel your journalism career has helped your fiction writing?

It gave me the ability to meet deadlines, to write in a concise manner, and taught me how to research and interview. It also gave me confidence that I really was a writer and fueled my love for words and stories. In fiction writing, I find that I do write a pretty spare first draft and then I have to go back and flesh it out with feelings, reactions, descriptions, etc. But I think that’s a good thing!

What drew you to writing books about strong Montana women?
The strong Montana women in my life. My grandmother, on which my first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based, rode rough stock in rodeos, something that has long been viewed as a “man’s sport.” She was more at home on the back of a horse than behind a dust mop.

My mother came from Germany after WWII, something I’ve always thought took immense courage. My dad met her while he was stationed there during the American occupation. After he was shipped home, he wrote to her, asking her to come to the U.S. and marry him. She said yes, and then it took two years before she was able to get the paperwork, visas, etc. to come. Leaving her home, her family, to go to a strange country, where she didn’t know the language, was considered “the enemy,” and didn’t know anyone except this man she hadn’t seen for two years—I am in awe. (By the way, a novel based on my mother’s experiences will be the fourth book in my series.)

What's next in your writing career?
My sequel, Follow the Dream, is with my publisher now, and I hope it will be released next spring or summer. I have started a third “Nettie” book, have a draft of my mother’s story finished and a fifth book started, which will be a contemporary novel featuring Nettie’s great-granddaughter (strictly fiction).

Defying family and social pressure, Nettie Brady bucks 1920s convention with her dream of becoming a rodeo star. That means competing with men, and cowgirls who ride the rodeo circuit are considered “loose women.” Addicted to the thrill of pitting her strength and wits against a half-ton steer in a rodeo, Nettie exchanges skirts for pants, rides with her brothers on their Montana ranch, and competes in neighborhood rodeos.

Broken bones, killer influenza, flash floods, and family hardship team up to keep Nettie from her dreams. Then she meets a young neighbor cowboy who rides broncs and raises rodeo stock. Will this be Nettie’s ticket to freedom and happiness? Will her rodeo dreams come true?

Based on the life of the author’s grandmother, a real Montana cowgirl, and it is suitable for both adult and young adult readers.

With just a moment of dread, she felt the curve of the animal’s spine as he hunched, muscles tightening. The noise and the heat and the dust of the day disappeared. It was just her and nine hundred pounds of muscle and bone locked in combat.

The steer exploded off the ground. His loose hide rolled across his backbone. He twisted his front quarters up to one side. His hind legs kicked out to the other. A frothy bawl escaped his mouth. He switched directions, then again.

Nettie’s right hand froze around the strap. Her knees dug a hold into the steer’s ribs. She waved her left arm high, just like a real cowboy. Each twist and turn jolted along her spine, up to her clenched jaw.

Her mind and body worked together to anticipate each move. With every jump, the animal snorted ropes of saliva into the air. The wild body writhed beneath her, trying to shed his unwelcome load.

Each tug and jerk strained Nettie’s arm muscles to the limits. Her shoulders felt as though they would pop out of their sockets. Numbing fatigue threatened to loosen her hold. She would not lose this fight. She’d rather die than fail in front of all these cowboys.

Seconds dragged like a roped calf to a branding fire.

The whirlwind slackened. The steer gave a few more half-hearted twists. Cheers gradually penetrated her tunnel world. Thought returned to her hazy brain. The steer was winding down. She was still on its back.

He gave a last, disgusted kick and came to a dead stop, his head hung low. Two men distracted the animal while he continued to blow strings of saliva and butt his menacing horns toward them. She felt herself being lifted from the steer’s back with a sensation of flying. Her oldest brother Joe reached out from atop his horse, carried her to safety and let her down to the ground. Before she could spit the word “Thanks” through still-clamped teeth, her younger brother Ben was there hugging her.

“You did it!” Joe slid from his horse and clapped her on the back. “We knew you could.”
The boys hoisted her onto their shoulders to parade her around the small arena. Car horns squawked. The watching men cheered. She had done it. No jeers now. Dizzy, unbelieving, she grinned and waved until they reached the outside of the arena and set her down.

But the crusty old cowhand who’d confronted her spat into the dust and called out, “That musta been an easy one. Let me ride him next!”

The answering ripple of laughter and whoops flushed Nettie’s face, but despite her shaking limbs, she stretched herself taller, held her head straighter, and smiled. “Why, you couldn’t ride a corral fence if it was standing still.”

The listening men applauded. “You tell ’im, little gal!” someone shouted.

A giggle rose inside. She tossed her braids over her shoulder and strode away. She didn’t care if those old timers thought women shouldn’t ride in rodeos. She had done it.

You can purchase an autographed copy of Cowgirl Dreams through my website, and it is also available through my publisher or from Amazon.


Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Good morning! What a wonderful family history to draw on. I have placed two of my stories in Montana, probably making major mistakes in the Your stories sound wonderful and I'm going to need to look them up. Happy writing and sales.

Alice Trego said...

Thanks for the interview, Paty and Heidi!

I enjoyed reading tidbits about Heidi's upcoming books based on strong Montana women. I've read Cowgirl Dreams; found the read delightful and full of emotion.

Can't wait for Heidi's next book as I know I won't be disappointed.


Helen Hardt said...

Nice to meet you, Heidi! I love that you've based your story on a relative. Family history fascinates me. Best of luck!

Jeanmarie Hamilton said...

Enjoyed your blog and exerpt! I think it's great that you've based your stories on your family history. I like to do that too. It's a wonderful way to write stories about the old west.
My dad's parents homesteaded in Montana, in the early 1900s, and I have photos of my grandfather with his horse, and also driving a surrey. But I know more about my Texas family, so I've written stories inspired by their experiences. Good luck with your books, and congratulations!

Heidiwriter said...

Thank you, Paty, for hosting me today! And thank you all for your comments. I hope you enjoy Cowgirl Dreams if you read it. As "they" say, you can take the girl out of Montana, but you can't take the Montana out of the girl!

I love being able to write novels based on family history. It's so much fun to "fill in the gaps" and create endings "the way they should have been" in some cases.

And, I'm always learning. That's the beauty of a writing career--you never stop learning!

Keep writing, AND reading, y'all! (NOT my native MT accent LOL)

Margaret Tanner said...

Wow Heide,
You certainly have an interesting family history. Wonderful excerpt.
I wish you all the best with your writing projects.

Gwyn Ramsey said...

Thanks Paty for a fantastic interview. I enjoyed reading about Heidi's mom and grandmother. What an inspiration they were. Heidi's book is a great read.

Good luck in your writing, Heidi.

Mary E. Trimble said...

The strong women in Heidi's family certainly make wonderful reading fodder. Thanks for posting this interesting interview.

Margaret Carter said...

COWGIRL DREAMS is a wonderful book. (And I basically never read Westerns.) There is a second novel about Nettie?

gtyyup said...

I've seen the book at the Round Barn and have been drawn to it every time. I'll have to put it on John's list for my stocking stuffers!