“Born with ink in her veins,” Heidi M. Thomas was also gifted with a grandmother who rode bucking stock in Montana rodeos during the 1920s.
That tidbit of information has resulted in two published novels with a third in the series to come out in May 2013. In addition, a non-fiction book about the old-time cowgirls of Montana will also be published in the fall of 2013 by Globe-Pequot/Twodot Press.
“It’s amazing what a tiny piece of information can lead to,” Thomas says. “As a granddaughter, I wanted to preserve her history, and as a writer I could do that through my novels.”
The first book in the series, Cowgirl Dreams, won an EPIC (Electronic Publishing Internet Connection) award, and the sequel, Follow the Dream won the coveted WILLA Literary Award, given by the Women Writing the West organization.
“These awards were a wonderful validation of my work and of my grandmother’s life,” Thomas says.
“I didn’t set out to write a ‘Western’. I just wanted to tell my grandmother’s story. It’s a coming-of-age story, and it’s a story of love and dreams and perseverance that just happens to take place in the West. I want my readers to know it’s all right to dream, no matter what age they are, that dreams sometimes change as the person changes, but to never give up.”
Women in the 1920s through the 1940s rode the same “roughstock” as the men, and several Montana women won World Champion awards riding bucking broncs. “In many ways, they were ahead of their time,” Thomas says. “It’s a fascinating era.”
Thomas earned a degree in journalism from the University of Montana and later completed a two-year certification course in fiction writing through the University of Washington. This helped her learn what she needed to create “living, breathing” characters, and it also inspired her to share what she had learned through teaching beginning fiction and memoirs writing classes.
Thomas will present two workshops at the Kanab Writers Conference, one on “Show, Don’t Tell,” and one on marketing.
“So many of us are creatives who cringe at the thought of putting on a salesman’s hat, but it is an essential part of writing and publishing these days, whether you are published by a big-name publisher or are self-published,” Thomas says.