When Mt. St. Helens Blew

My guest today is my good friend and fellow Women Writing the West member, Mary Trimble. Her third novel, Tenderfoot, has just been released by Treble Heart Books, and with a setting that revolves around the Mount St. Helen’s eruption, is a very timely story. Mary is also author of two Young Adult novels, Rosemount and award-winning McClellan’s Bluff.

Mary, what gave you the idea to write a story around this catastrophic event?

When I spent time interviewing a rancher in eastern Washington, he talked a lot about the events and subsequent inconvenience of the eruption to his operation. I thought it interesting, but that wasn’t really why I was there, so I didn’t pay that much attention. Later, as I listened to those interview tapes, I realized what a gold mine I had and vowed I’d get back to that subject again. Thus, Tenderfoot.

Why is the release of this book so timely?

Pure coincidence. I tried to “sell” this book before, then rewrote much of it, before putting it on the market again. The timing just worked out to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Mount St. Helens 1980 eruption.

This is a bit of a departure from your other novels. You call it romantic suspense. Is it suitable for both adult and young adult audiences?

It is suitable for both, but is categorized as adult. However, it is appropriate for young adults to read and, I think, of interest. I do have a teen in the story–I just can’t seem to get away from them!

I know there is a story behind the cover photo for Tenderfoot. Would you share that with us?

We were camping in eastern Oregon, driving along a back road near Steens Mountain, which is wide-open ranch country. You can drive for miles and miles and still be along side a single ranch. We saw a couple of cowboys rounding up and sorting cattle. We pulled up our truck/camper alongside and watched. A cowboy rode over to us and asked if we needed help and we said we just wanted to watch and take some pictures. “Have at it,” he said and he resumed his work.

Later, when the publisher asked for cover ideas, my husband, Bruce, whipped out one of the pictures he’d taken and asked what I thought about it. I loved it, but the cowboy on horseback was a “he” and my main character is a woman. “Oh,” he said, “I can fix that.” Through Photoshop, he gave the rider a pony tail and slimmed her down. Then, he overlaid a picture of pre-eruption Mount St. Helens in the distance.

That’s a great story. It’s truly a family effort!

When did you first begin writing? Did you start out with non-fiction or fiction?

I first began writing non-fiction articles for magazines and newspapers. I did that for several years before I wrote my first book.

How have you developed your skills–did you study writing or take classes?

I have taken a few creative writing classes through the years, but once we moved to Camano Island, I joined an on-going writing class, which proved to be very helpful and in which I received a lot of encouragement.

You’ve had numerous magazine articles published. Tell us where the ideas for these come from.

Mostly from issues of interest to me. I’m a freelance writer and don’t really want to take assignments, though I’ve done that from time to time. Mostly, though, I don’t want to work with other people’s deadlines. I write an article, then sell it. I’ve had good success doing this. My early articles were about sailing, as we had just completed a 14-month sailing trip throughout the South Pacific, but then my writing evolved to RV-related articles and articles of interest to homeowners.

Which genre is easier to write?

I like writing both non-fiction and fiction. I would find it difficult to write sexually descriptive stories, but I enjoy writing fiction that can be enjoyed by adults and young adults. That’s the kind of reading I enjoy, too.

What kind of books do you like to read and which authors would you say have influenced you?

I think my hands-down favorite author is Lucy Maud Montgomery. Her heart-felt Anne of Green Gables is as fresh today as it was when she wrote it in 1908. I love anything written by Jane Kirkpatrick–I think I’ve read all her books. Also, Larry McMurty is a favorite–especially Lonesome Dove.

Are you an outliner or a “seat-of-the pants” writer?

I’m an outliner, but I give myself permission to vary from the outline. I’m a structured person and an outline makes me feel “in control.” But I have learned to listen to other voices when they try to squeeze in. In Tenderfoot, the rancher, J, had no children at first, but this little teenage twerp, Gretchen, kept pestering me. Finally, I gave in and I think she added much to the story.

What advice would you give someone just starting out in writing?

Join, or form, a critique group. I don’t send anything out until my husband reads it first, and then my critique group. Be open to what they have to say. Listen to them–if they question what you’ve written, so will your readers.

Here is a synopsis and review of Tenderfoot:

A romantic suspense, Tenderfoot takes place on a working Northwest cattle ranch in 1980, the year the world remembers for the catastrophic eruption of Mount St. Helens. Corrie Stephens is eager to   learn about ranching, but reluctant to become involved with a man – it’s just not worth the heartache. Rancher J McClure, on the other hand, has been alone too long. Tenderfoot draws the reader into the story’s strong emotions based on family, love, and the first-hand adventure of the eruption of Mount St. Helens.

“…a finely told tale…above all, Tenderfoot is a story about love: love of the land, love of each other and love that forgives and moves on. A page turner and a delight.

— Jane Kirkpatrick, award-winning author of historical novels of the American West

Tenderfoot is available from Mary’s website, through the publisher Treble Heart Books, from your favorite bookstore or on Amazon.

Other novels by Mary E. Trimble include Rosemount and McClellan’s Bluff, which both take place in Washington and Oregon and feature the same main character.

Published in: on March 2, 2010 at 4:00 pm  Comments (6)  
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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Heidi, thank you so much for featuring me on your blog. For some time I have enjoyed your excellent blogs and now, here I am!

  2. I’m happy to feature you today, Mary. I’ve very much enjoyed reading all three of your books and I don’t hesitate to recommend them to my friends and reading acquaintances.
    Thank you!

  3. Good interview. Mary. I like what you said about Gretchen wanting into the story. That has happened to me. It is, I think, our subconscious self creating the character/event and when the time is right,we bring it to the attention of our conscious self. I had one of my stories completely done when I realized a new character was wanting into the story. A character that was a minor player, but important in the context of the kind of people who hid runaway slaves.
    I reached Rosemount in my stack, read it, liked it, and posted reviews on amazon & BN. Tenderfoot looks equally as good.

    • Eunice, that’s a good description of a character “wanting into the story.” Many people have commented on Gretchen and how she gave J (her father in Tenderfoot) another dimension. Thank you for the nice review of Rosemount. I’m glad you enjoyed the story.

  4. Ooh, historical romance in a contemporary setting! How interesting. As an illustrator, I really appreciated the info about the book’s cover, too.

  5. I’m surprised that the eruption was that long ago. It doesn’t seem like so much time has passed since it was on the news.

    It’s nice to know the book won’t have sordid content. I much prefer to read books that don’t.

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