Ten years ago, if someone had told me I would have two books published by now, I would’ve laughed—longingly of course. My first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, was released in December 2008, almost ten years after I started writing it. The sequel, Follow the Dream, came out two years later.
People say to me, “The second book must be a lot easier than the first one, right?”
Well, yes and no. I guess I could say that I cheated, in a way. I wrote the two books as one long book to begin with. But when I began researching publishers, I found that the word count for the “western” genre was generally shorter. It just happened that I found a place in about the middle where I thought it could be easily divided. But then I had to make sure the second book could stand alone and fill in some of the back story without resorting to the old “telling” versus “showing.”
Writing a book is never easy. There is always a lot of research to do, whether it is fiction or non-fiction. The self-discipline of writing regularly is easier for some than for others. I wear several hats—writer, teacher, editor and critique group leader, so sometimes my own writing gets put aside.
Of course, once the first draft is put down on paper (and I subscribe to Anne Lamott’s advice to give yourself permission to write a “crappy” first draft), there is revision, revision, revision. This can be done in bits and pieces or going through the entire manuscript several times with a fine-tooth comb. Revision is helped greatly by having an astute critique group to give valuable, constructive feedback.
So, despite the fact that I had the second book “written” when my first book came out, I had to go through several revisions before it was ready to submit to the publisher. The preliminary reader had some further suggestions, as did the editor, and so there were more revisions. Finally, after two years, my second novel was released.
Now the work begins: marketing. Is that easier with the second book? Again, yes and no. I learned as I went with the first book, and I know more now than I did two years ago. But it’s still a matter of hitting the bricks, handselling, and roaring through cyberspace, trying to get your name out there, trying to build up fans.
No, I would say the second book is not easier than the first. And, in working on the third in the series, that fact is reinforced. This saying sums it up quite well: “The more you learn, the less you know.” But that is also what I love about writing—I never stop learning.
Both Cowgirl Dreams and Follow the Dream are based on my grandmother who rode bucking stock in Montana rodeos during the 1920s and ‘30s. The books are written for adults, but also suitable for young adult readers.
Cowgirl Dreams, (an EPIC Award Winner), takes place during the 1920s and features the heroine, Nettie Brady, who dreams of becoming a rodeo star. Social convention, family resistance, floods, broken bones and killer influenza team up to keep Nettie from her dreams.
In Follow the Dream (WILLA Literary Award Winner),Nettie has it all: a rodeo cowboy husband, plans for a busy rodeo season and 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. Will these challenges break this strong woman?
Heidi M. Thomas’ novels are available on her website, from the publisher Treble Heart Books at and Follow the Dream is also available as an e-book for Kindle.
A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, has recently won the national WILLA Award. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.
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