Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Guest Post by Dianna Rostad, Author of You Belong Here Now

Please join me in welcoming Dianna Rostad to Let Them Read Books! I've had the pleasure of Dianna's friendship for several years now, and I'm thrilled to have her here today in celebration of the publication of her debut historical novel, You Belong Here Now! Read on to learn how her dad helped her write this book and see some photos that helped inspire the story!

Montana 1925: An Irish boy orphaned by Spanish flu, a tiny girl who won’t speak, and a volatile young man who lies about his age to escape Hell’s Kitchen, are paraded on train platforms across the Midwest to work-worn folks. They journey countless miles, racing the sun westward.

Before they reach the last stop, the oldest, Charles, comes up with a daring plan, and alone, they set off toward the Yellowstone River and grassy mountains where the wild horses roam.

Fate guides them toward the ranch of a family stricken by loss. Nara, the daughter of a successful cattleman, has grown into a brusque spinster who refuses the kids on sight. She’s worked hard to gain her father’s respect and hopes to run their operation, but if the kids stay, she’ll be stuck in the kitchen.

Nara works them without mercy, hoping they’ll run off, but they buck up and show spirit, and though Nara will never be motherly, she begins to take to them. So, when Charles is jailed for freeing wild horses that were rounded up for slaughter, and an abusive mother from New York shows up to take the youngest, Nara does the unthinkable, risking everything she holds dear to change their lives forever.

My Father’s Bookshelf

One Christmas my father drove down to Texas and he brought a bunch of old photos of the family ranches in Montana, and stories about how his family lived in this beautiful, but unforgiving land. One picture I always remember is of my grandfather’s old ranch house with a small windmill on the top of it. My grandfather had written a note that he’d put that windmill on there as a boy, hoping it would power just one light bulb—and it did for a time. He tells a great story about walking through the snow near the train tracks to get a wet car battery to store and convert the power from the windmill. My grandfather became an electrician later. All these photos broke open a whole big world where I could see my characters falling into place. I decided then to set You Belong Here Now in 1925 Montana.

My father was pretty excited, and we went down to the library straight away, and later on, he gave me a list of recommendations for books written by writers from Montana or set in the Big Sky state. These books helped me frame the mindset and everyday lives of people living in this quiet, rural place.  

Larry Watson, Montana 1948, White Crosses
Ivan Doig, Sweet Thunder, 
Richard Wheeler, Winter Grass
Ray Grensten, Tracks of the Iron Horse
Elmer Kelton, The Man Who Rode Midnight

From there I discovered:

Judy Blunt, Breaking Clean
Margaret Bell, When Montana and I Were Young
Barbara Van Cleve, Hard Twist
Spike Van Cleve, Forty Years’ Gatherin’s 

As the manuscript began to take shape, he would often read my manuscript for me. One time, he came back with the advice to cut the man fight out of the book, as he didn’t think guys would really believe it. I told him I needed it, and could he help me make it better. He sent me a link to a YouTube video of an old Charles Bronson movie set in New Orleans of an illegal fight much like mine in the book. It helped tremendously. All the goings on of the people watching a fight like that, how it was run by the men putting up the fighters, all those little details gave credence to my scene. The scene was cut after many versions, but I’ll always remember him sending me that video. Or the time we argued about whether butane was available in 1925. Throughout the process of bringing this book to the world, my father was with me every step of the way, giving me advice on rifles vs. shotguns, how they were loaded, cocked, etc., and lots of good feedback on old cars from that era, as he is a great hobbyist of early 20th century automobiles. 

I couldn’t have written this book without the help of my father. He has been so instrumental from sparking that first passion to writing it in Montana, sharing his book shelf, supporting my research in all its various forms, and always being my tireless reader, who says: “Yes, I’ll read it again.”

Thanks, Dad. 

Bull Mountains, Montana Today

My Father

My Grandfather (shading his eyes) and his brother George after school, after church?
They’re all dressed up.  

My grandfather in boots to big for him, out with the chickens. 

My Grandpa’s old Ranch House with the small windmill on top he put there to light a bulb. 

About the Author:

Dianna Rostad was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. Her parents and extended family come from the ranches of Montana and the farms of Arkansas. Dianna raised three kind, human beings, and when they began to test their wings, she took to writing with a passion, completing Southern Methodist University Writer’s Path program in 2009. A favorite task of her creative endeavors is the discovery and research of people and places where her novels are set. She has traveled extensively to pursue the last artifacts of our shared history and breathe life, truth, and hope into her novels. Now living in Florida, Dianna continues to write big-hearted novels for wide audiences everywhere. 

Dianna.rostad Instagram

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