Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Interview With Author Dawn House




1. What inspired you to write this book?

When I purchased a falling-down cabin, I had no idea of the extraordinary stories that lay buried in its walls. My research centered on old documents that had once papered the walls and ceilings. I had planned to build a new home in Torrey, the gateway town to Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park. I decided to restore the cabin instead, after learning about the people connected to the town’s original home: A frontier scout who nearly died leading a wagon train into wildlands near Monument Valley, the iconic site of several Western movies. A man who had fought in the Civil War under George Armstrong Custer. A woman married to a horse thief killed in a prison break. And an old man who risked his life to stop one of the largest massacres in U.S. history. Their forgotten stories needed to be told.


2. What exactly is it about and who is it written for?

The book is for anyone fascinated with the Old West. Settlers’ stories tell of rugged red-rock county in the Colorado Plateau – which encompasses four states, and includes the Grand Canyon to the south, Zion National Park to the west, Canyonlands National Park to the east, and to the north, Capitol Reef - one of Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks. The settlers’ stories are important to our understanding of this red-rock country. The great Western writer Wallace Stegner wrote: “The land is not complete without its human history and associations. Scenery by itself is pretty sterile.”


3. What do you hope readers will get out of reading your book?

Only 1 million people live in the Colorado Plateau, a tiny minority that can easily be overcome by big money interests connected to oil, mining and development. I’m hoping people will learn about our parks and national monuments, visit them, and help protect these wondrous – fragile lands.


4. How did you decide on your book’s title and cover design?

The isolated hardscrabble outpost, later named Torrey, was originally called Poverty Flat.  Pioneers labored to farm its alkaline, rocky soil. Many gave up and moved on. It was a familiar story of the Old West. Settlers moved often to look for better grazing, more water, and a better life. Those who stayed in Poverty Flat remain poverty stricken, but overhead they were surrounded by towering stone mountains that lifted souls. The renowned Utah artist, Ken Baxter, painted the cabin before I had restored it. He graciously allowed me to use his painting for my book’s cover.


5. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers – other than run!?

Look for answers to satisfy your curiosity. When I purchased the historic cabin, the town had lost the memory of its early settlers. It took several weeks of research to discover who they were – and years to uncover their stories. Friends told me before I began writing that I needed to get accustomed to rejection and I shouldn’t plan to make money. I wrote for the joy of learning about early settlers and telling their journeys of discovery.


6. What trends in the book world do you see -- and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?

Utah is a tiny market, with few publishing options. I turned to Amazon and took advantage of several workshops to learn about the publishing field. Today’s publishing world has dramatically changed, with its preference for established writers, politicians, and celebrities. Now, many new authors must fend for themselves. I found support, however, at bookstores, such as Barnes & Noble, which agreed to stock my books, and to sponsor book signings.


7. Were there experiences in your personal life or career that came in handy when writing this book?

The Utah Territory could be a violent, unforgiving, and ruthless place. I worked the crime beat at the state’s largest newspaper, The Salt Lake Tribune, for 30 years. I wrote about some of the stories on my beat for my book, showing how the state’s early beginnings laid the groundwork for modern-day Utah.


8. How would you describe your writing style? Which writers or books is your writing similar to?

My style is my own. I am a trained journalist: I strive for clarity, to quickly get to the point, and to weave together threads for an interesting story. My goal is to allow the facts to speak. My inspiration as a writer comes from my good friend, Tom Zollner, winner of the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Award in Nonfiction and Finalist for the Bancroft Prize. Tom is a master storyteller.


9. What challenges did you overcome in the writing of this book?

The most difficult part of writing the book was including my personal stories. My father drowned trying to save a man’s life. My brother was a police officer killed in the line of duty. I had to revisit some of my most painful memories. I also remembered the loved ones who patiently stood by me in those dark times. I resisted writing about myself, but people I trusted told me that if I didn’t, my book would never be published.


10. If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours?

My book describes the importance of the Colorado Plateau, the last and largest dark sky region in the nation. People from around the world – many who have never seen the starts – travel here to see the Milky Way and our universe. At the same time, Western politicians are pushing to downsize or eliminate federal public lands. There’s hope: President Joe Biden restored boundaries to the massive Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument – after President Donald Trump drastically reduced its size. Today, we need knowledgeable, caring friends.


About The Author: Dawn House graduated from Brigham Young University, studying English and history, and completed graduate classes in communication at the University of Utah. She was a University of Utah adjunct professor and Journalist-in-Residence at Utah State University. House worked in the newspaper business for 35 years, including 30 years at Utah’s largest newspaper, The Salt Lake Tribune. She was a reporter and editor, covering courts, crime, and politics. She received a Pulitzer nomination for her coverage of the forger/killer Mark Hofmann. For more info, please see: www.TorreyTales.com


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Brian Feinblum should be followed on www.linkedin.com/in/brianfeinblum. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2024. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog, and El Chapo, a pug rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent.  This award-winning blog has generated over 3.9 million pageviews. With 4,900+ posts over the past dozen years, it was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby  http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs  and recognized by Feedspot in 2021 and 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by www.WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” For the past three decades, including 21 years as the head of marketing for the nation’s largest book publicity firm, and director of publicity positions at two independent presses, Brian has worked with many first-time, self-published, authors of all genres, right along with best-selling authors and celebrities such as: Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen, Joseph Finder, Katherine Spurway, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Todd Duncan, Susan RoAne, John C. Maxwell, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler. He hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America several years ago, and has spoken at ASJA, Independent Book Publishers Association Sarah Lawrence College, Nonfiction Writers Association, Cape Cod Writers Association, Willamette (Portland) Writers Association, APEX, Morgan James Publishing, and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. His letters-to-the-editor have been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Journal News (Westchester) and The Washington Post. His first published book was The Florida Homeowner, Condo, & Co-Op Association Handbook.  It was featured in The Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald.

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