Complex Lives of Local Characters

By Ann Minnett

I live in the mountains of NW Montana, twenty miles from a tourist town. My small town used to be known for logging and then became a railroad town, but the impact of those industries has waned. Our economy relies upon visitors, mostly in winter and summer, who come to enjoy our great outdoors. Construction, service industries, restaurants and bars, outdoor exploration, and retail shops keep this valley buzzing.

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Sunrise in the Last Best Place

Thirty years ago, I was one of those tourists. I fell in love with this area and returned for vacations at least once every year for two decades. We bought property early on, finally built a house in 2009, and followed through on a promise to ourselves to live here fulltime.

 

 

 

We’ve lived here year-round for eight

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Courtesy: Whitefish Convention & Visitors Bureau

years. We love sharing Montana with friends and family and have no thoughts of leaving. While dreams do come true, I’ve thought a lot about the differences between visiting a place and residing there. In all those years of playing outdoors and eating hearty meals and shopping for souvenirs, I paid scant attention to the lives of everyday residents.

 

The ‘locals’ in my picturesque hometown—those with complicated, embedded lives–are the rich characters I write about. I’ve come to know them through writing groups (everyone has a book or a poem in them), advocacy for abused and neglected children, drug/alcohol recovery in this valley, and toe-in-the-water political activism. The hairdressers, shopkeepers, wait staff, once existed to tend to the Tourist Me. Now I see them juggle childcare and work, try to find affordable housing while earning minimum wage, work one or two seasonal jobs, find time to play, and cling to the values of their grandparents, all while rubbing shoulders with billionaires or just the moderately rich.

Fifteen Years of Lies FINAL EBOOK COVERMy third novel, Fifteen Years of Lies, recounts the story of three local friends—a housekeeper, hairdresser, and owner of an auto repair shop—and the wealthy stranger who comes to town to threaten their lives. My forthcoming fourth novel, tentatively entitled Me Between Them, also takes place here. Long story short: A middle-aged widow fights to keep her family together and her grandchildren safe from domestic violence despite a daughter-in-law’s vicious lies and her husband’s revelations from the grave.

I hope you’ll visit NW Montana. If and when you do, enjoy! but notice the locals you meet. Sometimes they have the most remarkable lives.

~ Ann

Ann Minnett MWW photo

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April Book News

spring in nw montana

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Oh, April! Such a tease of a month in Northwest Montana. Days can be wintry or warm, snowy or sunny, often all within a few minutes!

April is also home to National Library Week, April 8-15. The Montana Library Association is hosting its annual meeting in Bozeman, April 11-14, and I’m delighted to be the Author Brunch Speaker on Saturday, April 14. I’ll be talking about the cozy mystery — the light-hearted side of the genre — what it is, a few trends, and some author recommendations.

IMary Fields‘m also pleased to say that my historical short story, All God’s Sparrows, will appear in the May-June issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, available mid April, by subscription and in bookstores and newstands. Set in 1885 in Montana Territory, the story features Mary Fields, also known as Stagecoach Mary and Black Mary, who was born in slavery in Tennessee in 1832 and later worked for the Ursuline Sisters at St. Peter’s Mission near Cascade. On a trip to the mill to pick up lumber for the girls’ school, Mary encounters a young family in trouble, and uses all her wits—as well as the skills of young Sister Louisine—to save a child and mete out justice, or as much justice as can be had in this fallible world. Look for another Mary Fields short mystery next year.

Happy reading!