Today I am welcoming author Dede Montgomery into the Indie Spotlight.
Dede Montgomery is a 6th generation Oregonian with a deep connection to the land, and curiosity about life in early Oregon and the stories, good and bad, that lay there. During the day (except when she escapes to scribble new writing ideas), Dede is a certified industrial hygienist and works at Oregon Health & Science University in worker safety, health and well-being research and education. Dede lives with her husband in West Linn, Oregon where she is active with the West Linn Historical Society, and never tires of exploring the banks and ripples of the Willamette River and other natural areas.
In her 2017 memoir, My Music Man (Bedazzled Ink Publishing) Dede explores the jumbled path of forgiveness, reconciliation, courage and gratitude, through the memories and stories stirred after her father’s death. Dede was a 2019 Oregon State Capitol Foundation Speaker Series presenter, sharing My Music Man stories on Oregon’s February 14 Birthday. Dede’s novel, Beyond the Ripples, was released in 2019, and with the seed of the idea coming from her own childhood act of writing a note, placing it in a bottle and setting it on a voyage down the Willamette River. Dede’s 2020 non-fiction release was Then, Now, and In-Between: Place, Memories, and Loss in Oregon. Her newest work, a collection of linked short stories, Humanity’s Grace, will be released in January 2022.
Hi Dede, welcome to my blog today.
What made you decide to publish your books independently? What was your path to publication?
I published my first book in 2017 at the age of 56. While I have always loved to write, and journaling was important to me for much of my life, my writing for decades prior to 2014 was mostly work and science focused, and not particularly creative. When my dad died that year, he a journalist and dynamic storyteller, I found writing about him and our relationship helped me process grief. As I did this, I worked in seven generations of family stories tied in with my family’s early Oregon heritage. I am stunned to recognize today how much I have written in these few short years, although when younger I always knew I wanted to write a book.
What made you decide to write in your specific genre rather than other genres? Have you ever written in other genres?
I have always been an avid reader, which is important for any author. I too am impatient, not an ideal trait for a wannabe author. Once I had my (what I thought final) manuscript, after using several beta readers, I knew my preference was to be traditionally published. Although I queried a few agents, I soon determined it to be more expedient–for me –to reach out directly to publishers, avoiding the middle party. That meant first sifting through the various publishers to learn which would accept query letters/sample chapters from unagented authors, dramatically narrowing the field. Next I identified, of those, which might be interested in memoir. Finally, I targeted regional press more likely to be interested in my Oregon/Pacific NW story. Fairly quickly my current publisher, Bedazzled Ink, requested the entire manuscript and soon after offered me a contract. For me, the path of using a traditional publisher, especially one that connected with my writing and stories, was most important. I have self-published one book (“blog to book”), largely choosing that route because of the content I already had ready to go, selecting only e-book format only because of the large number of high resolution images included in my work. When it came time to publish my next two books, although I briefly queried a few other larger publishers, the interest, ease and loyalty of my current smaller press made it easy for me to remain with them.
I’m not sure I so much selected my genres, as they selected me based on the content I feel compelled to write. The memoir made sense for what I needed to write after my dad died. Soon after, the story that came to me was fiction, and because I am a lover of literary fiction, that is the genre I most often choose to write. Finally, my newest book (releasing January 2022) is a linked short story collection, literary fiction, which was exceedingly challenging and satisfying to write.
While I awaited the release of my memoir, I began my blog, largely as a way to improve my writing and increase my visibility. In this platform I write non-fiction, developing often deeply personal musings about life, place, loss and grief. I had no idea how important blogging would be to me, and it has mostly replaced journaling for me. In my 5 years of blogging, I have posted over 200 blogs. Blogging allows me to take smaller writing pieces, delving deep into my heart with some of it, and take the risk to publish publicly. In the last few months I have uncovered how important blogging is to me and am currently focusing on how to continue that without it becoming tired to the reader. So far I have been amazed how every day a new blog idea comes to me.
Do you only read the genre that you write?
I do force myself to occasionally read outside my favorite genre of literary fiction. The truth is that the books that most grab me, most of the time, are within this genre. However, I do read and enjoy non-fiction, essays, and especially historical fiction. I tend to read more of a certain genre when I am writing it – for example, I read many memoirs or parts of memoirs when I was writing mine, and more recently have read many short story collections. I occasionally read other genres like sci-fi, mysteries and fantasy simply to stay current or to support local authors I know, but rarely are they my favorites. Finally, I occasionally choose a page-turner best seller but am often disappointed by the read, even if I pore through it quickly.
What are you currently reading? Watching on TV? Is there a type of music you listen to for inspiration?
I am always in the middle of books. Two I just finished include Lilac Girls (Gladis Gervas) and Deep River (Karl Marlantes). Favorite recent reads are two by Fredrik Backman (Anxious People and Britt Marie Was Here) and re-reads of several by Elizabeth Strout. I am currently in the middle of No Witness by Warren Easley, A Husband and Wife Are One Satan by Jeff Fearnside and This is the Fire by Don Lemon. I am trying to catch up both on work by local authors as well as known works I have never read but I feel I should. I love to happen by our neighborhood Little Libraries and see if anything captures my eye, it’s a fun challenge. I’m also a huge library supporter. When I buy books I try to support local bookstores if the book is available there. I’m not a big TV watcher as I prefer to read, but did just finish “The Good Place” and I love “This is Us” which wouldn’t surprise those who know my writing. Sometimes after I finish a particularly intense book I turn to a movie, often drama and independently produced. I love many types of music, and often listened to the music of the Irish Tenors while writing my memoir, though not during my fiction writing. Sometimes music fuels my blog writing. I walk a lot and never listen to music then, but very often find myself composing my next blog in my head, and will often stop to dictate a few lines so I’ll know where to pick up when I get back to my computer. And though I’d love to say for the romantic appeal, that I write longhand, mostly I type on a device.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
My advice to others is first, not to be hard on yourself while at the same time to be realistic about writing outcomes, and make sure you identify what is most important to you. I’m fortunate to have a paid day job/career that I like, and not have to focus on making money, rather, enjoy the satisfaction of being able to share my stories with appreciative readers, even if not on best seller lists. There are so many books available for all of us to read, both traditionally and self or independently published, and it is important not to compare your successes with others while also acknowledging we don’t all have the same tastes. My biggest joy is hearing from those who are touched by what I write, whether in a book or blog. I also advise, especially newer writers or authors, to connect with other writers, by joining a writing organization (for me that has been Willamette Writers) and a writing group. Both of these connections have been profoundly valuable to me throughout this journey and in different ways at different stages of my writing.
What are you working on right now and what can we look forward to seeing from you next?
I am always focusing on what my next blog might be, which is a continual but short-term commitment. I’m getting excited for the release of Humanity’s Grace in January and looking for ways to promote it, including encouraging those who haven’t yet read my novel (Beyond the Ripples) to do so now as a few of its characters show up in the short story collections. I’m also beginning to go back to a piece I began writing while my mom was living her last few months in my home this past year and trying to imagine what format might best match my hopes for the work. Above all else, I feel grateful to have found the importance and power of writing in this stage of my life.
Thank you for joining me today on my blog Dede, I wish you every success with your books!
A Short Story Collection, Literary Fiction
Salty air, low lying clouds, and crooning of seagulls near the towering Astoria Column and the flowing Columbia River set the scene for Humanity’s Grace: A Linked Collection of Short Stories by Dede Montgomery
Montgomery intertwines the lives of several characters from her novel Beyond the Ripples with the lives of new characters all uniquely connected to a murder in downtown Astoria, Oregon. A murder accusation throws the characters into darkness, as they reassess earlier beliefs, past decisions, and actions. A police officer haunted by his past. A young woman awakening from a vivid dream of a friend from before. A mother who wonders what she did wrong. A son who aches for others to be kind. A daughter who questions her father’s past, while her mother remembers parts of the man she had forgotten. A stranger wonders about the significance of a message she was given.
Humanity’s Grace presents the opportunity for the reader to meander through sorrow and sadness, joy and regret, all reminding us of the startling and collective beauty of life’s connections.
Learn more on Dede’s website: https://dedemontgomery.com/humanitys-grace-january-2022/ (buying options coming soon)
Then, Now and In-Between: Place, Memories and Loss in Oregon
This compendium of essays and prose includes many that first appeared on Montgomery’s Musings About Life in Oregon blog. This series of writing digs into old Oregon, with a nod to today, weaving in memories and stories with humor, sadness, and melancholy.
Beyond the Ripples
How might a small decision you make, an action you take, a phone call you initiate – change your path? Impact other lives? Months after spying a bottle wedged into a fallen cottonwood snag in the Columbia River, Ernest pulls it from the river. The bottle’s note connects Ernest, an old man living in a tiny Oregon town, to teenage Annie, provoking a mysterious and sudden friendship between Ernest’s daughter Amelia with Sarah, the daughter of the most recent resident of the home Annie once occupied. The two middle-aged women’s quest to learn more about Annie and her secret introduces readers to stories about family members through backstory, and introduces new characters, all connected through the finding of the bottle. Together, Amelia and Sarah explore their unfinished business with their mothers, intimate relationships, and regrets over life choices as they embark on their personal searches for something bigger in their very different lives.
Amazon | goodreads
Book trailer, character list, reader guide and more on author’s website: https://dedemontgomery.com/beyond-the-ripples/
My Music Man
My Music Man illustrates the power of storytelling through narratives of seven generations (1837 to present) of family living near Oregon’s Willamette River. As Dede Montgomery moves through grief to accept the death of her father, stories shed light on change, acceptance, and forgiveness among people and the land around them. Historical family characters include early Oregon Territory residents Chloe Clarke and William Willson, renowned book seller J.K. Gill and his steamboat engineer brother Sam Gill, and author Richard G. Montgomery, Sr. (The White Headed Eagle, Young Northwest, Pechuck), and journalist and maritime historian Dick Montgomery. The book settings include Nisqually WA, Willamette Falls, Wilsonville, West Linn, Salem, Champoeg, Portland, and LaGrande, OR, and Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula.
Who is next on Indie Spotlight?
Jane Smyth was born in Birmingham, and remains a Brummie at heart although she has lived in north Worcestershire for many years. She worked as a lecturer at a college in the West Midlands for most of her career, starting out teaching secretarial subjects and having to re-educate herself every few years as technology and computers gradually took over. By the end of her career, she held the position of Senior Teacher and lecturer in IT. Happily married, she and her husband Rob have two children, three granddaughters and two fox terriers. They share their time between the UK and their little house in the Alpes de Haute Provence.