I could swear I’ve read that Michael Ondaatje wrote The English Patient without ever having gone to the desert. (Can’t find a reference to that, but if anyone can, I’d love to see it – and post a mea culpa if I’m wrong.) The point is, writers describe all sorts of things they’ve never actually seen – murders, say.

Places are a little different. They’re so evocative that it’s important to get the look and feel of them right. And for sure, I don’t possess a tenth of the descriptive skill that Ondaatje – whether he visited the desert or not – holds in his pinky. That’s why Scott and I are heading off to North Dakota’s Bakken region, site of our modern-day gold rush, this week. The sequel to Montana is set there, and I haven’t been to that part of the world since well before the current boom that’s transformed the area. I went there in the golden days of fall, and I remember a world of magnificent exhilarating emptiness dominated by a hard blue sky. 

For sure, there are lots of tools – hello, YouTube – to give me a good idea of just how very much things have changed. And journalists working there have been generous with offers of help. When I still had a Real Job as a reporter, I used to stress to people how important it is to actually go to the scene of a story. Although it’s easy to get facts and figures and very fine quotes with phone interviews and online research, certain telling details – geraniums planted in an old coffee can beside a shanty on the lip of the massive garbage dump in Juarez, Mexico, say – can only be captured in person. 

So off we go, to the land of $250-a-night rooms at the Holiday Inn Express (we’re not staying there) and $15-an-hour jobs at McDonald’s (maybe I should apply). Look for photos and a full report down the line.

Each step of the publishing process makes Montana feel a little more real (as if sweating over it for two years didn’t feel real).

This latest is really fun, a blurb from Leonard Rosen, author of All Cry Chaos, a finalist for an Edgar first novel award, and winner of the Macavity Award for best first novel. He writes:

In Gwen Florio’s entertaining debut, war correspondent Lola Wicks finds the greatest threat to her safety is not dodging bullets in Afghanistan but discovering who killed her friend and fellow correspondent in Magpie, Montana. Florio knows her territory.  She gives us wind on the high plains and the wet nose of a horse hungry for sugar.  There’s fire in the hills, trouble in the governor’s race, and a county awash in drugs.  Magpie’s the old West with daunting new problems, and the scrappy Lola Wicks takes them on. 

My translation:  buybook

In a mere eleven months – Montana is scheduled for publication in November 2013 – you’ll be able to see for yourself. But who’s counting?



Filed Under: Montana: The Novel

I’ve been subscribing to Publishers Marketplace for years in anticipation of the day when I’d see this:


Journalist, former war correspondent, and Montana resident Gwen Florio’s MONTANA, a roller-coaster of a mystery involving crooked politics, drug-running, and murder out in Big Sky Country, to Martin Shepard at The Permanent Press, for hardcover publication in November 2013, with audio rights to Blackstone, by Barbara Braun at Barbara Braun Associates.

Nell is scared!

I think I can recite it by heart. What its single sentence fails to convey is the wild dance around the room that left the dog  thoroughly traumatized. Or the approximately one-thousand clicks on the email from publisher Martin Shepard with the subject line “Time to Celebrate.”  The 3 a.m. wakeup: Wow. It’s real.

A lot of hard work lies ahead. But for now, I’m going to dance around the room some more. The dog will survive. And then maybe I’ll click on that email again. Because, wow. It’s real.

Filed Under: Montana: The Novel