Anne Butler Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. Her novel, The Scent of Rain, was released in March 2017. A Light in the Desert was published in November and Nothing But Echoes will soon be released. Montgomery teaches journalism at South Mountain High School in Phoenix, and is a foster mom to three sons. When she can, she indulges in her passions: rock collecting, football officiating, scuba diving, musical theater, and playing her guitar.
What are the stories behind your books?
I write realistic fiction, which means the stories relate to real-life situations. As a former journalist and news junkie, I take stories about issues and events that happen around us. My books cover a wide range of topics. I’ve written about mental illness, child abuse, polygamy, archeological looting and black-market sales of antiquities, a serial rapist, cults, and the deadly, cold-case sabotage of passenger train.
How do you deal with creative block?
My books have all taken place in Arizona, a wildly diverse state, in regard to landscape. We have mountains, riparian habitats, and desert, much of which are beautifully rugged and untamed. I consider the settings in my books as one would a character. So, if I’m feeling uninspired, I pack up my truck and head for the wilderness.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
I think authors need to make sure they’re doing their research. No doubt that’s the reporter in me. We can’t afford to get the facts wrong, even when writing fiction. This is something I work very hard at. Currently, I’m working on a manuscript about a desert river and wild horses and bees have come into the picture. So, I interviewed a bee keeper. I want to make sure I get it right.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
I’ve found that publishers generally make those decisions. And since they’re footing the bill, I smile and go along with it.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
That is an excellent question and one that authors have conflicted feelings about. That said, I try to thank everyone for taking the time to review my books, no matter the comments. I even thank reviewers who decline the opportunity to review my books for their consideration, figuring there’s no point in burning bridges. Books are extremely subjective. One person’s “Did Not Finish” is another’s 5-Star piece of perfection. Also, authors need to realize that they can learn from negative comments. And they should not take comments personally. I know this can be difficult. I should mention here that I’ve spent about four decades as an amateur sports official, which has perhaps hardened me to mean written comments. I’ve had so many hurled at me in person, that it’s hard to get too upset about printed ones.
How has your creation process improved over time?
The fact that I’ve been able to work with several good editors who have shaped my work has been fabulous. Also, I had to come to terms with the fact that a couple of my early books were not worthy of publication. Like anything else, we get better with practice.
When was the moment you knew you wanted to become an author?
It never occurred to me that I could write until my news director at ESPN said my talent with words is why he hired me. Frankly, I was shocked. I’m a low-level dyslexic. I hated to read as a kid and certainly never considered writing. I started my first novel when my contract was not renewed at ESPN. I’d been anchoring SportsCenterand suddenly found myself without a job and with way too much times on my hands. (As a woman who plied her trade in front of a TV camera, there was a shelf life stamped on my forehead when I was nearing 40.)
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
I’m pretty sure there’s not an author on the planet who isn’t in it for personal satisfaction. We all have big egos, whether we want to admit it or not. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t write books. That said, of course we must consider the readers. If we don’t, few people outside of our immediately families would bother to read the words we’ve so lovingly arranged on our pages. So yes, there’s a balance. Figuring out how to get there no doubt differs from author to author.
What are your plans for future books?
I have a book called Nothing But Echoes coming out next year. It’s historical fiction about a man who was buried in a fabulous tomb outside of Flagstaff, Arizona 900 years ago. His grave and incredible funerary objects were discovered in 1939. The story involves why he was so highly honored by those who buried him, as well as the problems of archeological looting and the black-market sale of antiquities.
I’m also working on a novel called Wild Horses on the Salt. Though millions of wild horses once roamed free in the United States, today, approximately 82,000 remain. Because their ancestors were brought here by European explorers, there are some who believe these animals are an invasive species, a creature that should be culled to safeguard native fauna, fragile grasslands, and riparian habitats. Others believe the wild horse should be defended, protected, and allowed to roam free. The debate is ongoing.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself.
I have a lot of interests. One is that I’m a rock and mineral collector, a hobby I’ve had my whole life. There are pictures of me toddling around in diapers putting rocks in cups. I have about 400 specimens in my living room. Also, I’ve been an amateur sports official since 1978. I’ve called football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball games over the years. Today, I remain a high school football referee and crew chief with the Arizona Interscholastic Association. I love scuba diving, especially with sharks, which are beautiful creatures in the wild, and I have recently rekindled my love of musical theater. I perform in local community theater productions.
What would you like readers to take away from reading your book?
While my books are fiction, they are based in fact. I work very hard to make sure I get the factual parts right. For example, The Scent of Rain details the life of a teenage girl fleeing the horrors of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a cult of polygamists who believe it’s OK for old men to marry young girls. I interviewed a woman who twice escaped from the FLDS, and a doctor who worked with the cultists, and I went to Colorado City, Arizona to observe them. So, I’d like my readers to know that, even though they are reading a fictional story, they will learn things along the way.