Katie Powner is an award-winning author who lives in rural Montana, where cows still outnumber people. She writes contemporary fiction about redemption, relationships, and finding the dirt road home. She’s a mom to the third power (biological, adoptive, and foster) who loves red shoes, Jesus, and candy—not necessarily in that order.
In this interview, Katie share some of her thoughts regarding her latest book, The Wind Blows in Sleeping Grass.
FF: Can you please tell us a little bit about your new novel, The Wind Blows in Sleeping Grass?
The Wind Blows in Sleeping Grass is a contemporary story about love, friendship, and family. It’s about a woman who can’t let go of her past and a man on a mission to find the treasure hidden in everything and everyone—maybe even himself.
FF: How is this book similar to other books you’ve written, and how might if differ?
Like my other books, Sleeping Grass has a small-town setting and focuses on broken and flawed characters dealing with real life. It’s also similar to my other books in that animals are a big part of the story, and it doesn’t necessarily tie everything up neatly at the end. One thing that sets Sleeping Grass apart from previous books is the setting: the Hi-Line of Montana is a unique place. The inclusion of certain social issues—such as foster care, domestic violence, and abortion—is also something that makes this story a little different from my previous ones.
FF: Can you share a little more about your protagonists, Pete Ryman and Wilma Jacobsen, and what burdens they might carry?
Pete is a middle-aged man carrying a lot of hurt from his past. He longs for family but ruined his relationship with his sister, the only family he knows about, long ago. He doesn’t know if he’ll ever get another chance. Wilma is an elderly widow carrying a burden of guilt. Choices she made in the past that are connected to Pete are still impacting her life in the present and causing her to be blind to poor choices she continues to make. Pete and Wilma have no idea how much they need each other.
FF: What inspired you to write Pete and Wilma’s story?
The original inspiration for this story was my brother. He drives a garbage truck up on the Hi-Line and sometimes he tells me stories about people or situations he runs into while on the job. I became intrigued by the thought of all the things a garbageman could observe from his truck as he drives around town day after day while going largely unnoticed by others. So I made Pete a garbageman in the story, and everything else evolved from there.
FF: Which character in this story do you most identify with and why?
I identify with Lily’s love of books and Pete’s passion for poetry. I identify with Wilma’s desire to help vulnerable women and Windy Ray’s faith. And I think maybe most of all I identify with Gladys’s big mouth and complete lack of social graces.
FF: Now, Pete has an interesting companion—a pet pig named Pearl. What led you to write Pearl into the story? What does her presence add?
Pearl originally came into existence because I’ve always wanted a pet pig. Pigs are very interesting and intelligent creatures, and someday I’m going to have one and we’re going to wear matching sequined hats and sunglasses that we wear when we go driving. But anyway, Pearl quickly became an integral part of the story. Her presence allows the reader to see another side of Pete, and his decision to rescue her is symbolic of another important decision he has to make near the end of the story.
FF: Some of your loyal readers already know this, but you also have a little companion that you carry around when attending events to meet readers. Can you share with us what that is and why you do so?
My companion, or mascot, is Moolene, a stuffed dairy cow. When I was preparing for the release of my debut novel, The Sowing Season, a neighbor stopped by for a visit on her way to Goodwill to drop off some stuff she had cleaned out of her house. I happened to notice one of the items in the back of her car was a stuffed cow that made me think of The Sowing Season because the main character in that story is a dairy farmer. I asked if I could keep the cow, and pretty soon, it started starring in pictures and videos for me online. I put a little pair of red Converse All Stars on her front feet to match the ones I always wear, and my Facebook followers submitted ideas for names and then voted on what we should call her. Over time, she has become more popular than me, so I bring her along to all my events. People love meeting her and asking about her, and she’s a great conversation starter.
FF: You live in rural Montana as do a good number of your characters. What do you love about living in Montana, and why have you chosen small towns in your home state as the setting for your novels?
I love living in Montana for many reasons. The wide-open spaces and beautiful views. The farms and animals and friendly communities. The Big Sky. Many of my books are set in Montana because for one, Montana has a ton of small towns, and for two, I like to be able to really visualize the setting of my stories and this part of the country is a part I’m familiar with. I’ve often taken drives around the specific areas where my stories are set so I can see what the characters see and write down things they might notice.
FF: The Wind Blows in Sleeping Grass is quite an interesting title for a book. What was your inspiration (or your publisher’s inspiration) behind the name of this story?
Sleeping Grass is the name of the fictional town where the main characters live. The town is located in the northern plains of Montana, which are infamous for being windy 364 days a year, and the wind plays an important role in the story.
FF: What lessons do you hope readers take away from the pages of your latest novel?
The most important lesson I hope readers take away from Sleeping Grass is that nobody is a mistake. No matter how many times they mess up or how many times they’re told they’re worthless by others, they are valuable in God’s eyes.
FF: Can you share what you are working on next?
I have several ideas stewing in my brain right now. The one I’m currently working on the most is a story set on a ranch about a guy who finds himself mixed up in all kinds of interesting adventures. He’s sort of an antihero, and he’s made a lot of bad choices, but I’m hoping in the end he’ll get his act together.
The Wind Blows in Sleeping Grass
Genres: Contemporary, Family Life
Release Date: September 26, 2023
For the first time in his life, Pete has everything to lose.
After years of drifting, fifty-year-old Pete Ryman has settled down with his potbellied pig, Pearl, in the small Montana town of Sleeping Grass—a place he never expected to see again. It’s not the life he dreamed of, but there aren’t many prospects for a high-school dropout like him.
Elderly widow Wilma Jacobsen carries a burden of guilt over her part in events that led to Pete leaving Sleeping Grass decades ago. Now that he’s back, she’s been praying for the chance to make things right, but she never expected God’s answer to leave her flat on her face—literally—and up to her ears in meddling.
When the younger sister Pete was separated from as a child shows up in Sleeping Grass with her eleven-year-old son, Pete is forced to face a past he buried long ago, and Wilma discovers her long-awaited chance at redemption may come at a higher cost than she’s willing to pay.
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