Of Men and Horses: Interview with author & artist Dawn Newland - TNC Podcast - Episode 17
When I heard about Dawn Newland’s first book in late 2020, I couldn’t wait to read it. By the time I got my hands on it, a second book was available. Once I started reading, I was entranced by her tales of Lucy, Jimmer, and Kid Curry. I had a hard time putting those books down! I was thrilled when Dawn agreed to be a guest on my podcast! It was such an honor to visit with this talented author/artist. Hearing her verbalize what it was like uncovering the truth about these historical figures blew my mind! Listen in…you’ll be glad you did! Dawn is almost ready to release book 3…and book 4 is on the way. I can’t wait to cozy up on my couch to learn more about Lucy, her loves, and her adventures. Click here to listen to our podcast chat!
Here is some more information about Dawn...directly from her!
Dawn Newland – Born on Potato Creek on the Pine Ridge Reservation … a few years ago …
Grew up on a ranch near Creighton, SD in the Cheyenne River Breaks. We lived 17 miles north of Wall, SD. I attended grade school mostly in a one room school house and graduated from Wall HS in 1973. I completed a two year course with Art Instruction Schools while working on ranches and building an art career. Most of my early work was in oil and graphite and for many years I did commissioned western portraits. Many were of local ranchers on their top horse or working ranch scenes.
In 1982 I married Casey Lange and we spent two years in Texas where I was blessed to meet many fine western artists. We ranched near Oglala, SD and raised cow bred horses. Casey was a fine artist and leather craftsman. We had a business called Lange’s Leather and Art.
Casey and I had two sons, before he was taken in a private plane accident. Later I married Wilbur Newland, he had a son and together we had one son. I now reside in a small rebuilt bunkhouse with a studio and museum of western artifacts built on it. I am hidden in the oak trees with a view of the Northern Black Hills out my front door. My oldest son and family run the ranch here at Colony, WY and I have 3 grandsons. I still have a few cows and my broodmares and enjoy getting horseback to help on the ranch.
Now, to why I write … My folks were a huge influence on my life … My Dad was an old tyme cowboy who grew up in the ‘20’s and ‘30’s running wild horses out of the Cheyenne River Breaks and working for the big old outfits. He told stories and drew like Charlie Russel on napkins or feed sacks, anything he could get his hands on. I always wondered if he weren’t Charlie reincarnate….
My Mother grew up near Wasta and rode horseback everywhere she went. From an early age she wrote for the Dakota Farmer Magazine and won her first Kodak camera in a poetry contest in the 1930’s. Her pen name was “The Cheyenne River Cowgirl”. She too, wrote on feed sacks while out taking care of livestock and raising 5 children.
We did not have a TV and I spent evenings as a kid reading every western novel I could get my hands on. Charlie Russel and Will James were my childhood heroes. I consider them my mentors in art and style. One of the nicest compliments I ever got was after an art show when a man said, “You’re a lot Charlie Russel and a little Rock and Roll …
I jokingly say I was a closet writer for 30 years before getting serious about it, but truthfully, my folks were in the first South Dakota Poetry group that met and I tagged along and did recite my own poetry at several of their early gatherings.
My love of western history has driven my passion for period correct art work and writing. The Historic Novel Series I am now involved deeply in has been an engaging journey. I am a firm believer that we are destined for certain encounters in our life and everything is synchronistic … never luck.
I know without a doubt I was destined to meet over the ages with Lucy Tressler Thornhill and write the Of Men and Horses series on her life.
How I was introduced to Lucy’s story … In 2010 my sister, Kat Thompson, and I were involved in the Miles City to Deadwood wagon train. There were a series of these rides for several years called “All Roads Lead To Deadwood”. Every original stage stop on these routes was researched and we followed the original routes, camping and driving teams or riding horseback the whole way. It was 17 days and 250 miles on that first ride. Later we did Medora, ND to Deadwood. And Ft Pierre and Sidney, NB. Kat and I were on the history committee and had to do our homework on each old stage stop. It was captivating. I was hooked.
Another Historic Mentor … The wagon boss on the Miles City ride was a man from Malta, MT. “Doc” was a retired Veterinarian, a master teamster and as it turned out, a master historian as well. We became friends around the campfires and began sharing stories. The most famous outlaw in America in 1900 was Kid Curry (Harvey Logan). We had done a reenactment of the Kid Curry gang robbing Belle Fourche’s bank in 1897. My new friend from MT said “why don’t you come to Landusky, I own the cabins and most of the old mining town. It was Kid Curry’s home in the 1890’s. I can fill you in on the real history of him and his ranching friends. You will be welcome to stay in the cabins and paint and do research as long as you like. And Oh, by the way, there was this woman that lived 5 miles out of Landusky and she caused all the trouble with Kid Curry. She was married and had 5 kids but got to running with the outlaws and her husband took the kids from her. It’s a scandal worth looking into.”
Through my friend Doc, I was able to meet many descendants of Lucy’s and the more I learned the more I became sure her story had been saved for me to write. I was bent on telling the inside story … setting the record straight for her. I have spent many days in northern Montana every summer for years researching court records, school records, and walking the homesteads where Lucy lived and the vast Missouri Breaks into Kid Curry’s hideouts, even finding the graves of those killed. I have interviewed hundreds of people. If I find a lead, no matter how remote, I follow it.
Finding Lucy has taken me since 2010 and new discoveries keep coming through the most unlikely sources. Just a week ago I found and interviewed another great granddaughter in Arizona. Good research is hard work and has no time frame. I followed Lucy from Montana to Arizona. I’ve stood on the ground she walked and found fifth generation ranchers whose ancestors were her and Jim’s neighbors.
I have solved unsolved murders from the early 1900’s and have found the true Lucy hidden amongst the pages of time. The newsprints of the day used her in writing of Kid Curry for sensationalism. That was an early discovery which also spurred my research into Kid Curry’s real family. He was a big part of Lucy’s life because he was her second husbands closest friend.
I am thrilled to say that in writing Lucy’s story I was able to find truths about Kid Curry and his Logan family that have never been uncovered, although many historians have written books on him, none of them found the real man. In the past, only Pinkerton files and newsprints were used in research, these sources have been proven to be inaccurate. A month ago I was contacted by Kid’s brother’s family and asked to write the Logan Brothers story in a Historical Fiction like I have Lucy’s story. They have turned over to me all of the sacred family records and photos with their blessings to set the story straight.
I never imagined chasing Lucy’s truths would catapult me into the deep research of history and the writing world like it has. I remain eternally grateful for the sleepless nights with Lucy and her men relentlessly speaking in my ear and dropping people into my life to interview and giving me clues to chase after.
A word to my younger self - relax and be … nothing is as serious as it appears … It’s all in the deciding … A joyful life is a life well spent and being joyful is a choice only you can make.
The process of writing a book – If you have a passion, research, and follow your heart. If you have an inspiration, write it down. A book I used to keep by my bed, was Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Nothing makes a writer faster than writing. She inspires you to dig in your own well and write - write - write. I wrote what she called “Morning Pages”, 3 pages a day in a diary for years. Thoughts, feelings, ideas … and one day it became a manuscript. The hard work of writing for me is editing. I am a fly by the idea person. I wake up with the conversations and scenes for whole chapters in my head. Sometimes I dream them (Always at the 3 am “writers hour”) I have had to discipline myself to learn computer writing programs, and especially correct usage of punctuation.
Advice I would give anyone wanting to write a book is join a productive writing group and hang around writers, they talk a different language. And don’t be afraid of being the “freshman” in a group. There is no shame in not knowing things. We grow when we are stretched out of our comfort zone. I would encourage anyone that writes to develop your own style … after learning the rules … learn how to break them … and never be afraid to do what “others” say you can’t or shouldn’t.
On publishing I called a friend whose Uncle is a western writer I admire very much. I got his number and called it, his wife talked to me for hours of how to self-publish, how to get an ISBN number, and gave me the name of a tech set up person to ready my manuscript for the printer. I also watched hours of google videos on publishing. The information is out there and it is readily available. Be relentless in searching…
Editing – Have friends, history buffs, school teachers, other writers edit for you, anyone you can get to be a beta reader and lastly, pay an editor before you go to print.
I am excited about getting up every morning alive and healthy - I love that my grandsons live close to me and are avid outdoor camping enthusiasts. They are ranchy boys with wild hearts and that pleases me to no end.
I am a creator at heart and hobbies are what I do. I have a theory that I don’t do anything that doesn’t feel good to me and what feels good should bring abundance and a sense of pleasure to me. I am passionate to create, happy making chaps and leather goods, doing quill work, sewing reenactment garments, training horses, ranching, gardening, and right now the over-riding passion is writing history into novel form and illustrating it... I have not had one day since starting my series on Lucy Tressler Thornhill that I am not excited to write or chase her story.
I don’t have many pet peeves, but something that makes a slight wrinkle in my fabric is that my Novels are well researched and are as close to truth as one can get in retelling another’s life from over a hundred years past and yet they are considered historical fiction… I’d like there to be a better named literary category—maybe one called “Angels Spirits or Lies” … LOL…Just kidding.
Clearing My head always happens horseback and breathing the sage and horse sweat. Taking a walk under a star filled sky … I try to walk under every month’s full moon. Anything to do with having hands on a horse is good medicine … Gardening is good therapy as well. Oh, and Charlie Russel would remind us, Laughter is good medicine.
Dreams and goals … I’m all about setting my joy out there and being happy dreaming things that no one else thinks is a reality … I’ll never be realistic … Dreams are made of mystery and star dust…Not everyone sees it…I dream of Lucy’s story being a better miniseries than 1883.
Of Men and Horses the life and times of Lucy Tressler Thornhill series
Book One – A Dead Hard Country
Book Two – Crazy Woman Creek
Book Three – Arizona Tough
Book Four - TBA
The first two are available in paperback on Amazon and through me privately in autographed hard cover. Book three is in print process now. Will be available soon.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Facebook and private message me for details on shipment and payment options.
The books are also available at Wall Drug Book Store in Wall, SD
Cowboys Too in Belle Fourche, SD
Gila County Museum in Globe, AZ
Bullion Plaza Museum in Globe, AZ
Pickle Barrel, Globe, AZ
Ft Benton Historical Society, Fort Benton, MT
Phillips County Museum, Malta, MT
Pozy Palace in Belle Fourche, SD
I will be speaking in Spearfish, SD at the Matthews Opera House for Author Talks. April 5th at 12:30 – Fireside Room
I am a member of
Western Writers of America
Bear Lodge Writers
Black Hills Writers