David Henry Nelson - Bringing a Heart Breaking Case Study From Rural Montana to Life

David Henry Nelson - Bringing a Heart Breaking Case Study From Rural Montana to Life

David Henry Nelson has a lifetime of memorable experiences as a lawyer, an Oregon State Senator, and a farmer. Now retired, he has turned his energies into writing novels based on actual events. As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about his book, Mariah is Missing.

Please give us a short introduction to what Mariah is Missing is about.

‘Mariah Is Missing’ is a fictional recreation of the 1974 disappearance of an attractive school teacher from her rural teacherage in north-central Montana. Ana McGuire, the Collins County prosecuting attorney, must solve the mystery while navigating local politics and the male-dominated legal profession. Mariah’s disappearance is the catalyst in Ana’s personal life, forcing her to choose between Rib Torgerson, her long-time lover, and Fat Jack Moser, a rancher ten years younger. The ending is frightening, yet satisfying.

What inspired you to write about the disappearance of an attractive young school teacher?

I prosecuted the actual event ending in a guilty verdict and the eventual execution of the killer. (Montana vs. Duncan McKenzie). The murder haunts me. Writing about it, even in fiction, is a powerful medicine allowing me to come to grips with the successes and failures of my actions as an inexperienced attorney.

Tell us more about Ana McGuire. How hard is it for Ana to navigate a male-dominated professional world?

Ana McGuire is a symbol of the gender discrimination women faced in the 1970s. The legal profession did not promote women in the 1970s. My graduating glass of forty students had no women. Only recently have law schools diversified into a more equal admission, regardless of gender. Ana must use her smarts to deal with the men surrounding her. She needs outlet with Peggy as she struggles with her professional and personal life.

Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?

Does serving as an elected State Senator for sixteen years qualify for a skill or is it an example of mindless self promotion? Driving farm tractors and combines making mistake after mistake should qualify too. After all, solving foul-ups takes considerable skill.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this story?

There are three areas of writing for an independent publisher to conquer: (1) Writing the novel, (2) publishing it, and (3) marketing it. All have mountains to climb. Use of time is the most challenging in all three. Procrastination is the common enemy.

How much research did Mariah is Missing require from you? What did you find the most interesting?

I kept the files from the original case. Research from those papers formed the story. The most interesting aspect became the comparison of national events between the 2020s and the 1970s. (1) Congressional committees investigating Presidents Trump and Nixon, (2) ending of wars in Afganistan and Viet Nam, (3) racial unrest from George Floyd and the aftermath of the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, (4) the #MeToo movement and the original NOW movement, (5) Roe vs. Wade hearings today and the decision in 1973, (6) international tensions with Russia, China and the Mid-East, (7) and climate change today versus the 1970s concern about global cooling and nuclear winters. What goes around comes around.

This was your debut work. What has the experience been like so far?

Writing ‘Mariah Is Missing’ is a life-changing event; cathartic and chicken noodle for the soul. The concept had been tumbling in my mind for several years. Covid created the time alone to write. Certain parts of the story changed as I wrote it, but the concept stayed intact.

Interesting cover. Tell us more about how it came about.

A professional cover and edit are two areas to respect. With the millions of books available to read, the first impression is the cover; make it right. Mariah’s cover is the work of Constellation Book Services in Sand Point, Idaho. Christy, the artist, sent several concepts of the Rocky Mountains with a country school image and the ghost-like image of a woman. A circle of friends lent their opinions to the ultimate choice.

Did you plan out the entire story before you started writing, or did some of it just "happen" along the way?

A team is essential to write, publish and market your novel. My ghostwriter coach is from Seattle, my editor from Chicago, the cover artist from Idaho, my publishing consultant from Philadelphia, my website creator from South Carolina, and my marketing agency from Oregon. The internet is a wondrous tool.

Your book also explores how the disappearance of one person can have a ripple effect on others. Why did you find this important to write about?

All of us can point to an event changing our life path. My life changed after the teacher’s disappearance as I left the practice of law, remarried, moved to Oregon, eventually turning to politics as a State Senator for sixteen years.

Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?

You can contact me by going to Amazon with the link of mariahismissing.com.