Manhattan’s newest published author drew upon her own experiences when crafting The Sowing Season, a novel about a retired dairy farmer in his 60s and a stressed out teenage girl struggling to find their places in the world while navigating difficult relationships.
Katie Powner credits her upbringing on a western Washington dairy farm with lending authenticity to the story, and expects her 18-year residency in the Gallatin Valley will do the same for her second book, which is set in rural Montana and scheduled to be released next fall.
Powner says her success is the fruition of a lifelong dream, which she achieved after five years of writing seriously and experiencing four rejections before landing a contract with Bethany House Publishers. She says her goal is to write realistic, uplifting stories that aren’t depressing, but also not too happy.
“In real life, everything doesn’t always tie up in a nice pretty bow at the end,” Powner says. “You can have an inspiring story without that.”
The Sowing Season explores various themes, including forgiveness, reaping what you sow, and discovering what really matters in life. But Powner says she didn’t approach the story with those themes in mind, “but I think because they’re so prevalent in life, they easily and naturally found their way into the story.”
Powner says coming up with ideas also happens easily and naturally for her.
“The ideas come at the most unusual times, from a conversation or a dream or a news or story,” she says. The Sowing Season’s character Gerrit “is kind of a composite of a long list of farmers and retired farmers I know, such as
my uncle,” and Rae was inspired by Powner’s own teenage experience, during which she was a self-described “Type-A perfectionist who thought she needed to have everything figured out.”
“I’ve spent the last 20 years learning no one ever has everything figured out,” Powner says.
She also derives inspiration from her family. Powner and her husband Andy have three children ranging in age from 7-14 and a young foster baby, “so what they’re into or doing or watching sometimes give me ideas, too,” she says.
With four children to care for, maintaining her focus on writing has been critical to her success.
“We have to have a very specific schedule in order for things to be accomplished so I will have my writing time,” she explains. “My kids and husband help, too. I’m really thankful for my family being supportive.”
Working together is something the Powner family is accustomed to – Katie worked hand in hand with Andy while he served, up until recently, as youth pastor of Manhattan Bible Church.
“We were really committed, and it was definitely a family ministry,” Powner says. “It’s a lifestyle – we said we’re either all in this or we’re not going to do it.”
Powner originally came to the Gallatin Valley to study at Montana Bible College in Bozeman. She lived in Belgrade for three years, before moving to Manhattan almost 13 years ago. She says her experiences here helped inspire her next book, which is about three generations of one family who live in a small town and learn to lean on one another to overcome adversity.
The agricultural influence is a central backdrop for both novels. Powner says she engaged the audience at a recent Manhattan Library author event in an activity that helped them realize there are no more than six degrees of separation between most of them and a family farmer.
“I like to emphasize how much we all are connected to the family farm,” she says.
Powner is thankful to be backed by a publisher to provide marketing and nationwide distribution during the pandemic.
“This is a difficult time to be putting a book out, because you’re kind of limited in what you can do,” she says.
Despite those limitations, Powner appeared at the aforementioned author event last week at the Manhattan Community Library, and is scheduled to hold another at Book Therapy and Moore, a new bookstore on Three Forks’ Main Street, on Nov. 15 at 4 p.m.
The book also is available for purchase online, or at Barnes & Noble in Bozeman, though company policy prohibits Barnes & Noble from holding any author events at this time.