Montana, the fourth largest state in the country, covers an area of almost 150,000 square miles. Within its borders are 56 counties that have a diverse history.
Billings author Russell Rowland plans to write about the history and dynamic of every county. His book, to be titled “Fifty-Six Counties: An American Journey,” has not been written yet, but Rowland hopes to give the people of Montana an idea of what is happening around the state.
“Montana had a strange history in the early part of the 20th century,” Rowland said. “I want to talk to the people of each county and learn their history. But I also want to know what is keeping people in these counties.”
He plans to release the book in conjunction with the state’s sesquicentennial, or 150th anniversary.
Rowland will travel to each county and talk with local people. He wants to report the feel and personality of each distinct county.
“I want to move past the myths of the West that were created a century ago and tell the story of what keeps these cities going,” Rowland said.
Rowland’s last novel “High and Inside” was recently named a finalist for the High Plains Book Award for fiction. Bangtail Press published his last book and will publish “Fifty-Six Counties.”
Allen Jones, novelist and founder of Bangtail Press, said he is excited to read the book once it is written.
“I am interested in the subject matter and I am eager to read the book,” Jones said. “(Rowland) is a very talented writer and needs very little editing. But when he does need editing, he is open to ideas on how to improve his writing.”
Jones said he would consider publishing almost anything that Rowland writes because of his writing ability. Jones said Rowland’s current project goes in line with what Bangtail Press wants to publish.
“This subject is a perfect fit with Bangtail press because he is interested in exploring Montana in both historical and cultural terms,” Jones said.
Although he has already talked with people from some counties, Rowland plans to do most of his traveling and interviewing during the summer.
“I want to do the bulk of the interviewing while the weather is nice,” Rowland said. “I want to especially get the corners of the state where it’s farthest away.”
Rowland said he will probably travel more than 3,000 miles between counties, though he said that may be a conservative estimate.
To help fund his travels, Rowland recently launched a Kickstarter campaign online. He plans to use donations from contributors to help fund his extra-long road trip. Rowland hopes to raise $4,000 to finance his journey. While the minimum donation is $1, people who choose to donate $35 or more to the campaign will receive special gifts after the book is finished.
The Kickstarter fundraiser ends July 8.
Rowland plans to write as he travels after interviewing citizens of each county. Those with suggestions of whom he should interview in each county can email Rowland at firstname.lastname@example.org.