MARSHALL - As he continues on his new career path of writing and teaching, Steve Linstrom of Marshall is excited about his debut novel.
Linstrom's book, "The Last Ram," was recently published by North Star Press. He will be doing a local book launch at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Marshall-Lyon County Library.
"The Last Ram" was a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest in general fiction in 2010 and in the young adult category in 2011.
About 20 years ago, Linstrom had read an article about the re-introduction of big-horned sheep into the Badlands
"But by 1880, people thought it was extinct," Linstrom said. After the turn of the 20th century, one was spotted, he said. That's how "The Last Ram" got started.
"I created a totally fictionalized version of what might have happened," Linstrom said. "It kind of grew as it got more complex, (I) added more story arcs."
Linstrom put "The Last Ram" on the backburner as he finished school. He received his master of arts degree from Minnesota State University, Mankato in December.
After he had entered "The Last Ram" in the Amazon contest, Linstrom got some advice.
"Some of the feedback was I was doing too much with it," Linstrom said.
So he cut about a third of the book, including a story arc and a character and went back to put more focus on the 13-year-old boys in the story.
One of the 13-year-old boys is the son of a store owner who would rather be hunting in the Badlands than being around people. The other boy is a Lakota who had spent the last two years at an Indian school out East. The story takes place in 1903.
"They were friends when they were 10 years old," Linstrom said. "It's a classic coming of age for those two boys."
For our society, it was a time of transition, Linstrom said. After years of trying to conquer the nation, suddenly it started to seem like preserving it might be the thing to do. Evan, the store owner's son, would like the time he and the Lakota boy, David, had when they were kids to last forever.
"One of the difficult times with kids coming of age is that they do so at different rates," Linstrom said. "Childhood does have to come to an end, but it does so differently for all kids."
In the last month as he's promoted his books at events around the state, Linstrom said he's developed an appreciation of artists as a whole - the guts it takes for an artist to "put it out there," no matter how an audience might take it. He was focused on introducing the book to readers outside the Marshall area earlier in the summer, including a craft fair in Red Wing or events in Brainerd, Stockholm, Wis., South Dakota and Battle Lake. He said he wanted to practice talking to people about the book, especially to those who don't know him.
Minneota native Casey Johnson had created the design for the cover of "The Last Ram." When North Star wanted to publish the book, Linstrom said he showed the work Johnson had done and was told that it fit the book well.
"I've gotten some nice compliments (on the cover) as I've pitched the book," Linstrom said.
Linstrom said he's done the first draft on a non-fiction book where he's taken the top four Lakota leaders since the 1800s and did a management leadership analysis with them.
"Which ties in my old world and this world," he said. Before he turned to writing, Linstrom had worked in state government and the corporate world.
He is also going to do a writing workshop at the 5th Annual Lake Region Writers Conference in Fergus Falls in October.
Linstrom is also hoping to have a novel like "The Last Ram" completed by next spring. It would be a prequel, he added.