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An Interview with Author Elaine Carson Montague

Elaine Carson Montague’s first book, Victory from the Shadows (ABQ Press, 2019), tells her husband’s story of “growing up in a New Mexico school for the blind and beyond.” Gary Ted Montague, who coped with low vision from birth, went on to academic success and a three-decade career at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque. Victory from the Shadows won the James McGrath Morris silver award for published nonfiction in A Celebration of Writing (November 2019) presented by the Albuquerque Museum Foundation. The book was also a finalist in the biography category of the 2019 New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards. To learn more about Elaine and Gary, visit

What is your elevator pitch for Victory from the Shadows?
Pull on Gary Montague’s cowboy boots to see his world of low vision as he abruptly leaves his farm home at age eight for a residential school and enters the culture of the blind. Celebrate the strength, resilience, and optimism of the human spirit by author-educators who understand that diverse needs require diverse solutions.

What do you hope readers will take away from the memoir?
That those with physical challenges, especially vision loss, can live successful lives and do meaningful work with courage and determination. A lot of success is made by your inner self. We hope to erase some misconceptions. Also that education of the visually impaired has had a paradigm shift in the last sixty years. Family, volunteers, and music played important roles in Gary’s success.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Over the nine years we worked on Victory, I attended local writing meetings, conferences, and workshops and studied online to develop writing skills. Deciding what voice to write in, extracting information from my husband (because he did not want to relive his experiences), and turning statements and letters into scenes were most challenging.

When did you know you wanted to share your husband’s story, and what prompted the push to begin?
For fifty years, I wanted to tell his fascinating story. I guess exasperation and desperation led me to challenge him to let me tell it if he refused to do so. We were well into our seventies, and time was fleeting!

Tell us more about how the book came together.
I rewrote the book in its entirety at least four times and revised it many more. It took Gary two years to enjoy the project, then we sustained our focus and dedication for another seven. I always believed the story needed to be told. It became a mission, a God-driven project, which got us over many humps like ill health, quieting my struggle for perfection, and presenting difficult topics in an uplifting manner without whining. We found we could work together to achieve a common goal over a long period even when we disagreed or felt discouraged. We celebrated little accomplishments, such as a scene about the bland subject of broomcorn harvesting or a sensitive family issue. I gave Gary a snow globe with a replica of a Woodie station wagon inside, perfect to celebrate our first proof copy. It was a Woodie that came to pick up Gary and his mother at the Alamogordo train depot in 1944. I also found I had to remind myself of our theme during hard times. If it was good enough for the reader, I had to live it: Persevere with integrity whatever the challenge. It was not easy.

When did you know you had taken the manuscript as far as it could go, that it was finished and ready for publishing?
Gary was ready long before I was, but he humored my rewrites and multiple readings for his approval. A good editor recommended chopping out at least a third to a half, and I went forth with a hatchet. Gary and I had agreed to include specific points. Once I made sure those were in the manuscript, I chopped everything not advancing those points. Hard at first, it became fun to see what I could eliminate. In year eight, I set a time at which I promised myself I would stop “perfecting” Victory and move on. We published in year nine.

What was the most rewarding aspect of putting this project together?
Seeing my husband happy with Victory from the Shadows and knowing it would help people deal with their situations in life relative to visual impairment or other challenges.

In the course of writing the memoir, were you ever afraid of revealing too much of yourself or your husband? If so, how did you move past that fear?
I wondered if I made us vulnerable to scammers by publicizing our lives. Family issues were considered carefully. It was important to be honest. Sometimes I did not know if I was Elaine or Gary because I wrote the final version in first person. We prayed for guidance, reviewed our goals, and took risks.

What is the hardest thing about writing?
For me, it was getting started and asking for help from the right people. I wanted Victory to be considered a history book as well as an interesting memoir, so I tried to be very careful about accuracy.

Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you started writing the memoir today?
I would write a shorter book, start with an action scene, be satisfied to aim at a narrower topic and audience, and be satisfied sooner with the product. I might use fewer graphics. Enter contests sooner.

Where do you think a writer’s responsibility lies when memories of incidents occurred in decades past—with the facts or with the perception or feelings about the incidents?
While both are important, I think the reader wants to know perception or feelings and forgives facts, but that depends on whose memoir is being told.

Why do you think people like reading memoirs and biographies?
To relieve their anxiety and validate their own lives, for enjoyment of good times, and to grow spiritually and emotionally.

What is the best encouragement or advice you’ve received in your writing journey?
Just start writing. Keep writing without editing till you’re done. Worry not!

What writing projects are you working on now?
All my writing now is related to promoting Victory from the Shadows because I am a one-person team for doing that. My husband and I cannot travel, so I rely on social media and my long-term plan for contacting teacher-training programs and service providers across the country. We have had the book recorded for the print disabled and would like to have it converted to braille. I am entering contests, too. For the future, I am mulling over issues related to aging in place and assisted living.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
My husband and I make book talks to small groups when invited. We will be at Organic Books on March 28, 2020 and at Bear Canyon Senior Center on June 3, 2020 (both in Albuquerque). My entry about medical rehab won a second-place medal in the SWW Poetry and Prose Contest in 2019, and I have contributed to the SWW Sage newsletter.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

2019 New Releases for SWW Authors

Joseph Badal, Parris Afton Bonds, Susan Cooper, Randy Cooper, and Elaine Carson Montague are just a few authors who represent the diverse membership of SouthWest Writers (SWW). The new releases in this post cover different genres—suspense, historical romance, an anthology of short works, and memoir. Look for interviews or author updates for these authors in 2020.

A list of previously interviewed SWW authors with 2019 releases is included at the end of this post.

Bestselling author Joseph Badal delivers Justice (Suspense Publishing, 2019), the third in his Curtis Chronicles series, with the same relentless tension that is a trademark of his award-winning suspense novels. As with all of Badal’s novels, Justice is a bold and complex thriller. It weaves an intricate plot involving multiple international locations, a human trafficking organization, the CIA, Special Operations, corrupt politicians, Bulgarian organized crime figures, Swiss bankers, and a compelling cast of engaging, inspiring, and diabolical characters. The Curtis Chronicles is an epic series that delves into the age-old conflict between good and pure evil, where each book leaves you begging for more. Available on Amazon.

Homicide detective partners Barbara Lassiter and Susan Martinez return in Natural Causes (Suspense Publishing, 2019), Joseph Badal’s third novel in the Lassiter/Martinez Case Files series. Called in to investigate a mysterious death in a retirement center, Lassiter and Martinez find themselves entangled in a case that might very well involve multiple murders committed by a psychopathic killer. The deeper they get into their investigation, the more complex and dangerous the case becomes, threatening the lives of the detectives and their loved ones. Joseph Badal offers up another suspenseful tale with twists and turns that will keep the reader on a roller coaster ride of drama, action, and emotion from the first to the last page. Available on Amazon.

Visit Joe’s website and Amazon author page, and read his 2016 and 2018 interviews.

Before there was New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, or Utah, there was Texas. Molded by Old Mexico and a new rough and ready breed of hearty settlers from around the world, The Lone Star Republic was the thing of dreams—land, riches, liberty, home. With the first volume of her highly addictive Texicans saga, The Brigands (Lagan Press, 2019), New York Times bestselling author Parris Afton Bonds brings us the riveting tale of four wayward souls colliding on the eve of revolution. From the shadow of the Alamo to the bloody fields of San Jacinto, their lives and loves, hopes and allegiances, will be tested in ways none of them could ever imagine. Fast-paced and tightly-plotted, The Brigands is a triumph of historical romantic fiction that will leave readers breathless. Available on Amazon.

When the Heart Is Right (Lagan Press, 2019) by Parris Afton Bonds: When Washington D.C. socialite Alessandra O’Quinn is diagnosed with tuberculosis, she must leave everything she knows to seek a cure in the dry desert air of New Mexico. In her new home, Alessandra meets the local Taos Indians and shaman Manuel Mondragon. As she learns how to heal her body, she finds herself fighting to save her true self, as well as her heart. She soon joins the fight against the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the rights to Blue Lake, where the tribe believes their ancient culture was created out of the sacred waters. Set in 1920s New Mexico, this is a story of politics, male domination, racism, and love against all odds. Available on Amazon.

You’ll find a list of Parris’ publications on her SWW Author Page. Visit her website at and read her 2015 interview.

SWW members Susan Cooper and Randy Cooper are two (of seven) contributors to Lost Echoes Found: An Anthology of Speculations and Memories. Are you looking for stories that will make you laugh or cry or cringe—or wonder? Lost Echoes Found, written and published by the group Lost Echoes, Albuquerque Writers, includes poetry, memoir, and stories for all ages, ranging from science fiction and fantasy to thriller, from horror to ghost stories. You’ll find an alien who looks like a giant grasshopper, a pirate story, an imaginary friend who’s real (and scary), a canine ghost, and a true feel-good story about Parisians. Available on Amazon.

Connect with Lost Echoes, Albuquerque Writers on Facebook and their website Read Susan’s 2015 interview.

Elaine Carson Montague and husband Gary Ted Montague’s debut Victory From The Shadows (ABQ Press, 2019) celebrates the human spirit with this true story of love by authors who understand the complexities of being a child who needs educational modifications. Courageous love of a mother. Encouraging love of a teacher. Unselfish love of volunteers. Enduring love of a wife. Pull on Gary’s cowboy boots to see his world with low vision as he abruptly leaves his farm home at age eight and enrolls in a residential school for the blind. With one train ride, his life changes forever. The darkness frightens Gary when he hears Mom’s footsteps fade away. Available on Amazon.

Visit Elaine’s website at

SWW Author Interviews (2019 Releases)

Sherri L. BurrComplicated Lives: Free Blacks in Virginia, 1619-1865
Kit CrumptonPlease Send Ketchup: WWII Letters from a B-29 Pilot
C. Joseph Greaves (Chuck Greaves) • Church of the Graveyard Saints
Scott Archer JonesAnd Throw Away the Skins
Jacqueline Murray LoringVietnam Veterans Unbroken: Conversations on Trauma and Resiliency
Neill McKeeFinding Myself in Borneo: Sojourns in Sabah
Sharon Vander MeerThunder Prime Hunter’s Light
Don MorganAbaddon’s Locusts

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

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