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An Interview with CK Van Dam, author of Proving Her Claim & Lone Tree Claim

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CK Van Dam is a daughter of the Dakota prairies. With degrees in History and Journalism from South Dakota State University, she has embarked on a second career to create stories about the strong women who have built our nation and our world.

In the first chapter of her career, she worked in public relations and advertising. She recently sold her portion of the advertising agency where she was a Founding Partner and Chief Strategy Officer. But writing is still a passion and has now evolved into her second chapter.

Proving Her Claim received two Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America: Best Western Romance and Best First Novel. CK recently completed a second novel, Lone Tree Claim, and is working on other stories about women in Dakota Territory.

You can buy CK Van Dam’s books here.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

My mother taught me to read, and my teachers taught me to appreciate history. The historical inspiration for this story, that a higher percentage of women than men actually proved their claims, motivated me to write about the women who helped grow our country.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I began my career as a copywriter and television commercial producer. Fun fact: while in that position, I hosted a television segment where I would call people on their landlines. If they were watching my program, they could win money.

Much later, I had the opportunity to partner with an extremely talented designer to launch our own advertising agency. Twenty years later, I retired and started my second chapter as an author.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

The title for the book came from historical records: while 12% of homesteaders were unmarried women, 42% of those women homesteaders successfully proved up their claims, while only 37% of the men—who could be married—received title to their lands. I always knew that Proving Her Claim would be the title of the first book.

How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?

I worked with my friend and illustrator Doug Moss to create the book cover. Doug is a talented watercolor artist, and I asked him to design a cover using a watercolor painting. The original watercolor paintings for both books hang in my sunroom. I love the way the colors blend and help tell the story. The silhouetted figures on the covers are the primary characters in the books.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

Both novels lean heavily on historical research. I hope that readers get a glimpse of how life was on the Dakota frontier for women homesteaders. I want them to truly like the heroines in the books as much as I do! And I hope they are inspired by the women who went before us to build this country.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

I love hearing from readers that they enjoyed the books. After writing and publishing Proving Her Claim, I heard from so many readers that they wanted a second book—so I wrote Lone Tree Claim.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

I am currently writing the third book in this series, about two sisters who come to Dakota territory during the Civil War. It’s about their struggles and their triumphs on the frontier. I am also writing a story for middle grade readers about a young girl on the prairie. And, I’ve written a children’s picture book about a rescue book—much like the one in my photo. I’m waiting for that book to be illustrated. My dog was a rescue and I want to encourage others to adopt rescue dogs.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

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