COLD IN THE HEARTLAND is a 68,000 word novel.
In hardscrabble Beckner, Nebraska, summers are harsh and winters relentless.
Hook starts here:
At nineteen, Shelly Stilson was a high school dropout and the married mother of two. By the time shes twenty-five, her mother is dead of lung cancer, and Billy has become her ex, she can barely stand to talk to the customers she rings up at the grocery store, and shes sneaking around to sleep with her boss.
In the dead of a nasty Midwest winter, Billy takes a job in Denver, leaving Shelly to manage the boys by herself. Child support, when it comes, barely makes a dent in the boys needs. Eight-year-old Mikey gets caught playing with matches at school and the social worker thinks hes a budding sociopath. Six-year-old Tommy is sucking his thumb. The boys run away, hitchhiking to their father in Denver, and her boss-boyfriend decides that Shellys life with kids and ex-husband is just too complicated for him.
A deadly house fire gives Shelly a split-second to choose what kind of life is worth living. Can she live without her children? Can they live without her?
Have you read Daniel Woodrell's new novel Winters Bone?
You spend a lot of time what seems like backstory. If the fire is the climax of the novel you'll want to put this all in present tense: Shelly is a high school drop out and the married mother of three.
If the fire is the start, start there.