Ivan Doig: Novelist, Memoirist, Journalist

"How you say things really counts to the soul as well as to the eye and the ear."

Ivan Doig's office has a window with soothing views of Puget Sound . . . and two typewriters.



News: A Consumer's Guide (with Carol Doig)– 1972
This House of Sky: Landscapes of the Western Mind– 1979
Heart Earth– 1993

Winter Brothers: A Season at the Edge of America (with James G. Swan) – 1980


The Sea Runners – 1982
English Creek
– 1984*
Dancing at the Rascal Fair – 1987*
Ride with Me, Mariah Montana
– 1990*
Bucking the Sun – 1996
Mountain Time – 1999
Prairie Nocturne – 2003
The Whistling Season – 2006
The Eleventh Man – 2008
Work Song – 2010
The Bartender's Tale – 2012
Sweet Thunder – 2013
Last Bus to Wisdom – 2015

* Part of Doig's Montana or McCaskill trilogy

Awards & Honors:
Finalist, National Book Award, This House of Sky –1979

Christopher Award, This House of Sky – 1979

Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award (PNBA) for Literary Excellence – 1979, 1981,1983, 1985, 1988, 1994, 2007

D.Litt., Montana State University – 1984
National Endowment for the Arts fellowship –1985
Western Heritage Award, Best Western Novel (English Creek) – 1985
D.Litt., Lewis and Clark College, 1987
Western Literature Association's Distinguished Achievement Award – 1989
Evans Biography Award (Heart Earth) –1993
Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association (MPBA) 'Spirit of the West' award – 1997
Pacific Northwest Writers Association Achievement Award – 2002
Center for the American West's Wallace Stegner Award – 2007
One Read book (Whistling Season) for Daniel Boone Regional Library, Missouri – 2008
Willamette Writers' Lifetime Achievement Award – 2014

Doig has authored sixteen books that mostly center on the vast slopes of the Northwest, and many of which play across the epic stage of Montana. But to label Doig a “regional writer” is akin to pigeonholing Homer as “local Greek talent.”

The backdrops and stages of his masterful epics include Alaska’s wild coast, Puget Sound’s splendor, Oregon, the mining towns of a struggling America, and of course the Big Sky Country of his youth. And throughout each tale are the Big Questions of human effort, promise, loss and achievement.

In addition to his nominations and status as a finalist for the National Book Awards, and other awards, and honorary doctorates, Ivan Doig was the 2014 recipient of the Willamette Writers’ Lifetime Achievement Award. His acceptance speech was one of the best we’ve heard, and hope it will appear in an anthology some day.

And last, having read most of his work, we don’t think it hyperbolic or presumptuous to say that Doig’s writing is on equal footing with other American masters. And if anyone reading this knows a qualified member of the Nobel nominating committee, please put on the pressure to include Ivan Doig’s name in the mix of honored writers deserving of that great honor.

As he describes it, he grew up in the buffalo plains of Montana, the hardscrabble, ranching country on the eastern flanks of the Rockies. His family was the Western equivalent of sharecroppers, yet despite his humble, hard toiling start to life, Doig graduated from high school with a full scholarship to Northwestern University. The diligence and focus he learned from the ranching life carried him through to a Masters in Journalism, and a PhD. in History from the University of Washington.

We are proud to present our interview with one of our favorite, masterful novelists, Ivan Doig. Salli fell in love with Doig’s work while listening to Dancing at the Rascal Fair on “Radio Reader”in 1988. George's ardor is
more recent.

Interview Movie
(Embedded version below)

Audio File
(Note: To download the podcast,
right click on the link if you are on a PC,
control click if you are on a Mac. )


Seattle, WA

Run Time:



Fiction, Memoir, Poetry




Primarily the Smith River Valley —White Sulphur Springs and the Rocky Mountain Front of northern Montana, in the small communities of Dupuyer and Valier—Montana.

Youthful Influence:

His mother turned him into an early reader, his father, grandmother and uncles continued reading to him. He read comics (like Plastic Man), sports pages and magazines like Life, Colliers and The Saturday Evening Post. Also important in his life of words was his high school English and Latin teacher, Frances Tidyman; Sam Jamison, who taught him reporting at Northwestern; and Ben Baldwin, who taught him broadcast news.

Favorite Authors:

Pete Seeger, The Weavers, Woody Guthrie, Ferlinghetti, who all taught him about the sound of words; knotty geniuses such as William Faulkner and Ismail Kadare; and friends Jim Welch, Norman MacLean.

Creative Habit:

He rises around 4 a.m. and gets to work soon after. He works nearly every day and starts by roughing his work out on paper from a yellow legal pad or on a typewriter. He does not write consecutively, but will wander elsewhere into the story, especially if he gets temporarily stumped. He tries to stop at a good point to pick up the next day.

Ivan through the lens. We were honored.

Ivan says that this portrait really captures his essence.

Ivan is above all a Westerner. He is ardent in his love and care for this part of the world and it shows in his life and work. This 1979 poster for a conference is a take-off on a Gary Cooper "Man of the West" movie poster. The conference was a gathering of literary and historical greats put together by William Kitteridge. Some of its luminaries were Norman MacLean, Jim Welch, A.B. Gutherie, Dick Hugo, Madeline DeFrees and Ivan Doig.

Doig's writing takes you somewhere else. Both this sailboat and our ferry provided interplay with this notion.

A painting reminiscent of Montana and the plains of Ivan Doig's early days on ranches hangs across from his writing desk.

Doig says it is the small things that are important, and I thought about that as I snapped this picture.

A picture that thanks Ivan for his participation in "The Geography of Hope," a tribute to Wallace Stegner done in 1995. Doig is often considered Stegner's successor as the 'Dean of Western Literature.'

Looking back at Seattle's new icon, the water front Ferris Wheel, as our ferry pulled away. The Space Needle is peeking around a skyscraper behind the wheel.

Ivan Doig's "Prarie Nocturne" was adapted for the stage by Elena Hartwell and presented by the Book It Repertory Theatre in 2012.

The back wall of the writing room has many black and white photos like this one of Carol and Ivan in the outdoors they love.

Filming in the Doig writing room. Ivan and Carol
often work across the desk from each other.

Carol and Ivan. He says that he not only got his degrees (BA and MA in journalism) from Northwestern, but a wife and lifelong mate as well.

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