© 2024 Elise Atchison



















               Elise Atchison




















          High Plains Book Award

          Montana Arts Council Grant

          Eludia Book Award

          Barbara Deming Grant









Watch Crazy Mountain Book Trailer created by Craig Lancaster.



Crazy Mountain chronicles a rapidly changing place and community through the diverse and conflicting stories of the people who live in a fictional mountain valley in Montana over nearly half a century. As newly built roads carve through the wide-open spaces and the rural landscape transforms into subdivisions, McMansions, and resorts, conflicts escalate between locals and newcomers, developers and environmentalists, the wealthy and the homeless. Through multiple perspectives we hear the voices of ranchers, real estate agents, carpenters, artists, New Agers, Native American activists, landscapers, movie stars, musicians, pizza delivery drivers, gun-toting fundamentalists, and others including Kate, a troubled young woman who becomes homeless over the course of the book and whose own story in many ways mirrors the destruction and resurrection of the land. These varied threads weave together into a rich tapestry of place, forming a community of voices that tell the ever-shifting story of the land.





The Write Question Interview:

Lauren Korn interviews Elise Atchison about Crazy Mountain and the concept of relating to the land as commodity or community in the rapidly changing West.


High Plains Book Review:

“Set in Montana in a fictional valley in the shadow of an all-seeing monolith, the novel embraces a multitude of voices and perspectives interconnected in the discovery of what it means to belong to the earth. ... a literary tour de force unfolding in an unusual format that is effective and compelling. Fifty years. Fifteen chapters. Fifteen perspectives, each molded by deeply human needs. ... Throughout this bold, unorthodox structural choice, Atchison continues to surprise her reader and, as each new character and perspective is explored, invites the reader to see things anew and in a more comprehensive manner. ... Crazy Mountain is a wise and wonderful book.” – Sue Bach


The Open Mic Interview:

Richard Ehisen interviews Elise Atchison about Crazy Mountain, rebel writers, and Georgia O’Keeffe.


Big Sky Journal Book Review:

“Who owns the land? ... This question is often debated in the Northern Rockies at bars, cafes, and, most aggressively, on social media sites. It’s also the question posed with fervor and precision in Elise Atchison’s debut novel Crazy Mountain. Atchison’s story delves into a disparate community that sits in the shadow of Crazy Mountain, a jagged, snow-covered peak in Montana that, throughout the book, is increasingly filled in with development — from a trailer park to tract houses to “McMansions” to a sprawling all-inclusive resort. The result is viewed as either progress or desecration, depending on who’s telling the story. And, who’s telling the story is one of the most compelling aspects of this novel. With each chapter, the point of view shifts to another character, and the reader sees Crazy Mountain — and all that befalls it — from their eyes. ... Each of them speaks their truth, often at odds with another’s, in a swirl of voices that builds to a symphony of soul-stirring humanity.” –  Marc Beaudin


Kirkus Reviews Book Review:

“The author’s observant eye for nature makes her an especially adept chronicler … Each tale takes on a new character’s perspective, leaving the valley itself to serve as the book’s true protagonist. ... An elegant, eco-minded collection of tales set in a Montana valley.”


Breakfast in Montana Interview:

Russell Rowland and Aaron Parrett interview Elise Atchison and discuss Crazy Mountain and Tom McGuane’s Panama.


Montana Quarterly Book Review:

“The plotline is enveloped in the magnificence of a fictional rugged valley 40 miles from town that changes over half a century into a valley dotted with McMansions and resorts and subdivisions. Such big intrusions bring on a complex case of culture shock for newcomers and locals. Not only the land is transformed. Atchison’s well-thought-out characters ... go through a metamorphosis as their valley becomes unrecognizable. ... And we see what it means to witness the vanishing of what once was cherished. With telling, true-to-the-West descriptions, Atchison’s moving story sits heavy with a deep love for wild open spaces.” –  Jennifer Bisbing


Mountain Journal Interview:

Todd Wilkinson interviews Elise Atchison.

“We Homo sapiens have a huge task ahead of us. I think we need a major shift in the way we view our place in the larger world. It boils down to respect for the intrinsic value and rights of those outside ourselves, including vulnerable people in our community as well as other species and the natural world. The opposite viewpoint is seeing ourselves as the center of everything, which leads to transactional relationships with the world around us—a “what do I get out it?” attitude. Do we care that gentrification leads to homelessness? Do we care that the resort we want to build will wipe out wolverine habitat? The only way forward is to see ourselves as responsible parts of a larger community and act accordingly. Perhaps stories will help us get there.”


Livingston Enterprise Interview:

Liz Kearney interviews Elise Atchison.

“There are no villains in this book. I tried to make every person have their own nuanced personality, and I attempted to just explore the experience of what’s going on. All of them have their dreams, desires and motivations driving them that I hope make them human and nuanced.”


Craig Lancaster’s List of books featuring characters navigating the contemporary American West:

“It’s easy to live on the fault lines of conflict in the West today and be judgmental about who’s right and who’s wrong. What I love about Elise Atchison’s debut novel is that she avoids those binaries and instead tells the story of a changing Western town through the lens of the land, which bears the transformations—for good or for ill—but also has its own say.”







Crazy Mountain is a powerful story about possession and dispossession. Gritty and tough and gut wrenching, Atchison shows us how the West continues to be an explosive and embittered battleground, both shit show and love story. Crazy Mountain ignites a firestorm.” 

Debra Magpie Earling, author of Perma Red and The Lost Journals of Sacajewea


Crazy Mountain is a grand tale of the power of wilderness to heal wounds—scars on the land and the troubled humans who live in it.  ... This is a crazy and wonderful book.”

Doug Peacock, author of Grizzly Years and Was It Worth It, filmmaker, Disabled Veteran


“I absolutely love this kind of storytelling. Reminiscent of Winesburg, Ohio and Olive Kitteridge, this collection blooms from the diverse points of view held within Crazy Mountain’s boundaries. And the stories are the real thing—complex, sophisticated stories of the American West, not the tired mythologies that sadly continue to prevail. From subdivisions to resorts to the homeless, from wilderness to ski slopes to private land, we find an accurate, sensitive, and nuanced view of rural Montana.”

Laura Pritchett, winner of PEN USA and author of The Blue Hour and Stars Go Blue


“In the Mountain West, the landscape is a constant. It’s the people who change. Ranchers, realtors, carpenters, painters, archeologists, bad-ass baristas … in this artful, lyrical, deeply moving novel, Elise Atchison follows a piece of landscape through several lifetimes, capturing the dramatic complexity of the disrupted West through a full cast of characters, one lens after another. It’s a full time job, trying to make sense of the West these days. I find that this extraordinary book helps make that job a little easier.”

Allen Morris Jones, author of A Bloom of Bones and Sweeney on the Rocks


“In Crazy Mountain the lives of those who people landscapes of beauty and despair are multilayered, evocative, and rich with unforeseen mystery. Elise Atchison's prose is a vessel of precision and depth, unafraid to draw the reader into the more shadowed crucibles of life and help us emerge with light in our hands. In stories that cover nearly five decades in the life of a mountain and its residents, there is the wildness of the human heart shaped by the wildness that surrounds us. May you take this book home, cherish it as I did, and find in it the treasure it gives without measure . . . that of ‘the wildland that has been lost, and all that remains.’” 

Shann Ray, author of American Copper and Sweetclover


“With great insight, intelligence, and intimacy, Elise Atchison explores a singular dilemma: How do we live in paradise without destroying the very thing we love? Set in a place changing so rapidly that its inhabitants no longer recognize the landscape, one another, or even themselves, these individual narratives of love and loss, celebration and lament, interweave as the dreams of one generation give way to the disillusionment of the next. A story of human intrusion and intervention, in which moments of brutality give way to gestures of charity, Crazy Mountain serves as a reminder that what we think we own may not be ours after all.”
Kim Barnes, author of In the Kingdom of Men and In the Wilderness


“I am blown away by Crazy Mountain. I knew I would like it, but I didn’t know I’d be staying up late because I can’t put it down-kind of like it. Bravo!”

Andrea Peacock, author of Libby, Montana: Asbestos and the Deadly Silence of an American Corporation and owner of Elk River Books


Crazy Mountain “tells the story of changes to a cherished place through interlinked stories of individuals attempting to claim the land over several generations. She has an uncommon feel for landscape and shows how human beings deform a place through greed, narcissism, and indifference to the past. She accomplishes with subtlety and engaging prose what the melodramatic series "Yellowstone" can only dream of. Required reading for all Westerners (and those who dream of becoming one).”

Ken Egan, author of Montana 1889 and former director of Humanities Montana









CRAZY MOUNTAIN by Elise Atchison

Sowilo Press/Hidden River Arts, 2022

Softcover, 268 pages

ISBN# 9798985431711









       Montana Quarterly             Elk River Arts & Lectures




Montana Indie Bookstores:


Elk River Books,


Fact and Fiction,


Country Bookshelf,


This House of Books,


Montana Book Company,


Cassiopeia Books,

Great Falls

Shakespeare & Co.


Chapter One Book Store,


Tumbleweed Bookstore,


Wheatgrass Books & Gifts,



Livingston-Park County Public Library






Any author who is writing about or out of the West brings an important piece of the conversation to the table, whether it’s Terry Tempest Williams or Chuck Palahniuk or Sherman Alexie. It’s a big house with a lot of windows: the view out one window might show wild rivers and unpolluted skies; the view out another window might show the ravages of clearcuts and housing developments; maybe this window frames a nostalgic piece of the past; maybe that window frames the horror of genocide. The “story house” of the West is no different than any other place, time, or culture. But it’s the story that we live inside of right now, and we need to remember how many windows there are.

Kim Barnes