This week I talk with horse writer Carly Kade about her new book coming out, and winning the Best Western Fiction Winnie Award at the EQUUS Film Festival.
Tell us a little bit about what your day to day life is like.
I’m a busy cowgirl, and it can be difficult to fit in time for my creative writing, so I designed a plan for my writing life. I get up every morning at 5:30 am and start my day by writing before I go to my corporate job. At the end of the week, my husband reads back to me the chapters I’ve written. The routine works. I finished two books this way, and I’m already writing the third. Having scheduled time for my creativity really helps move my books forward. I am not a morning person, but the commitment to my morning routine keeps my creativity alive.
Also, I made the rule to “touch” my story every day. As long as I stay engaged with what I’m writing, the world I’m creating is never far from reach. It’s when I’ve been away from my words for extended periods of time that I find it hardest to get back to writing it so I try not to let that happen.
In addition, I have a patient husband, two dogs, and a horse waiting to spend time with me. Being at the barn fuels my creativity and helps me refresh from my life as a corporate cowgirl. I do what it takes to fit in my much needed barn time (although it feels as if it is never for as long as I’d like). Somehow though, I always make everything work and feel so fortunate to be able to have the life that I do.
It isn’t always easy! There’s a lot of heavy lifting involved in getting a dream underway, but I am really proud of the creative life I’m inventing for myself!
Do you have horses? Tell us about them and what you do with them.
When I’m not writing or reading, I’m riding my horse. I am a member of the American Paint Horse Association and love competitively showing my Paint Horse, Sissy. I recently moved to Arizona so I’ve just started to explore all the amazing horse show options that my new home has to offer. I feel fortunate because it seems like there’s a horse event (almost) every weekend here, and I board my horse at a picture perfect ranch nestled between mountain ranges. It’s the kind of place I dreamed about as a girl!
The classes I usually show in are showmanship, Western horsemanship and Western pleasure. Recently, I’ve been back in my English saddle and am thinking about showing in some hunt seat classes again!
Just like a make an effort to “touch” my novel every day to keep close to my characters, I make an effort to see my horse every day. Take a tour of my social media channels, carlykadecreative.com or my YouTube channel and you’ll notice my horse, Sissy, is pictured a lot and appears in my promotional videos for In The Reins as the lead horse character, Faith.
Here is the book trailer starring Sissy as Faith: https://youtu.be/Glv2Bz-WB-E?list=PLzxx3R-kABSVHJFnmwgn_6vZ3W98S3akk
How did get you started writing?
I’ve always enjoyed creative writing and was recognized as a young author. My education involved Advanced English and Creative Writing courses, but I didn’t set out to publish a novel until McKennon Kelly, the leading man from In The Reins, came to me like lightning one day in the form of a poem. I vividly remember the day I furiously scrawled him in my journal. That poem ended up being the intro to the book.
From there, I just wrote the novel that I wanted to read. Beverly Cleary once said, “If you don’t see the book you want on the shelves, write it.” I think I’ve read everything in existence about horses, cowboys and romance. However, I couldn’t many horse book series written about my particular discipline.
I wanted to read a love story themed around the type of horse shows that I liked to compete in. There are a lot of equestrian novels out there focused on dressage or jumping or rodeo but I hadn’t found many that focused on Western pleasure competitive horse showing at breed shows like Quarter Horse, Paint, Pinto or the Palomino Horse Circuits.
When did you get more serious about writing, and what was that process like?
The story seemed to beg me to tell it, but I still pondered whether I should write a book or if I even could. Writing a book is scary! You put your creative self on the line for people to hopefully enjoy, but also to judge.
One day, I asked my husband if he would read my manuscript to see if what I had written had any merit. One thing to know about my husband is that the only book series he’s ever read was the Hunger Games on our honeymoon. As he read my story back to me, two things happened. I sat there and thought to myself “who wrote this” and “where was I while I was writing it” because it sounded pretty good, and then I noticed that my husband was laughing, smiling and engaging with my words. He put the manuscript down in his lap and said, “This is really good. You have to keep going.” So, I did.
When I started really writing In The Reins, I knew I wanted readers to feel like they were falling for the leading man as they turned the pages of my story. Generating that kind of feeling was my goal – what I wanted to create for readers – so In The Reins naturally became a romance novel.
I’ve always loved reading and have been riding horses since I was seven. I know that I sure wouldn’t be able to resist reading about a handsome cowboy who knows his way around horses so I wrote about what I knew … horses and cowgirl culture.
You did very well at the Equus Film Festival. Tell us what the festival is about, and your experience being a part of that.
It was so exciting when In The Reins was named an official EQUUS Film Festival literary selection, and then went on to win the Best Western Fiction Winnie Award.
I met so many amazing fellow authors, filmmakers and readers in New York City. The EQUUS Film Festival is an excellent platform for bringing the storytellers of the horse world together through films, documentaries, videos, art, music and literature.
The EQUUS Film Festival expanded its reach into the literary world because of the books that inspired the films screened at the festival over the years. The decision to add awards for literary works was to introduce new and existing authors to filmmakers looking for their next equestrian story. The festival organizers work to place authors with filmmakers to help develop partnerships through the EQUUS Film Festival.
I made a little tribute video to my spur-jingling journey in NYC so my readers could go behind the scenes of the EQUUS Film Festival with me. My cowboy helped me shoot footage as I attended the four-day equestrian extravaganza! We filmed it all – beginning with the VIP Gala & culminating at the equine equivalent of the Oscars called the Winnie Awards.
Tell us about your books.
In The Reins is the story of a city-girl-gone-country, a handsome cowboy and a horse that meet by fate on a southern farm. She’s looking for a fresh start and unexpectedly falls for the mysterious cowboy. But the leading lady finds herself wondering if the man with a deeply guarded secret can open himself up to the wannabe cowgirl in the saddle next to him.
I like to think that In The Reins captures the struggle between letting life move forward and shying away from taking the reins. Reader reviews suggest that I’ve written a love story sure to touch the inner cowgirl. I hope so!
Cowboy Away, the second book in the In the Reins series, picks up right where we left Devon, McKennon, their horses as well as the Green Briar bunch. It chronicles the history of how things became the way they were in In the Reins. Readers will meet new characters as the book journeys through McKennon’s past. In Cowboy Away, McKennon becomes a cowboy on a quest for revenge and hits the road with nothing but his memories, a pistol and hope to put his demon to rest.
Cowboy Away, the sequel to In the Reins, will release in 2017. Early reader, Laurie Berglie, author of Where the Bluegrass Grows says, “Sequels can be difficult to write, but not for Carly Kade. Cowboy Away is fantastic and without a doubt one of the best sequels I have ever read. This follow-up to In The Reins brings McKennon’s and Devon’s story full circle, yet leaves you hungry for more! I very highly recommend this equestrian romance!”
The books are available in Paperback and eBook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. Audiobooks are in the works for both books, too!
Buy a signed copy from my website: https://www.carlykadecreative.com/buy-the-book.html
Or from one of these fine retailers
How does your love for horses impact you as a writer?
I wanted to include a romantic relationship in my story that built on life lessons experienced in the horse world. Horses build character and require dedication. They are a big responsibility and teach us compassion, as we often have to put their needs before our own. I am a better human because I’ve owned horses.
I’ve heard that my characters are flawed but likeable. There are a few Bridget Jones style mishaps for my wannabe cowgirl, and she often has to dust off her boots then try again. My heroine heals her broken heart through her love for her horse. Devon invests in her relationship with her horse as much as she does with the humans in her life. I think I built a strong female character willing to face her fears head-on. Devon is committed to becoming a better horsewoman by listening to her heart, her mentors and her brain (most of the time). Her relationship with her horse is a primary part of the story. Perhaps, she is better in her relationship with her horse than with humans.
My history with (and rich knowledge of) horses is definitely a reason why I think other horse lovers have been drawn to the book. I know what it feels like to enter a show pen and be nervous. I know what it feels like to feel stuck with my horse’s training. I know what it feels like to swoon over a cute cowboy. Giggle!
I hope that sort of authenticity comes through in my writing. I’m a horse owner. I’ve shown competitively most of my life. I write about my lifestyle, not something I’ve researched, but what I do.
Some of the best feedback I’ve gotten though has been that non-horsey readers say that one doesn’t have to love horses or have knowledge about them to enjoy my story or fall in love with the characters. Many readers are actually enjoying the fact that they are learning so much about the human-horse connection because of my book. That makes my spurs jingle!
What are your biggest challenges as a horse person and a writer?
The biggest challenge is finding the time.
When it comes to writing, my favorite Stephen King quote is, “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” I always worry I won’t have anything to write, but then I sit and make the time and the story magically starts writing itself through me. That is why the morning routine is so important. It forces me to make the time to sit and write … no excuses.
What are your goals for the next year?
As far as my writing plans, this is just the beginning! McKennon and Devon’s story definitely continues. This is a horse book series of at least four. The sequel to In The Reins will be out this year, and my goal is to have the third installment out in 2018.
The crazy thing is that the fourth book featuring the characters is bucking up a storm in my mind and already taking shape on paper! I am writing the third and fourth book simultaneously. I am super excited about the journey this series is taking me on!
A fun fact is that I’m learning that there are a lot of JD McCall fans out there so I’m playing with the concept of a novella that tells the tale of my bull riding heartthrob with swagger!
If you had to give a piece of advice to a new horse owner, what would it be?
Take the time to get to know your horse.
In In the Reins, my Cowboy McKennon Kelly tells wannabe Cowgirl Devon Brooke this about her horse, Faith:
“Any real, beautiful thing in this world shouldn’t be tamed or claimed or broken. It should be allowed to be, worked with, not against, appreciated.”
That’s how I feel. Take the time to build a relationship with your horse. When I feel Sissy’s stride beneath me, everything else fades away and I revel in being in the NOW.
When I was younger, I was very competitive and went to a lot of horse shows. A friend once said something to me that really stuck. She said, “What about just being a horse owner and enjoying that?” That question really resonated with me.
Now it’s the simple pleasures of horse ownership that I have come to enjoy most … long grooming sessions, the meditative rhythm of barn chores, a lazy Sunday ride.
Take the time to bond with your horse. It is the most rewarding part of horse ownership.
If you had to give a piece of advice to a new writer, what would it be?
My advice to an aspiring author is make the time to write! I recommend setting a goal like writing for 60 minutes uninterrupted or not stopping until you’ve reached a thousand words. Just start … that’s all you have to do.
I highly recommend reading “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King. I loved the book as a reader and a writer. This is a book for anyone who writes, anyone who aspires to write, anyone interested in knowing a little more about the life of an author, or someone interested in knowing more about Stephen King as he gives a brief history of what led him to where he is now. It’s a fascinating read!
Also, I think it is very important to support fellow authors. Recently, I saw a graphic on Twitter that said, “Other authors are not my competition. I stand with them, not against them.” I strongly agree with this statement.
It makes my spurs jingle when authors unite. I’ve learned so much from other authors and appreciate how unique each of our writing journeys is. I think it is so important to support each other and share knowledge among us.
When dreamers band together and support each other anything is possible. You can’t do it on your own. In order to give back to the community, I host an Equestrian Author Spotlight on my blog where I interview other equine authors. I LOVE horse books!
Ways to keep up with Carly Kade –
Watch Carly Kade Creative Videos on YouTube
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged AQHA, Author, Best Western Fiction Winnie Award, book blog, book release, books, Carly Kade, cowboy, Cowboy Away, Cowgirl, equine, Equus Film Festival, film, horses, In The Reins, JD McCall, movies, palomino, script writing, western, writers.
After the last blog post with female bronc rider Kaila Mussell, author Heidi M. Thomas contacted me about doing an interview. I won’t spoil the surprise, but Heidi’s background is a perfect follow-up to a bronc riding story, especially since the NFR 2015 has just started! Not only an award-winning prolific writer and editor, she’s an author with a strong western heritage that I think all of us horse lovers can relate to.
I loved the sense of freedom of living miles from a town, being able to run and play with no restrictions as a kid. Working with my parents taught me a sense of self-reliance, strong work-ethic and independence. Being around cows, horses, dogs and cats gave me a love for animals. And being without “technical amenities” gave me a love for reading and writing.
You also had a grandmother that rode bucking stock. What was it like growing up with a grandmother that rode roughstock?
I knew she loved riding and being outdoors more than anything in the world and we rode horses together numerous times. But I didn’t know she was a rodeo cowgirl until she passed away when I was 12. My dad and I were going through photo albums and he casually remarked, “Did you know your grandma rode bucking stock in rodeos?” Whoa! How cool was that! I filed that away in my brain until many years later when I was ready to write about her life.
I wish I could’ve asked her questions about that, but through stories my dad told me and my research, I learned that many girls naturally gravitated toward that sport. They, like my grandmother, grew up on ranches, riding with their dads, brothers and later, husbands out of necessity. Then when the men got together and decided to see who could stay on the back of that bucking bronc the longest, the girls said, “We can do that too!” Many started competing around age 14. Their families sometimes were accepting and sometimes not. It was socially unacceptable to wear men’s pants, travel and compete with men, and it was dangerous. The “old-time” cowboys didn’t think “girls” could ride and they didn’t like it when they were outridden by a woman.
What impact has your grandmother, and growing up on a ranch had on your writing?
It’s had a huge impact. From that casual remark by my dad have come four published books! Her life and my growing up on a ranch gave me a love and a first-hand feeling for the setting, which I think is an important part of my writing.
When did you start writing, and what were some of your challenges you faced when you started?
I like to say I was born with ink in my veins. I’ve been writing since I could form letters. I did get my degree in journalism from the University of Montana and worked for the newspaper in Missoula, then did several years of freelance writing for other publications. When I started writing fiction seriously, I found that although I had a good foundation through journalism, I had to learn to “show, not tell” and not to write so spare in the “Accuracy, Brevity, Clarity” mode. After I’d written and polished my first manuscript to the best of my ability, I started to send it out and collect rejections. In that process I learned that I needed to study and practice my craft more, so I took a two-year certification course through the University of Washington in fiction writing. Then, it was a matter of finding a publisher once I was ready to submit. It took ten years from the time I started the book until it was published. I now have four published books: Cowgirl Dreams (1920s), Follow the Dream (1930s), Dare to Dream (1940s), and the nonfiction book, Cowgirl Up: A History of Rodeo Women.
What was your first book that was published? What was it like to finally see your work in print?
My first book was Cowgirl Dreams, the first of my “Dreams” trilogy, based on my grandmother. It was such a huge thrill to hold that first book in my hands! I was so excited and felt validated, that my dream was coming to fruition after all the years of hard work.
Are you a full-time writer? (If so, tell us how you got there, if not tell us your writing goals)
Yes, I consider that my vocation (as well as my avocation), along with freelance editing for other authors. I didn’t start writing books until after I had “retired” from a “regular” job, and I had a husband who was extremely supportive in all ways—my number one fan and cheerleader.
When do you do your best writing, and why?
I’m not a morning person, and I don’t have a set schedule, although I keep telling myself I need to! Mid-day and early afternoon are my best times. Also, I think from my journalism background, I find I write best with a deadline! I belong to a critique group that meets once a week, so that gives me my motivation!
You have written several books that have won awards. Tell us about those & the inspiration behind them.
They are a part of my “Cowgirl Dreams” trilogy. Cowgirl Dreams won an EPIC (Electronic Publishing) award and was a finalist in the USA Best Books competition. The sequel, Follow the Dream, won the coveted WILLA (named for Willa Cather) award from Women Writing the West. And of course, both are based on my grandmother’s life.
What is your latest book project?
I’m working on “the next generation” trilogy, based on my mother who came from Germany after WWII.
Any words of wisdom for other writers and those that aspire to write?
From my own experience, I’m glad my first novel did not get published when I first sent it out. Today, it’s become much easier to self-publish and it doesn’t carry the stigma it used to. But don’t be in a big hurry to publish your book. Learn and practice your craft. Take classes, read how-to books, and join or create a critique group. And when you’ve rewritten it for the 50th time and polished it to the best of your ability, hire an editor to go through it. Above all, perseverance is key. Don’t give up!
If you want to keep up with Heidi you can find her on social media –
Facebook: search Heidi M. Thomas, Author
Publisher buy-link: www.rowman.com
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged AQHA, author interview, Authors, books, broncs, cattle, editing, ERA, Heidi M. Thomas, history, horses, interviews, National finals rodeo, NFR, PRCA, ranch, Ranching, rodeo, roughstock, Saddle Bronc, western, westerns, WPRA, writing.