This time I chat with author, freelance writer, and horse enthusiast Susan E. Conley. Susan came to the horse world later in life, and like most of us found horses had a huge impact on not only her creativity but her sanity as well.
Resident in Ireland for twenty one years, Susan E Conley went horse crazy at the tender age of 41 and 11/12ths. In 2006, she finally got up the nerve to get up on an actual horse as opposed to reading and dreaming about them, and it’s been harder and easier than anything she’s ever done yet.
Susan is a graduate of Pratt Institute with BFA in Communication Design. She has worked in the field since the summer between sophomore and junior year and counts The Village Voice, New York Magazine and Entertainment Weekly as past design experiences. She has a Master of Philosophy in Irish Theatre Studies from the Samuel Beckett Centre, Trinity College, an Honours Degree in Psychology, and a diploma in Equine Assisted Therapy and Learning.
She worked as journalist soon after moving to Ireland as theatre critic and as a feature writer on lifestyle topics. Susan is the author of three other books: Drama Queen; The Fidelity Project; and the soon-to-be-rereleased That Magic Mischief. She is at work on her next ‘horse book’ as well as a new paranormal/historical romance series.
Susan was not born in the saddle and didn’t even get near a one until she reached middle age. It never even occurred to her, as a child, to pine for a horse. She doesn’t run a yard, compete at a high level, or even own her own horse (yet.) After fourteen years though, she’s still in love with everything horsey and member of her yard’s riding club; she stands as safety officer and is hoping to compete off-yard in 2020.
What type of books do you write, and how long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing for, yikes, over thirty years. The very first thing I wrote was a one act play that got produced as part of a competition Off-Off (Off) Broadway. I made a short film of it and continued to write plays and screenplays while working on independent films and with an independent theatre company — all while working as a magazine designer as the day job. I moved to Ireland from NYC in 1998 and without any contacts in either realm, via journalism, turned to writing books. I’d classify myself as an ambivert and while I like getting out and about, I had the space to find that sitting by myself making up stories is truly my bliss point.
I am the author of three novels, all in the romantic comedy vein, and I’ve recently signed a contract with Sourcebooks for a new romance series, The Shapeshifters of the Beau Monde, a Regency era historical/shapeshifter mashup.
Many Brave Fools: A Story of Addiction, Dysfunction, Codependency…and Horses is my first memoir. I had started blogging about taking up horseback riding in mid-life following my divorce from an active substance misuser, around the time that people were getting blog-to-book deals. I didn’t get one of those! I keep plugging away with it regardless, querying agents, revising, engaging the services of an editor, revising. I was thrilled when my proposal/manuscript was accepted by Trafalgar Square Books.
How did you get started writing?
I think I started writing because I am the poster girl for voracious reading and then became so invested in the power of narrative, as delivered by theatre and film, to fulfill not only the desire for entertainment but also for expressing unifying concepts. In terms of performance, there’s nothing like sitting in the dark with strangers and experiencing catharsis; as regards writing, living a story, for as long as it takes to read it, is so powerful. I wanted to be part of that world, part of providing that for people.
What is your biggest inspiration for writing?
I don’t know if I have an inspiration so much as I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t write. I might try knitting maybe, or do more art… I remember, when I was shopping Many Brave Fools to agents and getting no joy, I was thinking I’d just quit, and that notion lasted, quite literally, all of two heartbeats.
What is the most common comment that you get from your readers?
I think they appreciate the use of humor in my writing. There are aspects of Many Brave Fools that are dark and not funny, but my sense of humour still prevails. Readers find the memoir unexpectedly funny, which is the highest praise to me.
What is the message that you want to convey to readers?
After I finished my masters at Trinity College, I worked as a freelance journalist writing about the arts, and I did many interviews with practitioners in theatre, visual arts, writing, you name it. I always wanted to represent their projects faithfully but I also wanted to be able to give a look-in on their process and why they did what they did. I think that has carried over into my own work: that your intentions for your life and your goals are achievable and the trick, I suppose if you want to call it that, is to be flexible along the way, to readjust yourself continually, to keep your vision intact but to know that the journey is not a straight line from A to B.
Do you have horses? Tell us about the horses in your life.
I don’t have horses, but I do have schoolies that I ride consistently. I seem to have a knack for getting horses who hate going, to go. It may be that my leg is titanium because of having to get horses who won’t go, to go — it’s a chicken and egg scenario! I also am very sweet on whichever horse I’ve got, and as school horses don’t get much loving, I think that makes a difference. My current mount had a long stretch of disengagement but I am happy to report that his mood is elevated since we’ve been working together. Pony nuts may something to do with it…
What role do horses play in your creative process?
They save my sanity! Not gonna lie, but indigenous endorphins are the absolute business.They clear the cache of all the garbage that accumulates from daily life. And that’s not the physical activity of riding, but also the mental relief I experience from simply setting foot on the yard. You can’t think of anything else when you’re around horses, and it’s so freeing and yet so focused,; the knock on effect is that my mind feels free and focused off the horse.
What is your biggest struggle as a rider and how do you deal with that struggle?
Not having enough time/money to ride as often as I’d like. I feel like I’d be even better fixed mentally and creatively if I could get four rides a week — I’m only on two at the moment. I’m always in the market for more freelance work but lately it has required going in to work in other people’s offices rather than at home, which prevents me being up at the yard.
As regards my actual riding, it’s always something: my heels had started coming back up over fences last year. That’s sorted, but now my lower leg has got loose again? Eh, so, I’m working on that at the moment. Once that’s solved I’m sure another issue will rear its head. No pun intended.
What is your biggest struggle as a writer and how do you deal with that struggle?
It used to be time, but I’ve gotten good at using how ever much I have. Even if I take a current manuscript out for lunch when I’m day-jobbing, and write a few lines or make a few corrections, I’m moving the story forward.
In the beginning, when I had no notion that I could achieve what I set out to do, so I’d hold on until I could, like, spew it out in one piece — like a whole chapter, or whatever. Now I have more confidence in my process and I trust it, so I can consider a few lines of dialogue work well done.
My recent struggle is a good one, having to write to a contracted date. Up to now, I’ve had a healthy draft done before having it taken up by a publisher. The second novel of my mashup series is due in September and I’m sweating it a bit. The good thing is I’ve got the framework hammered out, I had a great freelance edit on the first novel from which I learned a ton, and I’m trusting my process (as above) and doing whatever amount of writing I can, every day.
What advice would you give a beginning rider?
I was and continue to be so fortunate in my instructors. The level of quality I enjoy is astonishing, and I know this because I’ve been around the mounting block a few times — I’ve experienced only okay teaching as well as very poor. I did some ‘riding around’ to see other places and ride other horses, and wasn’t too impressed. So my advice would be to shop around. Try a bunch of different places and pay attention to ho you feel after a lesson: do you feel like you’ve learned something and feel good, or do you feel bad? No one, at entry level, should ever be made to feel bad. If you’re not having fun and feeling like you are an amazing being, learning how to do something new, then move on.
What advice would you give a beginning writer?
Embrace the notion of a shitty first draft! Read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott if you have not already done so; if you have done, read it again. She gives us all permission to write something imperfect, and speaks eloquently about perfection as the oppressor of creativity.
Listen to all the advice that other writers, the internet, and random strangers have about how much you should produce on any given day, when you should write and how often —then throw it all out as you figure out what your own process is. Mine changes from work to work: one novel required that I rise with the lark and write, which I hated with a passion; I wrote the first versions of every chapter of my masters’ thesis in cafes; the framework of the novel that is launching my new series was wrought during lunch hours. Feel free to take this all in and ignore it, too!
Some bullet points: I spent a lot of time giving my stuff to friends to read, and have learned that doesn’t work for me … If you’ve got to a place with your manuscript where you think may want to query agents or publishers, invest in an edit from a professional … Read your work aloud, it makes such a difference! … Time off from writing is as important as writing … and holy moly, put that pad and pen by the bed for when you wake up with ideas, I still have not learned this lesson and lived to regret only last week.
And kind of like the horseback riding advice, adapted: enjoy yourself, love the things you are trying to relate, and remember you are an amazing being doing something new, every day.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged Author, author interview, Author Interviews, Authors, Book, book blog, books, Horse and Rider Books, horses, Ireland, Quiller Publishing, riding, riding lessons, Susan Conley, UK.
I met Elle on Barrel Horse World when I asked for input on my first story, Lost Betrayal. Elle sent me a story she had written years prior and I immediately fell in love with her “hell on wheels” writing style! She’s a fun cowgirl that doesn’t take herself too seriously. Her stories are full of life, just like she is!
Hi. Thank you, for hosting me today. I love, love, love talking about my fur babies.
Tell us about how you got into horses.
My love for horses came from the summer trips my family would take from southern Arizona up to the White Mountains in northern Arizona. There was a riding stable there and when I was five, my father put me on a horse and I refused to climb down. I cried, cried and cried and clung to the saddle to prevent being peeled off. I’m still that way. LOL.
Do you have horses and what do you do with them?
Currently, there are only two horses on our little acre. We have Josey, my big sorrel mare named after my book, Josey’s Mountain. Josey is a big sweet heart. She has a motor to match and I am still unsure as I type this just exactly what I want her future to be. For sure, she gets lots of trail rides and carrots, but whether or not I take her back to a barrel pen, I just don’t know. I don’t bounce like I used to, and my confidence has been shot for a while. But, you can never say never, and I might just get the need for speed once again. Meanwhile, she’s happy to be my lawn mower and trail buddy.
The other horse here, is a very old mare named Firefly. Firefly is in her 30’s and we keep our eye on her every day. She’s a tough little horse with a heart to match. She is just Josey’s companion, and she does a good job at it.
Do horses inspire your stories?
My horses DO inspire my stories. I have learned so much about humanity through horses. (Funny how that works.) I only have one or two books that don’t mention horses. LOL. I think I have an addiction.
My newest book release, is Walks With Him-Comanche Bride. Yes, it is a romance, but the plot revolves around, (surprise,) a ghost-horse. Can our Native hero catch the horse to pay for the bride? Will she let him? Oh, the drama! It was a ton of fun to write this book, and It will appeal to romantics and horse addicts alike. You might disagree with how our hero manages to capture the ghost-horse, (I’m trying not post a spoiler,) but that’s the fun of fiction writing. I get to do what I want. 😊
Walks With Him was inspired by a painting I picked up at Good Will thrift stores. YUP. I stared at the painting and wondered about the woman who painted it. It is dated 1869 or 1969 and I got to thinking about what life might have been like for her.
This book releases on November first, and is one of 15 titles available on Amazon. Wow, fifteen titles. I need to get a life.
Speaking of titles, what is your favorite book that you’ve written?
My favorite book? That’s like asking a mama to name her favorite child. I’m sorry, I can’t! I can’t do it!
How can folks keep up with you?
You can find me on my blog at www.ElleMarlow.Blogspot.com
Or on twitter as @ElleMarlowWrite.
Thank you so much for your time today. If you love a good historical romance, and love that will stick with you long after you finish the story, this is for you. Elle Marlow
Here’s a little information and excerpt on Elle’s latest book, Walks With Him….
Moves The Wind…is how the Comanche describe a stallion that eludes capture. It is said that the beast is both horse and spirit, running free between this world and the next. To ride this horse is the greatest desire among men—until she came into their world.
Abandoned in the wilds with sickly baby sister, Ivy wanders into the path of Comanche out on the chase. He is terrifying with his long hair and body made from the granite cliffs that surrounds them, but she needs him to save her sister’s life.
The Comanche name her Walks With Him, and her beauty has started a war from within. One man wants to enslave her, the other wants to win her heart and set her free. The price is impossible. The first brother to capture the special horse will get the woman. The real prize is who the woman gives of herself.
Thank you, for hosting me on your blog today. I am very excited to introduce to you my latest historical Native romance, Walks With Him-Comanche Bride.
About Me: Hello! My name is Elle Marlow and I am a proud born and raised Arizona girl. I feel blessed to live in the southwest where I get to enjoy the beautiful Sonoran Desert, ghost towns, horses and most importantly, cowboys!
I have a wonderful husband and so many kids that the old lady in the shoe has nothing on me. I love to write about the west and it gives me a darn good excuse to get out and explore.
You can find me and stay updated at www.ElleMarlow.Blogspot.com
Follow my Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Elle-Marlow/e/B00IDC61A0/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1509462655&sr=1-2
Or on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ElleMarlowWrite
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged Amazon best selling, Arizona, author interview, book release, Comanche, cowboy, Cowgirl, history, horses, Indian, native american, Native American Romance, romance, Romance Writer, western, Writer.
I met Liz on Twitter and immediately fell in love with her story, Barney The Lopsided Mule. As a fellow author and lover of the outdoors, she’s someone I can relate to and I think you will too!
Liz Hughey is a single mom to one, and an outdoor, equine, canine, feline, and bovine loving, life enthusiast. Also, a self-published writer and poet to a series of children’s books, highlighting mules and mule packing, the first being Barney the Lopsided Mule. Her twenties were spent working as a trail guide, packer, and sometimes cook, for outfitters in Northwest Colorado. Now, 38 years old, she is a mom to a four-year-old son. Also, the grazing manager of her family’s grass fed/finished Red Angus beef ranch in Southeastern Indiana, Blue Creek Cattle Company, LLC. Hughey & Son ride their mules and horses as much as their schedules permit and are love living life in the rural Midwest. But still, Liz’s body and mind dream of the horseback riding, mule packing, and mountain exploration of her twenties.
You work on your family’s cattle ranch that raises Red Angus. Tell us a little about what your daily life is like.
Well, it really depends on the day and the season. I’m a full-time mom to a four-year-old boy and plan my ranch life accordingly. I am very lucky and blessed to have a family that makes this possible. Most of our days are planned around an animal activity, or rather, many animal activities; feeding horses and mules, taking care of laying hens, dogs, cats, moving cattle onto new pasture, riding horses and mules, etc. There are also many dog hikes and creek adventures, lots of fort building. I’m a believer and a follower of a holistic lifestyle and the slow food movement, so most of our meals are prepared at home. The typical day for me starts around 7:30AM, 30 minutes of yoga/Pilates, multi-tasking of cooking breakfast (my son loves sunny side up eggs and homemade sauerkraut for breakfast) and morning animal feeding of cats, dogs, chickens, and horses/mules….my son has taken over the feeding of cats and chickens for an allowance of TSC toys. On days that we are feeding/moving cattle we try to be with them by 11AM, weather permitting. Obviously, in the winter things need to happen earlier, and they do. But in the SE Indiana summer while grazing cattle, moving them to new pastures is best after the morning dew is off the clover, this is my rule anyway. I’ve been mentored that dew on clover can cause bloat.
Moving cattle consist of running lines of electric fence with fence reel, stepping in post, moving water and mineral into the new section, portable shades if we’re in the heat of summer, and picking up the section from the previous day. I usually try to set up a few days at a time. We do all of this with the help of a Polaris Ranger. My son either helps me by hooking up the water skid to the Ranger or carrying posts. Or he has an assignment of looking for and catching tadpoles, frogs, toads, box turtles, grass hoppers, etc. depending on the season. He is also the Official Mineral Mixer, mixing kelp and diatomaceous Earth in the portable mineral feeder with his toy excavator. Its so cute to see his little legs in there. Add the garden in the spring and summer and firewood in the fall and winter, along with lunch and dinner, snuggle and story time, and you have yourself a full day.
Previously the family ranch was a conventional cattle operation. What changes has the ranch made and what are the plans for the future?
My family and I, Blue Creek Cattle Company, LLC., manage our pastures with a herd of Red Angus cattle. In 2010 we started moving the cattle to a new smaller section of pasture every day. We section off our larger pastures and hayfields, after the first cutting, into smaller sections, giving the cattle new high quality and desirable forage every day. To prepare for this we added infrastructure of water lines to fence rows, making water accessible to the cattle though out the pasture. We also added water trough skids, portable mineral feeder, and portable shades to the equation. Having these tools allows us to manage where the cattle hang out during the day, spreading their valuable nutrients and giving back to the pasture. We keep the manure out in the middle of the pasture instead of under the oak tree on the perimeter. We also invested in a bale unroller so that we can unroll bales of hay on our hayfields in the fall and winter instead of feeding in a lot, adding organic matter to the soil. Doing all of this has increased our grazing season by over a month and added much diversity to our ailing pastures and hayfields. Our cattle now work for us doing a job that they love, grazing.
You also work with horses and mules. Tell us a little bit about getting to do that and how that influences that stories that you write.
I love working with horses and mule, it is a passion and hobby that I have had for many years. Nothing better than taking a ride, and someday, riding will again be my main daily activity. However, Horses and Mules are not part of my primary job of moving cattle, so they unfortunately take a back seat to bovine. At some point in time I would love to teach myself and one or two of our hoofed friends to reel and unreel fence and pick up posts with me in the saddle. That mental photo paints a great image in my mind and brings a smile to my face. But now, with a four-year-old in tow, it’s just too much for me to bite off. Currently, my work with the mules and horses is centered around caregiving, weekly riding, and giving my son a foundation in horsemanship. My son will have memories of digging in his sandbox while equine graze the surrounding yard. I ride as much as possible and one of my son’s chores is to ride his mule Ben once a week. We do driveway rides. I sometimes have my own steed, but am on foot most of the time while he digs through his pommel bags for snacks and juice boxes and enjoying the ride. I am happy to report that my son took his first mule ride last week without me touching the lead rope. I can now ask him to independently lead the two old men, one at a time, to the rail for their daily senior feed. He ties a good knot too; must run in his blood. In the winter months we visit the barn twice a day for feeding, my son tossing flecks into stalls and manning the nylon fork, building piles of loose hay to catch himself as he jumps off the stack. I don’t want to force this life on my son, he doesn’t need to love farm/equine/ranch life. But he does need to know this type of life and be comfortable in the saddle. I feel that these skills will be used, consciously or subconsciously, no matter what path he chooses in life. Giving him this foundation is a major influence and inspiration in my writing.
Do you write full time or part time?
I write part time. I cannot choose the exact times though, I must be flexible. Writing tells me when it needs to be done. It’s funny, I can have endless months of writing….then it just runs dry. Sometimes it comes at 2am, I have to get up and write down the thoughts or they may be lost in sleepy dreams and gone by sunrise. I do not feel like I’m alone in this. If inspiration were constantly firing, it would lose its magic. I love to write mule, horse, and cattle poetry; lights me up, makes me laugh. My current publications are children’s book’s, inspired by wanting to share equine experiences and memories with my son.
Spring 2017, we self-published Barney the Lopsided Mule, introducing children to a pack mule with a relatable problem and the lesson of healthy eating habits. Barney has earned an Amazon Best Seller and an “Honorable Mention” from the New York Book Festival. Barney the Lopsided Mule will also be up for a Will Rodgers Medallion Award, created to recognize quality works of cowboy poetry that honor Western Heritage, in the children’s book category.
The second in the series, Pack String Hang-up….A Mule Trail Tale, introduces children to an entire string of mules and the different personality strengths and weaknesses that accompany them, with a lesson in forgiveness and teamwork. Pack String Hang-up….A Mule Trail Tale will be available for purchase by Thanksgiving 2017. Both books are available on Amazon, author signed copies available on my website, http://thecowgirlpoet.com/shop.html
One can occasionally read a bit of my equine philosophy in Western Mule Magazine, a fantastic monthly mule publication, filled with stories of the trail and training recommendations. http://www.westernmulemagazine.com/
Tell us about your books. Are the characters based on people and animals in real life?
My current work is inspired by people and animals in my life. If my close friends and family read my writing they may see themselves or relive experiences that we have had together, but I rarely mention names. They wouldn’t mind though, I don’t write painful memoirs. The mule books are all about the pack mules that I worked with in my twenties. With them, I do name names. My memories of packing and outfitting are so fond that I feel it’s important to immortalize the mules and freeze the time with their names.
How do you think your stories make an impact in today’s world?
I want to take kids back to nature, let them know it’s OK to get dirty, and enjoy a life without constant screens. I say this as I type and look at my laptop. The world of mule packing and outfitting is slowly fading away. That is not my assessment, but the assessment of many packing and outfitting friends. Finding people that want to work hard and do a tireless job is hard. Packing/outfitting is not for everybody. Owning an outfitting business is for a select few. For this life to survive, kids need to know that it exists. With so many young adults taking “Gap years” and time to reflect on life after they have earned an education, it seems to me that the perfect way to spend this time, summer breaks too, is on horse or muleback exploring our nations beautiful National Forests. I have a dream that one day two dude wranglers will be sitting in a barn between rides, talking about what influenced them to spend their summer or fall riding and packing, and Barny the Lopsided Mule is part of the conversation.
What are your biggest challenges when it comes to creating stories?
Finding the time to do create them. I have a note pad with a list of stories and poems to be written, many started and not finished. I just need the time and a rested mind to get there.
What are you biggest joys in writing?
Creating a story and rhyme that is simple enough for a child to understand and funny enough to make an adult laugh. I love the feeling of all cylinders firing while writing a poem. When its flowing, it flows out of me like water. I have no idea where it comes from, my brain, my heart. Wherever, it makes me, an adult, laugh.
If you had to give advice to an aspiring writer, what advice would you give?
Write it down. If you think of an idea or a line at 2:30 in the morning, get up and write it down, because it may not be there in morning. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to cold call or send a note to your favorite writers and heroes, the worst thing they can tell you is “NO”. You will never know until you try. Use social media, I know its scary to put yourself out there, but you can reach the world with your writing in one key stroke.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged Angus, Author, author interview, cattle, childrens books, Cowboy Poetry, equine, horses, Indiana, interview, kidlit, kids books, mule, mules, New York Book Festival, packing, picture book, poetry, Ranching, western, Western Heritage, Will Rodgers Medallion Award, Writer.
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.
This week we are chatting with Pendleton Petticoats romance series author Shanna Hatfield. She’s quite an entertaining author to interview and one that I think many rural folks can relate to.
From Nov. 7-Dec. 24, Shanna will be donating 10% of the net proceeds from all her book sales to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund which is a fund to help injured cowboys. Shanna is also hosting a Facebook Party with prizes this week. I’ve listed the details at the end of the interview along with ways to in
What is it like to live in your boots for a day?
Day to day, I treat my writing like a career, even though I work from home. I get up early, respond to emails, post to my blog and social media outlets then try to get in some exercise before I get ready for the day. After that, I generally spend the rest of the day in my office writing or editing. Some days I put in as many as twelve hours if I’m in the writing “mode.” My husband, Captain Cavedweller, refers to the mode as the times when I’m so involved in a story I forget about everything else like fixing dinner and making sure he has clean socks. On days when I’m editing or working on promotions, I like to cook and often experiment with recipes (you can find my latest and greatest culinary adventures at savvyentertaining.com) I’ve also gotten into western photography recently. My niece kindly provides much of my subject matter with her horses and cattle.
Are you a full time writer?
A little more than a year ago, I quit my job in the corporate world to pursue writing full time. My comfortable boots replaced the high heels I wore every day and I love every minute of my new life. I know I am very blessed and fortunate to be able to get up every morning excited to work at something I love so much. I don’t regret a minute spent pursuing my dreams.
What role do horses play in your life and your books? Any good horse stories?
I grew up on a farm with cattle, horses, and an older brother who worked on remote ranches next door to nowhere. Between the stories he’d bring home when he’d come to visit and the fact I always had a horse to ride, horses and cowboys play a big role in both my historical and contemporary sweet western romances.
I’ve got many horse stories, but one my family feels compelled to tell everyone happened when I was four with a red pony named Dynamite. I wanted to spend every waking moment with the pony. One afternoon, while I was supposed to be taking a nap, I snuck outside and around to the room where we kept the tack. I couldn’t carry my little saddle, but I managed to get the bareback pad and drag it out to Dynamite’s pasture. I slid it on his back and tightened the cinch then led him by the halter over to a stump so I could climb on. Things went along fine for the first few minutes as he walked around then he let out a big breath and the pad started to slide. By the time my mother realized I was missing and made a beeline out to the pasture, I was clinging upside down to the pad with my head dangling beneath Dynamite’s belly. After that, Mom put quite a damper on my horse-riding adventures.
What made you decide to donate a portion of your proceeds to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund?
When I was researching details for the first book in the Rodeo Romance series, The Christmas Cowboy, I learned about the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund through Rick Foster, program director of the Justin Sports Medicine Team. In the book, my hero, Tate Morgan, is a saddle bronc rider who gets hurt at the national finals rodeo. Trying to get all the details right is what led me to JCCF. It’s such a great organization. JCCF is a non-profit organization that assists rodeo athletes who sustain catastrophic injuries and are unable to compete for an extended period. I’m on a blog tour all this week with the Cowboys and Christmas tour to kick off a promotion I’m doing with the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund. Now through Dec. 24, I’ll donate ten percent of the net proceeds from all my book sales to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund.
What inspires you to write the stories that you write? What is your muse?
I find inspiration everywhere – even standing in line at the grocery store. My over-active imagination rarely shuts down. Captain Cavedweller is a great sounding board and I most always come up with story ideas when we go for a drive. There’s something about forcing him to be a captive audience, trapped in a vehicle with no escape, that gets the ol’ creative juices flowing.
Do you have any particular writing rituals?
As a visual person, before I start writing a new story, I gather photos of people who are my ideal of the characters. If the characters have pets (dogs, horses, cats), I try to find photos of those along with landscapes, house plans, anything that helps me visualize the story and my characters.
Any parting words of wisdom for those looking to be published writers?
Never give up on your dreams! You can do it!
If you’d like to find out more about Shanna’s books see below — you’ll notice she has a Facebook Party coming up soon with prizes!
You’re Invited to a PARTY!
You’re invited to join in the online Cowboys & Christmas Facebook Party Thursday, Nov. 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (PST). Drop in anytime during those four hours to enter to win great prizes, chat with guest authors, and more! Here’s the link to the party: http://tinyurl.com/cowboychristmasparty
Enter to Win Prizes!
As part of the blog tour, I’m giving away some exciting prizes. To enter the drawing for an Amazon gift card, autographed books, chocolates, original western artwork, and more fun goodies, fill out this form. http://tinyurl.com/cowboychristmasprizes
Find Shanna’s books at:
Follow Shanna online:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/shanna-hatfield
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