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.
It’s been three years since my western romance, Lost Betrayal, was released by Solstice Publishing. Since then my paranormal short story, Winds On Indian Mound, and my children’s picture book, Francine The Workin’ Stock Cowgirl, came out last year.
The next project that I was working on since 2015 was The Searching Place. It’s a romance about a best-selling romance author and cowgirl that’s down on her luck when she meets a farrier with a bit of a past in a small town. That project, however, has been put on hold.
I’ve always wanted to write stories for Lifetime and Hallmark, and have always thought Lost Betrayal would make the perfect movie for them or RFD-TV. With a disaster, a budding cowboy romance, and a lost horse how can it not be the perfect story line for a great movie?
When the opportunity came up to write the script for Lost Betrayal, I jumped at the chance even though I had never tackled writing a movie script. After all, I know the story better than anyone!
I’m currently a little over ten thousand words in and I have to say it’s a totally different experience than writing a book. In some aspects, it’s a lot more labor intensive in that you have to think out all the logistics for the props.
For instance, if a male character is wearing a cowboy hat you can’t just list “Cowboy Hat” or your hero might be wearing one of those crunched up little wannabe beach cowboy hats. Lord knows, we can’t have that! No, you have to specifically state, “10x Resistol black felt” cowboy hat, or “Bangora straw cowboy hat with a cattleman crease”. Every real cowgirl knows the hat and crease better be authentic or the whole story is ruined!
Another thing I’m learning is that dialogue is center stage. That’s what drives each scene, if you think about it. With a book, while you do want to show instead of tell, you’re not always relying as heavily on dialogue to tell the story. With a movie, you are.
One thing I do like about script writing is the characters. You have to have great details for age and appearance for the people that line up the actors for the movies. For me, I’m visually imagining the actor that’s playing the part in order to do that and it makes those characters in the story come to life even more.
It’s been a challenge being out of my comfort zone but I’ve enjoyed it tremendously. Screen writing is definitely something I want to try more of and I hope I get the opportunity to do so. In the meantime, I’ll be working on finishing the script and then rounds of edits.
After the movie script, I plan on self publishing some short stories and seeing how that goes. Stay tuned!
UPDATE OCTOBER 23RD — Only 2 more scenes to write before editing begins! Also, my newest children’s book, Pedro’s Problemo about a Chihuahua thqt has to ride a horse to prove he’s royalty from Mexico, is releasing with Dingbat Publishing next month!
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This week, my publisher released my short story, Winds On Indian Mound, as a single on Amazon.
Because everything I write has a little real life in it, I thought I’d share the real event that inspired this paranormal short story…
Are there ghosts in Indian Mound?
What really happened in Indian Mound, Tennessee? No one knows for certain, but a paranormal experience I had there years ago most definitely inspired my latest short story, Winds On Indian Mound.
It happened long ago while I was out riding my mare late one night. Of course, that was back when I was young and fearless. However, on that particular night, my bravery quickly evaporated; I was so scared to death, I still remember every detail twenty-five years later.
Just like the story, I had the offer of free board for my two horses in Indian Mound, Tennessee. The pasture my horses stayed in was relatively small, but it sat on about two hundred acres of rough and sometimes steep, rolling sage-filled fields. The property backed up to over seven hundred acres of woods. There were logging roads and any manner of dirt trails that ran through the woods.
Always being a cowgirl that wants to see what’s just around the bend, I looked for a way on to the seven hundred acres. Sure enough, just like in the story, at the top of the hill a large oak tree had fallen and taken the fence down with it. There was a gap just big enough for my horse to walk through.
The curious thing about the gap in the fence was that every time I crossed it, the wind was blowing and the temperature would drop. Even on the hottest of days, I would get a chill as I rode my mare across that fence line.
I rode those wooded trails as much as I could, each trip getting later as I went a little further in and discovered new places to ride. The last few rides, I managed to make it back to the barn shortly after dusk.
However, the last ride I took there ended when the full moon was high up in the sky. Looking back, I estimate it was probably around ten or maybe eleven o’clock at night. I was used to riding that late.
That particular afternoon, I crossed over the fence line, and although there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the wind was blowing the worst it ever had. I remember goosebumps appearing on my arms even though it was late summer and plenty hot.
The little chestnut grade mare that I had, Coco, was solid as they come. She was supposed to have been a Quarter Horse and Fox Trotter cross. I rode her everywhere and she never spooked at anything – probably the only reason I was so brave!
As I rode that evening, I didn’t pay much attention to the time, or the fact that it was getting dark. Then all of a sudden, my mare stopped dead in her tracks and would not move. Her head was raised and she was focused on something deep in the woods. Keep in mind, I had owned that horse about five years at that point and she had never done such a thing so I knew she saw something.
Over in the middle of some brush about twenty feet away, I saw a flash reflection of light. The only way I can explain it, is that it looked like moonlight reflecting off something metal.
I wear glasses now, but at the time I didn’t because quite frankly I didn’t have the money. When you’re young, you have different priorities I guess. At any rate, with it being dark and my eyesight not what it should be, I could see basic objects but I couldn’t see a lot of details.
Right after the flash of light, a medium size bird flew up out of the brush where the light had been. My mare suddenly decided then that she could move on down the trail.
I’ve always had what I call a “knowing”. It’s when you just know things for a fact that you shouldn’t know but you do. That night, I had a “knowing” that something was there in those woods. I felt it as surely as I had felt the wind earlier.
A few yards down the trail, I sensed someone or something was following us. So, I turned around and looked back. Sure enough, I saw something light colored about the same height as I was on my horse. I couldn’t see any details, as mentioned earlier, but I could see that it was a definite object that wasn’t staying still!
I told myself I was just being silly, and bumped my mare up to a trot. When I got around the bend in the trail, I looked back and the object was the same distance behind us. I decided to test what I was seeing, and began to canter my mare thinking surely it would disappear. Yet, every time I looked back, I saw that same object several yards behind us, just far enough back I couldn’t see exactly what it was.
By that point, I panicked and asked my mare for a full out gallop! We galloped all the way to the break in the fence. When we got there, the wind was blowing even more violently than it had before but the temperature didn’t change.
Once through the fence, we headed to the barn as fast as we could. The trail back was hard packed dirt with loose rock on top. It went downhill and to the left. We flew down the hill and took the left hand turn.
About half way to the barn, I stopped, thinking surely I was safe. I cocked my head to listen and heard the faint sound of gravel rolling down that hill. Needless to say, I high-tailed it to the barn!
I’ve always been drawn to otherworldly things. Probably because of my “knowing” as I call it, along with a sensitivity that I can’t quite explain, I have a good balance of curiosity and skepticism. I’ve spent a lifetime studying the supernatural, and have even analyzed several unexplained occurrences that have happened after that. Things like shadows and voices, usually at night, but not always.
Was it a ghost? Who knows, but whatever it was, that supernatural encounter had a huge impact on my life and found its way into a mix of fiction and American Indian culture in Winds On Indian Mound.
This entry was posted in Books, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged Authors, Book, book release, creek indian, ghost, ghost stories, ghosts, horses, Indian, Indian Mound, inspiration, native american, paranormal, riding, short story, Stewart County, supernatural, Tennessee, trail riding, writers.
This week we get to spend some time with author Sam Finden. Although he’s young in years, he’s an old soul that’s a true horseman at heart with a gift for telling the best of tales. If you love horses, the rural life, and a good story I think you’ll enjoy reading what he has to say.
What is a day in your life really like and what is your favorite thing to do?
A day in my life is fairly uneventful most of the time. If I’m running around, I’m doing something wrong. Every day, I get up and throw on my muck boots straight away- even if I’m in my pajamas- and head out to the barn I built last summer to feed the horses. Then I’ll sit and plan out my day, drinking coffee and having a little breakfast. On work days, I’ll head into town and put in some hours at an architectural millwork shop (Western Spindle), After work, I’ll feed again and just hang out on the fence, then spend a few hours off my feet answering emails or working on a new story. I’ll wrestle around with the dog, play the guitar, or watch hockey. I’m no gourmet cook, so dinner is nothing fancy. Pretty laid back, mostly.
Do you write full time?
Writing full-time would be fantastic, but it’s not realistic for me right now. I’m not inclined to take on freelance work, to write just for the sake of writing, so it’s not feasible. Eventually I hope to have enough fiction work out there and producing to make a living off of book royalties, but that’s a ways out yet. I’m a newbie, with Saddle My Good Horse being my first foray into authorship. There are so many things to learn about promoting a book, so many strategies out there. Once I’ve made enough mistakes, that’s when I expect to be able to keep my ponies fed through income earned by writing.
How many horses do you have and what is the story behind them?
I’ve got two horses- both of them are quarter horses, and both of them are geldings. Chance, my old steady-eddy bay horse, is 18 years old. He came my way with another horse, a little mare named Ula that was old as the hills. She’s not around any more, unfortunately, and for a while, Chance was the only mount I had. He’s a good boy, but hasn’t been taught much more than go and whoa. I’m working with him whenever I can, trying to break a lot of habits he’s got. One good thing about him is that he’s pretty forgiving- I’ll put dudes on him without having to worry. He’s lazy and very in-your-pocket.
Red, my 11 year-old sorrel gelding, came to me for free. A word of warning: nothing is free. A buddy of mine was seeing this girl who couldn’t afford to feed him anymore- she got him as a project- and I was down to one horse, so I offered to take him. He’s actually pretty good- very quick side-to-side and very responsive off the leg. Someone put some good time on this horse, he had a good start – enough so that, even after being a pasture pet for years, he hasn’t forgotten all of it. The problem with Red, and it’s not so much a problem with him as it is with me, is that he’s been the boss for years. I’m not okay with that, so we’ve had some friction. All in all, though, he’s a pretty good horse. Like most people, I’ve just got to prioritize doing the necessary work to help both my horses improve. No more “Brush, saddle, sit, and spur.” More groundwork, more time together is required to really help my ponies be their best.
What type of stories and blogs do you write? How did you start out writing and what led you to write your book? What’s the story behind it?
I write mostly outdoor and horse-themed stories, though occasionally I’ll post an opinion piece, on my blog, www.samfinden.com. Really, my book was just a short story about ranch kids that got away from me. Writing short, creative fiction about hunting and fishing has been a hobby of mine since high school. When I got back into horses it was like a drug for me, and writing about them was the next best thing to riding. I like to tell descriptive, educational stories, the kind that people, sometimes, have to reread in order to learn something. When it comes to horses, it’s a natural thing- I want to learn new techniques, new theories. Whether it’s horsemanship, shoeing, packing, rodeo, even driving- I love it all. I want to be around it. And I want to bring readers with me, to point out a thumbs-up dally, then explain why by weaving the lesson into a chunk of dialogue or a historical anecdote.
What role do horses play in your life and your writing?
Horses play a key role in not only my writing, but in my life as well. I’m hopelessly addicted. I’ve found no better cheerleader for your newest story idea, no better counselor when you’re feeling defeated by something, than a horse. People scoff at the thought of an animal, who supposedly lacks the ability to reason, being a friend to a person, who often forgets their own ability to reason. I’ve moved around a lot and been lonesome a lot, but so long as there’s a horse in my barn, I’m a happy camper. They’re always there for you- of course they depend on you for feed and care, so that stands to reason- but there’s more to it. It’s a friendly nip across the fence, a nicker when you walk by. An observant, nonjudgmental nature. The ability to follow you, to trust you, and the confidence boost that provides. If I could bottle it, I’d be a billionaire. Horses and dogs are the finest of God’s creatures and I’m lucky to have them in my life every single day.
If you had to make one very important statement about life what would it be?
One statement or word of advice: Be considerate. Consider your horses. Consider your friends. Consider why you have enemies. Consider the traction on the road and the weight of your words when heard out of context. Consider your options. Consider waiting until cooler heads prevail. Consider God- He considers you every day. Consider spending more time in the present. And consider what you don’t know, then consider learning something useful.
What advice would you give other writers looking to become published?
I’m not necessarily the most qualified voice to recommend avenues toward becoming a published author, as I chose to self-publish. I can, however, tell of things that I’d like to/ will do differently the next time around, whether I self-publish or go the traditional route.
*I will, absolutely, set aside some time and money to farm out my cover design. Some of the templates that Amazon’s Createspace outfit offer are decent- I’d like to think that my second cover is well designed- but a discerning critic or reader may be looking for something much better. Good cover design is worth spending money on.
*Editing is in the same vein- you may think that your work will somehow be diminished by running it through an editor. I disagree. Reading through my book, a few glaring errors jump off the page and smack me upside the head. That alone is reason enough to hire an editor. I’m proud of my story and proud of the book, but I’m not thrilled with the choices I made in a few spots. A qualified editor would have solved that.
*I think an email list, a popular blog, and a sound marketing strategy are absolutely crucial. My book went out with zero fanfare, I just kind of published it and that was that. Had I possessed a list of qualified folks who knew me, wanted to read what I’d written, and were invested in me enough to do reviews, to recommend my work, I’d have been miles ahead. And, when you’re writing horse books, miles are a long way ahead!
What inspires you to write? Any special writing rituals or writing habits?
The main thing that inspires me to write is, typically, an experience I’ve had. It’s not always an exact translation, however. For example: My cousin and I go hunting in the back country for elk. We’ll load up backpacks with enough gear to get us through a few days and proceed to work our tails off until we succeed or give up. Several of these trips will put a lot of blog-post fodder in a guy’s head, and eventually it spills out in a story. Full Curl Optimism is one of those stories- a composite of things learned and experiences had, translated into fiction, then applied with a twist- in this case, I substitute Rocky Mountain Elk for Bighorn Sheep, and I give it an underlying battle against depression.
I like to start a story on paper. Usually, I’ll write a few paragraphs in pencil in a spiral-bound notebook, give it a rest for a day or two, then start typing. This isn’t always the case, though. Sometimes, when I’m really feeling it, I can just hammer away on the keyboard and, when I look up, there’s a rough draft. It’s times like those that I wonder, “Why am I not doing this all day, every day?”
One thing that I’ve been working on, and it’s hard, is that I rest a draft for as long as I can stand. Coming at a story with a new set of eyes, hopefully in less-rose-colored glasses, has kept me from posting some real junk. Sometimes the story can be salvaged and sometimes it can’t, but either is better than putting yourself out there with a lousy piece. So, maybe, that’s something to think on for people who are interested in writing.
What’s your favorite tale from all your travels?
My favorite tale? That’s a tough one- I’ve been all over creation with all sorts of characters. Here are a few, though:
Once, while I was working as a wrangler/bus driver/snowmobile guide/ cook/dishwasher/sleigh driver/superduper cowboy at a day-dude outfit in Steamboat Springs, I slid a shuttle bus off a cliff in front of my guests. It was a real banner day in this guy’s life, that’s for sure.
Another time, I got hollered at by Federal agents for walking along in a restricted area at the Hoover Dam- I had no idea that I wasn’t supposed to be there.
In Minnesota, I was training a quarter pony named Twain that started at a lope and went up from there. I never claimed to be a great horse trainer, mind you. Anyway, this pony was all go. The boss picked him up cheap at the sale barn and I can see why. Good little run on him, but no handle. Once, while running flat out across a stubble field, I reached up and put my fingers through the ring on the bit, cranked his head all the way around to my stirrup. He never let up- just kept on running. We should have named that pony Forrest.
Two winters ago, in Montana, where I currently live, my borrowed mare and I somersaulted down a drifted hillside and came to rest facing one another, nose to nose. She was not amused. Later that day, we rode to within 100 yards of a huge herd of elk on three separate occasions- on barren prairie. Pretty cool.
So it’s tough to choose one tale, but suffice it to say that horses are an important part of my life, and every time I head out on horseback there’s the potential for a new story to take shape.
How can people find out about your book and keep up with your work?
Thanks for the opportunity to talk a little bit about what makes me tick. If folks want to learn more about me, they’re welcome to head over to www.samfinden.com and follow along. From there, they can sign up for my email list to be notified whenever I post something new. They can also take a look at a couple of videos I’ve put together, or click on the link to my listing for Saddle My Good Horse. It’s a clean, educational book for young adults on up, and it’s something that those hard-to-buy-for teenage boys will actually enjoy reading (although there are no vampires or werewolves or anything). It’s horses, cattle, mountains, pretty much.
This entry was posted in Writing and tagged amazon, Author, Author Interviews, Authors, blog, Book, books, camping, cowboys, Fishing, hiking, historical, horsemanship, horsemen, horses, Hunting, interview, millwork, Montana, Mountains, riding, Sam Finden, snow, tracking, trail, trails, training, western, westerns.
This time we’re talking with Secret Cravings author Christina Cole. Christina has been very successful as a romance writer and as you’ll soon see does a wonderful job at spinning a tale. Her belief in true love is what guides the way in the stories that she tells…
Tell me a little about your life. Where do you live and what is a typical day like for you?
I live a quiet, old-fashioned sort of life in a small mid-western town. I’m happily married to the love of my life. My time is divided between family, my love for writing, and the things I enjoy, such as cooking, music, and, of course, reading.
How long have you been writing and what genres do you write?
I’ve been writing all of my life. I scribbled my first short story at the age of four. At eight, I wrote my first novel – a very short one about a girl and her horse. How original, huh?
What inspires you in your writing? What is your muse?
What inspires me is my belief in love. I truly believe that love is a powerful force in our lives, that it can strengthen us, encourage us, and help us become better people. Learning to give and receive love is a true blessing.
What role do horses play in your life and/or stories?
I was riding horses from the time I was three years old and remained a “horse crazy” girl well into adulthood. Sadly, I’m no longer actively involved with horses and riding, so I do the next best thing – I write western romance novels. I’m also a history lover, and I’m naturally drawn to the days of the “old west”. I’ve written historical romances set in other times and places, but my heart belongs to the cowboys who’ve ridden into our American culture to become icons of hard work, respect, and honor.
Horses do play a very important role in Keeping Faith, my latest western historical romance, available July 1 from Secret Cravings Publishing. Horses, in fact, are so important to the story that I asked the cover artist to please include an image of a horse on the cover. I was very pleased with the result.
The hero of the story is cowboy Tom Henderson, a man with an affinity for horses. Some folks say it’s because he was – literally – born in a barn. His drunken whore of a mother made a wrong turn that April morning after leaving the outhouse and ended up giving birth to her son on a pile of straw in the horse barn.
As Tom struggles to become a better man and provide a secure future for those he loves – including his infant niece, Faith – he has an opportunity to ride out and capture a band of wild horses. His dream is to someday have a horse farm, but that dream has always been as unreachable as the rocky mountains around him.
I won’t reveal the outcome, of course, but Tom learns through his experiences. Horses can teach us a lot if we’re willing to listen.
What is your favorite thing about a cowboy and why?
His respect for others. People often quote the old saying that “What the world needs now is love,” but I think it’s really respect that we’re so often lacking. For me, the cowboy is a potent symbol of what true respect means.
If there was one thing about your life that you wish you could change what would it be and why?
In looking back over my life, my greatest regret is that I have so few tangible things to celebrate the lives of the people I’ve loved. I lived with my grandfather while I was growing up. He was a remarkable man. I have only a few photographs of him. He told me many stories about his own childhood, stories about his experiences in World War I, and stories about people and places he’d known. I wish now I had them written down. There are others, too, who have passed away, leaving me with memories, but very few of those tangible reminders, such as photographs, recordings, and other memorabilia.
How can people find your books and learn more about you?
I do a lot of blogging. Although most of my blogs are designed to showcase other authors and help them promote their books, I do have two personal blogs readers can visit for more information about me and my philosophy of live and love.
Christina Cole Romance (christinacoleromance.com) is my “official” blog where I share a few personal thoughts and keep readers updated on new releases. Occasionally I take part in “blog hops” and give away books, ebooks, and other prizes.
Riding Into the Sunset – Stepping Back in Time (thesunsetseries.wordpress.com) is a blog I’ve set up for “all things Sunset”. The stories I’m now writing are all set in the fictional little town of Sunset, Colorado. Readers can visit the blog to learn more about the stories in the series, more about the town itself, and more about the characters who live there.
Any parting words of wisdom for writers?
Know who you are as a writer, and write the stories you’d like to read. Writing should be a pleasure, so listen to your own voice, and write your own stories.
Love brings them together. Hatred tears them apart.
One man…one woman…between them a precious child whose future they hold in their hands.
Everything they say about Tom Henderson is true. Born in a barn, the bastard son of a drunken whore, he’s got nothing to offer, and any dreams he might have are as far away as the distant snow-capped Rockies — and probably as unattainable. He’s long had his eye on pretty Lucille McIntyre, but that’s just one more impossible dream.
Lucille has always been considered the prettiest and most popular girl in Sunset, but her father’s sudden death has left her shaken and sad. Now, life seems to be passing her by.
When a prim and proper spinster arrives to deliver a squalling 3-month-old infant to Tom, his life and Lucille’s both change. His decision to keep the baby girl sets off a firestorm among the good ladies in town who don’t consider him fit to raise a child.
Together, Tom and Lucille will do anything in their struggle for keeping Faith.
Next time we talk with Solstice Publishing author Crackerberries Anderson about her book Blackhorse 2015. This will be an extremely interesting interview and very different from the interviews you’ve read so far! Stay tuned!
This entry was posted in Books, Horses, Writing and tagged amazon, Author Interviews, blogs, Book, Christina Cole, cowboys, ebooks, horses, interview, Mondayblogs, Publishing, romance, Secret Cravings Publishing, western, westerns.
I ran into BK on Twitter and I have to say she’s a cowgirl that I really like and I think you will too. She epitomizes what this blog is all about with her love of horses and her out of the box thinking on writing. Mark my word — I think she’s on to something with her stories and will be taking the publishing world by storm!
Tell us about you and your family? What is your life like?
I grew up in Duluth, MN in a six kid family. I have amazing parents who encouraged my love of reading and horses even though they didn’t understand it. They’re still a bit surprised that horses didn’t turn out to be some little girl phase (sorry folks, I’m a lifer). About three years ago when I finished my third year of college, I met a South Dakota farm boy at a friend’s wedding and it was Cloud 9 and unicorns after that. We’re married now and live outside the small town of Lake Norden, SD. We reside in a little rented farm house on forty acres of prairie with our two dogs and one horse.
I work three jobs currently. I am an administrative assistant at a government land conservation office (NRCS), a part-time colt starter and horse trainer (I usually only take on three horses at a time due to not having my own facility yet), and am a writer in any spare time the first two jobs leave me.
How did you get involved with horses?
I was a dog person as a kid. Then my mother made the mistake of drawing a horse for me on a fogged up bathroom mirror. I fell hard and even though we lived in town, begged for a pony every Christmas. When I entered sixth grade, my parents bought a thirty acre farm and we began to board a friend’s horses. Whenever that friend was around, I would beg him to teach me something about his wild paint horses. After a while he bought his own place and moved his horses (saddest day of my young life!) and our pasture sat empty for a few years. I was lucky we had neighbors that took my horse poor self in and taught me to ride on their wonderful foxtrotters. Eventually in eighth grade, I wore my parents down and we bought an old appaloosa mare who taught me a great deal about confidence.
I worked for a few stables in the area, honing my skills and learning, before I hit upon horse job heaven: exercise rider for a cutting horse barn three miles down the road. I spent almost four years immersed in the sport of cutting, drinking in the dust and cattle, living for the thrill of riding an athletic horse as it dodged catlike after a cow. One of the hardest things about getting married and moving was leaving that job! To date, those were a few of the most important years in my horse life. What I learned there impacted how I start colts and tune horses now.
If you had to tell us about only one horse you’ve dealt with, which one would it be and why?
Hands down it would be a little Arab/Quarter horse crossed named Lassie. She was the first horse I ever trained, and boy, was she a handful. Lassie was and still is, the friendliest horse I ever met, but she was hot and nervous. I got Lassie as a four year old filly when I was a junior in high school. I was outgrowing my first horse’s athletic ability; I wanted to go riding all day, every day and the 23 year old mare just wasn’t up for it.
Some friends of ours were getting out of horses (seriously, who does that!?) and happily sold me the spunky Lassie. I loved her even though she’d dump me at the first sign of trouble. After a year of fighting, I finally buckled down and read some Clinton Anderson, delved into Buck Branamen and poured over Ray Hunt’s writings. Lassie and I worked our tails off and after a few months, she was as bombproof as could be and I could ride her bareback and bridleless. I was on top of the world! I felt like Stacey Westfall! I was as pleased as punch at our success. But Lassie wasn’t done teaching me yet.
The summer after my freshman year in college, Lassie bowed both her back tendons during turnout. I was devastated. To me, this was the end of my horse. I had little knowledge of horse leg injuries because my horses had never gotten more than a minor cut. But even though I thought Lassie would never be ridden again, I resolved to give her the best possible care. I threw myself at Google’s feet, I prostrated myself in the lap of every veterinary hand book and bribed my own vet with muffins for every drop of knowledge about bowed tendons. A year later, Lassie was pronounced sound! I sadly but happily (bittersweetly?) prepared her for her next home in wake of my engagement. She is now a little girl’s barrel horse and is living a pampered life!
What type of writing do you do and what is your latest project?
I scribble off a few lines of poetry here and there and pen some song lyrics occasionally, but what I really love writing are westerns with a twist. While an avid student of Louie L’Amour, William Johnstone and Elmer Kelton, I also love fantasy and steampunk. You can just bet I’ve read every Harry Potter book more than three times. As a result of this, I’ve started several stories where cowboys end up in odd places and have to use their bronc riding, sharp shooting, cattle mustering skills to get themselves out of a sticky situation. It wasn’t until lately that a particular group of characters had finally had enough of my false starts and demanded a full adventure. I’m at the editing-the-fourth-draft phase and have declared it’s genre to be “western steampunk” and its working title is “Maker”. Maker is set in the northern region of Montana in 1890, where a young cowboy and a talking mountain lion join forces to defeat and discover why a mechanical killer cougar has been slaughtering local ranchers’ cattle.
My main focus with any of the stories I write is staying true to most aspects of the old and modern cowboy way of life, and gearing them toward the young adult and middle grade reader. Many kids these days don’t get to experience life outside of the city and traditional western books may appear to be an archaic or uninteresting read. I want to introduce these young readers to the world of the west without boring them with the typical gunfights and long cattle drives. Don’t get me wrong, I love those aspects of traditional westerns, but my gut tells me today’s younger generation finds them less endearing. I feel current writing project a gateway book for children to grow into avid readers of all westerns, a genre I don’t want to see die or phased out.
How do horses factor into your writing?
Actually a lot less than I thought. My characters always get a good horse and I make sure to describe gear and movements correctly, but they aren’t the headlining act. I tried to feature horses more prominently a few times but the cowboys kept trumping them in every scene so I backed off. I still have it in my heart to write a story based around cutting horses and riders but until then, my horses just play a supporting role. They have presence, but my characters aren’t as bug-eyed about them as I am.
When did you start writing?
I’ve written and kept journals since grade school but as much as I loved writing, it honestly never entered my mind that I could actually write a book. It was during college when I rubbed elbows with a few aspiring writers that I realized authors were normal (I use that word in the loosest sense) people like me and not some awesome word gods in the sky. That’s when I buckled down and started learning everything I could about writing.
Do you have any unique writing rituals, and if so what are they?
I don’t have any specific rituals or needs to get in the writing mood. I write anywhere and everywhere I can. Between the office job and the horse training, I don’t have a ton of time to waste setting up to write, so I’ve learned to write when I can no matter what is going on around me. I’ve been known to write an idea in the arena dirt and yell “don’t ride over this!” and then bolt for the tack room to find a pen. I’m always listening to the way people say things because if they say it in a particularly clever or blunt way, I’ll end up discreetly scribbling down their words on my hand or chanting them in my head to memorize them.
How do you handle writer’s block?
If I hit a blank spot, I don’t stress. I stand up, walk away from wherever I was writing and go do something else for a while. Sometimes I’ll just write nonsense words like Dr. Suess or start narrating everything I do in a loud voice for the next hour. That last one throws my husband for a loop but I always end up with a phrase or sentence that sparks my imagination and then it’s back to the writing desk.
Of all the pieces you’ve written, which one is your favorite?
My favorite story I’ve written is definitely my current project “Maker”. I love my characters even if I am a bit hard on them.
I have penned a favorite poem, too. My dad, in a weak moment, confessed that he had always dreamed about having a stout little pony to pull him around in a cart. The image of a forty-seven year old man asking for a pony drove me straight to my notebook. On his next birthday, I presented him with a hilarious poem about a rough and tough tractor mechanic asking for a pony for Christmas. It’s one of the few times I’ve gotten my dad to roar with laughter over something I’ve written, so I’ll always cherish that one.
How can people find your work?
I’m pretty disconnected compared to a lot of people I know, but I just joined Twitter (@BKKopman) and Instagram (@bkkopman) after I got read the riot act from a fellow writer friend about platform building. There you can find snippets of my current works and lines of occasional poetry. As I get more comfortable with all this technology, I might be persuaded to start a blog, but until then, 140 characters and the occasional picture is about all I can handle.
This week we’re taking part of a Blog Hop thanks to talented freelance writer, author, and martial arts enthusiast from the UK, Mark Iles. Please visit his blog at http://markiles.co.uk/2014/04/the-blog-hop.html
What am I working on?
I’ve always got several projects going in various stages of development. There are three particular projects however that I’d like to focus on this year. The main focus right now is a western romance novella about a romance writer that’s down on her luck. The second is also a western romance with a curious paranormal element added. Then I’ve also been working on a sequel to Lost Betrayal.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Lost Betrayal is on the market as a Western Romance however the story is really much bigger than that. The drama and suspense throughout the story are just as big as the romance. In addition to writing big stories, another difference would be my insight to the horses and people in my books. As a trainer, I look at the world through a training view-point and tend to look a little deeper than the surface at the reason a horse or a person does something.
Why do I write what I do?
One of my biggest reasons for writing Lost Betrayal was to bring awareness to the fact that large animals are the last to be rescued in a disaster. They’re just not a high priority, they require special skills to rescue in most cases, they can’t be relocated to just anywhere and they receive the least amount of publicity when it comes to their needs. Writing the book was a way to open up discussions about that and bring an awareness to the public about that need.
Another reason that I write is that there’s always some lesson I want to share with the world. Stories are a great way to do that. Plus, my head is always filled with new ideas that just have to find a way out somehow!
How does your writing process work?
Working full-time and running a horse farm is already a full load. When you add competing, giving lessons and judging horse shows it doesn’t leave a whole lot of time! I’m as passionate about the horse industry as I am my writing so it’s hard to balance the two, really. Most work day mornings I get up at around 4 to 5am in the morning to get everything in. I do most of my writing during those early hours as it’s quiet and there aren’t many interruptions. Then I’ll also grab some writing time on rainy weekends as well.
As far as inspiration, I have a playlist of the Steel Drivers that I’ve worn slap out. Something about their music inspires me to write from the heart. Since I have several projects going, I usually don’t have any trouble with writer’s block. If I don’t feel like writing on one particular manuscript, I’ll feel like writing on another one.
In regards to the actual writing itself, I outline like crazy. I not only outline the story itself but I’ll also outline each chapter. I have to know where I’m headed. If I don’t outline, I tend to go down a rabbit hole!
Thanks for taking the time to find out more about my writing and what I do! Next week on May 12th check out Olivia Gracey’s blog at http://www.oliviagracey.com/blog.html. Olivia is a new author with Solstice Publishing. In addition to writing, she’s also a singer, songwriter, and photographer.
While we’re talking about wonderful authors, here’s a few more blog links to wonderful writer friends of mine.
Stephanie Hurt is a southern romance writer. A couple of weeks ago I had the honor of being interviewed for her blog. Here’s the link to that interview – http://stephanie-hurt.com/2014/04/26/interview-with-f-j-thomas-author/ Check out her blog site while you’re there to read more great interviews and read about her life as a writer.
Stephanie Berget is a fellow barrel racer and romance writer. Visit her blog at http://www.stephanieberget.com/ to read about her stories and the latest musings about her life.
Elle Marlow is another fellow barrel racer and romance writer. You can read about her latest book and shenanigans at http://ellemarlow.blogspot.com/
This week I talk with multi-talented cowboy romance author, Stephanie Hurt. She’s a writer with a big heart that loves horses and I think you’ll see that in the interview.
Tell me a little about yourself & your family.
Well, I’m a busy woman. I thrive on staying busy. I’m a wife, mother of a 15 yr. old son, Accountant, Children’s Minister and a romance Author. Not to mention I run a publishing service. I’ve been married to my wonderful hubby, Tommy, for 20 years. We live about 50 miles south of Atlanta on land that has been in my family for over 150 years. We live in the country and that makes me really happy. I’m a country girl to the bone.
What type of books do you write and what led you to write those types of stories?
As for my writing, I write mostly cowboy romance. Since I’m a country girl, I’ve been around cowboys, farms, horses and such all my life. When looking at heroes, I consider a cowboy a hero. I know some may not understand this, but it’s just the way I feel. All of my romances are clean, wholesome romance. I strive to bring out romance in every age. I have young fans, older fans and even male fans. I try to write something that everyone can enjoy.
How do horses play a role in your books and your life?
As long as I can remember I’ve loved horses. Since I’ve lived in the country all of my life, I’ve always been around horses. When I was around 13 my parents gave me horseback riding lessons. I remember I couldn’t sleep the nights before the lessons. It was the most fun I can remember having. I hung on my trainers every word. I had posters of horses on my walls, I drew horses on my folders and I just loved the smell of a horse and the leather of a saddle, crazy but true.
When you walk in my living room you automatically know I love horses. I have them on my walls in pictures, plaques and statues. My cousin once found an old horseshoe on our land, then he surprised me with a gift, it was the horseshoe welded on a stand and painted all black. I loved it. I even use my old riding hat as decoration.
So, when I write, you always see a horse somewhere. I also named my publishing service Horseshoe Publishing for obvious reasons.
What is your philosophy on writing and life?
Let’s see here, I guess my philosophy on life is to live life everyday as though it was your last. Make sure that you leave a legacy behind and I’m talking about a good legacy. Always treat everyone as you would want to be treated. If you do things the right way, then you don’t have anything to worry about and don’t worry over things you can’t change.
As for writing, my philosophy is to write what you know or love. If you have a passion for something, then put it into words. Don’t let the current fads lead your writing. If you write what you’re passionate about, it will show. I write romance to inspire. I think everyone needs a little romance in their lives.
Name your three favorite books that you’ve written.
Oh, this is hard. Ok, here goes:
Open The Heart – An Alpine Christmas Romance
Finding The Right Time – Release date 3/31/14
Moonbeam & Roses
What are your goals for this year?
My goals for this year are easy. Well, maybe not easy, but straight forward. I plan on finishing up my current works in progress and intensify my promotional activities. Also, I’m expanding my publishing service, but that’s for later this summer.
If you had to give one piece of advice what would it be?
My advice is to go after your dreams. We’re only given one run at this thing we call life, so go for that dream and make the most of it.
You can keep up with Stephanie on her blog at http://stephanie-hurt.com/