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.
UPDATE! The Searching Place was released last month and is available on Amazon.
My newest book, The Searching Place will be released with Solstice Publishing spring 2019. The story is a light-hearted small town cowgirl romance set in southeast Tennessee.
Here’s a bit about The Searching Place….
Lily is on the hunt for her muse and redemption.
The once bestselling romance author Lily Perkins is in a bind after her fifth divorce has left her practically penniless and her last book was axed by the publisher. At the urging of her agent and friend, Nate Kinser, Lily moves east to find her muse and write her next best seller.
Carter is a cowboy womanizer that initially sees Lily as the next conquest he can toy with as everybody in a small town knows what a woman with her history is like. When his attempts to get her in bed fail, he realizes she’s not the conquest he thought she was. In the end, they both fall harder than they wanted to but there’s a catch – Lily’s long term agent Nate has suddenly left his wife for her.
When Lily is injured in a barrel race, both men rush to her side to protect the feisty cowgirl writer that has captured their hearts and Lily must choose between them.
Stay up with the latest news on my Facebook page.
Update — NEW COVER!
This time on Talking In The Barn, I chat with fellow east Tennessee author and horseman, Robert Brady. Robert writes Fantasy books and rescues horses.
What is a typical day for you like?
I get up around 7a, feed the horses, the dogs and the cat. Make breakfast, then start programming. I’m a work from home software developer. I’ll go until around 4pm, then take a break for an hour, feed the horses, the dogs and the cat, then write for a few hours.
Do you write full time?
I don’t write full time, but that’s my goal. Right now, a lot of my creative juices are absorbed by programming. Creating a program is a lot like creating a story.
How did you get involved with horses?
I was raised around them. When my daughter turned 12, she started noticing boys, so I got her involved in riding, and then boys were on their own for about three more years. She’s a saddle fitter now, and she’s married to a guy who was raised around horses.
How did you get started as a writer?
In college, I missed my friends, so I would write stories where I used them as the main characters. Even before that, I used to love to write and won a few awards, including the New England Gold Key.
How do horses impact your writing?
In The Fovean Chronicles, it’s really the story of a man and his horse, and even when he’s not with his horse, his horse is on his mind. Horses add balance to my life and I tried to put that into my stories as well.
What are your biggest struggles as a writer and as a horse person? Any words of wisdom there?
Finding time, just like everyone else.
What one piece of advice that you would give to a new horse person?
Unless you compete, don’t try to replace a great horse with another of the same breed. You’re setting the new horse up to fail. If you’re lucky enough to have a great horse in your life, when his or her time comes, try something completely different for your next one.
What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Schedule time to write. Put it on your calendar – this day, I will write for 1 hour. Otherwise you’re always going to find something else to do.
What is one thing that most people don’t know about you?
I’m actually a really romantic person. Just never found the right person to share it with.
Tell us about the inspiration behind your newest book.
The Fovean Chronicles is eight books long. It took me more than a decade to get right. My latest book, Semper Indomitus, ends the series. It was time to go on to the next project.
Any parting words to readers out there?
Don’t listen to your teachers when they tell you how to write – most of them have a really hard time getting published. Get into a good group, either locally or online, and then take their criticism constructively. The best advice you’ll ever get will sound mean and horrible at the time. I was told at one point that I was terrible and would never be published. It inspired me to really look at what I was creating and then change it. Also, read, read, read!
You can find Robert on Amazon.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged Author, book blog, book series, books, Equestrian, equine, Fantasy, Fantasy Writer, horse rescue, horse writers, horses, knoxville, science fiction, Tennessee, writers.
This fall has been busy with another new children’s book and a film festival win….
Beauford The Patriotic Donkey was released in November. Beauford is the brainchild of my other half, retired race trainer and former pro bull rider T. A. Bouk. “Tab” likes to say he waited until he was almost 60 to write his first book! We collaborated on the project along with local artist, Atlantis Corn that graduated from Sweetwater, Tennessee high school this year. A big thanks to art teacher Matthew Mikos for holding the contest among his students for the opportunity to illustrate the book.
Beauford chases the thickens and thinks he’s too good for goats, but he soon learns everybody has to work together when you live on a farm. The book endears itself to the American Public by teaching the timeless lessons of farm work ethic, the importance of the flag, and honoring military service.
The book quickly climbed to the top, making Amazon Best Seller lists for Children’s New Release Animal, and Farm Life categories, and hit the all time top seller list for Children’s Farm Life books. Beauford The Patriotic Donkey enjoyed a local book tour with book signings at Rural King, Blount County Heritage Museum, Sweetwater Antiques, B&B Wholesale and Auction, and Pallet Jack Snack Shack.
FIRST FILM FESTIVAL WIN….
LOGLINE FOR THE GRULLA –
A determined cowgirl enlists the help of a former bull fighter and drug addict in the search for her horse that is still mysteriously missing after a tornado destroys her ranch.
The script, since entitled “The Grulla” won the Winnie Award for Best Equine Screenplay for the Equus Film Festival. I would like to extend a hearty “Congratulations” to my fellow Winnie recipients in the other categories. You can see the full list of winners on the American Horse Publications website.
The script is actively being submitted to agents, managers, producers and directors. You can also check out my profile on IMDb Pro.
READ THE FULL SYNOPSIS –
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If you love horses and you love a good suspenseful tale, you need to check out Connie Johnson Hambley. Not only did she grow up with horses and is an equine therapy volunteer, Horse Nation has hailed her as one of the most exciting writers of our time. I think you’ll enjoy getting to know this fascinating horse author.
What was it like growing up on a dairy farm in New York? What were some of the horses you rode and what did you do with them?
In a word? Idyllic because I had the best of both worlds. My small hometown is located within an easy drive to New York City. My family enjoyed outings to The Big Apple to go to museums and plays, but we all heaved a communal sigh of relief to return home. I confess that I was not chore-bound on the farm, so any story of me waking up at the crack of dawn to milk cows is <ahem> fiction.
But, riding and caring for my horses was a different matter. I don’t recall the first time I was on a horse, but I do remember my first fall off one! I was about four when our Tennessee Walker, a bay mare named Abigail, shied and dumped me, knocking me breathless and scaring the heck out of me! Maybe that’s why the horses I chose as I became a better rider were chestnut geldings. Bojangles, a Quarter Horse with a sadly low IQ, was the sweetest guy ever and the best schooling horse for perfecting my English Hunter Seat equitation. Foxfire, the horse I’m pictured with when I was sixteen, was a 16.2 Anglo-Arab with a mind of his own and wings.
The best part of learning to ride when living on a dairy farm was after the lessons were over. I would gallop across the fields as fast as the horses could carry me and jump over streams, walls, trees – anything where the horse and I could be one for the intoxicating moments when we were suspended in air. Bo and Foxy loved the freedom. The emotions I felt during those rides are something I try to bring to life in my books.
How do you feel growing up on a farm influenced your writing?
I have vivid memories of how certain days felt. I had all of the other angst kids have growing up – friends, cranky teachers, clueless older brother – but I also had wide-open spaces I could retreat to and figure things out. A hellish day in middle school was made better with a good ride – even in the rain. Any animal owner will tell you that critters don’t know your worries. They just care if you treat them well. Throwing my arms around the neck of my horse, inhaling his sweet scent and letting him soak up my sorrows helped me sort through all of the normal stuff of growing up.
Farm life allowed me the luxury of thinking, and horses were my oasis. I value my memories as I know how unique my experience was. It gave me a strong moral centerpoint where I ground all my characters. My main character, Jessica Wyeth, is a world-class equestrian. Even though the outer world she inhabits is foreign to most of my readers, her inner world is familiar and welcoming. She’s likeable and relatable.
You volunteer at an equine therapy facility – tell us about that. What is your favorite thing about volunteering there and why?
Since I’m currently a horse-lover without a horse, I get my equine fix through volunteering. The focus of being a horse handler is on safety. The clients I work with have a variety of physical and/or emotional challenges that may make a quick response to a horse’s sudden movement difficult. I’m there to let the riders expand their skills as much as possible, but I’m watching the horse at all times to protect against the unexpected.
I can’t state enough how transformative working with certain clients has been for me. Relationships develop. I feel like I receive more than I give. One client has written her first short stories ever – and she’s 50 years old! I’ve also worked alongside survivors of human trafficking and have been honored to watch these women regain a sense of personal power and control through their interactions with horses.
The inspiration for my short story, Giving Voice, published in WINDWARD: Best New England Crime Stories, (Level Best Books, 2016) came from working with these remarkable women.
How long have you been writing, and how did you first get started writing?
I’ve always gravitated to communicating via writing, but I learned how to write in law school. Crafting a persuasive legal brief requires many of the same skills to write a good thriller. Knowing the structure of your story and knowing who your audience is are essential to delivering a tightly woven story to your readers or a judge!
I used my skills when writing articles for Bloomberg BusinessWeek or other periodicals. Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, the beginning process is very similar. There is inhaling research and processing information to find out exactly what you want to say. The first time I allowed myself to exhale fiction instead of a brief or journalism piece, I became an addict. My life changed.
What is your favorite book that you’ve written? Why is it your favorite?
Not fair! You can’t ask a mom who her favorite child is, can you? Well, you can ask, but the clever (book) mom will answer, “I love each in their own special way.”
Okay, that said, it’s time for a true confession. As I write, I am constantly learning. Sometimes I’m just learning more about my characters or my story, but most times I’m learning something about the craft of writing I feel makes me a better author.
I’ve written each book of The Jessica Trilogy to stand on its own merits without the reader needing to read a prior book to understand the current book. I’ve been known to nudge people to read The Troubles first, especially if they like family sagas with dark secrets, but if your readers want to jump into a book with a strong story about therapeutic horsemanship, then The Wake is the place to start. The Wake is also timely because it takes place during the Olympics! (Well, the summer Olympics, but still!)
Where did you get the idea behind the books?
The Charity started as a love story, but the worlds surrounding my characters complicated their relationship . . . and that’s an understatement. I live in Boston, where generations of wealth impact politics and society in seen and unseen ways. Money and power drive good people to do bad things and I wanted to create a story where you questioned what characters are good guys?
I didn’t start out thinking I was going to write a trilogy, but each book had one little fuse that, when lit, exploded into another story. The Jessica Trilogy unfolds the story of a woman who uncovers the money behind a Boston-based cell of the Irish Republican Army. Each book encapsulates one distinct stage of her discovery. The Charity shows what happened, The Troubles explores why it happened, and The Wake answers how the characters move forward in a world turned upside down.
Why do you feel horse people enjoy your books so much?
In a nutshell, I write smart, gripping thrillers with an equine touch that both mainstream readers and horse lovers enjoy. The “horse book” genre can be a mixed bag of young adult, romance, coming of age, or mystery with predictable story lines and simplistic writing. That’s great for many readers, but leaves readers who want a meaty read empty handed. A reviewer in Horse Nation magazine said my trilogy reawakened her to the joy reading a great novel can evoke. (horsenation.com/2017/11/30/book-review-the-wake-final-book-in-the-jessica-trilogy/) I respect my readers’ intelligence and weave layered stories populated with complex characters that culminate in dizzying climaxes. Think of a wild steeplechase on paper and that’s how I write my books.
What is your current work in progress?
I’m busy writing short stories, some of which appear in Best New England Crime Stories anthologies published by Level Best Books. I’m digging into a novel with a whole new cast of characters. Find Cally is set in the decaying factory towns of New Hampshire. Dak Turner, a hardscrabble dad, searches for his teen daughter in the labyrinth of human trafficking aided by Sienna, a trafficking survivor who uses the knowledge gained through working with rescued girls at her therapeutic riding center to dismantle trafficking networks. You know, a little light reading.
What words of wisdom to you have for the writers out there?
Just sit down and write. Do it. Don’t give up. Finish one paragraph, then add more. Finish the story. Edit. You have a wonderful and unique story in you. You can do it! Also, find your tribe. Get support. Writing can be isolating.
What are your goals for 2018?
Finish Find Cally and continue reaching readers through a combination of social media outreach and speaking engagements. I am the Vice President of the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime, a national organization of mystery and crime writers. SinC provides wonderful support for aspiring and published authors and I’m thrilled to be a part of them. I have opportunities to speak at literary festivals, writers workshops, libraries, book stores and more because of the reach and reputation of SinC.
Any parting words?
I love connecting with readers, so find me and connect! I do video-chat book groups and love to connect with readers! Time zones aren’t a problem.
WAYS TO STAY CONNECTED….
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged Bloomberg, BusinessWeek, Connie Johnson Hambley, Crime Author, Crime Writer, Dairy, Equestrian, equine, Equine Therapy, Find Cally, Horse Author, Horse Therapy, horses, New England Crime Stories, New York, SinC, Special Olympics, suspense, The Charity, The Jessica Trilogy, The Troubles, The Wake, Therapeutic Riding, Windrush, Windward.
So now begins the process of getting it in the hands of an agent that truly believes in the power of this story as much as I do. With a lost horse, a redeemed cowboy and a horse gal that just won’t give up, this really is a big story needs to be seen on the big screen. So stay tuned! Just like Sage, I’m not giving up on getting it there!
On the book front, my goal for 2018 is to do a good bit of book signings at various businesses and events in east Tennessee. I love connecting with readers and horse folks and I’m hopeful that this coming year will bring more opportunities to do just that.
At the end of December, B&B Auctions in Sweetwater, Tennessee hosted a book signing for my books. B&B Auction, located off of I-75 south at exit 62, holds auctions every Tuesday and Thursday night featuring sellers from all over the southeast. Not only did I get to hang out and see some neat stuff sell at fabulous prices, but talk with some pretty cool folks too!
Earlier this month, the Dinner Bell Restaurant, also located at exit 62 in Sweetwater, hosted a book signing as well. I met one reader in particular who I thoroughly enjoyed talking with that owns an Egyptian Stallion. It’s always fun to chat horses and books!
In addition to the book signings, I have a couple of new projects in the works.
One project is a picture book that Tab and I are working on together – Beauford The Patriotic Donkey. It’s in the very early rough stages of development and we still have to figure out what we’re going to do on the artwork, but suffice it to say Beauford is a very cantankerous donkey!
Roo the rooster sets him straight about the fact that when you live on the farm, everybody has to have a job. In the process, Beauford also learns the farm value of being patriotic and loving your country. I love what this story teaches kids, and I’m looking forward to seeing it develop.
Another project is a story about demonic possession. This is a paranormal story that I started several years ago and it is so compelling, I knew I had to pick it back up! It brings up some unusual faith questions no one ever seems to mention so I knew the story had to be told. It’s about half finished at this time.
Horse N Ranch Magazine recently published a couple of my articles on training tips for when you can’t afford a horse trainer. I’m hoping to write more horse articles this year as well.
Here’s to 2018 being an epic year on the writing front!
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This week I talk with horse writer Carly Kade about her new book coming out, and winning the Best Western Fiction Winnie Award at the EQUUS Film Festival.
Tell us a little bit about what your day to day life is like.
I’m a busy cowgirl, and it can be difficult to fit in time for my creative writing, so I designed a plan for my writing life. I get up every morning at 5:30 am and start my day by writing before I go to my corporate job. At the end of the week, my husband reads back to me the chapters I’ve written. The routine works. I finished two books this way, and I’m already writing the third. Having scheduled time for my creativity really helps move my books forward. I am not a morning person, but the commitment to my morning routine keeps my creativity alive.
Also, I made the rule to “touch” my story every day. As long as I stay engaged with what I’m writing, the world I’m creating is never far from reach. It’s when I’ve been away from my words for extended periods of time that I find it hardest to get back to writing it so I try not to let that happen.
In addition, I have a patient husband, two dogs, and a horse waiting to spend time with me. Being at the barn fuels my creativity and helps me refresh from my life as a corporate cowgirl. I do what it takes to fit in my much needed barn time (although it feels as if it is never for as long as I’d like). Somehow though, I always make everything work and feel so fortunate to be able to have the life that I do.
It isn’t always easy! There’s a lot of heavy lifting involved in getting a dream underway, but I am really proud of the creative life I’m inventing for myself!
Do you have horses? Tell us about them and what you do with them.
When I’m not writing or reading, I’m riding my horse. I am a member of the American Paint Horse Association and love competitively showing my Paint Horse, Sissy. I recently moved to Arizona so I’ve just started to explore all the amazing horse show options that my new home has to offer. I feel fortunate because it seems like there’s a horse event (almost) every weekend here, and I board my horse at a picture perfect ranch nestled between mountain ranges. It’s the kind of place I dreamed about as a girl!
The classes I usually show in are showmanship, Western horsemanship and Western pleasure. Recently, I’ve been back in my English saddle and am thinking about showing in some hunt seat classes again!
Just like a make an effort to “touch” my novel every day to keep close to my characters, I make an effort to see my horse every day. Take a tour of my social media channels, carlykadecreative.com or my YouTube channel and you’ll notice my horse, Sissy, is pictured a lot and appears in my promotional videos for In The Reins as the lead horse character, Faith.
Here is the book trailer starring Sissy as Faith: https://youtu.be/Glv2Bz-WB-E?list=PLzxx3R-kABSVHJFnmwgn_6vZ3W98S3akk
How did get you started writing?
I’ve always enjoyed creative writing and was recognized as a young author. My education involved Advanced English and Creative Writing courses, but I didn’t set out to publish a novel until McKennon Kelly, the leading man from In The Reins, came to me like lightning one day in the form of a poem. I vividly remember the day I furiously scrawled him in my journal. That poem ended up being the intro to the book.
From there, I just wrote the novel that I wanted to read. Beverly Cleary once said, “If you don’t see the book you want on the shelves, write it.” I think I’ve read everything in existence about horses, cowboys and romance. However, I couldn’t many horse book series written about my particular discipline.
I wanted to read a love story themed around the type of horse shows that I liked to compete in. There are a lot of equestrian novels out there focused on dressage or jumping or rodeo but I hadn’t found many that focused on Western pleasure competitive horse showing at breed shows like Quarter Horse, Paint, Pinto or the Palomino Horse Circuits.
When did you get more serious about writing, and what was that process like?
The story seemed to beg me to tell it, but I still pondered whether I should write a book or if I even could. Writing a book is scary! You put your creative self on the line for people to hopefully enjoy, but also to judge.
One day, I asked my husband if he would read my manuscript to see if what I had written had any merit. One thing to know about my husband is that the only book series he’s ever read was the Hunger Games on our honeymoon. As he read my story back to me, two things happened. I sat there and thought to myself “who wrote this” and “where was I while I was writing it” because it sounded pretty good, and then I noticed that my husband was laughing, smiling and engaging with my words. He put the manuscript down in his lap and said, “This is really good. You have to keep going.” So, I did.
When I started really writing In The Reins, I knew I wanted readers to feel like they were falling for the leading man as they turned the pages of my story. Generating that kind of feeling was my goal – what I wanted to create for readers – so In The Reins naturally became a romance novel.
I’ve always loved reading and have been riding horses since I was seven. I know that I sure wouldn’t be able to resist reading about a handsome cowboy who knows his way around horses so I wrote about what I knew … horses and cowgirl culture.
You did very well at the Equus Film Festival. Tell us what the festival is about, and your experience being a part of that.
It was so exciting when In The Reins was named an official EQUUS Film Festival literary selection, and then went on to win the Best Western Fiction Winnie Award.
I met so many amazing fellow authors, filmmakers and readers in New York City. The EQUUS Film Festival is an excellent platform for bringing the storytellers of the horse world together through films, documentaries, videos, art, music and literature.
The EQUUS Film Festival expanded its reach into the literary world because of the books that inspired the films screened at the festival over the years. The decision to add awards for literary works was to introduce new and existing authors to filmmakers looking for their next equestrian story. The festival organizers work to place authors with filmmakers to help develop partnerships through the EQUUS Film Festival.
I made a little tribute video to my spur-jingling journey in NYC so my readers could go behind the scenes of the EQUUS Film Festival with me. My cowboy helped me shoot footage as I attended the four-day equestrian extravaganza! We filmed it all – beginning with the VIP Gala & culminating at the equine equivalent of the Oscars called the Winnie Awards.
Tell us about your books.
In The Reins is the story of a city-girl-gone-country, a handsome cowboy and a horse that meet by fate on a southern farm. She’s looking for a fresh start and unexpectedly falls for the mysterious cowboy. But the leading lady finds herself wondering if the man with a deeply guarded secret can open himself up to the wannabe cowgirl in the saddle next to him.
I like to think that In The Reins captures the struggle between letting life move forward and shying away from taking the reins. Reader reviews suggest that I’ve written a love story sure to touch the inner cowgirl. I hope so!
Cowboy Away, the second book in the In the Reins series, picks up right where we left Devon, McKennon, their horses as well as the Green Briar bunch. It chronicles the history of how things became the way they were in In the Reins. Readers will meet new characters as the book journeys through McKennon’s past. In Cowboy Away, McKennon becomes a cowboy on a quest for revenge and hits the road with nothing but his memories, a pistol and hope to put his demon to rest.
Cowboy Away, the sequel to In the Reins, will release in 2017. Early reader, Laurie Berglie, author of Where the Bluegrass Grows says, “Sequels can be difficult to write, but not for Carly Kade. Cowboy Away is fantastic and without a doubt one of the best sequels I have ever read. This follow-up to In The Reins brings McKennon’s and Devon’s story full circle, yet leaves you hungry for more! I very highly recommend this equestrian romance!”
The books are available in Paperback and eBook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. Audiobooks are in the works for both books, too!
Buy a signed copy from my website: https://www.carlykadecreative.com/buy-the-book.html
Or from one of these fine retailers
How does your love for horses impact you as a writer?
I wanted to include a romantic relationship in my story that built on life lessons experienced in the horse world. Horses build character and require dedication. They are a big responsibility and teach us compassion, as we often have to put their needs before our own. I am a better human because I’ve owned horses.
I’ve heard that my characters are flawed but likeable. There are a few Bridget Jones style mishaps for my wannabe cowgirl, and she often has to dust off her boots then try again. My heroine heals her broken heart through her love for her horse. Devon invests in her relationship with her horse as much as she does with the humans in her life. I think I built a strong female character willing to face her fears head-on. Devon is committed to becoming a better horsewoman by listening to her heart, her mentors and her brain (most of the time). Her relationship with her horse is a primary part of the story. Perhaps, she is better in her relationship with her horse than with humans.
My history with (and rich knowledge of) horses is definitely a reason why I think other horse lovers have been drawn to the book. I know what it feels like to enter a show pen and be nervous. I know what it feels like to feel stuck with my horse’s training. I know what it feels like to swoon over a cute cowboy. Giggle!
I hope that sort of authenticity comes through in my writing. I’m a horse owner. I’ve shown competitively most of my life. I write about my lifestyle, not something I’ve researched, but what I do.
Some of the best feedback I’ve gotten though has been that non-horsey readers say that one doesn’t have to love horses or have knowledge about them to enjoy my story or fall in love with the characters. Many readers are actually enjoying the fact that they are learning so much about the human-horse connection because of my book. That makes my spurs jingle!
What are your biggest challenges as a horse person and a writer?
The biggest challenge is finding the time.
When it comes to writing, my favorite Stephen King quote is, “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” I always worry I won’t have anything to write, but then I sit and make the time and the story magically starts writing itself through me. That is why the morning routine is so important. It forces me to make the time to sit and write … no excuses.
What are your goals for the next year?
As far as my writing plans, this is just the beginning! McKennon and Devon’s story definitely continues. This is a horse book series of at least four. The sequel to In The Reins will be out this year, and my goal is to have the third installment out in 2018.
The crazy thing is that the fourth book featuring the characters is bucking up a storm in my mind and already taking shape on paper! I am writing the third and fourth book simultaneously. I am super excited about the journey this series is taking me on!
A fun fact is that I’m learning that there are a lot of JD McCall fans out there so I’m playing with the concept of a novella that tells the tale of my bull riding heartthrob with swagger!
If you had to give a piece of advice to a new horse owner, what would it be?
Take the time to get to know your horse.
In In the Reins, my Cowboy McKennon Kelly tells wannabe Cowgirl Devon Brooke this about her horse, Faith:
“Any real, beautiful thing in this world shouldn’t be tamed or claimed or broken. It should be allowed to be, worked with, not against, appreciated.”
That’s how I feel. Take the time to build a relationship with your horse. When I feel Sissy’s stride beneath me, everything else fades away and I revel in being in the NOW.
When I was younger, I was very competitive and went to a lot of horse shows. A friend once said something to me that really stuck. She said, “What about just being a horse owner and enjoying that?” That question really resonated with me.
Now it’s the simple pleasures of horse ownership that I have come to enjoy most … long grooming sessions, the meditative rhythm of barn chores, a lazy Sunday ride.
Take the time to bond with your horse. It is the most rewarding part of horse ownership.
If you had to give a piece of advice to a new writer, what would it be?
My advice to an aspiring author is make the time to write! I recommend setting a goal like writing for 60 minutes uninterrupted or not stopping until you’ve reached a thousand words. Just start … that’s all you have to do.
I highly recommend reading “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King. I loved the book as a reader and a writer. This is a book for anyone who writes, anyone who aspires to write, anyone interested in knowing a little more about the life of an author, or someone interested in knowing more about Stephen King as he gives a brief history of what led him to where he is now. It’s a fascinating read!
Also, I think it is very important to support fellow authors. Recently, I saw a graphic on Twitter that said, “Other authors are not my competition. I stand with them, not against them.” I strongly agree with this statement.
It makes my spurs jingle when authors unite. I’ve learned so much from other authors and appreciate how unique each of our writing journeys is. I think it is so important to support each other and share knowledge among us.
When dreamers band together and support each other anything is possible. You can’t do it on your own. In order to give back to the community, I host an Equestrian Author Spotlight on my blog where I interview other equine authors. I LOVE horse books!
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