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.
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 we talk with fellow Solstice Publishing author and horsewoman Maureen Gregory. I think you’ll enjoy getting to know her, especially since she’s a fellow horse lover, loves animals and has a great sense of humor!
Tell us about where you live & what your day to day life is like.
I live in rural England in an area known as the Peak District, with my husband Chris and a collection of creatures great and small. Our home is a very old stone farmhouse, we can only date it back 400 years, but it is older than that. The lounge has old oak beams, the main one was off a ship apparently! There is a stone fireplace, in the winter the fire is blazing, but today, it is hot and sunny.
When I am writing I sit at an oak table with the window behind me. As I have two small dogs and one cat there is always one of them curled up on the chair and one in my lap. The only problem is when Minty (the cat) decides to walk over the keyboard.
My routine is dictated by the weather! If it is lashing down with rain/snow/hail or blowing a gale I get my outside chores done as quickly as possible, come in, light the fire, have breakfast and begin writing. However, if the weather is ok, I like to ride my horses, and potter about outside. At the risk of sounding a bit bonkers I confess to spending hours sitting with my two pet sheep – Rambo & Sweep, just chilling out and pondering on this and that. I then look at my watch, shriek “OMG where has the time gone!” and rush back into the house.
Tell us about your horses and what you do with them.
I have two horses Apollo and Jassmin. Apollo is a Welsh Cob, chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail. He is twenty now and still very lively. We do dressage competitions together, but our favourite is dressage to music. He loves it. We recently won a dressage to music championship, despite the speakers to the main arena breaking down just as we started our test. I couldn’t hear a thing, but Apollo could, and I just followed his lead.
Jassmin is a ten year old coloured Gypsy Cob, she has blue flecks in her eyes, long white eyelashes and a long flowing mane. On a recent hack a little girl shouted out “Oh look that horse has angel hair!” She also has silky white feathers.
My friend made a short promotional video to promote my novel, and it features Jassmin, looking very windswept. Although she is not typical of a dressage horse she has lovely light paces and does very well in competitions. Our favourite pastime is just hacking out along the many bridleways and lanes.
I also have the pleasure of owning Dylan the donkey. He is fifteen, very loveable and cheeky. Dylan doesn’t really do anything, he just is!!
Do you write full time?
I gave up a career in psychiatric nursing and mental health counselling to renovate an old farmhouse. It took several years and after the work was completed I decided not to go back to that line of work. I felt as if I had moved on and things would not be the same if I went back.
I began to write short stories for magazines, with some success before I decided to concentrate on writing my debut novel. Also by that time I had added to my collection of fluffies and furries, paws and claws, so alongside assisting Chris with his paperwork I find my day is busy enough.
Here’s some info and a review on her book The Seventh Wave….
In the novel deceit, obsessive love, betrayal and murder are threaded alongside the fabric of normal life. Emma is convinced she has found the man of her dreams, until she suspects her lover may have a darker side. Was he a cold, calculated killer or a victim in someone else’s deadly game? Emma believes she will uncover the truth, but are some lies better left undiscovered?
“Beware the Seventh Wave,” begins with Emma rushing to make it to a funeral. Things just haven’t been going her way for a long time. An early morning argument with her husband, Phil, left her feeling exhausted. She over slept and was running late. A quick breakfast from the local eatery drips on her clothing. The weather is gloomy. To just top her day off, she scraps the side of her car trying to enter the cemetery lot. Nothing is going right.
At the funeral, she knew she was going to be running into her ex-boyfriend and his wife, Mark and Alicia. She just wasn’t prepared for the reactions she was going to be experiencing. Seeing Mark brought back feelings that she tried so hard to suppress over the years. But what can you do when you are both married to someone else?
As we all do when we are trying to sort out our lives, Emma is conflicted with her feelings. Instead of checking into a hotel as she originally planned, she returns home to find what can be the most devastating thing ever. Walking in she finds what she’s hoping is a romantic event planned for her only to find her husband in the throes of passions with her friend Katie.
Totally in shock, Emma had the difficult task of trying to sort out her life. Does she fight for her husband and marriage? Does she give up and let the other woman win, again? Is she ready to restart her life all over again? Is there anyone in her life that she can actually trust?
It’s a phone call from Mark, a week after the funeral that sets Emma up for the most drastic and important event in her life. With her marriage failing, she willingly runs to Mark in hopes to help him in a time of need. But will the help that she offers Mark, help her find what she is missing in her?
How can people find your work? (List all your buy links & contact info — this is about promoting you!)
Buy Beware the Seventh Wave by Maureen Gregory on Amazon UK
Maureen Gregory’s Amazon UK Author Page
Book Trailer: Beware the Seventh Wave by Maureen Gregory
Maureen Gregory’s Website – www.maureengregorybooks.com
Maureen Gregory’s Facebook Author Page
Link to Maureen Gregory on Goodreads
Profile name on LinkedIn: Maureen Gregory
Any parting words of wisdom for those writers looking to be published?
If you think you can do it, or you think you can’t – you are absolutely right! It’s all in the mind-literally.
Feel free to include comments, etc.
Just a bit thank you for hosting me on your blog. Happy riding, writing & all the other things that make life worth while FJ!
This entry was posted in Books, Horses, Writing and tagged amazon, Author, barnes & noble, books, British, drama, dressage, ebooks, England, equine, farm, Goodreads, horses, kindle, London, Maureen Gregory, murder, Peak, Peak District, reading, sheep, Solstice, Solstice publishing, suspense, Tennessee, UK.
This time we veer off the romance path and chat with author Crackerberries about living in the south and about her new book Blackhorse 2015 that came out with Solstice Publishing in June. Blackhorse 2015 is a military thriller in which all of the men in the family die tragically and it has to do with a horse.
What is it like where you live? What drew you to that area and how do you feel it effects your writing?
I used to live in Maine. Great state if you like snow. I did growing up and I wouldn’t have wanted to live anywhere else. Now I live in the South and it’s quite a climate change. I love it. I was drawn here by my husband… my high school sweetheart. I believe no matter where you live effects your writing. You just need to use your imagination.
Give us an idea of what a day in your life is like.
A day in the life of Crackerberries…wow. Let’s see I’m up at 4AM usually working on whatever writing project I have going on in my head. Typically there are several. Then I make breakfast and lunch for my Tall Cool Jne and send him off to work. Feed the dog and go back to writing for a few more hours. Then whatever might be waiting for processing in the garden. I do a lot of canning and preserving. In the winter time there are always tons of frozen fruits and veggies that we’ve frozen in the summer that I turn into breads, pies, etc. I’ve always got some project going on in the kitchen as well as on the laptop.
What genre do you write in and why?
Anything controversial…I like it.
Tell us about your book Blackhorse 2015.
Blackhorse 2015 originally was penned Time Ticks & Terror Licks. It came about because two friends of mine, Chip and Jody suggested I write a story about an electro-magnetic pulse. Sometimes when you start writing a subject, it takes on a mind of its own. There is a lot going on in this book and in life, there is always a lot going on. I hope the readers will find something they can relate to and feel like they are in the story themselves as they read it. I think the best thing to take away from a book is to be pondering in thought about the ‘what ifs’.
What gave you the idea to write such a story as this & what inspired you to use horses as a key element in the story?
Blackhorse is a word used for secret codes. In case you hadn’t noticed every letter is different, therefore each letter equals a number. I can’t tell you more than that or I’d have to kill you!
How can people find out more about your writing & blogs? (feel free to include your sales and blog links)
Where to find Crackerberries:
Blackhorse 2015: https://www.facebook.com/Crackerberries.Blackhorse.2015
Crackerberries Kitchen: https://www.facebook.com/CrackerberriesKitchen
General Blog: http://crackerberries.wordpress.com/
Recipes Blog: http://crackerberries.blogspot.com/
Poetry Blog: http://yell-o-dot.blogspot.com/
Any parting words of wisdom for writers that want to be published?
Don’t give all of your secrets away. It is a dog-eat-dog world out there any trust me when I tell you if you are original someone will copy you. Take that as a compliment but be careful about all the secrets you share.
Next time we talk author and dressage rider Maureen Gregory . She has two adorable Cob ponies that are a joy to ride!
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