My author friend Tisha Martin’s smashing 5-star Amazon review of “Saddle Tramps” praises how I portray my characters, including horses—their traits and trappings—convincingly.
It is the most lighthearted of my books, where I tested my author’s voice and outlook, explored what role horses would play—I don’t want to be thought only a “horse-book” author, though it paid off for Walter Farley—and uploaded onto the page some dark thoughts, goofy observations and sometimes off-center opinions I’ve developed over the years. I refined these, wove them even more tightly into the story in “Over the Edge”and “Ghost Ranch,” Pepper Kane Mysteries #2 and #3.
Formal Western horse shows are an abiding interest of mine, my area of expertise. Few authors I know of have understood or taken them on. There are some books on cutting, reining and roping. And Carly Kade does portray a trainer specializing in the “arena” Western pleasure, but not in an in-depth detailed way. Perhaps for fear of boring readers. My writer’s critique group keeps me keeping it interesting. Detailing what the rider thinks and feels doing the event, what they’re aiming for, maintains pacing and excitement. Particularly if the horse is a bit bronc-y!
Regarding another tack I take (pun intended), I think relationships, whether human or cross-species, absolutely must be FELT by an author as she writes. Actions, reactions and interactions that appear accurate make a book come alive for a reader. The personality and give-take between my amateur-sleuth and her horse—a thinking, feeling being with instincts that’ve helped it survive for millennia—come from my own experience. I really feel these things in my mind’s eye as I write.
Finally, to answer many an interviewer’s burning question, Pepper and Sonny’s opposite personalities and elusive but electrifying relationship reflects a long-ago love affair of mine that (in the dreamworld) persists to this day! And Pepper, herself, is a lot like me. Former reporter, dancer, cogitator, kidder, nature girl with sometimes expensive tastes. Hello?
Writing all this into a book, and a mystery, at that, while peppering it with believable humor, is daunting. Hell. All writing is scary. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
I think the key to any author’s success lies in fearlessly tapping into one’s true times and personality, warts and all. In fact a few warts, laid bare and shown honestly, can make one’s writing stand out. Hopefully in a good way. In other words, instances/essences of a writer’s actual life “goods” AND “bads,” dreams and disappointments edited and channeled into a book, make her word tapestry unique, fully engage people, and take them on that winning ride. It does help if one is able to walk in another’s boots and live as an empath on some level.
Takeaway? Feel the horse, the mother, the friend, the killer. Put yourself in the alley, onstage or in the arena. Analyze your feelings and thoughts at what’s happening around and to you, ask questions, what you imagine will happe or HAS happened, no matter how seemingly insignificant. Then record it. All of it. You can edit and refine later.
That’s how a writer sucks me into a book and makes me live inside it. That’s what I do when I craft my own books. They become code and a metaphor for real life, past/present, real or imagined. Setting it down lights a way, brings answers. And prepares me for more daring literary exploration.
Yes, books can do that!