Thursday, 19 November 2015

Horseback Reads part 2 - writing and the collective consciousness

Yesterday, the seven Horseback Reads authors discussed why they've started up their website. Today, we look at the writing process, and whether being part of a collective makes a difference to how you write. Read on too for what's each author is planning next - the great thing with a collective is that there is always something!

To mark this interview, Tudor Robins' Appaloosa Summer ebook is free (today - 19 November 2015 - only!). You can find it on Amazon UK, and It's a great read (I reviewed it here), so don't miss out.

JB Do you think the website will make any change in the way you write, or in the way you publicise your books?

Mara: It hasn’t changed the way I write … yet. That might come in time. What I love about this group is how often we stay “we.” We publicize the group and each other, which is such a breath of fresh air, and I think we’re stronger for that.

Barbara: No, it won’t change the way I write but I hope Horseback Reads will enhance our ability to achieve visibility.

Kate: I don’t think it will change the way I write, but it has certainly been eye-opening for me in regards to publicising. I’m the laziest person out when it comes to promoting my books – although part of that is not wishing to appear pushy or self-aggrandizing – but already through the group I’ve discovered all kinds of promotional options that I’d never considered or realised existed before! Someone will throw out a promotional opportunity or idea, the rest of us will add our thoughts, and we go from there. The bouncing back and forth of ideas and experiences in a group makes it much less overwhelming – I’m loving learning so much!

Kim: For me it kind of already has. I’m working on a 10,000ish word novelette that takes place before my Show Circuit series begins. The inspiration for writing it was so I could offer it free on the site as a way for new readers to sample my writing and to reward my current readers.

Maggie: Connecting on an almost daily basis with the other writers in our group has filled a need I think we all had. Just being able to hash things out (like plot or an idea you’re not sure will fly) is something you can’t easily do with other writer friends who aren’t horse people. So yes, Horseback Reads has changed my writing life in that very positive way.

Natalie: Conversing with the other writers has given me serious food for thought in my writing, my goals, my marketing strategies – everything to do with writing and publishing. What does the market want, what do my readers want, what do I want? They’re not all the same things. I think in some of our chats, I’ve been pushed to really consider these questions, which can only be good for my future writing.

Tudor: I think it may change my writing – and all of our writing – in the future, because it seems really likely at some point we would do a group project. There aren’t any firm plans for this right now, but it stands to reason a boxed set, anthology, or something similar – either involving all of us, or a subset of us – is probably in our future. Readers should let us know if there’s anything like that they’d like to see!

JB: Does it help to have other authors around you who write about similar things?

Mara: It’s definitely inspirational! I’m the newbie author of the group, so I love being around fellow horse lover authors who have been at this much longer. I’ve learned so much from them. Frankly, I’m not sure I’d be doing this today without Maggie’s encouragement. So being in a group of authors like this, young as it is, has been a great education.

Barbara: It’s definitely interesting to hear others speak up; relate their experience in publishing, writing and the horse world.

Kate: The thing with horses is that everyone brings their own experiences to the table, and we all see the world slightly differently, and have our own ideals and pet peeves in the horse industry. I have a book in progress which will be partially set in Florida, a state I’ve never been to, but I now have two fellow HBR authors who are well-versed in the Florida show circuit to help me out with details, which will be very helpful in getting the details spot on!

Kim: Yes, yes, yes. It’s just like anything – you want a group of people to be able to talk with about what you’re doing. Whether that’s being a new mom, being a working mom, having a sick parent … whatever it is you want to develop a network of friends who get what you’re doing because they’re living it themselves. They’re there to celebrate with you when you finish a book, cheer you up when you get a not-so-great review, and to bounce ideas off of. Maybe we’re kind of like a horse writers support group?

Maggie: Love Kim’s last comment – a horse writers support group! Writing is a lonely sport and we all need propping up now and then.

Natalie: Absolutely – having fellow writers to chat with regularly has given me a push in my writing. It’s rejuvenating and gives me a burst of energy to put words down when I’m tired and looking for excuses to get out of working. It’s good to have a team, especially when your work is by definition very solitary.

Tudor: Of course! It’s great to be reminded how diverse the horse world is. Our group has expertise with horse racing, high level hunter / jumper, very basic level schooling work, groundwork / join up, etc. It’s a reminder we can branch out and write about horses in so many ways and most horse readers like all stories about horses – regardless of discipline – so there are really no limits.

JB: What plans do you have for your writing?

Mara: Onward and upward! I’m planning the second instalment in the Stay the Distance trilogy and a new novel just got shipped off to the editors literally yesterday. My plan is to write two books next year, one horse novel and one, well, not. Wish me luck!

Barbara: Bittersweet Farm 12 is currently being written, then I have another project that isn’t horse related that I’ll do.

Kate: I want to do more, but life keeps getting in the way! I was extremely prolific over the winter, but now that it’s spring in New Zealand and the show circuit and Pony Club season have both started up again, I haven’t had as much spare time to write as I did when the days were shorter and my weekends were free. I thought I had combated the problem by cutting my full-time job back to part-time, giving myself one day ‘off’ each week to write, but the moment I did that I got offered a part-time sub-editing job for a national equestrian magazine, which is now eating up my evenings! I love it though, and will just have to get up earlier, or spend less time on Facebook …

Kim: As I mentioned, I’m working to get the “novelette” out for the holidays. That will be perma-free. I’m also working on book #3 in the Show Circuit series, Hunter Derby.

Maggie: I’m part way through Timber Ridge Riders #13, High Stakes, and madly thinking up yet more adventures and traumas to inflict upon my long-suffering characters! To be honest, when I began this series almost four years ago, I never expected it to go much beyond four or five books, so finding myself with twelve already published (plus the prequel) is a marvelous surprise.

Natalie: I’m in the middle of rewrites on Pride, the sequel to Ambition, which is the further adventures of Jules in Eventing Land. After that, I’ll be working on her next novel, along with a new equestrian project set in central Florida’s beautiful Kissimmee River basin, where cattle ranches and cowboys far outnumber show barns (and I don’t think there’s enough dry land in one place for a training track!).

Tudor: I’m frantically re-writing Join Up – book three in the Island Series (notice I’m calling it a series now – I don’t actually think this is the last book, so it’s no longer a trilogy). I’ve also started into the second book of my Downhill Series – Touch the Snow – you read the title here first. And I have about half-a-million more projects stacked up in my brain.

JB: What's the most recent book you've published?

Mara: Stay the Distance.

Barbara: Bittersweet Farm 11: Partial Stranger

Kate: Pony Jumpers 5: Five Stride Line

Kim: Winter Circuit

Maggie: Timber Ridge Riders 12: Something Royal

Natalie: Show Barn Blues

Tudor: Wednesday Riders (horse book) / Fall Line (ski book)

JB: If you could recommend one of your books for someone who hasn't read you before, what would it be?

Mara: It would be awesome if I had more than one novel to recommend! My second novel is slated for a February 2016 release, but in the meantime Stay the Distance is out in the world. It’s got horse racing, dressage, a goofball colt, and a dash of romance. That’s pretty much how I roll.

Barbara: Start with Bittersweet 1: Mounted, definitely, then read the entire series. Since it’s coming up to the holiday season, I recommend a short story titled Jingles All the Way, about a mastiff puppy who is carrying a secret even he doesn’t know about.

Kate: Dare to Dream is still the stable favourite, and I think it’s a good introduction into my book world (all of my books are intertwined). My personal favourite is the sequel, Dream Onbut it’s always a good idea to start with book 1 in a series! I recently announced that I am working on a third book to round out the trilogy, and Dream Once More will hopefully be out for Christmas 2016. In the meantime I am cracking on with the Pony Jumpers series, and hope to have book 6 Six to Ride out shortly.

Kim: It depends on their age. I have two YA books and so for younger readers I’d suggest they start with The Perfect Distance. This was my first horse book I ever wrote. It was published by Random House in 2005 (with a horrible cover). I got the rights back a few years ago and put out an updated version an e-book (with a new cover). In a few weeks I’ll have the updated version available in paperback. It’s 10 years since the book first came out so that’s kind of cool timing. For more mature readers, I’d recommend the first book in my Show Circuit series, Summer Circuit.

Maggie: Years ago (like 30!) when I wrote the original four books that Timber Ridge is based on, I was told by a children’s editor to always make each book stand on its own when writing a series, especially for kids. So I have. There’s enough carefully placed back story sprinkled throughout each of my books to help a new reader know immediately what’s going on even if they haven’t read the book that went before it. That said, though, I would still recommend that new readers start with book #1, Keeping Secrets, or even the prequel (free at all online e-booksellers), Kate and Holly: The Beginning.

Natalie: If readers like horse racing, they’ll want to read my horse racing series, Alex and Alexander. That being said, they can start wherever they want! The Head and Not The Heart opens the series, but if they want to dive straight into a racing novel with lots of training and racing, the second novel Other People’s Horsesis a good choice. If racing isn’t quite their thing, Show Barn Blues will have people, horses, and boarding-stable situations every equestrian can relate to.

Tudor: Pretty simple – if you’re after horse books, start with Appaloosa Summer. Then you can move to Wednesday Riders, and Join Up will be out by the time you’ve read the first two!

Thank you very much, Horseback Reads. 

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

A library of authors? A paragraph of authors? I talk to Horseback Reads. All of them.

Horseback Reads is a website set up by Tudor Robins, Maggie Dana, Kate Lattey, Barbara Morgenroth, Kim Ablon Whitney, Mara Dabrishus and Natalie Keller Reinert. I've read, and thoroughly enjoyed, books by most of them, with Barbara Morgenroth and Mara Dabrishus still bubbling away on my to be read list.

Writing tends to be something solitary, so I was intrigued by the idea of a group that exists for horsy books, having myself been a member of writing groups that I felt had nothing very much to do with how I actually worked, let alone thought. Today, we talk about what the website is for, and how it came about. Come back tomorrow for part two of the interview, which talks about the writing process and how being in a group affects it.

Another good reason for coming back tomorrow is that Horseback Reads are kindly doing a freebie of one of their author's books to coincide with part 2, so don't miss out!

And on with the questions....

JB: What made you decide to start up your website? (or what made you decide to join in once you were invited?)

Mara: Tudor sent out an e-mail to all of us at once with this amazing idea, and I didn’t even have to think about it. I said yes immediately, because I wanted to be involved with these talented authors. Also, deep down as a reader, I’ve wanted a website like this where I could find great horse books. I just never knew I’d be a part of it!

Barbara: Last year someone suggested to me that we writers of equestrian fiction needed a central website. No one seemed interested. This summer I approached Tudor with the idea and she loved it. She took on the task of creating the website, while I did support graphics.

Kate: I received Tudor’s email and immediately thought ‘What a great idea!’ I had already reached out to some of the group members individually (or they had reached out to me) after reading and enjoying each other’s work, so it was a no-brainer for me to get more involved.

Kim: I was so thrilled to be invited to be in the group. I think my immediate response to the idea was “Heck, ya, I’m in!” While Tudor has done the bulk of the work setting up and promoting the site, it’s nice in that we each can chip in using our connections or skills.

Maggie: Having seen another multi-author web site fail to get off the ground, I was a little skeptical at first. But I have been happily proved wrong. This group is dedicated and focused (and fun) and I’m thrilled to be a part of it, and I love being able help out with a few simple graphics as well.

Natalie: I’d been playing with a similar idea for a long time. I just never felt like I had the time to coordinate with other writers and make it happen. I’m really grateful that Tudor stepped up to the plate and organized such a wonderful stable of writers!

Tudor: It just seemed like the logical next step from all of us talking and sharing and helping each other. There were often times in the past where we would send an email to this group, asking for advice or feedback. And, I think we were often recommending each other’s work to our readers. This makes everything much easier – if a reader wants a recommendation, we can just send them to the site. And we email each other most days – sometimes just to vent, share, or laugh, in addition to getting advice.

JB: Why do you think it will be good for your readers?

Mara: Horseback Reads provides readers a place to find new content and connect not just with one author, but seven. It gives them ready options to pick up another book when previously they’d have to go sifting through Amazon or Goodreads to look for the good stuff.

Barbara: It’s a smart solution in the Internet Age. We’re all in one place and readers don’t have to go searching for us or miss one of us.

Kate: It’s a one-stop shop for people looking for equestrian reads. Just today, someone in a horse-centric Facebook group posted “Any recommendations for good horsey reads?” I’m always a bit shy about leaping in there and blowing my own trumpet, so it was a great opportunity for me to say “Go check out Horseback Reads! We have piles of books suitable for all ages, and some are free!” I immediately got great feedback from people, so hopefully they checked out the site and found it helpful.

Kim: I’m always wishing I could write faster … readers are always asking for the next book. I feel the same way about authors I like to read. This way we can all point readers to a place where they can learn about other great authors writing horse books and read descriptions, samples, and freebies to see if they want to try a new author.

Maggie: Echoing Kim … When you don’t have a new release coming up right away, it’s far more positive to be able to point readers at Horseback Reads rather than telling them they will “just have to be patient!”

Natalie: Readers look to their favorite authors for book recommendations. Horseback Reads brings together writers who share my goals as an equestrian author, so my readers now have an easy source for new books they’ll love.

Tudor: I echo what everyone else has said, and would like to emphasize, we can be shy / feel awkward about pushing our own books, and we can sometimes be really busy and it can be hard to send a reader a link to somebody else’s book. This way the information is all there and we feel happy providing it because we’re boosting other people up – not just ourselves.

JB: What plans / hopes do you have for the website?

Mara: We’re so new, but we’re bursting with ideas and chattering about them almost every day. Already we’ve started to implement some of those ideas – a book club, for starters – and my hope is that we’ll continue to draw readers in with these activities. Maybe, eventually, we’ll even start publishing together.

Barbara: I hope we’ll be able to reach beyond the Internet, into the barns and horse show where there are, sadly, still many riders who don’t realize the great books they’re missing.

Kate: I would love for us to become a destination site for people looking for good reads. We are still finding our feet, but there is already heaps of great information on the site and plenty of books to choose from. I think the strength of the website is the group atmosphere, so the more things that we can do in collaboration, the stronger we will become.

Kim: I’m really excited about our blog. I just contributed a post and I really enjoyed writing it. I love that we can write about writing, horses, or the combination of the two. I hope we can all find the time to write more blogs and offer readers a glimpse inside our daily lives.

Maggie: Barb nailed it – reaching beyond the web and finding readers where they’re more likely to hang out, i.e. the barn, at clinics, and shows. On the one hand, we’re lucky because we all write for a targeted group of readers – horse people of various ages – but it’s also limiting because most of them have extraordinarily busy lives and what reading time they have is often devoted to non-fiction, about horses of course. I think that, given time, Horseback Reads will provide them an easy way to find our fiction.

Natalie: I’m hopeful we can take this brand out into the real world. We can begin with engaging our readers online, but I don’t think it should end there. I want to get out to the barns and hang out by the arena and talk horse books with people!

Tudor: I hope we can keep having fun. I’ve already met so many new readers and the book club is a good example – we, in no way, planned that ahead of time. It was more like “hey, we could do this – right? Couldn’t we?” and nobody said “no” so we did. Sometimes you have those ideas on your own, and you’re not sure how sound they are. If you get seven other people saying “Great idea! I’m in!” chances are it’s got legs.

Thank you very much, Horseback Reads. Come back tomorrow for part two, where I ask the authors about how they write, and how the group has changed what they do. 

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Me, me, me

The lovely Vanessa Robertson has interviewed me over on her blog, and you can read it here.

Hannah Hall Photography