Put your spurs on and get excited because equestrian author, Carly Kade, was lovely enough to do an interview with me for Bridle & Bone. You may have heard of Carly, who is the award-winning author of In the Reins. If you haven’t read it, go out and do so today. You won’t want to put it down!
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Chatting with Carly Kade about Horses and Writing
Q: How long have you been writing?
A: I have always enjoyed creative writing, but I never set out to be an author of equestrian fiction. It just kind of happened when cowboy/horse trainer McKennon Kelly showed up as a poem. That poem ended up being the intro to In the Reins. Then 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.
Q: Do you receive inspiration for your characters from your personal life?
A: Of course! My history with horses is definitely a reason why other horse lovers have been drawn to the book. I know what it feels like to enter a show pen and be nervous or to be stuck with my horse’s training. And, I know what it feels like to swoon over a cute cowboy. Ha!
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. In the Reins is a product of my imagination, but the insights are based on my experiences with horses.
One similarity between the leading lady of In the Reins and me is our unabashed love for horses. There’s no place I’d rather be than spending time with my horse. Just like Devon, I’m happiest when I am in the saddle.
As I wrote Devon’s story, a big difference between us unfolded as her character became far more risky in the saddle (and in love) than I think myself to be. Like it says in Devon’s intro video from my “Meet the Characters” series on YouTube, she is a little bit of a train wreck. Devon talks to herself in her mind a lot. I try to go about my day as clear-minded and present as possible. It isn’t always easy, but thanks to meditation I like to think I definitely have a quieter mind than Devon does!
Then there’s McKennon. My heart was a flutter as I created him. Cowboy McKennon Kelly comes from the part of me that is in love with love. As I turned my words into a man, I took the best from the ones I once knew (and those I still know), the ones I’ve read about in my favorite books, all the ones I’ve imagined, and mixed those qualities with all the things I wish men could be then sprinkled in a little of what I imagined a cowboy who can make the eight on the back of a raging bull would be like.
Q: What is your favorite part about writing?
A: The best part about writing is the opportunity to create stories that make people feel.
Before I am a writer, I am a reader. I read just about everything … non-fiction and fiction, but I am a sucker for a good romance. I know how I feel when I get lost in books and I wanted to write a book perfect for getting lost in.
Chapters that end with cliffhangers keep me hooked and saying “oh just a few more pages.” I intentionally write my books with short chapters, and I make sure when the chapter ends I’d want to turn the page.
I love hearing in reviews that readers are staying up into the wee hours of the night to finish In the Reins. So many people have told me they finished it in a day. I LOVE BOOKS like that and am so happy that I’ve been able to write that kind of book for my readers.
Q: How did you first meet your Paint mare, Sissy? Was it love at first sight?
A: When I graduated college, I landed my dream job in the music industry as a Marketing Representative for one of the biggest music distribution companies in the world. I decided to try on a career in New York City. Heartbreakingly, I knew the city was no place for a horse and found my childhood horse her next home.
Through the years, I went on to work as an Artist Development Representative for Sony and Universal Music. I met a lot of rock stars, pop stars and all sorts of talent in between. I saw hundreds of live concerts. It was one of the most amazing times of my young adult life, but something was missing for me in the city, something never felt quite right because there wasn’t room for a horse in an NYC apartment … there was barely room for me!
After several years of big city living, I accepted a promotion that took me back to my home state, Michigan. I was determined to own a horse again. There I found Sissy. It was indeed love at first sight!
Sissy is the one I always dreamed of owning. She is a registered Paint mare, and her registered name is Im Gonna Kiss You which couldn’t be closer to the truth. She is the most loving horse I’ve ever known and has been the inspiration for Faith in the In the Reins series.
I became Sissy’s owner when she was young and did a lot of her training myself (with the help of a good coach and a lot of horse training books) so the lessons learned through those experiences helped bring Faith’s training to life in the book. Sissy and I share a very close bond much like Devon Brooke and Faith do. Sissy is a lot like Faith because she is forever forgiving of my equestrian mishaps and loves me unconditionally.
If you’ve taken a tour of my website or followed me on my Carly Kade Creative Facebook page, you’ll notice Sissy stands in as Faith in my promotional videos for In the Reins. I do all the marketing for the book so it helps to have my own horse to work with as I film the footage.
Q: Tell us a little about being an equestrian in Arizona.
A: Everything about Arizona inspires me from seeing the bronze horse statues everywhere especially in Old Town Scottsdale to the vibrant horse culture that is available to equestrians here. The Western way of life is alive and well in Arizona. I love that no one blinks an eye when they see me walking around town in my cowgirl boots and spurs!
I board my horse right down the street from the legendary Westworld at a picture perfect ranch nestled between mountain ranges. It seems like there’s a horse-related event every weekend somewhere.
Arizona is the kind of place I dreamed about as a girl growing up in Michigan. The scenery is so breathtaking that I’m inspired every single time I saddle up, drive to the barn or take a walk.
When I arrived in Arizona, I knew that it was going to be my forever home. The best part is you can ride year round here. I don’t miss the cold one bit!
Q: How do you manage work, writing, and horsing around?
A: It isn’t always easy! There’s a lot of heavy lifting involved in getting a dream underway. I am responsible for running my own business, Carly Kade Creative, and that includes so many different facets from time management (like actually finding the time to write!) to deadlines to running promotions to generating publicity to website development to creating marketing materials to attending events to running social media channels to writing a blog to publishing my books and so much more. Sometimes I think my head might spin. LOL.
In addition, I have a “real” job as well as a patient spouse, 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.
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.
I am really proud of the creative life I’m inventing for myself!
Q: You recently revealed your cover for the sequel, Cowboy Away. What are you most excited for readers to learn about McKennon Kelly when the sequel is released?
A: In the sequel, readers will start exactly where the first book left off, meet new human and horse characters along the way while taking a deep dive into cowboy McKennon Kelly’s dark past. I’m excited for readers to explore the entire backstory of Cowboy McKennon Kelly (and the whole Green Briar Bunch) in Cowboy Away.
Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? I can’t wait for readers to read the book to find out!
Q: Was it easier to write the sequel than the first book?
A: It is always a challenge balancing a corporate life with a creative one, but I found writing Cowboy Away a little easier because I had already written a book. I think getting the first book written is always the toughest because your mind can play tricks on you.
The secret was sticking to the morning writing routine that I established while writing In the Reins. Having scheduled time for my creativity really helped move the sequel 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.
Q: Did you do anything different when writing Cowboy Away?
A: I don’t always know where my characters are going to take me. I let them lead and write their journey down as it comes. I don’t force a twist or a turn. My character development just comes naturally when I tap into that special zone and let my heart (and the characters) guide the writing.
In the Reins began with the poem about McKennon Kelly, then I wrote the ending of the book first, and from there I wrote chapter by chapter in order. Writing Cowboy Away was SO different. I let the book lead me, and it had me jumping all over the place! One day I would be working on page 14 and then the next I’d be on page 101. The book came to me in pieces because every member of the Green Briar bunch had a story to share.
Q: How many books do you plan for the series?
A: I am having so much fun with the journey this series is taking me on. McKennon and Devon’s story definitely continues. Cowboy Away, the sequel, will be released in 2017. (*Note from Heather- Cowboy Away was released on November 26,2017!)
The crazy thing is that the third book featuring the characters has been bucking up a storm in my mind. It is starting to take shape, and I am already 30,000 words in.
Also, I’ve learned that there are a lot of JD McCall fans out there so I’m developing a novella that tells the tale of my bull riding heartthrob, too! Readers can anticipate at least 4 books in the In the Reins series.
Q: What would you like aspiring equestrian authors to know most?
A: Follow your dream!
I’ve found that when something seems scary it’s usually the path I need to take. If I had one piece of advice to offer writers on getting a book written I would have to steal a page from Nike’s playbook and say, “Just do it!” I sometimes wonder if I’ll have anything to write when I sit down to my morning writing sessions but then I JUST DO IT and the words magically come.
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. We are stronger working together to expose this “niche” genre of ours.
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.
Here’s to horse books!
Q: What has been your most effective marketing strategy?
A: I’ve had a lot of fun with my “Meet the Characters“ video series on YouTube. As I prepare to publish the sequel, I’ll be introducing readers to more short video intros debuting the newest additions to my cast of characters in the In the Reins series.
I know I’m excited to read more about McKennon Kelly when Cowboy Away is released later this year. I hope this interview has helped you learn more about Carly Kade’s writing process and maybe, even given you a little inspiration.
Visit Carly on the following websites and social media handles:
*This post was previously published on Bridle & Bone, September 13, 2017.