Horses’ gentle but powerful, and seemingly inexplicable, healing influence on humans thrills me. I can’t imagine anything more satisfying than writing on—sharing—a topic that feels almost magical yet is so real.”
How did you discover that you were a writer?
As early as I can remember, I was one of those kids with a flashlight under my pillow, writing stories or poems instead of sleeping. My 7th grade English teacher wanted to publish a poem I wrote about Dr. Zhivago’s ice palace. I declined; I disagreed with the two revisions he wanted me to make. Thankfully I grew out of that idea!!
Describe your writing process.
In the past several years, I’ve found I’m nearly always writing in my head—at concerts, doing dishes, on the bus, in bed (still)—and scribbling it somewhere, but mostly I write at the dining table starting during breakfast. I’m afraid I’m a binge sort. I really dislike to stop and start, so love creating long stretches so I can get right into it—hours or days at a time. I’m not sure if what I do is considered outlining per se: I start out just going for it, jot notes of who might do what and when, to get a feel for overall balance, then that suggests new ideas so I change it all, let it happen, and rarely check my early notes. With My View of the Bright Moon I wrote the entire first and penultimate chapters before anything else.
I love fiction you learn something from and authors whose research you can trust. So I spent a lot of time on my own accuracy—from portraying the progress of Alzheimer’s, to the anatomy of horses, to when the spring peeper frogs chorus in Ludington, MI. When writing’s tough for any reason, doing research means the project still progresses. It helps get past a block and inspires.
What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?
The wisdom and beauty and strength of horses. Years ago in New Zealand I was utterly charmed by researching, then experiencing, then training in equine-assisted therapy. Horses’ gentle but powerful, and seemingly inexplicable, healing influence on humans thrills me. I can’t imagine anything more satisfying than writing on—sharing—a topic that feels almost magical yet is so real. And actually changes lives and outlooks; it’s found in 50 countries and there are versions of it specifically serving veterans and military families.
Growing up with four brothers, seeing how often they struggled to deal with painful issues and relationships, I wanted this story to have a male focus, to possibly reach men—even if it’s initially via female readers. Thus, the fictional brothers, Kyle and Joe, who Waterline listeners will meet on Sunday night.
What are you working on now?
I have two very different novels roughly drafted. ‘What if … ‘ can be described as magical realism in which the Universe very temporarily and very individually offers Earth’s inhabitants (focused on two best friends in particular) a chance to see the role of gratitude in their lives. The other, ‘Water,’ is the story of the sole survivor of a tragedy who develops a debilitating phobia, what she learns from those who work to bring her back from the trauma, and the ripple effect of that new knowledge.
What was the last great thing you read by another author?
I can’t name the very excellent A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole) because I’m still reading it. So I have to name a tie: The language of Flowers (Vanessa Diffenbaugh) for mixing a heartbreaking story with breathtaking innocence; and The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise (Julia Stuart) for her word choices, quirky characters, and somehow making it both poignant and hilarious.
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which writer, dead or alive, do you invite?
Only one? John Steinbeck first came to mind, but I’d be so intimidated, I’d hide in the kitchen. So I’d ask Barbara Kingsolver to discuss anything she’s ever written or Vicki Constantine Croke because I’ll never forget Elephant Company.