Episode 22: On Thrillers, Being Active in the Writing Community & Editorial Feedback with Connie Johnson Hambley (Equestrian Author Spotlight Podcast)
Episode 22: Welcome to the Equestrian Author Spotlight podcast! In each episode, you’ll hear inspirational stories from horse book authors including writing advice and marketing tips to help you write your own horse book. If you are an author, aspire to be an author, or simply love horse books then you are in the right place!
In this week's episode, you'll meet Thriller Author Connie Johnson Hambley. You'll learn ...
Watch Connie Johnson Hambley's Interview
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About Author Connie Johnson Hambley
CONNIE JOHNSON HAMBLEY grew up on a New York dairy farm and all would have been idyllic if an arsonist hadn’t torched her family’s barn. A retrospective of the story can be found here.
Bucolic bubble burst, she began to steadfastly plot her revenge against all bad guys, real and imagined. After receiving her law degree, she moved to Boston and wrote for Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Nature, MassHighTech, and other wonky outlets as she honed her skills of reaching readers at a deep emotional level with great research, laser-sharp focus on detail, and persuasive writing. Her high-concept thrillers feature remarkable women entangled in modern-day crimes and walk the reader on the razor’s edge between good and evil. Connie delights in creating worlds where the good guys win–eventually.
Her short stories, Giving Voice and Black Ice won acceptance in Best New England Crime Stories: Windward (2016) and Snowbound (2017), respectively, published by Level Best Books, and The Brew was published by Mystery Weekly magazine. The third book in The Jessica Trilogy, The Wake, joins The Charity and The Troubles. Connie is a two-time winner of Best English Fiction literary award at the EQUUS Film Festival in New York City.
She is president and featured speaker of the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime, a member of Mystery Writers of America, and a board member of New England Crime Bake.e.
Connie Johnson Hambley Interview Excerpt
What is your involvement with horses?
I grew up with six horses and competed in local shows. Sadly, I’m currently a horse-lover without a horse, but get my fix in by being a volunteer horse-handler at a therapeutic riding stable. The experience has been transformative, as I have shared remarkable moments with clients riding independently for the first time and watched powerful emotional breakthroughs made possible through the connection to the horse.
Most recently, I worked with survivors of human trafficking and saw the incredible process of women regaining their sense of personal power through the horse/human interaction. This experience inspired much of THE WAKE’s story as well as a short story in a major crime anthology.
Carly: Tell us about your books.
Connie: THE WAKE is the final book in THE JESSICA TRILOGY and questions if a terrorist is born evil or if life events force a good person to act reprehensibly. How far would you go to protect a loved one?
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.
History gives me plenty to write about both in the U.S. and in the Irelands, so the readers get a bit of armchair travel, too! And horses? Jessica is a consummate equestrian and horses are both her solace and her bane. Oh, and did she get involved with the right guy? I let the readers explore if who you love is more important than how you love. New to the series? No worries, each book is a stand-alone novel with a strong story in its own merits.
Carly: How did you get the idea for the cover of the book?
Connie: What, no horses? That’s true for the front covers. Each book’s cover has specific meaning. For THE CHARITY, the burning barn references not only a devastating event any horse person or farmer would recognize, but also my own family’s history of being the victim of an arsonist. For the second book, a person cannot talk about Ireland’s history without noting involvement of the Church. THE TROUBLES has powerful themes of fate and resurrection, so the Celtic cross was fitting. Finally, the rose is the symbol of a rebellious Ireland and hints at a potent moment in THE WAKE.
Carly: How did you research your novel?
Connie: Irish history and lore behind the Irish Republican Army in Boston informed my story line and my characters. I read an autobiography of Gerry Adams and tried to get inside the mind of a man trying to find peace with a world power. I read psychology books on Post Traumatic Stress and talked with therapists treating physically and emotionally challenged patients. Google Maps and Google Earth helped me with locations I’d never been to, like Northern Ireland, and I confess to using Wikipedia, too!
Carly: What do you think makes your book (or any book) stand out from the crowd?
Connie: My books are mainstream thrillers with an equestrian element, so they are perfect for readers of suspense novels who are looking for something different. They are also perfect for readers of horse books who want to try something new. Readers love my books because they become immersed in a different world. The stories include Irish history, hot romance, thrilling chase scenes, family secrets, and heart aching truths of being human.
Carly: What was your favorite chapter to write and why?
Connie: For my action scenes, Jessica Wyeth captures the grit all equestrians recognize. I mean, gosh, you gotta have nerve if you’re going to ride in a steeplechase at Aintree Racecourse in England as she did in THE TROUBLES, or persevere in being hunted by a deranged killer as in THE CHARITY. In THE WAKE, I had the delicious pleasure of envisioning an escape through the neighborhoods of East Boston on horses stolen from Suffolk Downs Racetrack! Boo yeah!
Each book has scenes I love, but the chapters that capture the extremes of human emotion to life – greed, passion, fear hope – or that highlight the people and the places of world-class competition are my favorites to write. I get to dig down deep into my heart and wrench the words forward to try to capture something that will make my readers weep or rejoice.
Carly: Is there a message in your novels that you hope readers will grasp?
Connie: Definitely. Strength is found through persevering and not giving up. Also, how a person loves is as important as who they love. I made some hard decisions about the men in Jessica’s life and her inner resilience and independence were strengths she grew into.
Carly: What advice can you share that might help aspiring authors?
Connie: I am both traditionally and independently published and there are pluses and minuses with each choice. My writing career started with writing articles for Bloomberg BusinessWeek and morphed to fiction, so my advice is write what you love and success will follow.
Also, networking is really important. I belong to several writing groups and organizations. The biggest is Sisters in Crime, a national organization of mystery and thriller writers. It was begun to promote women authors, but its mission and membership expanded to include men. I’m the President of the New England chapter and love the organization because of the support it offers through online workshops, conferences, and just plain camaraderie. Also, I am co-chair of New England Crime Bake (a major crime writers conference in Boston) and a member of Mystery Writers of America. Writing is a solitary business. Find your tribe.
Carly: What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
Connie: If you write a book you love and are proud of it, then stand strong, girl! I received a huge boost from a reviewer who had all but given up reviewing “horse books” because so many were horrible. She read and reviewed my whole trilogy and called it a “Literary Bombshell” in the best sense of the phrase. Oh yeah. Major happy dance on that one.
An author cannot be all things to all readers. We make decisions for our characters some of our readers will hate and they will let you know through a bad review. Most bad reviews are about the reader. . . not the book. That said, I’m lucky not to have any arrows in my back, but my time will come.
Connect with Connie Johnson Hambley
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About Your Host & Author Carly Kade
Carly Kade is an award-winning equestrian author and the host of the Equestrian Author Spotlight podcast. Creative writing makes her spurs jingle! She writes fiction about horses, horse shows, Western pleasure and a handsome cowboy or two. Her books are for people just like her — crazy about reading, horses and cute cowboys!
In the Reins, the first in Carly's series of novels inspired by the equestrian lifestyle, has been an Amazon best seller for more than 10 weeks, is an EQUUS Film Festival Literary Award Winner for Best Western Fiction and has earned two Feathered Quill Book Awards in the Romance and Adult Book featuring Animals categories. The In the Reins equestrian romance series is available now in Audiobook, Paperback and eBook on Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks and Kobo.
Books by Carly Kade
Carly Kade writes for anyone who loves horses, handsome cowboys and a great romance. Creative writing about horses makes her spurs jingle!