Episode 37: On Creating the Best-Selling 20-Book Canterwood Crest Series with Jessica Burkhart (Equestrian Author Spotlight Podcast)
Episode 37: 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 Jessica Burkhart, the author of the best-selling 20-book Canterwood Crest series. You'll learn ...
Watch Jessica Burkhart's Interview on YouTube!
Or listen to the audio only version.
About Jessica Burkhart
Jessica Burkhart is the author of the best-selling 20-book Canterwood Crest series with over 1.5 million copies in print in multiple languages. Her other works include the Unicorn Magic series and the stand-alone YA novel WILD HEARTS. She makes her editorial debut with LIFE INSIDE MY MIND: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles.
Jessica Burkhart Podcast Interview Excerpt
Carly: You're the author of the best-selling 20-book Canterwood Crest horse book series with over 1.5 million copies in print. What led you to start writing this successful series?
Jessica: I heard about this contest called NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month which is a contest for people try to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I thought this could be the next step up for me. I had been freelancing for years. I had about 150 articles published in various magazines and it was great, but I wanted to try my hand at something longer.
When I sat down on November 1st at my laptop, words just started coming out and it turned into the story of a 13 year old girl who left her tiny small hometown in Connecticut to attend an elite boarding school and compete on their equestrian team. That is how the story of Sasha Silver was born and she was doing all of those things with horses that I wished that I could do. Suddenly, I was riding again. What I was doing through Sasha gave me my inspiration, my love, my obsession with horses back.
Carly: Take the Reins, the first Canterwood Crest book, ended up winning NaNoWriMo. How was that experience for you? What opportunities opened up after you actually won the competition and completed the book?
Jessica: Winning NaNoWriMo means that you finished a draft of a book, so when I finished the contest, I blogged that I'd written a horse book and a brand new agent in New York happened to be googling tween horse books. She was actively seeking to build her client list and she stumbled on my blog. I got an email from her and I thought it was a scam, so I went back on the Nano forums and asked some of the published authors if they had heard of this agency and this agent. They told me that she was with one of the top agencies in New York and to send her my manuscript.
It was in January of 2007 that I signed with her as a client and we spent from January until April revising my draft and making it into something that we hoped publishers would want to see. After we spent that time editing it and working on the draft, she decided that is was ready to go in submission. She warned me the process can take a long time, we might not ever get responses back, and if we do they will likely be rejections. She went on submission with it and ten days later I got the phone call. Simon & Schuster wanted to publish it as part of a series of four books, so we signed the contract and that's how it started.
Jessica: We decided how to design the covers. I was so lucky that the publisher decided they wanted to do photographic covers. That meant they
had to hire models and bring in horse models, too. They didn't know anything about horses and they wanted me to come to the photo shoots. I thought it was a dream!
I went to New Jersey and I was lucky enough to meet the model for Sasha and her horse Charm. They shot the first four covers that day. It was a 16-hour day with a crew of about 80 people. They were planting flowers and bought so much tack with them. It was just amazing. I got to meet the faces of the models who would be my characters and that gave me so much inspiration that I went back home and immediately got into the second book.
Atfer the success of the first four books, Simon & Schuster wanted four more, so we repeated that process all over again. We went back to the photo shoots, back copy edits, back to writing, and that process repeated four books at a time all the way up to 20 books.
Jessica: I got an email one day from Breyer, the company that makes the model horses that all horse girls have on our shelves, and they told me they read the Canterwood Crest series and would love to do three models and package them with my books. I thought, WOW, I can't even handle this right now!
They invited me to tour their facilities in New Jersey. I was with the designers. He created a Breyer model in front of me and then signed it. Watching how it's done was mind-blowing and having Breyer models to go with my books is a dream come true. I can't even believe it to this day!
Carly: I imagine there's some legal aspect to that because the books are your intellectual property. How did they approach you about coming to agreement about using your characters to create the Breyer models?
Jessica: Initially, they just pulled my email off of my website and I called my agent right away. Breyer had to get in touch with Simon & Schuster because they own a part of the merchandising rights, so it was just making sure that everything was all correct and legal, but just a fascinating experience. It all led me to going to speak at BreyerFest, which if you haven't been, you should go because BreyerFest is amazing!
Carly: Your other works include the Unicorn Magic series and the standalone YA novel Wild Hearts. Would you tell us about these books?
Jessica: As Canterwood was still happening, I was having more horse ideas and I put together a pitch for a YA novel about a girl whose father is a land developer. He wants to go out west and buy up the land. Instead of letting Mustangs in this area of Wyoming roam free, he wants to drive them out and she wants to stop him. It turned into my first YA novel called Wild Hearts.
Jessica: After Wild Hearts, I wanted to try my hand at something younger, so I wrote a four installment chapter book series called Unicorn Magic and it follows an 8 year old princess who gets her first magical unicorn on her birthday.
Carly: You made your editorial debut with Life Inside My Mind where thirty-one authors share their personal struggles which is a important topic. I know you're passionate about speaking out about the importance of good mental health. Can you tell us about this project?
Jessica: This book is my editorial debut from Simon Pulse. Life Inside My Mind came out in 2018 and it's a collection of 31 authors coming together to talk about anxiety, depression, OCD, suicide, and anorexia in an attempt to make it easier for people to have these conversations. The goal is to let readers know authors go through these things, too. We are just people. We are human.
It is important to me because I've dealt with crippling generalized anxiety and also depression. I want to make sure my readers feel comfortable talking to someone if they need to.
Carly: When you when you first had all of this success and the agent approached you, is there something that you wish you had known back then as a new author?
Jessica: It would be to not to compare myself to everyone else. That was probably the biggest thing. When I moved to Brooklyn and was living near and watching all of these literary stars doing their events and doing their things, I was not feeling good enough. I think I was experiencing impostor syndrome and feeling like I must have gotten lucky. I really shouldn't be here. I'm really not that great. They're going find out that I'm not a good writer and I'm just a fraud, so don't compare yourself. That's so important.
Connect with Jessica Burkhart
Watch the Canterwood Crest Book Trailer
Books by Jessica Burkhart
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Make sure you never miss a show by subscribing on YouTube or Apple Podcasts. This podcast is made possible by listeners like you. I appreciate your support! Thank you for joining us this week on the Equestrian Author Spotlight podcast I hope you enjoy these Q&A sessions with wonderful equine authors who love all things horses and writing just like me.
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About Your Host Carly Kade
Carly Kade is a creativity coach, award-winning independent author, horse owner, and the host of the Equestrian Author Spotlight Podcast. She helps fellow equine authors build, grow, and expand their author careers. Creative writing makes her spurs jingle!
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 book series was written with horse lovers in mind, no matter which discipline they ride, and the horses are as vital to moving the story forward as the human characters are. The books are perfect for poolside reading or taking to the beach.
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!