Episode 39: On Jousting, Rebranding Book Covers & Kickstarter Funding with J.D. Harrison (Equestrian Author Spotlight Podcast)
Episode 39: 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 Gallant Hearts series author J.D. Harrison. You'll learn ...
Watch J.D. Harrison's Interview on YouTube!
Or listen to the audio only version.
About Author J.D. Harrison
Like most authors, J.D. Harrison wrote a lot of stories as a kid. She even had some promise as an advanced English student, flourishing in creative writing classes. But horses are her one true love, so J.D.'s studies and career focused on them for most of her adult life.
J.D. traveled all across the United States working with and learning about horses as individuals and as a collective. There’s little she hasn't dabbled in, though most of her work focused on caring for the horses rather than competing herself.
In 2015, J.D. decided to bite the bullet and give NaNoWriMo a shot. Her intent was to elaborate on a snippet she had written decades ago, using her experience with the jousting community to really flesh things out.
J.D.'s main character, Josephine Bowen, quickly took the reins, which resulted in 120k words written in one month, and one heck of a writing hangover. Josephine, and the jousting company she is a part of, have kept J.D. busy ever since. At least when she's not at the barn, because horses will ALWAYS come first.
J.D. Harrison Podcast Interview Excerpt
Carly: Tell us how your love affair with horses began.
J.D.: Quintessential horse crazy girl with parents that hoped I would grow out of it. My grandma and uncle had Arabians, and kept nurturing the spark whenever they could. My earliest memory was at three years old, sitting on the back of a rain-soaked broodmare with a fistful of mane while my uncle led her in from the pasture. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Carly: Tell us about your furry friends.
J.D.: I currently have one equines of my own. My heart horse, Smoke, a very rare Canadian Horse (Le Cheval Canadien). He is solid black, 22 this year, and genuinely the closest a horse can ever get to acting like a dog without loosing his dignity. I met him while working for a commercial carriage driving company, and when the company downsized, he came home with me.
I also manage a very large herd of Morgan horses, including a world champion stallion who deserves to be bred more. He’s gorgeous, a complete doll and an absolute people pleaser.
My other love is my dog, Cherry, a foster fail that made it her job to be the best dog I’ve ever had. She’s a Rhodesian Ridgeback cross that can run like the wind and then cuddle like a pro.
Carly: Do you have any stories that people would find interesting or entertaining about your writing or your horse background?
J.D.: Far too many to chose from! It’s been fun writing bits and pieces into my novels, keeping the memories alive in print. This way, the great horses, dogs and people are immortalized, even if no one knows their names.
Carly: You have over a decade of experience squiring at a championship tourney, and a long-term love affair with all things medieval and renaissance, you love bringing to life the unorthodox culture of jousters and their horses. Tell us how you got into jousting, what it means to squire a tourney, and how it all has inspired your books.
J.D.: In 2004, my husband took me to the highland games. I have been an aficionado of renaissance faire since high school, watching many jousts, from theatrical to realistic, but never wanted to approach the troupes while they worked the crowd. They had work to do. But at this event I was able to go back to the barns and meet the knights without the adoring fans looking for autographs and selfies. Or more importantly, their horses.
I felt strongly pulled toward a Percheron stallion named Dragon, and enjoyed watching horse and rider truly revel in their work. When I approached the knight in the barn, he was larger than life but very friendly, and appreciated my admiration for his best friend, Dragon. I offered to help brush horses down, and by the end of the day, was as in love with the passionate people of jousting as I was their noble steeds.
From that point on, I’ve been working with them at that tournament, and sometimes as they travel. Being a squire is basically any kind of support position. My squiring focuses on making sure the horses are well cared for, while my husband is usually the one helping the knights with their armor, though we both pitch in wherever we are needed.
Brushing elbows with people of such passion lights you up, if you let it, and makes you honest with your own passions. Being able to combine horses and writing with the massive dynamic of jousting and renaissance faires is now MY passion.
Carly: Tell us more about the Gallant Hearts series!
J.D.: Gallant Hearts follows the adventures of The Gallant Company of Knights, a fictional full contact jousting troupe that travels the country with their horses.
They are epic length romance novels full of adventure, character growth, and moments that every horse person will feel as if they were there. The first four books stick with one couple and their horses, though you do spend plenty of time getting attached to the other characters too.
The books that follow focus on other knights in the Company as they figure out that falling hard applies to far more than their jousting.
Carly: Your bio states that keeping chivalry and romance alive will never grow old. Tell us about your thoughts on both.
J.D.: I’m a fan of the romance genre. I can devour several romance novels in a day if I have the leisure time. But I grew incredibly frustrated with tropes that claim a strong heroine, only to have her weaken herself once she has a love interest. So I started writing the heroes and heroines I liked, ones that were even stronger together. And for those of us who have fallen in love with horses, well, I wanted to give light to that romance too.
As for chivalry, I don’t just mean fellows who open doors for their ladies, though that’s all well and good. I mean the knightly ideals of fighting for what is right, standing up for others. Ideals like brotherhood, faith and devotion, even when we falter. They are seeds we can plant in our fiction so that it will continue to grow in ourselves and our readers.
Carly: Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
J.D.: I spend most of my time at the barn, so it really depends on how much energy I have at the end of the day. In a perfect world, I would come home from work, eat dinner, sleep for a few hours, then get up at eleven and write. I’m much more mentally focused and productive at night.
Carly: Which do you prefer independent or traditional publishing?
J.D.: I am an independent publisher all the way, and while it can sometimes be a struggle to do it all myself, I wouldn’t trade it. The freedom is too addictive. Some of my short stories have been sold to anthologies and I currently am working with a party on a series of illustrated books, all unrelated to Gallant Hearts.
Carly: How do you reach your readers?
J.D.: Mostly Facebook. While I like my author page, most of the good stuff happens on the Gallant Hearts Fan Group. I love the relationships we can create, and reader enthusiasm is vital to my creativity. While a lot of authors are introverts, I am an extrovert (and probably too empathetic for my own good), so I thrive on being part of a community with my readers.
Carly: Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
J.D.: To borrow a phrase from my all time favorite author, Mercedes Lackey, “There is no one true way.” Find the way that works for you. Ask the other authors in your circle, give things a shot until something resonates with you.
I am horrid at marketing in a traditional sense but enjoy selling at shows. I also bank on reader relationships now that I have enough enthusiastic fans willing to spread the word when I run a free promo on Amazon. I know I’m pitching to a very niche audience, so I focus more on retention of fans that worrying about how fast I’m finding new ones.
Carly: What is the hardest part about being an author?
J.D.: Editing. Always editing. Oh, and I will forever hate numbering pages when I format my books for print. LOL I look forward to the day I can pay someone else for the formatting.
Carly: What is the best part about being an author?
J.D.: Writing. Pouring the emotions out in a furious rush that leaves you wrung out in a corner at the end. Or even the days when you have to pry words out of the dusty corridors of your mind. There is absolutely nothing like it.
Carly: What do you wish you had known when you started out?
J.D.: That it’s okay to suck. That good authors want you to be a good author too. I wouldn’t have come this far without the support of some amazing authors that had already walked the road I was on. Now, I enjoy helping others the same way. That someone somewhere NEEDED to read what I wrote, not just me.
Carly: What is the one common myth about our profession or field that you want to debunk?
J.D.: That anyone can do it. It’s not that people don’t have books in them. I know plenty of people that do. But not just anyone is going to have the kind of crazy it takes to put your own life on hold just so you can bring your character’s story to life. It’s an act of sacrifice, because you are giving the one gift that can never be returned- your time. Time that I often steal from other things I love, including my husband.
Carly: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
J.D.: FINISH THE BOOK. Edit later. Fix it later. Fill in blanks and lulls later. Just finish the book. So many people focus on perfection until they stall out.
Carly: What might a reader be surprised to learn about you?
J.D.: I tend to crave my heroine’s favorite foods. The characters will often pipe up in the middle of something I’m doing to point at things they like or that remind them of something in their story, even if I don’t know how it will fit in until later. And I write on my phone a lot.
Carly: What are you curious about right now?
J.D.: For the current WIP, I’m spending a lot of time studying rock drummers, belly dance moves and parrots.
Connect with J.D. Harrison
Books by J.D. Harrison
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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!