Episode 50: On Training Racehorses, Writing About Backstretch Life & Music with Dawn LeFevre (Equestrian Author Spotlight Podcast)
Episode 50: 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 Backstretch Girls author Dawn LeFevre. You'll learn ...
Watch Dawn LeFevre's Interview on YouTube!
or listen to the audio only version.
About Dawn LeFevre
Dawn LeFevre began working on the backstretch of Atlantic City Racecourse at the age of sixteen. After graduating from Cook College of Rutgers University with a B.S. in Animal Science, she spent the next thirteen years training and racing horses in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
She is the author of the novel Backstretch Girls. Her fiction and nonfiction short pieces have been published in Equus, Weird NJ, the Pacific Coast Journal and The Press of Atlantic City.
She lives in South Jersey with her husband Mark, Australian Shepherd Domino and two cats, Lynx and Tribble.
Dawn LeFevre Podcast Interview Excerpt
Carly: Tell us how your love affaire with horses began.
Dawn: My mother was a horse lover and huge racing fan and it rubbed off on me. Every Saturday for as long as I can remember we’d watch the NYRA racing show plus all the big races on Wide World of Sports. We didn’t have much money so I mucked stalls at local stables in exchange for riding lessons.
Carly: You’ve been involved in horse racing and racehorse training for much of your life. Tell us about what is like riding a racehorse and training them!
Dawn: Riding a racehorse is like riding a roller coast, it’s fun and exhilarating to be going so fast, but in the back of your mind, you’re just hoping not to fall off. I was a much better trainer than rider. I loved everything about training, from breaking yearlings to developing training regimens and choosing races for my horses. While training can be frustrating at times, there’s nothing like the feeling of watching one of my “problem children” turn for home five lengths in front of the field.
Carly: What led you to the author life? Why do you write?
Dawn: I’ve written stories for as long as I can remember and loved my English and creative writing classes. Then in college, I started writing weekly music reviews for heavy metal albums (it was the 80’s). Eventually I had some articles and short stories published and it just grew from there. I write because I love creating characters. My characters are my friends and I’m always a little sad whenever I finish a book or story; it feels like my best friend has moved far away.
Carly: What excites you about writing horse books?
Dawn: That I get to relive all those wonderful years on the track and honoring the amazing horses that I’d loved and trained.
Carly: Tell us about your book Backstretch Girls.
Dawn: Backstretch Girls is set in the 1980’s and tells the story of Teagan and Anne, two young women trying to survive in the male dominated sport of horse racing. Teagan is a headstrong, kick-butt pony girl but is viewed as a loser by her family of Olympic equestrians. Anne is similar to me in that she grew up poor and had to slave at a stable to ride. She dreams of being the first woman jockey to win the Derby. The book centers on their friendship, the hardships they face and the remarkable Thoroughbreds that touch their lives.
Carly: What makes Backstretch Girls different from other horse racing novels?
Dawn: It’s authenticity and the fact that it centers around the backstretch workers instead of the rich horse owners in fancy hats. While it shows the love of these workers for their horses, it also exposes the darker side of the track the long hours for lousy pay, the greed, and even animal abuse.
Carly: How did you research your book?
Dawn: Honestly, I didn’t do much research at all. Everything in Backstretch Girls is based on my personal experiences as a trainer.
Carly: Tell us how you came up with the idea for your book cover.
Dawn: I always knew that I wanted an action shot of horses racing for the cover but then I came across the photo of the red-haired woman with the gray horse and I was like, there’s Teagan and Mel! Mel is the racehorse at the heart of my novel. The photo showed the loving bond between the woman and horse that I just had to use it.
Carly: What do you wish you had known when you started out?
Dawn: To focus on just getting everything down and stop trying to make it perfect on the first go-round. I finally learned to stop being so self-critical and to say, I’ll fix it as I edit.
Carly: Do you have any writing routines? How do you get the words on the page?
Dawn: In the mornings, I sit on the sofa and scribble in my notebook. After I finished fighting my way through the chapter, I then type it up and edit as I go.
Carly: How do you reach your readers?
Dawn: Mostly through social media such as Twitter and Facebook. The horse book groups on Facebook have been extremely supportive of Backstretch Girls.
Facebook Groups Dawn mentioned during her interview are below:
Horse Books For Grown Ups
Horse Book Addicts
You might also like my Write, Read, Ride, Repeat Facebook Community. A free inspirational community for busy equine authors and aspiring authors! Just click the button below to let me know you want to gallop into the community.
Carly: You have a lot of really terrific reviews on your book. How do you ask for reviews?
Dawn: I put a little blurb at the end of my book that asks readers to please leave a review if they enjoyed Backstretch Girls. I don’t actively solicit or pay for reviews.
Carly: What is the hardest part about being an author?
Dawn: For me, it’s finding time to write. I work as an overnight veterinary technician and between the long hours and messed up sleep patterns, it can be difficult to grind out chapters. I was very intimidated by marketing when I first started out but I’m finally figuring it out and reaching out to people just as yourself.
Carly: What is the best part about being an author?
Dawn: Hearing someone say how much they enjoyed my book and identify with my characters.
Carly: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Dawn: Just to keep writing. You will get better. We all have our bad days where everything you write is crap but if you just keeping plugging along you will eventually uncover that little nugget of gold.
Carly: You also work as a contributor for www.PastTheWire.com and have been published in Equus, Weird NJ, the Pacific Coast Journal and The Press of Atlantic City. How did you get into freelance writing?
Dawn: While I was at Cook College, I wrote heavy metal album reviews then branched out into racing articles and short stories.
Carly: What are you curious about right now? What’s next?
Dawn: I’m currently writing another equestrian fiction novel about a woman trying to overcome the death of her mother while training a stable of misfit racehorses.
Carly: Is there anything I should have asked, but didn’t?
Dawn: You could ask me what I think led to the closure of Garden State Park and Atlantic City Racecourse, two of the tracks where I used to race.
The casino lobby killed them. They refused to allow either track to have slots which would have generated enough revenue to keep them afloat. By doing so, the casinos shot the state of NJ in the foot because both Delaware Park and Parx racing did get slots and they survived. So instead of keeping that money in NJ, they lost out to Pennsylvania and Delaware and all we have to show for it are two closed racetracks.
Connect with Dawn LeFevre
Watch the Backstretch Girls Book Trailer
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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 an award-winning independent author, horse owner, creativity coach, and the host of the Equestrian Author Spotlight Podcast. She helps fellow writers start, grow, and expand their author careers. Creative writing makes her spurs jingle!
Carly's award-winning In the Reins equestrian romance book series was written with horse lovers in mind, no matter which discipline they ride. The horses are as vital to moving the story forward as the human characters are.
These books are perfect for poolside reading, taking to the beach, or settling down with after a day of horseback riding.
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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!