Episode 66: On Showing American Saddlebreds, Structured Writing & Word of Mouth with Susan Archer (Equestrian Author Spotlight Podcast)
Episode 66: 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 American Saddlebred enthusiast and horse book author Susan Archer. You'll learn ...
Watch Susan Archer's Interview on YouTube!
Or listen to the audio only episode.
About Author Susan Archer
Susan Archer was born in rural Southeastern Montana and was raised on a cattle ranch. Susan learned to ride shortly after she learned to walk because her family used horses to work the cattle. She fell in love with all animals, but especially with horses and became active in 4-H and rodeo.
Susan barrel-raced until she graduated from college and figured out that she needed an easier (more lucrative) way to make a living, so she ended up as an engineer.
About 20 years ago, Susan told her husband that she wanted to start riding horses again and used the Yellow Pages to find a nearby barn. It turned out to be a Saddleseat barn with American Saddlebred show horses. Susan was smitten. She has been showing and writing books about Saddlebreds ever since.
Susan Archer Interview Excerpt
Carly: Talk to us about how your love affair with horses began.
Susan: Like most of us, I think it started at birth. I was raised on a cattle ranch in southeastern Montana, so we used horses every day to move cattle around. It was an adoration from the first moment. I used it as a way to get away from all of the dusting and house chores that my mother wanted me to do. I would always race out to the barn and spend time with the horses.
When I was about 10 years old, I joined 4-H. In Montana 4-H, you start with a yearling. My dad realized I was serious about horses after that and he helped me buy a pretty fancy barrel horse. I rodeoed through high school and college. The rest is history.
Carly: Later in life, you moved to Colorado and you decided that you wanted to start riding again after taking a break, so you found a local barn in the Yellow Pages. This barn just happened to have American Saddlebreds and you fell in love with the breed. Talk to us about Saddlebreds.
Susan: I always liked fast horses because of my rodeo days. I liked the interesting horses. I liked spicy horses. When I walked into this Saddlebred show barn, it was the most awe-inspiring, eye-opening experience ever. It was pristine clean and the horses all were in their stalls. Their tails were done, their manes didn't have any cockle burs in them, and they were just absolutely stunning. They're huge, interesting, and curious.
The trainer led a horse out, drug up the mounting block, and pointed at the horse. I climbed on it and that horse just strode off. It was the most interesting experience ever. I was smitten from the very first moment.
Our very first year of owning Saddlebreds, we went to the World Championship Horse Show. For any of listeners who haven't seen a Saddlebred before, they are awesome, they are big, they are curious, they are interesting, they are snorty, and they are insanely athletic.
Carly: You have written four fiction books about showing Saddlebreds; Stake Night, Show Time, Victory Pass, and Leg Up. Tell us about your books.
Susan: I have a vivid imagination and thought it would be interesting to share with people this whole idea of what it's like to be in a competitive show barn. Each one of the books in the Stake Night series is about one competition year exactly, so they start the night of, or the morning after, the World Championship.
At the World Championship, the last class is always the Five Gaited Open World Championship. It's the premier class and what everybody goes to the show for. Everybody wears a gown. They are all dressed up. It was really shocking for someone originally from Montana. I wore Levi's around horses, so my first World Championship I wore khakis. I thought I was dressed up. (Laughs)
Susan: I thought it would be fun from a pure fiction perspective to put together stories about trainer/owner horse combinations and the great things that can happen, but the misfortunes that can befall you as well. There's always a bad guy. There's always a good guy. There's always some accident.
I try to educate a non-Saddlebred or a non-gaited rider on what it really feels like to "run the bridle" and how scary your first time in the show ring is when you are managing the traffic, dealing with the horse, and hearing your trainer yelling "more curb." I wanted to find an entertaining way to share how much fun that is, so I wrote the books.
Carly: How did you get your books written? Do you structure your writing time?
Susan: I started by building this spreadsheet because I'm an engineer. I had a big spreadsheet that listed all the barns, where they were located, their names, who owns them, and their history. Another sheet would be the horses, and how old they are, their color, who owns them, and how they placed in every show. It just became kind of a big puzzle to solve.
My process is really structured. I wake up in the morning and I lay in bed until I visualize the next scene in my books. It's almost like a television series in my mind. After that, I get up, go right to my office at six o'clock in the morning, and I read the last chapter to make sure it's continuous. Next, I write out the scene I visualized. That's a chapter, and then I'm done for the day.
I'm really disciplined about making sure that i have an outline before I start that whole writing process. I know who's going to what show. I know how they are going to finish. I know why. It's creative writing. It's visualizing. The really fun part of it is the puzzle part. I love trying to be fresh, authentic, and interesting, but most of all telling a story that really ends up coming together.
Carly: Are you doing anything fun to market your books?
Susan: I'm a really shy person. I put it on my Facebook page. That's pretty much all I do, but the American Saddlebred Museum actually stocks the books. They sell a bunch of them. It's a wonderful partnership. I'm lucky because I have a lot of Facebook followers. They are talkers. It's all word of mouth with my books.
The American Saddlebred Museum (www.asbmuseum.org) is at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY (https://kyhorsepark.com). They have a gift shop that carries interesting things including a variety of Saddleseat and Saddlebred books, including mine.
More broadly, the Saddlebred Museum is a wonderful place to learn about the breed and some of the most famous Saddlebreds, but the surrounding horse park is also a great place for horse lovers. The horse park is an equine theme park and is an amazing facility for competitions and hosts a wide variety of competitions that extend beyond some great Saddlebred shows. They host hunter-jumper shows, the American Eventing Championships, Rolex events, and even have polo matches.
Connect with Susan Archer
Books by Susan Archer
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About Host & Author 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 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.
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!