In this tenth Equestrian Author Spotlight, I talk with Linda Ballou. We discuss the best topics on earth ... writing, books and horses! In the interview, you'll find out that Linda gets to take horse treks around the globe and write about her experiences, hear why she loves being a writer, and if you are an aspiring author (or even an established one) Linda offers some solid tips on how to enjoy the ride. P.S, Your heart will melt over the stories behind the horses that inspired The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon.
About Equine Author Linda Ballou
Nothing pleases adventure travel writer Linda Ballou more than seeing gorgeous country from the back of a good horse. Being a stowaway on a cross-country course in Ireland, her most hair-raising riding adventure, is detailed in her story Irish Mist, which was included in the anthology Why We Ride with a forward by Jane Smiley.
Her articles have appeared in Equus, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman and numerous travel magazines.
The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon was written while she was recovering from a riding injury that ended her days in the jumping world. Like her protagonist, she has come back to ride again. She is also the author of Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales, and Wai-nani, A Voice from Old Hawai’i.
Yeehaw! Time to saddle up for Linda's interview.
How long have you been an author?
I have been journaling ever since my parents uprooted me from my California home and transplanted me in a tiny town in Alaska. Haines overlooks the Lynn Canal and is surrounded by majestic snow-capped mountain, but it is a lonely place that inspires introspection.
My first novel Wai-nani: A Voice from Old Hawai’i was published in 2009. In 2010, I published Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales and in 2015 I finally got The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon out of my drawer and into the hearts and minds of readers.
As an adventure travel writer, I try to create a sense of place and to capture the sensuality of a given experience. All of my books could be described as destination pieces as they all take you to places you can’t get to any other way. For the last dozen years or so, I have been focusing on adventure-travel and am working on my next collection of travel essays— The Lost Angel Rides Again!
What is your involvement with horses?
I used to have my own horse, but now I take horse treks around the globe and write about my experiences. My ride in Ecuador from hacienda to hacienda on the Inca Trail in the Andes was quite a thrill.
California Riding magazine just published my piece on the ride in the Redwoods and Ten Mile beach in northern California. I adore guest ranches and hope to do the Bob Marshal Wilderness in Glacier National Park pack trip one fine day. You will find articles on horse treks, and other outdoor adventures on my site.
How did you come up with your horse book title?
A girlfriend gave me a t-shirt with that tag over the picture of a cowgirl jumping over the moon on a starry night. It just stuck with me. I always loved the image and cut it out when it was time to toss the well-worn gift away. I wrote the first draft of this story many years ago and that little reminder was pressed inside the journal that contained the notes for the novel that has it found its way to fruition.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
It allows me a voice in the "Long Conversation" that is literature. Writing provides continuity in my life and added purpose to my adventures. It is my creative avenue where the flower of my imagination is allowed to blossom. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction when readers tell me that they love my work.
What advice can you share to help aspiring authors?
Writers write. Builders build. Surgeons cut.
If you say you are a writer then write. Keep notes of your stay on the planet. Journal about your experiences. Reflect upon what you see and try to capture the essence of it in words as a painter tries to capture it in colors and images. You will not remember the details that make a story vibrant. You have to write your impressions and feelings down while they are fresh in your mind. Then when you have time to organize your thoughts and know what it is you are trying to say you can go back to your notes and extract details that will enliven your work.
Don’t wait to be a writer. Life go goes by too fast. Simply be a writer and see what happens.
Do you have an amusing story about writing The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon?
I wasn’t’ amusing at the time, but I did write the first draft of the story standing up at my breakfast bar. I was suffering from a back injury that manifested itself in sciatica that would not let me sit down. It meant I had to give up my horse and riding until my body healed. Writing this story was my way of letting go of the horse world that had become the focal point of my life. It allowed me to fulfill my riding fantasies and to be a winner, even though I was doing a lot of losing at the time. Publishing Cowgirl has brought me back into the horse world I love and is bringing much joy into my life.
What was your inspiration for the horses in your book?
I met Marshal, the star in my book, in Ireland. He was a bold, black Irish hunter that would jump anything placed in front of him. After my lesson in the confines of a fenced arena, the trainer took us down to the beach where we were allowed to gallop. I let him open full-throttle and learned that I was no match for his immense power and stride. I had to trade mounts with my trainer, but I will never forget the heady thrill of knowing his majesty for just those few moments. I always dreamed of being able to take him over a real course and I did in my book!
The horse Gemcie rides in the John Muir Wilderness is my sweet mare Ginger. I so loved that girl. She was short on legs and long on heart. She would go anywhere I asked her to and trusted me completely. God, I loved that horse. She was my best friend for years. She is gone now, but I got to ride her again in this story.
What was your inspiration for the leading woman/man in your book?
The Mariposa equestrian facility in the story is modeled after what I observed in the celebrity-owned ranches nestled in Hidden Valley in Southern California. I was a groupie at horse shows trying to absorb the courage of the riders like Susan Hutchison, who was recently inducted into the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame.
I so admired. Susan’s riding skill and bravery that I kept her foremost in my mind while writing the riding scenes in the book. She is the protege of the legendary trainer Jimmy Williams, who I was privileged to interview in 1993, not long before his passing. The character Billy is modeled after this authentic “horse whisperer,” who was a giant in the riding world. I was thinking of Jack London while fleshing out Brady’s character and physical attributes. The master of adventure writing was rugged, intelligent, introspective, caring and black-Irish handsome.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Besides the obvious “To Finish is to Win.” message that Gemcie brings home, I hoped that by taking readers to the mountains and seeing that world through Brady’s eyes it would engender a greater love and respect for the natural world.
I did a horse pack trip in the John Muir Wilderness that allowed me to know the ethereal beauty in the “Range of Light” that Muir described in My First Summer in the Sierra’s. It was a momentous journey for me. I always wanted to return and ride the Pacific Crest Trail solo as others more capable than I have done.
This was my way of getting there on my own and to share the message that not enough is said for solitude. Time alone allows us to absorb, and digest all the external stimulation moderns are bombarded with daily. It enables us to become centered and grounded in nature rather than looking outside of ourselves for endorsement.
In addition, to this message there is a very powerful environmental statement about our place in the natural world. I don’t want to share too much of the story, but it is my hope that people will come away with a little different perspective and understanding for all things wild.
Discover more about Author Linda Ballou!
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/2a4ounX
Watch The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon Book Trailer!
What a spur jingling interview!
I LOVE HORSE BOOKS. If you are an author who writes about horses and would like to be spotlighted let me know. I’d be happy to include you too. Sharing about fellow horse book authors makes my spurs jingle! Visit my contact page to fill out a request!
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Many thanks to equine author Linda Ballou for this wonderful interview! I appreciate the support of a fellow author! Thank you for giving me the gift of your time, Linda!
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!