In this 34th Equestrian Author Spotlight, I talk with fellow equine author Roland Clarke. Of course, we discuss the best topics on earth — writing, books and horses! In the interview, horse book lovers will learn what inspired his book Spiral of Hooves and how being an equestrian journalist helped him research his novel. Happy reading!
About Equine Author Roland Clarke
I am a retired equestrian journalist and photographer, who used to be a regular contributor of articles and photos to various equestrian media, including Eventing, Carriage Driving and eQuest. Sadly, Multiple Sclerosis clipped my wings and I was unable to meet deadlines so easily and found it increasingly hard to get to equestrian events.
However, I found the love of my life, Juanita, and she inspired me to rise above my MS and finish 'Spiral of Hooves', a mystery set in the equestrian world. Published on December 9th, 2013, the novel is re-released in a revised 2nd edition on August 7th, 2017.
And the words have kept flowing, albeit with bad health days when pain tries to destroy everything. My current Work In Progress is "Fates Maelstrom", a psychological mystery set in Snowdonia, which is the first of another series.
My wife Juanita and I moved to Boise, Idaho to be with Juanita's extensive family, having lived in Harlech, Wales. Our two cats Willow & Kefira moved down the road, but we made the trip by sea and road to Boise with our two dogs, Quetzal & Treeky.
Nice to meet you, Roland! Now let's gallop into the interview.
What is your involvement with horses?
I grew up in a horsey family in that my grand-father was a Master of the Old Surrey & Burstow Foxhounds and many of my family rode. As a child, I was useless on the pony we had – like a sack of potatoes, my grandfather’s groom said. However, in my teens I started riding again and worked for the late course designer, Pamela Carruthers. I eventually became an equestrian journalist and photographer, primarily covering eventing – and only getting to ride when friends lent me a horse. Nowadays, I’m in a wheelchair and looking to find a horse therapy centre to retain some contact with horses.
Why did you choose to write horse books?
Although my first novel, Spiral of Hooves, has its roots in my early working days around horse people in the 1970s, the first complete draft emerged in the late 1990s and before I retired completely due to ill health in 2010. I chose to write the book as I was so immersed in the eventing world that ideas and elements of the story were all around me – a case of ‘write what you know’. However, the book took 13 years to complete and get published by a small press.
What is your favorite horse movie?
Hidalgo is the one that comes to mind first, with some beautiful horses and one of my favourite actors in Aragorn. Although some have questioned its accuracy and Frank Hopkins’s claims, it is enjoyable. To me, it seems that it was well researched- better than some movies. (I worked in the industry, briefly, and there was never enough screen time to tell the whole truth.)
However, Seabiscuit is the only one in my DVD-Blu-ray collection, so that comes a close second.
Third, the only eventing movie that I’ve seen – International Velvet. Even features some real riders like Bruce Davidson and some friends.
How many horse-related books have you written?
Written and published, just Spiral of Hooves. However, I have written the first draft of its sequel, Tortuous Terrain with some of the same characters. There is some eventing in it, but the plot revolves around endurance riding with the climax during the Tevis Cup. There are also a few barrel racing scenes. Fortunately, I now live in Idaho – where major part of the novel is set – and I have endurance contacts locally. My non-horse books have scenes with horses as I can’t ignore them.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you?
I’m a plotter for sure – ever since Spiral of Hooves spiraled out of control resulting in some false starts and re-thinks around a twisting track. I now sketch out an outline in my head, then in a notebook. That then evolves into a detailed plot. However, that is never rigid as characters and events can take me in unforeseen directions – resulting in another draft to tie everything in. My current novel followed that pattern from detailed plot to interesting deviations.
How did you get the idea for the cover of the book?
The original cover for the 2013 edition of Spiral of Hooves was commissioned by the publishers from an idea I mentioned on blood trails in the snow. However, the result was disappointing, so when I self-published in August 2017, I had a new cover designed by Jonathan Temples - http://www.jonathantemples.co.uk/ - on the recommendation of a successful crime writer friend. I wanted an image and style that could an identity to a series. Jonathan took my rider jumping a horseshoe idea and produced a great cover, with a photo from a photographer friend.
What was your inspiration for the horse(s) in your book?
The key horse in the novel, Sorcière des Saules, had to be an Anglo-Arab mare. I ran an eventing league that rewarded riders’ achievements each season and one of our awards was for mares, so my main heroine – called Carly, of course - had to favor mares. A number of mares provided great inspiration as did their riders’ positive attitude to riding them. I was always impressed by the Anglo-Arabs that some riders chose, notably Tamarillo ridden by William Fox-Pitt. I was fortunate to know William well, so knew the inspirational way that he handled Tamarillo’s quirky temperament.
How did you research your novel?
My career, as a journalist and an event organizer, gave me access to many of the people that were the backbone of the book, from riders and owners to doctors and vets. Talking with them over the years provided crucial information and ideas. Some of the events that I covered feature, including one where I was co-organizer. Beyond my regular contacts, I had to ring or email people – for instance, an expert on how diabetes affected riders in different situations. The fallback was books and the internet, which due to my disability – multiple sclerosis – have become my primary research tools.
Is there a message in your novel that you hope readers will grasp?
Appearances can be deceptive – that’s at the heart of most of my mysteries. Beware the easy fixes that money-driven science offers – that’s at the core of Spiral of Hooves.
What’s next? Future goals for your writing?
I have several draft novels in the pipeline, most in the ‘mystery’ genre but not all. However, my immediate aim is to focus on a series of three books featuring a female Goth detective in North Wales, where I lived for a few years. I’m not able to resist dropping in some horse scenes – the first includes Gypsy Vanners owned by Welsh Romanis. I then intend to work on Tortuous Terrain – if anyone wants to read it.
More about Roland Clarke and his horse book!
Website and Blog: https://rolandclarke.com/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Roland-Clarke/
What a spur jingling author interview!
A BIG thank you to Roland Clarke for participating in my Equestrian Author Spotlight series. I learn so much from other equine authors and appreciate how unique each of our writing journeys are. I love that all the authors featured in this series are linked through our creativity, passion for writing, and love of horses. I think it is so important to support each other. I appreciate the support of a fellow author. Thanks for giving me the gift of your time, Roland! #authorsunite
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: https://www.carlykadecreative.com/contact.html
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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!