On Conducting Research, Award Submissions & Taking a Book to Screenplay with M.J. Evans (Equestrian Author Spotlight Episode 11)
Episode 11: 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 Award-winning Equine Author M.J. Evans. You'll learn ...
Watch M.J. Evan's Interview on YouTube
Or Listen to the Audio Only Version
About Equine Author M.J. Evans
Award-winning author, M.J. Evans grew up in Lake Oswego, Oregon, and graduated from Oregon State University. She spent five years teaching junior high and high school students before retiring to raise her five children. She is a life-long equestrian and enjoys competing in Dressage and riding in the beautiful Colorado Mountains.
M.J. Evans Interview Excerpt
Carly: I'm chomping at the bit to ask you about your books because you have written a plethora of books and many of them are award-winning books. You've written two fantasy series, several stand-alone fiction books, multiple non-fiction books including a series on trail riding in Colorado, and a children's book. Tell us a little bit about your books and what excites you about writing horse books.
M.J.: I started out with my non-fiction trail guidebooks. I have three. They're called Riding Colorado. They have been very popular in Colorado as you can imagine. I researched and rode 52 trails in one year for the first book.
M.J.: Also, I love fantasy, My first fiction books were The Mist Trilogy which includes Behind the Mist, Mists of Darkness and The Rising Mist. I call these books a horse lover's fantasy because they're about the noble and great horses who are chosen to become unicorns when they die.
M.J.: I was inspired to write my children's book and In the Heart of a Mustang because of the years I worked at PATH International, the International Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship. The organization trains riding instructors to work with handicapped and disabled children and adults, but also to work with troubled teens. That was the impetus for writing those books. I had seen firsthand how healing horses are.
In the Heart of a Mustang is about a teenager who gets in trouble with the law and is sent to a horse therapy ranch in Arizona. There he meets a wild mustang that's been adopted from the BLM and the old cowboy at the ranch teaches him how to train the horse while he teaches him about life, healing, forgiveness, kindness and patience. All those things horses teach people. The book has won national and international awards.
Carly: You are also a screenwriter. Tell us about the experience of taking a book to screenplay for a film.
M.J.: I co-authored a screenplay for In the Heart of a Mustang with a professional screenwriter. We work together, every word, every page. I learned that writing a screenplay is completely different than writing a novel I have big books in my head, so when writing a screenplay you have to take 350 pages and reduce it down to 120 pages maximum. That includes any blocking notes. That's really hard for me because you have to take out about 3/4 of the book.
In writing a novel, you write with a fine pen. With the screenplay, you have to use broad brushstrokes. You're using dialogue to tell the story and a little bit of movement, but for a lot of dialogue, you can't go into the characters heads and hearts the way you can in the novel. Now that we've gotten it on paper, we'll start submitting it to producers who might be interested.
Carly: I'm really excited about the next book that you're about to show us it's called Pinto. It's based upon the true story of the longest horseback ride in history.
M.J.: This book took me over two years of research. I stumbled across this story when I was writing a blog post on famous horses. I was looking for a new famous horse to write a blog post about and I stumbled across Pinto, the horse that completed the longest horseback riding history. I was curious and I started researching to see what I could find about this little horse.
M.J.: I discovered that there were some older photographs that were in a collection at the Western Museum in Oklahoma City. I went to Oklahoma City and asked the research librarian if I could see their collection of materials on The Overland Westerners, the four men who did this journey.
She wrestled through the basement and found a box of these old photographs as well as a few other interesting articles, so that was my first attempt at research. Later, I found the Bainbridge Island History Museum in Bainbridge Island, Washington. Bainbridge Island is where the men had lived, and so this little museum on the island has a permanent exhibit of The Overland Westerners. They had the men's original journals!
As I was studying this story, I realized that this story needed to be told by Pinto. They wore out 17 horses on this journey. Pinto was the only horse to make it the whole 20,300 miles over three years. He was the only horse to make it the whole way.
Carly: What are your recommendations for authors looking to submit books for literary awards? What do you think the value of a book award is for an author?
M.J.: Tremendous value! Being able to have the stickers on the cover of your books is fantastic. If you're selling your book at a book signing that sticker really draws people's eye. The award sticker makes your book stand out from other books.
I recommend submitting to several awards programs in hopes that you win one or two. You're not going to always win every one because there's so many wonderful books out there. In addition, the judging is very subjective. Just pick a few that seem to fit your criteria. If you're writing for middle grade, young adult, or children's, look for specifically programs that focus on those.
The other thing is that it's particularly fun to submit to a writing program that has an awards ceremony because you get to go and meet the other authors and talk with people. I've made some really good friends and contacts by attending awards ceremonies. We help critique each other's work. We help edit each other's work. We'll do reviews for each other. There's some real benefits in meeting other people at events.
There is an entry fee associated with all book awards. It can become very expensive, so you've got to take that into consideration. Think about what your budget going to be. They can be anywhere from $50 to $400.
Carly: It can be quite an investment. Obviously, it's important do your research and make sure that the award organizations are credible. I would suggest to take a look at M.J.'s website and and see where she has submitted her books or look at some of the authors that you feel like your book is similar to. That's often helpful to make sure you are submitting to a credible organization.
Connect with M.J. Evans
Facebook pages: Margi Evans, Behind the Mist, In the Heart of a Mustang or North Mystic.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/M.-J.-Evans
Bublish Author Page: https://bublish.com/author/mjevans
Watch the Behind the Mist Book Trailer
Watch the Riding Colorado Informational Video
What a spur jingling author interview!
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. Thank you for giving me the gift of your time, M.J.! #authorsunite
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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 at https://www.carlykadecreative.com/contact.html to fill out a request.
About Your Host and Author Carly Kade
Carly Kade is an award-winning equestrian author and the host of the Equestrian Author Spotlight podcast. Creative writing makes her spurs jingle! She writes fiction about horses, horse shows, Western pleasure and a handsome cowboy or two. Her books are for people just like her — crazy about reading, horses and cute cowboys!
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 equestrian romance series is available now in Audiobook, Paperback and eBook on Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks and Kobo.
Carly Kade writes for anyone who loves horses, handsome cowboys and a great romance. Creative writing makes her spurs jingle!
Books by Carly Kade