Lynn Reardon is Executive Director of LOPE (LoneStar Outreach to Place Ex-racers); LOPE partners with the Texas racetracks to help find race horses new homes through its online services and adoption ranch facility. Lynn is also the author of the newly released book, “Beyond the Homestretch: What I’ve Learned from Saving Racehorses”.
Tell us a little about yourself for those who haven’t yet read the book
I grew up in the DC metro area, a true child of the suburbs. No one in my family rode (or even were interested in horses). I didn’t learn to ride until I was an adult, taking group riding lessons at large barns. Although I was a nervous rider, I really wanted to improve (but my small budget kept me from lots of lessons).
Eventually, I started riding at a polo barn, trading work for lessons and exercising quieter polo mounts. Most of those horses were ex-racehorses – I fell in love with them from the start and wanted to ride them all (especially the feisty ones).
From there, my interest slowly grew into an obsession with ex-racehorses – by 2003, I had moved to Texas and started LOPE. In Beyond the Homestretch I tell the story of my transformation from office drone to racehorse career counselor – and the many equine mentors I encountered along the way.
What is your earliest memory of writing, and do you remember what you wrote about?
I remember writing for English class assignments in elementary school. My friends always complained about the writing homework but I always liked it and found it easy. And I love essay questions – I could go on and on! I started writing more creatively in high school and really enjoyed short stories especially. Naturally, animals were my favorite topic.
What inspires you when you get writers’ block?
I write on a laptop at our kitchen table. From there, I can see out our big living room window and watch the horses grazing, socializing and napping.
The horses (and nature) always inspire and relax me when I feel stuck in my writing.
Do you have any secret rituals (that you are willing to share) to help you through writers’ block?
When I’m in the middle of a big writing project, I’ll stick to a word count goal for the day (such as 500 or 1000 words). Even if the words aren’t perfect, the simple act of typing them helps me work through snags. Also, I’ll sometimes just start describing whatever I see out the window (usually ex-racehorses). This exercise often loosens up any blocks or lack of inspiration.
What kind of books did you read as a young girl, and do you remember which ones were your favorites?
I read everything I could get my hands on – I loved to read, it was my favorite pasttime as a child. My first “big” book was Heidi – I think I read that when I was 7. After that, I read lots of horse books (Misty, The Black Stallion) and classic girl literature (Jane Eyre, Rebecca). I also liked All Creatures Great and Small, Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Ramona, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Dracula. I’d reread my favorites over and over too.
Are there certain authors or other people who helped to influence and shape your writing?
I’ve always admired authors who can convey the richness animals bring to our lives without seeming trite. Authors like James Herriott and Laura Hillenbrand come immediately to mind, but there are so many others out there too. I also found Stephen King’s book on writing to be very helpful.
What is the best advice that you ever received regarding your writing?
The best advice I read was to write in my own voice. While I was writing Beyond the Homestretch, I would literally read every chapter aloud, to see if the written words “sounded” like me. It also really helped pinpoint where there were awkward phrases and confusing narrative gaps – I could “hear” those better than I could catch them on paper.
What is the worst advice that you ever received regarding your writing?
The worst advice I received was to make the book about me, instead of about the horses. I started out including more of my personal history and thought it was very boring!
Once I focused on the horses, it was easy to write – the words just flowed rapidly as I described their histories, personalities and various adventures.
Was the publishing process what you expected and in what ways?
I had done quite a bit of online research and industry blog reading before I created my final book proposal.
The process was smoother than I expected, thanks to my publisher (New World Library). It did take longer than I expected – it’s impressive to witness first hand how much effort goes into publishing a book once it has been written! Overall, I had a great experience for a first-time author and I feel very fortunate to have found such a good publisher.
What is similar about the horse as an animal and the art of writing?
Both draw people attracted by their glamour. But in order to achieve success, both require lots of routine, daily discipline, hard work, and patience.
As Ray Hunt would say, “The long way is the short way” – and that’s true for both horses and writing.
And thanks again to Eleanor for putting the interview together, you can subscribe to learn more about her and her palomino Sage on her horse blog.