Writing Books About Horses: An Exclusive Interview with Christy Cashman
Welcome to the Horse Riding Network's captivating interview with the talented Christy Cashman, author of the compelling novel, "The Truth About Horses." In this exclusive conversation, we delve into the inspiration behind her work, the intricate web of storytelling, and the profound bond between humans and these majestic creatures. Join us as we unravel the pages of Cashman's journey, exploring the depths of her creative process and the essence of her unique narrative while writing books about horses.
1. What inspired you to write The Truth About Horses and why did you decide to focus on the theme of horses?
The Truth About Horses was originally going to be a treatment for a screenplay, but as I was taking classes and writing creatively, I was receiving such incredible support and encouragement from my peers and Instructors. Then I realized this screenplay was meant to be a novel. One of my instructors encouraged me to “write what you know” and this truly took form in this book. I felt confident writing about my passion and love for horses and the horse world because it’s something that I know very well.
2. Can you share a memorable experience or story from your research or writing process?
I’m so grateful to Betsy Horst, Arthur Vanderbilt and Sally Taylor for reading my early pages and for telling me to keep going–for telling me that I had something and to not quit. The early readers are irreplaceable because there’s so much trust involved in sharing raw pages. I think when you are willing to be vulnerable with someone, it usually means there is an immense amount of trust involved. When each of them read my early pages and responded so positively, it was a sign to me that I was on the right path and I will remember that feeling forever.
3. How does your experience in acting, producing, and writing films influence your approach to writing books, specifically The Truth About Horses?
I wrote the book in “islands,” meaning that I wrote scenes that came to me out of order without really knowing if or how they would fit into the story. Most of these scenes came to me in a very visual way so, in a way, I just wrote what I saw. Reading and writing screenplays definitely made me write in a visual way. I think I have a good ear for dialogue because of the acting I’ve done. And, in some ways, trusting the process to me means writing without knowing where you’re going; that’s something I learned taking improv classes.
4. The title of your book is very intriguing. Can you share what the 'truth about horses' is, or is that something readers need to discover within the pages?
I hope the truth about horses has a different meaning for every reader. I really like how Sally Taylor described it: “It is not just the truth about horses, it’s just the truth.” The title felt right because each of the characters had their own truth.
5. In your book, what aspect of horses and their relationship with humans did you find most fascinating or unexpected?
I grew up on a farm in Ohio with 2 ponies and 2 horses. I’m also the ninth of ten kids. One of the horses we had was a gelding named Sir Rodney. He could only be ridden by a few people in my family and he was never easy to catch. When I was 3 years old, I walked out to the pasture, climbed the split rail fence and got on him and nearly gave my mother a stroke! But he was very calm and gentle with me as he grazed in the pasture. He knew. And I always wonder why that is. Why would he be so wild and resist being caught by everyone else, but be so incredibly careful and sweet with me? That is probably why I still have such a full life with horses to this day. In the book, I wanted to include the bond I have felt with the horses in my life as well as the effect their diverse, majestic, powerful impact had on my life.
6. Many consider horses as not just animals, but companions and healers. How does this idea play into your book?
When I was a kid, I had such a deep connection with my horse. I see horses as teachers. The magical and spiritual feeling that you can get by being in a horse’s presence is represented by the ghost herd that appears to Reese.
7. Can you talk about any specific horses or people who have inspired characters or events in The Truth About Horses?
Reese’s voice came to me in a very strong way. I like characters who are flawed and complex and human. So many different characteristics are lumped together to create one character in a story. In some ways, I think it’s sort of like what I’ve heard about dreams: You are every person in your dream. I feel like being able to get in touch with all of my different parts helped me to write all of the different characters.
8. What do you hope readers will take away from your book? Is there a message or feeling you want to leave them with?
I think the most important thing about anything we experience artistically is to have the luxury to feel things that may be too difficult or complicated to feel in our own lives. Art provides us the opportunity to feel.
9. What challenges did you face while writing The Truth About Horses and how did you overcome them?
Writing my two children’s books, The Not So Average Monkey of Kilkea Castle and Petri’s Next Things were great exercises for me during the time that I was writing my novel, The Truth About Horses. There are times that I was so in the weeds that I forgot that it was supposed to be fun. I truly believe that if you aren’t having fun on some level, the readers will know. But writing children’s books really reinvigorated me. I learned about letting go and once I did that, the ideas started pouring in again.
10. Can you share a little about your future projects? Are you planning to write more books around the theme of horses or are you exploring different topics?
Currently I am working on my second novel, Beulah. It takes place in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee in the ‘80s. A girl goes missing and it’s about what these people do in a small town gripped in fear.
I do think I will always write about horses. They are such a huge part of my life that it’s hard to not be thinking about how they are reflected in my creative life.
About THE TRUTH ABOUT HORSES:
Fourteen-year-old Reese dreams of her family winning the Black Elk race. But their beloved horse, Trusted Treasure, falls at the last jump. Reese witnesses the family's finances, hopes, and happiness go up in smoke. While still reeling from the loss, the family suffers a second tragedy, resulting in the sale of Trusted Treasure that irreparably damages Reese's relationship with her father. Heartbroken, Reese searches everywhere to find Trusted Treasure in the hopes she can bring him home and heal the rift with her father.During an unexpected turn of events, Reese meets Wes, a Lakota Indian, whose way of training horses is unlike anything she's ever seen. If anyone can win the Black Elk, it's Wes, but he's struggling with his troubled past, and having a teenage girl hanging around his barn isn't exactly what he'd planned. Reese must prove her worth, against all odds, if she wants to heal her family, help Wes, and show them all that some dreams are worth fighting for.
About Christy Cashman
Christy Cashman is an American author, actress, and producer who has appeared in more than twenty films, including Kettle of Fish, The Love Guide, American Hustle, Joy, The Descendants, Ted 2, The Women, The Golden Boys, The Forger and many others. When she's not writing or working on production projects, Christy is most likely riding cross country through the countryside of New England or Ireland. She has also written two children's books set in Ireland – The Not-So-Average Monkey of Kilkea Castle and Petri's Next Things. Christy lives with her husband, Jay; two sons, Jay Michael and Quinn; their three dogs, Ben, Lucy, and Dan; and three horses, Calvin, Butterscotch, and Victor. The family divides their time between Kilkea Castle in Ireland and their homes in Boston and Chatham, Massachusetts. THE TRUTH ABOUT HORSES is Christy's first novel.