Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Natalie Reinert, Equine Author

Welcome equestrian and equine writer 

From the short stirrup classes at dusty hunter/jumper shows in Florida to galloping the inner dirt at Aqueduct Racetrack in New York City, it's always been about Thoroughbreds. Beginning with a blog about retraining a retired racehorse named Final Call, Reinert published her first novella, The Head and Not The Heart, in 2011. This was just the first of her "horse books for grown-ups." The Alex and Alexander series follow two racehorse trainers determined to do the right thing by their horses and themselves in a trying business. In 2014, the second volume, Other People's Horses, was named a semi-finalist for the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award, for full-length horse racing literature.

Reinert also has published three equestrian-themed historical romance novels. Having worked with horses from eventing, to breeding, to racing, to mounted police work, Reinert draws on more than twenty years of personal equestrian experience to create stories with accuracy, believable details, and fully realized settings in all her work.

When was your first encounter with a horse?

I literally have no idea! I remember pony rides at county fairs… I remember bouncing on the back of a horse at a family reunion… I remember trips to Land of Little Horses in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. These all took place when I was a little, little girl in Maryland, so I must have been a toddler.

What can we look forward to in your newest book release?

When I’m absolutely satisfied with it… which might be a while. I have been working on a book called Ambition for several years now. I write it, I put it aside, I pull it out and rewrite large chunks of it, I put it aside, and repeat this cycle over and over. Now, it’s my main focus. I have a draft of the next Alex and Alexander novel, Turning For Home, as well, but I really want to finish Ambition. It’s set in eventing, instead of racing, and I think it takes a different look at the compromises and hard choices of the horse business -- this time from a more personal perspective than Other People’s Horses, which is more about the choices we make for our horses. This is more about ourselves, and what we are willing to do to reach the top.

What other books have you written?

I’ve written four contemporary works and three historical romances. The contemporary books, Horse-Famous: Stories, The Head and Not The Heart, Other People’s Horses, and Claiming Christmas, all involve horse racing and the everyday lives of people in the business. They’re all straight fiction; I don’t write crime novels or murder mysteries, unlike a lot of the other novels out there set in horse racing. I’ve worked on breeding farms, training centers, and at the racetrack, and I never saw a single murder, but our days were plenty interesting anyway! I’ve long thought that the people who devote their lives to horse racing would appreciate writing that reflected their thoughts and experiences.

How do you maintain thoughts and ideas?

I have notebooks full of outlines, chunks of dialogue and descriptions, even lists of my fictional horses and their racing histories and pedigrees. My first drafts are usually hand-written. The pen and my brain seem to flow at the same time. I do rewrites on the computer, using Scrivener to organize chapters and “cut scenes.”

Where do you like to write?

Mainly at my own desk, but sometimes if I need an extra boost to shame me into working (and not procrastinating) I’ll go to a cafe. I would never check Facebook at a cafe, for example. I’d be so embarrassed to be seen just messing around with all those keys typing around me. But at home, I can get distracted by social media very easily.

Do you have advice for novice writers?

The least popular advice of all, which is to write an outline and stick to it. I always regret leaving my outline. If I get a wild idea, I pause and block out where that wild idea will take me. Otherwise, it’s nearly always a dead end that confuses everything else I’ve written, and I don’t realize that until I’m revising, and then it’s just a mess! Take an hour, drink a latte, and write an outline. It will save you so much trouble down the road.

Of course your brain might work completely differently than mine, so maybe this doesn’t do you any good. Just write however you want. Just be sure you’re doing it.

What has been the biggest challenge you've faced in your writing career?

Time has been a big problem for me. When to write, how much am I writing, am I writing enough? There are no real answers to these questions. I don’t think writing 5,000 words that you’re going to delete tomorrow is necessarily a worthwhile enterprise. I don’t “get my pages done.” I do what my creativity will let me do. When I’m in a writing place, I write. When I’m not, I either try to get there, usually by pulling out a notebook and a pen, or I do something else. I don’t stare at the screen or just type for the sake of typing, though.

When you are not writing, what is your favorite thing to do?

I’m obsessed with all things Disney, so I am an agent with a Disney-focused travel agency and spend a lot of time on trip planning for clients. It’s such a welcome relief to get out of my head and all these emotional characters and just think about how to make sure a family has a great trip or a newlywed couple has the perfect honeymoon. I like to have something to turn to that is not horses in any way, shape or, form.

And every evening I shut my laptop, turn on NPR, and cook dinner from scratch. I use a lot of butter. It’s not ideal. But it’s such a pleasure to stand up for an hour, listen to someone else beside myself, not think about writing or any other work things... and I love butter, so… that reminds me, I’m making mashed potatoes tonight and I need more butter.

What does horsemanship mean to you?

Horsemanship is learning everything you can about the horse, and then doing everything you can to give the horse the best and most productive life possible. There is no limit to horsemanship. It’s about listening, learning, and becoming the most humble and also the most assertive person you can possibly be. You have to know when you are the alpha and when you are the partner. It’s all about the good of the horse.

List 10 things that your fans might not know about you.…

This is challenging! Okay…
  • Despite writing obsessively about Thoroughbreds, my first horse was a Quarter Horse… and he was a darling.
  • One of my favorite jobs ever was grooming for Ralph Hill, the great event rider. I gave it up because I didn’t want to travel, but it was wonderful. I met a lot of people I looked up to in the sport, like the O’Connors, and worked with fantastic horses every day.
  • I currently live in Brooklyn, New York and haven’t been around a horse since last May. I’m on a horse vacation, and I have to tell you, it’s very relaxing to not have to worry about getting home in time to feed every night…
  • Before my horse vacation, I was working with the New York City Parks Department’s Mounted unit, and riding Percherons and Clydesdales around city landmarks like Central Park.
  • My freelance writing career started with a series of features and interviews for a cheerleading magazine. Entirely by chance -- I didn’t know a thing about cheerleading at the time!
  • I’m an Indie Rock fan and buy vinyl records instead of CDs. My favorite band is The National, although I doubt this is a secret to anyone who has looked at my Facebook page!
  • Disney commercials make me cry.
  • I still harbor a tiny secret wish to event at the Advanced level, although I’m aware this won’t happen, and I’m okay with that!
  • I self-published my books because I wanted to write for adult horse-people on their level, instead of writing for a general audience that would need training terms and horsecare spelled out for them. I have a dream of starting a publishing company that specializes in equestrian fiction for equestrians or horse-books for grown-ups, as I call them.
  • I have a file on my computer of book ideas I haven’t had time for yet. There are at least a dozen. So there are many, many more books to come!

Connect with Natalie…


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