Wednesday, September 14, 2016
An Interview with Author DK Raymer
Welcome author and rider DK Raymer!
DK released her new audiobook Lily’s Song earlier this year. Lily is a companion horse, an Arabian mare who “shares her stall with a goat named Walter and a cat named Boo. Together they observe life on the busy farm, a life that she cannot participate in. Lily has every comfort at Nelson Farm but she does not have a person to call her own, and she is beginning to wonder if she ever will. When a new chiropractor arrives from Boston, Massachusetts to treat the owner's champion reining horse, Lily discovers that Dr. McCullen has a daughter. Eleven-year-old Micah feels just as out of place at Nelson Farm as Lily does. She has never been to a farm, has never seen a real horse, and is reeling from the sudden loss of her father. Is this sad girl the person Lily has been waiting for? Can a broken mare help Micah heal? Lily's Song is a celebration of life, of friends found in the most unlikely places, and a tribute to the healing power of love.” (Shared from Lily’s Song ©2016 D.K. Raymer.)
GM: When was your first encounter with a horse?
DKR: I was a city kid, so my exposure to real horses was extremely limited. I’ve loved horses for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I read about them, drew pictures of them, daydreamed about owning one, and watched every TV show that had a horse in it. I recall going to a Christmas parade when I was four years old. That’s where I saw my first horse. An influential attorney lived nearby, and he raised palomino show horses. He and his wife toured the U.S., appearing in parades with their horses decked out in full silver-embellished tack. They were simply stunning. The Palomino Parade Horses from Campbell Farm in Coesse, Indiana, gave me a love and appreciation for horses that I carry to this day.
GM: Is Lily fashioned after a horse that you have known or know?
DKR: Actually, Lily was inspired by two horses. A couple of years ago, when I decided I wanted to write horse stories for young readers, I knew I wanted to feature horses that are often overlooked. They may not be the most beautiful, or the youngest, or the best-trained. They may not be able to carry a rider, but they are horses, nonetheless, and every horse has a story. So, one evening I was browsing rescue sites, reading the listings for available horses. I stumbled across the profile of a beautiful Arabian mare named Helen. She was blind. Her picture stuck with me, and that’s when Lily’s story began to form. In fact, Lily’s Song is dedicated to that mare.
A few weeks later, I had the opportunity to work with a phenomenal business coach who uses a team of Equine Coaches in her business. It’s quite a unique concept. Several of her horses are rescues. For our groundwork exercises, I was paired with a flashy American Paint horse named Fame, who had recently lost the vision in his left eye. He was transitioning from a career as a working cow horse, to a new career working with people. What I learned from Fame rounded out Lily’s character.
GM: Walter the goat and Boo the cat are endearing characters. How did DKR: they come about in your brainstorming process?
That’s a great question! I would love to tell you they took weeks to create, but that’s not what happened. When I began to write about Lily, a Nubian goat and a big Maine Coon Cat showed up, fully formed, from the first sentence. Sometimes that happens when you write fiction. I knew these three were going to be inseparable throughout the story. All I had to do was name them.
GM: What are you currently writing?
DKR: I’m having great fun writing a new book called, Remi and Bella Need a New Home. This story takes place in Florida, and features a beloved aging pony who suddenly finds himself homeless. Three girls, (best friends) learn of Remi’s plight, and set out to find a new home for Remi and his canine companion. In the process, they make a profound impact on their school, and their community. I wanted this story to feature young heroines with no horse experience at all, who still find a way to change the life of one small pony. I hope to have this book finished by November.
GM: Describe your writing process and your daily routine...
DKR: I’m very organized, so that helps me juggle multiple projects. During the week, I coach writers and other creatives who want help with marketing, or need instruction about the writing process – fiction, non-fiction, scriptwriting, etc. I also work in the field of patient advocacy, so I am developing non-fiction material for that audience, too. I write fiction in the evenings and on weekends. Helps me unwind and stay centered. I love long fiction, and writing the new horse books have been a wonderful experience.
When I write a book, I always produce the e-book version first because the formatting is very straightforward. Once that is complete, I begin work on an audiobook version. That includes auditioning Narrators/Producers, cover design, and approval of chapters as they’re complete. (Lily’s Song, and my other audiobooks, are available on Audible, Amazon and iTunes.) Producing an audiobook takes several weeks in-studio, so while that is in production, I format the story once again for trade paperback. My books are available as Kindle eBooks, trade paperback and audio.
I concentrate on writing one book at a time, but regularly add to development files for additional projects. Once one book is complete, I move onto the next based on which is the most fully developed. Currently, I have more than 2 dozen projects in some stage of development.
GM: Do you have advice for novice writers?
DKR: I have been a writer for most of my life, published both traditionally and independently. I have also worked in the film and TV industry developing projects for a family audience. I can tell you with certainty that there has never been a better time to be a writer. The gatekeepers are gone. You don’t have to wait to be chosen anymore. You now have the ability to connect directly with readers and carve your own place in the universe.
Read everything. Hone your craft. Build great stories and a body of work you are proud of. Learn about marketing, promotion and building community. You can’t do it all at once; nobody can. Get organized. Ask for help where you need it. Ignore the haters. Cultivate relationships with people who will help you grow and flourish. Remember that your career, like your books, are a work in progress. Most of all, love the process and your readers.
GM: What’s the key to writing a book that children will read again and again?
DKR: If there was a surefire trick to attracting and keeping readers, everybody would be using it. Of course, there isn’t, but there are some things you can do to help you connect with potential readers. So, here’s my short answer: The story must have heart. The characters must be engaging. (You don’t have to like what they do, but you do need to care enough about them to see what happens next.) And the setting must be well-drawn. If you can nail all three points, you will have created a world readers will want to return to.
GM: As a rider, what does horsemanship mean to you?
DKR: Horsemanship is more to me than technical ability or skill. True horsemanship separates people who just ride horses (albeit very well), from people who truly know and respect their equine partners. Horsemanship involves teamwork, connection, mindset, generosity, a desire to constantly learn, and the willingness to set an example for other riders and horse owners. Horsemanship, to me, is a reflection of the same noble qualities that horses themselves possess.
DK Raymer grew up reading the books of Marguerite Henry, Sam Savitt, Wesley Dennis and Anna Sewell. If a horse was anywhere in the story, she read it. Her library shelf still contains her favorite childhood horse books. When she was thirteen, DK finally got a horse of her own, a retired roping horse named Flicka. The gentle black mare stood 16.2 hands tall and was DK’s best friend through her teen years.
As an adult, DK worked for a New York entertainment producer, writing and developing family-friendly projects for film and TV. Today, DK writes books for adults, and horse stories for a new generation of young readers who share her love of horses, especially those who don’t yet have a horse of their own. DK also coach’s writers and other creatives, and works nationally as a Patient Safety Advocate.
DK lives in Missouri with her family. She and her husband share their home with two quirky little dogs named Petey and Jax. At present she does not have her own horse, but hopes to remedy that soon.