I’m delighted to introduce readers to the talented writer Elizabeth Kaye McCall who is a fellow horse lover and all-around nice person. Elizabeth has had amazing life experiences via her writing career centering on horses, some of which she shares in this interview. She has recently published RajaliKa Speak based on the life of her own horse (who’s quite a character), and she is generously offering two copies (one for the winner, one for the winner’s friend) for one Saddle Seeks Horse reader. See contest details and link below.
How did you first get started as a journalist specializing in equestrian writing?
I’ve always written and I’ve always loved horses. After I moved to LA, I started writing a newsletter for the hunter-jumper barn where I was riding at Will Rogers Park. Ten years later, someone I knew in the film industry said to get myself some press credentials and check out a video conference in Las Vegas. I did. A couple months later, I got a call from an editor and started covering equestrian events as a journalist. From there, I moved into writing about horses in film and television, equestrian spectacles, horse treks, and broke into writing for mainstream outlets, initially with horse-oriented stories
What have been some of the highlights of your horse-related career?
Definitely, touring with the equestrian spectacle Cavalia. I worked as the show’s horse industry liaison. That whole experience was a moment in time that could fill a book. Frédéric Pignon and Magali Delgado were starring with their Lusitano stallions then. It was an incredible life experience.
Gosh, career highlights.. all kinds of things are popping up. I remember a horse trek in France’s Cathar country, in particular, one misty afternoon as were leaving Rennes-le-Château, a pretty mystical place. There was something about walking out of there, mounting up and riding away, while seeing a group of typical tourists walking to their tour buses. Some other flashbacks.. swimming a horse in the ocean off the coast of Jamaica, riding with the Arkansas Sesquicentennial wagon train for a week, and a very wild ride in the back of a wagon at Mario Luraschi’s in France. I thought the team had gotten out of control when we started blasting through the woods. Turned out they were practicing for a chariot race the next week in Spain.
One of my earliest highlights has to be a horseback riding party at Wilcox Pony Farm for my birthday as a kid in Ohio. It was sleeting, but we rode those ponies anyway.
Who are some of the interesting people and/or horses you’ve gotten to meet over the years?
I’m really fortunate. I’ve met lots. Humans and horses. Let’s see.. interviewing Alan Young, who played Wilbur in the TV series “Mister Ed” has to be one of my all-time favorites.
Getting to know Corky Randall, a legendary Hollywood horse trainer. (The trainer for the movie The Black Stallion.)
My dear friend Jim Wyllie, who taught 75,000 people to ride. He headed Pepperdine University’s Equestrian Center in Malibu, California.
I was fortunate to know the late classical master João Oliveira and his wife Becky.
I met Templado, the Lusitano stallion with the knee-length mane when I first worked with Cavalia.
Linda Tellington Jones is fascinating. I was treated to dinner at her house in August, when I was on the Big Island for Hawaii Horse Expo.
Gosh.. Mark Miller, who now owns Al-Marah Arabians. We can use more people like him in the horse industry. He ran Arabian Nights for 26 years and probably introduced more people to horses than anyone else in the country. As for interesting horses… so many. Still, none come close to my straight Egyptian Arabian stallion RajaliKa. He’s unlike any horse I’ve met and really does “speak on request.”
What authors do you love or have inspired you to write?
I read every horse book I could find as a child. Came back from the library with stacks. My favorites were probably The Black Stallion and Island Stallion books by Walter Farley. I reread them all about10 years ago. They were just as captivating as before. I’d forgotten about the E.T.’s in Farley’s The Island Stallion Races. Now that’s a movie waiting to be made!
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
Find out about NaNoWriMo — also known as National Novel Writing Month, which is an annual (November) novel writing project that brings together professional and amateur writers from all over the world. In some areas, people continue meeting and writing together year round.
Another suggestion is Book Expo America, if you live in the US. It’s an annual event and in a different destination each year. I landed my first book contract from a publisher I met there (The Tao of Horses). There are all kinds of other options too.. writer groups at libraries, meet-ups, classes… or, you can just “do it” and see what the creative process unfolds.
What are a few of your favorite horse stories?
One of my favorite horse stories is a movie. I love the film “Into the West” starring Gabriel Byrne and Ellen Barkin. I was researching horse films and stumbled across it. There are Irish Traveler boys dealing with a troubled father, and a magical horse that seemingly appears from the sea. It’s a captivating movie with fabulous horse sequences, drama, great acting, and some very funny scenes too. The film should have been a box office hit, in my mind. Someone sure took a wrong turn marketing that one. The film is really image used for the film.
As for other favorites .. Any episode of the TV series “Mister Ed” would qualify. They’re clever, creative, and made the horse the star.
Your most recent book is about your own horse. Can you give us a quick synopsis of the story (without giving away too much of the good stuff)?
The book is inspired by my horse. It is fiction, even though I used his name and drew from personal experiences and more. There are also bits of many horses and people I’ve encountered over the years. And, it’s written from a horse’s perspective! Interestingly, when I decided to go that route, some ideas came to me that I’d never considered before about life as a horse.
Back to the synopsis. I will tell you that Kala’s journey started much like my own with the real RajaliKa… planning to move to France and then Life steps in.. you meet someone or in this case, a special horse, and everything changes. It’s also a story many horses share. They’re bought as an investment, for a job, whatever, and don’t go along with the program. RAJALKA SPEAK is the story of a “bad boy” horse who turns his life around in a rather unique take on the horse-human bond. I had to describe the “themes” and realized it shows how love, trust, commitment, dealing with life’s uncertainties and ultimately choice, can unlock the power of expressing oneself in extraordinary ways. My horse really does “speak on request.”
In my opinion, the illustrations are exceptional, tell us about your illustrator.
Dani Bowman is an amazing young lady. She is 19 and has autism. I recently learned she did not talk until she was five. At age 11, she started her own animation company Powerlight Studios. She’s been working professionally since she was 14 and teaches animation at Joey Travolta’s summer camps for children with autism.
Dani was recently the keynote speaker at OCALICON (a big deal!). That’s the nation’s premier autism and disabilities conference. Besides illustrating RAJALIKA SPEAK, she created the video book trailer, where we both visit with the real RajaliKa. In it, Dani animated one of the illustrations from the book with his real vocals!
Here’s the Rafflecopter link for the giveaway! (And while you’re there, feel free to like the Saddle Seeks Horse Facebook page–not required for giveaway entry, but a kind gesture. 🙂 Giveaway entry deadline is December 22 at midnight, CA time.
So readers, what books (horse or not) have you enjoyed recently?
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