by Laura Crum
In my current life, I forget I am an “author.” It just doesn’t seem very important. The fact that I spent twenty years writing mystery novels, had twelve books published by a legitimate publisher (meaning not self-published), and that I still get a check every month from sales of these books—well, I don’t think about these things much any more. I don’t bother doing publicity for the books on “social media”—as I used to do, other than writing these blog posts on Equestrian Ink, which are mostly not about my writing or even my horses. They are about things that matter to me now.
I quit writing my mystery series several years ago when the twelfth book in the series, “Barnstorming” was published. My goal had always been to write a dozen books and I achieved that goal. I truly didn’t feel motivated to write more novels. The books cover twenty years in the life of one woman, and it took me twenty years to write them. Serendipity. “Barnstorming” is the last.
But the other day something happened to remind me that yes, I am still an author. A new acquaintance asked me what I did “for a living.” I gave the short answer and said that for the last twenty years I had been an author. She was immediately interested, and asked about my books. I explained that they were horse-themed mysteries, with an equine vet as a protagonist and she said what people so often say. “I would love to read them. Can you bring me one? Your favorite.” This comment, though well meant, always makes me grit my teeth a little. People assume the author has an endless supply of her own books to give away (not true), and that I have a favorite (not true). But OK, it is well meant, and the person is interested in my books.
I did what I always do if I like the individual. I explained that the books were a series and best to start with the first one, though it certainly isn’t the best book, in my opinion. I said I would give her the first one and if she liked it she could acquire the others herself. When I went home I couldn’t find any copies of Cutter (my first novel, written over twenty years ago) kicking around the house, so I ordered one from Amazon. Four dollars and change, including the shipping, for a hardcover. Not bad. And a few days later the book arrived at my front gate. Voila.
I brought the book to the acquaintance next time I saw her, and to my amazement she was flatteringly effusive. “I didn’t know you were a famous author. I looked you up on Amazon and all your books have four and five star ratings and lots of reviews and I’m really impressed.”
I must admit I stared at her in surprise. “I’m not a famous author, “ I said, “far from it. I’m a relatively unknown author. But it’s nice of you to say.”
Now here I have to add that I really don’t pay much attention to my “career” any more. I have other things to think about. So I don’t look at my reviews on Amazon. But I went home and looked at Cutter and it did have plenty of reviews and was rated four stars. Then I looked up the second book in the series (Hoofprints) and it had 46 reviews and was rated four and a half stars.
I didn’t feel motivated to look up the rest of the books, so have no idea if they have very many reviews or what they’re rated star-wise. But I did smile to see all the kind words that were said about Cutter and Hoofprints, my first two efforts. And I realized that though I’m not invested in my “success,” I am happy that so many people have read and enjoyed my stories. That means something to me.
I spent many years and much effort on my novels. I wove into them all the little insights on life that I had to offer. My husband and son make appearances as characters, as do my horses and dogs and home. Many of my personal experiences became part of the protagonist’s life. On top of which I tried to create a unique and credible mystery plot for each story, complete with plenty of excitement and horse action. Every single detail about horses comes from real things that have happened to me in a lifetime spent owning and training actual horses (not doing “research”), and each book takes on an aspect of the horse business that I have known well and deeply. Cutting, cowhorse, team roping, ranching, breaking and training a colt, horse packing in the mountains, trail riding here on the coast…even a TB layup farm thanks to my sister-in-law, who trains TB race horses (Moonblind), and an endurance ride, thanks to my friend who is a vet and worked on such rides (Roughstock). These equine events form the background of my stories. And though I have never been chased by a villain on horseback, I HAVE galloped flat out over the terrain that I use as the basis for these scenes (yes, including the beach).
Anyway, yesterday I picked up Cutter and read the first couple of chapters, just to see how it might strike my new friend. And you know, it read pretty good, considering this is maybe the 100th time I’ve seen those words (due to all the re-writing I had to do to get published, not my obsession with my own work). I was pleased. I realized that the books mean something to me. So maybe I am still an author after all.
(And to all those who have read my mystery novels, and especially anyone who took the time to post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or anywhere else, a big thank you!)