I am privileged to feature Teresa Cutler-Broyles on my blog this week. Her thoroughly enjoyable book One Eyed Jack, published by Crooked Cat, took me back to my horse-mad youth with its Pony Club gymkhanas, and rainy days curling up in a corner with a book to take me into fantasy worlds filled with these amazing noble creatures.
You can read my review of One Eyed Jack HERE.
(Yes, Teresa, I know it’s not part of the interview, but I’ve enjoyed English Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Somali ponies, Welsh and Shetland ponies, and every imaginable cross between them all. I’ve even had the privilege of briefly sharing a retired Lipizzaner, and an Irish Sports Horse to ride over the hills and far away on the South Downs). Bits of my horse-mad years have rubbed off into the initial chapters of my book, Breath of Africa!
But down to the business of getting to know you better –
Tell us a bit about yourself and what led you to write One Eyed Jack.
That’s a long story… the short version is that I’d had horses since I was 12 years old – quarter horses, Morgans, Arabs – and did everything you can think of on them: trail riding, jumping, showing in trail classes and equitation classes, and riding for pleasure across the deserts where I lived in Arizona. When I was 30 I started working on a horse ranch in Colorado named Bear Basin Ranch (http://www.bearbasinranch.com/); on this ranch we took clients from around the world up into the Sangre de Cristo mountains on 3-5-day pack trips. During my first year there, one of our horses lost an eye in an accident and I helped the vet when he had to take it out. I later bought the horse from the ranch and was thrilled when I found out he was capable of everything every other horse I’d owned, even jumping small jumps. I wanted to write a story that got that message out there in the world, and was entertaining at the same time.
How much of an effort was it?
It was relatively easy. As a horse-lover and owner for so many years, I knew what it was like to be a young girl longing for a horse, as well as what it was like to be a trainer of horses as an adult. The story flowed from my experiences; even though it was fiction – my one-eyed horse was a quarter horse whereas Lauren’s is a thoroughbred, and my mother never had the same accident on horses – almost everything Lauren does with Jack, I did at some point with my horses.
While reading your book, I learned something of the way horses are trained in the US. Did you set out to educate the reader in planning and patience through Lauren’s experiences?
I did. I wanted to both show how easy a one-eyed horse can adapt, and how easily a person could train such a horse, with dedication and patience. I hope I made it entertaining, as well as educational! Lauren makes a lot of mistakes – and she has fun, all while learning and making new friends.
Was the book in any way autobiographical?
This is kind of answered above… in many ways it is autobiographical… there are pieces and characteristics of many horses I’ve had all put together in Jack; even his name is the name of a huge sorrel quarter horse I had later in my life. The next novel, Mountain Jack, will be quite autobiographical as well – in it, Lauren will take Jack to a horse ranch in Colorado and he will have to learn all new skills to work with other horses, and with new and inexperienced riders. Some of Lauren and Jack’s adventures will be similar to the adventures I had on a ranch just like the one she will be working on.
Describe the direction you will take for any sequels.
The third in the series, Texas Jack, will be set on a cattle, sheep, and goat ranch in West Texas. Jack will be learning how to do cutting, chasing down renegade sheep, and what to do in a roundup. This is also autobiographical; I worked on such a ranch many years ago as the only girl/woman among lots of cowboys and found it to be a rich and rewarding experience.
Tell us about any other novels you have written.
Shadows of a Gunman is a western that will be coming out, hopefully, in early 2014. It’s a murder mystery set in the late 1800s Wild American West, and starts out with a lonely cowboy awakening one morning with gaps in his memory. He is charged with murder; just before he is taken into custody a young boy arrives to warn him and they leave together. The story is about him discovering who the boy really is, who the woman who died was, and how he can pick up the pieces of a life he thought long lost.
I wrote a book of travel essays about Italy titled A Dream that Keeps Returning in 2007. It is a collection of many essays I wrote while I was living and taking Italian language classes in Italy in 2006.
You are a highly accomplished lady. Where do you hold your Cultural Writing Tours, and why?
I hold my TLC Cultural Writing Workshops in Italy and Turkey – both countries are beautiful, and exciting, and both are conducive to creativity. They began kind of by accident – I’d been traveling in Italy for a number of years, and writing travel articles for an Italian man for his Italian website (www.lifeinitaly.com). One year we met in person with our families in Rome and over a nice, long dinner he said: “I have a house here and have always wanted to be a tour guide. You are a writer and have done writing workshops. Let’s combine our talents and see what happens.” And that was the beginning! We’ve been doing them since 2008, and have another planned for October of this year. Any writer, at any level, can join us – we have a great time.
You must enjoy travelling. Can you tell us about a favourite place.
I can talk forever about Italy. From the time I was young I’d pored over pictures and books about Roman history, Italian architecture and art, the Renaissance, Venice and its canals, ancient monuments… and finally I got a chance to go when I was almost 40. I spent six weeks there on my first visit and was entirely entranced. I would have moved there had I not met the man who became my husband here in the U.S.! Luckily he discovered the same love for travel and for Italy, and we are fortunate enough to visit nearly every year. My favourite city is Rome, with Venice a close second – there are essays in A Dream that Keeps Returning about both cities. I am currently writing a historical novel set in 1570, in a tiny town called Bomarzo just outside of Florence. As often as I can, I go there and work/write in a friend’s home overlooking a valley of Cyprus trees and flowers.
Turkey is my second-favourite country, with Istanbul almost on equal footing with Rome. I love ancient architecture and history, and you can’t go wrong in Istanbul on either count.
What books would you take to read while on your travels?
I always take a silly murder mystery or two, to pass the time in the evenings before I go to sleep. Typically I take some book of travel of some kind, typically about the place I’m visiting, or one I’d like to visit; one of the books I read most recently was Pagan Holiday by Tony Perrottet. I always take an academic book of some kind for whatever project I’m working on. And of course an English/Italian (or English/Turkish or English/Spanish) dictionary!
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
This is a difficult question. I am proud of the work I do as a teacher and mentor, in classes at the University of New Mexico and in organizations like Creativity for Peace¸ www.creativityforpeace.com/, in which college-aged students and young people, respectively, are exposed to ideas and cultures and people outside their own, and with whom they learn to interact. I try to always remember that when we have the opportunity and the means, it is our responsibility to do what we can.
I’m also incredibly proud of all four of my step-children and their lives – but I’m not sure how much of that is due to me – they’re pretty amazing in their own rights!
As for personal achievement, I am proud of my writing career; as all authors know, writing is a hard road and it’s difficult to keep believing it will happen.
You can find out more about Teresa on these websites: