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T.J. Kline and Lizbeth Selvig talk horses and cowboys. (Plus, there’s a giveaway!)

Today, authors T.J. Kline and Lizbeth Selvig interview each other about their horses, their books, and why readers so love cowboys. Each author is giving away a copy of her latest release to one lucky US reader. Make a comment below to be entered in this drawing.

Lizbeth: Hi Tina! So we both love to write books that feature cowboys, right? You know you’re my go-to hero when it comes to books about cowboys and their world right? You’ve got a real authentic background in horses, cowboys and cowgirls–tell me about your cowgirl background!

Tina: Aw, that’s so sweet of you to say, Lizbeth! And yes, I do love writing about cowboys. I guess it started when I was a kid and we moved out to the country. Like most girls, I was horse crazy but once I had one of my own, it was finished, I was long-gone. Then I found rodeo and started training horses and just kind of immersed myself in the entire culture willingly.

Lizbeth: Well, I was purely a city girl until I was twelve and then we moved to the ‘burbs of Minneapolis–so my horse crazy days (and they were crazy!) consisted of dude ranches and horse posters. But, I married before I finished college and my hubby’s graduation present to me was my first horse. Like you–it was all over for me–I’ve had them in my life ever since!

What was your first horse’s name?

Tina: Shasta and she was the ugliest Appaloosa you’ve ever seen but in my eyes (at least until she started rearing and tried to throw me) she was gorgeous. What about you?

Lizbeth: LOL–rearing: not cool. But I love her name. My first horse was a tiny (14.2 hands) chestnut Arabian whose registered name was Sepamal–isn’t that just a dreadful name? Sounds like a stomach remedy. But, we called him Sep and I owned him for 29 years. He lived to be 32 and was like riding in a Ferrari until he was 31!

Tina: Aw, the horse of your heart. Mine is the boy I had given to me at 3 months old. He was weaned from his mother and handed straight to me. I’m still “mom” to this day. I did everything with him: broke him, trained him, used him for rodeos, roping and barrel racing. Dusty Bottoms is almost 25 years old and arthritic but would still risk his life for me.

Lizbeth: Oh my gosh–that’s the coolest story. In fact, there’s a character for a book in him for sure–have you ever used Dusty as a model for storytelling?

Tina: I actually used Dusty as my model for Valentino in Rodeo Queen! What about you? Has Sapamal ever made an appearance?

Lizbeth: So far I’ve used Sep as an example mostly for the relationships my characters have with their horses. I do have a plan to use a small Arabian who comes onto the ranch and is looked on as a misfit among all the great cattle horses until he proves himself–that’ll be Sep!

You’ve had many horses I’ll bet. And you were a rodeo queen! That is so cool to me–like a dream. How did that experience influence your writing?

Tina: Being a rodeo queen (several times actually) was a big part of my young womanhood and taught me a lot. It gave me a behind-the-scenes view of rodeos and cowboys that most people don’t get to see. So, which of your experiences have made it into your writing? Because you’ve got some amazing characters.

Lizbeth: Aww, thanks for the nice words about the characters–we certainly have that in common!! I think my years of learning about horses always gets used in my stories. I took extension classes at the University, and read every horse psychology book I could, so I have a lot of technical knowledge. Kind of built-in research I always have to curb. But the biggest influence has been my daughter and her show and school career. She’s now an equine veterinarian and has inspired so many plotlines! I have one character who’s a vet, several who show in three-day eventing, and a couple who are trainers. They all populate my real-life world so are fair game for stories!

Tina: So, what do you think it is about cowboys that makes us want to write about them and makes it so easy for our readers fall for them?

Lizbeth: Ah, cowboys! I think it’s our romanticized vision of the untamed man, the free-roamer, the strong man who can be gentle with animals and, therefore, with us.

I’d love to know YOUR answer to “why do you think cowboys are so popular and what makes them so attractive to romance readers?”

Tina: I think you’re right. Women see cowboys (rodeo or ranchers) as an enigma. Men capable of taking care of the land, his animals and his woman. He’s the strong, silent type but can also be tender or tough as the situation requires it. Plus, like I said, there is just something sexy about a man on a horse!

Lizbeth: You said it absolutely best!! Something about a man on a horse! So tell me, Tina, did you start right out writing about horses, cowboys and western themes?

Tina: I did. I believed the adage to “write what you know” and took it a step further. I write what I know and love, as well as the books I’d love to read. I’ve been reading western romance since I picked up my first romance as a teen.

What about you? Did you know it was always about the cowboys or did another hero steal your attention first?

Lizbeth: You know, I always loved cowboys but I didn’t start out writing them. My first published hero was a rock star! But-his heroine raised horses so I definitely had horses in the story. Then I moved on to characters who participated in English-style riding: dressage and three-day eventing. That was different for readers. But with my new series, I’m definitely in a ranch setting and most of my heroes are or become cowboys!

Tina: There’s just something about a man on a horse, even if he’s not really a “cowboy.”

Lizbeth: (Funny thing is, the last two books in that first series have guys in cowboy hats on the covers. There are no cowboys–but I did put the cowboy hats in there! I really wanted a guy in sexy breeches on the covers–but that sort of says “historical” to most readers so it wasn’t feasible.)

So tell me about your current book(s) the Healing Harts. You have such sympathetic characters not to mention gorgeous covers. Tell me about that series and your favorite couples!!

Tina: The Healing Harts series is focused on a family of people who can’t help but heal others. The first book was about a sister who turned the family dude ranch into a horse rescue that worked with at risk teens, the second was a sister who trained service animals, the third is their brother who is a vet and now I finally get to release the one with their smart-aleck cousin, Bailey. She and Chase are definitely my favorite couple of the series. Bailey has always been a fun character to write so it’s been a wild ride for her to find her HEA.

Tell me more about your latest series. I absolutely adore the covers and look forward to each one that comes out.

Lizbeth: My current series is called Seven Brides for Seven Cowboys. My original idea was to do a modern day Bonanza where the giant ranch owners were women instead of men. Over several conversations with my agent and editor we morphed it into the seven brides theme. So I came up with six sisters and a long lost cousin and a 50,000 acre spread in Wyoming (near the Tetons). The twist is–each of the girls had left home to get away from their demanding father. When he dies, they all return home and have to find their reasons to stay and save Paradise Ranch.

Tina: So, which one is your favorite so far and what do we have to look forward to in the upcoming books from you?

Lizbeth: The newest book is The Bride Wore Starlight is about Joely Crockett, who was very seriously injured in a car accident in the first book of the series. Joely has spent her whole life as a beauty queen: rodeo princesses and queen (like you!) and then Miss Wyoming. She’s not vain–but she does believe her worth is in her beauty. Now she’s scarred and can’t walk well–and she is lost. Enter Alec a former rodeo saddle bronc rider who lost a leg in Iraq (but not in actual combat). He looks like he has it all together and is a huge help to Joely–but he’s still wounded inside too. They truly are each other’s strength!

Tina: Wow, sounds intense! I can’t wait to read it.

Lizbeth: I really enjoyed writing Joely’s story–because we’re so obsessed with beauty and perfection in this country; I wanted to explore that. But I loved Harper and Cole in the first book The Bride Wore Denim because that was the old childhood crush/sister’s former boyfriend trope and I loved watching them come together to save themselves and the ranch!

As for the future: three of my sisters are identical triplets and their stories will be fun! The next one is Grace’s book–her hero is a small-time poker player who thinks he has rights to the Paradise Ranch spread.

Tell me what’s coming up next for you!

Tina: Well, next up is a book that was never supposed to happen – Gage’s story. The guy who started as a side character stole the hearts of enough people that his story had to be told. I love the way this story turned out.

Then, I just finished a super-secret project (don’t you hate it when authors say that?) but I’m also working on a new series. Like the Healing Harts, this one is family based but it’s a BIG family and while they’ve all grown up on a cattle ranch and still come back often, the heroes and heroines span a wide range – from football players, to country stars. Firemen to animal trainers running a sanctuary. There’s plenty of romance and even a little suspense.

Lizbeth: I love that your next book is “the hero that was never supposed to be written.” I have one like that, too. A wounded veteran who was a side-character in The Bride Wore Red Boots. He’s going to become a hotshot firefighter and be the hero for one of the triplets because people just loved him and his little wild mustang. Gotta love those crazy secondary characters!!

And you maybe can’t give away the super sekrit project but do you know when you will be letting the cat out of the bag?

Tina: I’ll definitely be keeping readers updated in my monthly newsletter but it will officially be available in June, although there’ll be a cover reveal and teasers before that.

So, Lizbeth, if you could write anything next, who is the one character you’d love to write into a story?

Lizbeth: I have a completely larger-than-life character I’d LOVE to play with. A few years ago I fell in love with the old TV show Have Gun Will Travel. The main character Paladin is a western renaissance man–a gunfighter, a wine expert, a horse expert, a Shakespeare quoter. I would LOVE to create a character like that only set him in the future where a man like that would fit–it would be hard to write that in contemporary times. But I want to write an over-the-top hero!

How about you, Tina?

Tina: I love for my characters to have deep backstories and be super-complicated. However, that can also lead to some heavy emotions. Sometimes it great to just have a simple character without the weight of the world on his/her shoulders. I’d like to write that character. The fun, flirty, life of the party that seems to make a thousand mistakes but it works out. Sort of like Peter Quill/Star Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy.

Lizbeth: You know, that DOES sound wonderful. My stories are very heavy with emotional backgrounds, too. I will read your fun and flirty hero!!!

Tina: It’s been so fun chatting with you. I think we could do this all day! I know you love staying in touch with your readers so where can they find you?

Lizbeth: I do love connecting with readers and making them into new friends! They can always message me through my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/lizbethselvigauthor or go to my website:www.lizbethselvig.com! What about you?

Tina: I’m sort of a social media junkie so it’s easiest to find me (and all of my outlets) on my website atwww.writertjkline.com. Then they can connect with me on any of them and sign up for my monthly newsletter and giveaways there. Plus, for the die-hard fans, I always have T.J.’s Country Crew where they get extra fun.


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02/27/2016 9:37 am

Cowboys represent openness, independence, manifest destiny, and for many of us, a past way of life. In a time of agribusiness, massive corporate ranches, and other forms of consolidation, people like to imagine the roaming cowboy and the rodeo and one man controlling his future. It’s romantic in the classic sense of that word.

Reply to  ML
02/27/2016 9:40 pm

I completely agree!

Eileen Aberman-Wells
Eileen Aberman-Wells
02/26/2016 10:58 pm

I don’t know where my love for cowboys came from. Maybe as one of you said, those fictionalized versions that we were sold or maybe those shows from long ago like Gunsmoke and Bonaza. I loved watching them with my family.

Reply to  Eileen Aberman-Wells
02/26/2016 11:38 pm

I still have no idea where my horse love came from. I grew up in the city, never touching a horse, except the ones tied to the hitching post for trail rides over summers. Even then, I’d never ridden until I convinced my parents to buy one when I was fourteen. However, once I did, life was never the same! Sometimes, the love is always there, burning just under the surface, waiting to be awakened.

Mary C.
Mary C.
02/26/2016 7:24 pm

I grew up reading my brother’s Zane Grey books and watching John Wayne movies, Gunsmoke and Bonanza with my grandfather. Love westerns.

Reply to  Mary C.
02/26/2016 11:36 pm

I love when people try to tell me the Western genre is dead. As long as I love reading it, I know other people are out there too, and I’ll continue writing it. :)

Lizbeth Selvig
Lizbeth Selvig
02/26/2016 11:12 am

Hi Jane A,
Oh, did you ever get that subject right! I am totally incensed (probably more than I should be, lol) when facts and terminology about horses are wrong. I wrote a two-part newsletter feature for our local RWA chapter about using horses in stories, and I did a craft session once, too. My basic generic rules are: nobody but an expert horseman rides a stallion; nobody gallops into a barn or ranch yard to end a ride unless there’s a fire; nobody lets her horse rear on purpose because she’s a “”good”” rider; and you don’t make love on horseback! (I used to say you “”can’t”” make love, but oddly enough if you Google it *blush* you find it’s possible. But it certainly is not romantic!) Fortunately, my daughter is an equine vet so if I ever have question (like about labor–if a horse is in distress more than 15 minutes you’re in trouble) I can go to her! Thanks so much for coming by today!

Jane A
Jane A
02/26/2016 9:33 am

I have had horses all my life and love reading stories that include them. It’s important, though, that if they’re included that the author knows what she’s talking about. Here’s one recent example that really bugged me, a mare in labor for 24 hours! Not going to happen! So it’s good to read stories from authors that I know have a knowledgeable background in horses, saves me from teeth gnashing! :)

Reply to  Jane A
02/26/2016 10:55 am

LOL Nothing bugs me more. I was reading a story I loved because you could tell the author knew her stuff with dogs and training. Personal experience goes a long way.

02/26/2016 4:11 am

I love fiction that includes horses, as I too am still one of those horse-crazy girls, having never outgrown my obsession. I have two, a Percheron gelding, my first horse, and now a young Friesian gelding that I’m starting myself. Not enough books include horses!

Reply to  Blackjack1
02/26/2016 9:24 am

I’m so jealous. All of my life I wanted one of BOTH those breeds! Someday. Until then, I’m pretty content with my Paint and my Buckskin. As people will see from my many pictures with them

Lizbeth Selvig
Lizbeth Selvig
Reply to  TJKline
02/26/2016 11:04 am

Hi Blackjack1!
Your babies sounds wonderful–they are both such elegant and powerful breeds; I jealous, too! What are your horses’ names? And do you do any particular kind of riding with them? Wish there was a way to post pics! And I totally agree–not enough horsey-themed romances. If I see a cover with a horse on it–it’s a must-pick-up for me!