Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Interview with Christy Cashman, Author of The Truth About Horses

About the Book:

Fourteen-year-old Reese’s dream of winning the Black Elk race is shattered when her beloved horse, Trusted Treasure, falls at the last jump and the vet suggests they put him down. While still reeling from that loss, her family suffers a second tragedy—one that results in the end of their family business, the sale of Trusted Treasure, and irreparable damage to Reese’s relationship with her father.

Heartbroken and still longing to find Trusted Treasure, Reese meets Wes, a selective mute, whose way of training horses is unlike anything she’s ever seen. If anyone can win the Black Elk, it’s Wes—but he’s struggling with his troubled past, and having a teenage girl hanging around his barn isn’t exactly what he’d planned. Through heartaches and triumphs, Reese must prove her worth if she wants to heal her family, help Wes, and show them all that some dreams are worth fighting for.

A spellbinding tale in which every teenager has magical powers within them just waiting to be discovered, this book will have you laughing and crying—sometimes on the same page—all the while rooting for Reese, the most unlikely of heroes.

The Interview

Hi Christy! First of all, congratulations on writing such a heartfelt and riveting story! You had me hook, line, and sinker from the first page. Where did the idea come from? 

Thank you so much! I’m thrilled that you enjoyed it. 

Trying to figure out exactly where the idea came from is not easy. I think it was a series of ideas. I didn’t even necessarily set out to write a novel. I’m sure I would have balked at that suggestion. I actually thought I was going to write a treatment for a film but once I started the writing process, the voice of the protagonist, Reese, was much more suited for a novel, and I went with it.

I had been to Cavalia and was very moved by the way horses were so artfully celebrated. It’s like each performance was a moving painting of these exquisite creatures and that brought me back to my childhood when simply being in the presence of a horse felt like a spiritual experience. I remember looking at their big eyes, their shiny coats, their flowing manes and tails and feeling a sort of magical energy. I also remember always having a sense of longing as a child. And a lot of that longing was about wanting to be with my horse and take care of him. I think longing is in everyone and as children, it goes hand in hand with learning. If you think about it, what we long for and how we go about attaining or not attaining it tends to be our invitation in life to learn who we are. Having a horse as a child was the world in which I experienced so many successes and failures and that time in my life was so fraught with emotions that writing about Reese and how she longed for her horse Treasure was like finding a trove of possibilities. Sometimes it felt like the story was always there and I just uncovered it and other times it felt like I was totally trying to make my way in the dark.


The story begins with an unthinkable tragedy that sets in motion a lot of terrible things that make our heroine Reese miserable. While I was shocked and sad, I loved the randomness of the event, that it catches the reader totally by surprise, which is what it’s like in real life. How hard was that first chapter to write? 

The first chapter wasn’t always the first chapter. At one point in the process, it was chapter eight! Moving chapters around is a little like moving furniture around in a room. When it goes in the right place, it suddenly feels right, and you know it instantly. When I wrote that chapter, I tried to put myself in the car and when I was about twelve, I was in a car accident where our car hit a patch of ice and we fishtailed off the road into a ditch. I remember sitting in the backseat and seeing all of this weird detail and noticing even in the moment that I was noticing it—it  was weird that I was noticing! It was crazy how everything slowed down. We were lucky we were all OK other than my Mom broke some ribs and my brother’s face hit the windshield (and he picked pieces of glass out of his face for a year) but I guess it was pretty traumatic because that’s the memory I mined from to write that scene.

Reese’s relationship with her father (or lack thereof) is at the heart of the story. At times I just wanted to yell at him, I was so furious. And yet, his behavior isn’t all that uncommon, unfortunately. Why do you think it’s so important for kids to read about parents who mess up? 

Yes, her Dad is very frustrating and I enjoyed writing his character because as adults we tend to think we’re dealing with things when all we’re really doing is avoiding them at all costs. Which I know all about from experience! We grow up with the idea that our parents should know everything when really, they are often just injured children themselves who are afraid to feel. I think accepting that is crucial to growing. And allowing ourselves to be vulnerable about our feelings with our children can feel like we’re admitting we don’t know what we’re doing but it’s probably the only thing that truly connects us.

The other heart of the story focuses on Reese’s desire to find her beloved horse, Trusted Treasure (sold after the family tragedy) and find a way to keep her mother’s horse barn going. I have to say: you make owning a horse and the barn life VERY appealing. As a reader, I learned so much, not just about the care and keeping of horses, but how horses are bought and sold. Was it a challenge to write about an area you know so much about in an accessible way? 

I chose the world of horses because I knew I could write about it in a believable way. A writing instructor told me that we all have these experiences in our lives that we are well-versed enough to be able to create around. So, if you choose a world that you know and are able to describe it using all of your senses, then your story will be grounded and your reader will automatically trust you so that when you weave in the other elements of the story, they can’t decipher what’s made up from what’s not. I heard a musician describing jazz to me. He said that jazz is taking a melody and going off on tangents around it and then making your way back to the melody in an unexpected way. In a way, writing a novel is a little like that in that the “grounded world” is the melody and as long as you keep returning to it, you can weave through all of the other elements you want.

Another character central to the story is Wes, who has his own complicated reasons for taking over the horse barn. Through her relationship with Wes, Reese literally finds a voice and a bit of autonomy in a life that is fast unravelling. Wes’ motives are mysterious throughout a lot of the book; how easy was it to tease out his role in the story? 

I definitely knew that he brought a mysterious quality simply by being a selective mute. I found that Reese’s interpretation of what she thought he was thinking was a fun way to know Wes. But half the time she was only guessing and so it really turned out being a way to get to know her better. I had to work hard to find other ways of understanding Wes. Mainly, I felt like the path to understanding Wes was how he was around his horses. As I was writing his character, I noticed that sometimes I talk because I’m nervous and just filling an uncomfortable space. Because, when someone is silent, the more I hear myself talk, truly “hear myself” I can at times sound pretty ridiculous. I wanted to get that feeling across with Wes when Reese was complaining about Lexi.

There is a wonderful magical realism subplot that involves a group of wild horses. We meet them early in the story, and they show up at very important moments in the story. I love that aspect of the story – it really challenges the reader to decide for themselves what is real or not. 

I have always felt like the best stories are the ones that are highly interpretive. I knew I wanted an element that couldn’t be explained away. 

There is plenty of swearing in this book – Reese is fourteen and going through A LOT – and some really intense moments in the story when Reese loses it and I wondered if there was any push back from your editor? Personally, given the circumstances, I thought the choices you made were right on. 

Believe it or not, there wasn’t any pushback. And believe it or not, I don’t like swearing. But I feel like Reese’s swearing wasn’t gratuitous in the story. She was so angry and she wanted her Dad to feel what she felt. She wanted to make him angry and she tried everything she could to get him to see her even if it was by doing exactly what she knew would rile him up the most! As much as I had to do a bit of soul searching and ask myself if that was the best way to show her anger, I kept landing on yes. In this story, swearing was purposeful and part of my character’s development.

What’s next? You are sure to have a LOT of fans after this story!

I’m so excited to be working on my second novel BEULAH! It’s set in the Great Smoky mountains in Tennessee in the late ‘80s. In the midst of feeling pushed out of her own hometown, Zadie, the 15-year-old protagonist learns that a girl from her school has gone missing. The town is gripped in fear, friends turn on each other and already feeling like an outsider, Zadie finds herself wondering who her friends and her family really are.

Thanks Christy! 

Want to learn more about Christy? click here

Want to pre-order the book, which comes out August 15th? Scan the barcode below: