Our Four In Hand “driver” today is thriller author Connie Johnson Hambley. The author of THE CHARITY and the recently released sequel THE TROUBLES, Connie has a lot to tell us about her past and present life with horses. Her experience adds depth and drama to the equestrian scenes in her yarns. So, grab a cup of tea or joe, and get comfy.
Take it away, Connie.
- Do you have a horse? (Name, breed – if known, color, most memorable experience)
I am sad to admit that I’m a horse lover without a horse, although friends know me as the best horse-sitter around! I get my horse fix by volunteering as a horse handler at a therapeutic riding stable to assist people with disabilities in learning how to ride. Seeing horses settle and adjust to a new rider provides a window into a world without words. Everything shrinks down to cues and responses, cause and effect, and the intuition that guides the horse/human connection. As a writer, I spend my days searching for the right combination of words, but when I’m at the barn, I can just be. It’s calming to me and helps me focus on the clients.
2. Did you have a horse or pony in childhood? (Name, breed – if known, color, most memorable experience)
Any sympathy I may have gained by admitting I’m currently “horseless” will now evaporate. I had a total of six horses growing up. In no particular order, they were:
Abigail: a bay Tennessee Walker. A beautiful horse to watch move and the first horse I ever fell off. I was four years old and pissed! Yup, got back on and didn’t tell mom.
Snowball: a snotty Shetland pony with two watch eyes. Very creepy. Eye contact with her made the most skeptical believers in reincarnation.
Empress: a bay Quarter Horse and Houdini of the equine world. My sister and I were escorted out of school more than once by the local cops to help them look for her. Seems gallivanting horses tear up lawns and golf courses, frighten grannies, and stop traffic–all things much frowned upon by law enforcement. Empress escaped once for days. We resorted to searching for her by airplane! We found her three towns north. How she got that far without someone seeing her, I’ll never know.
Banshee: a grey Welsh. Why are all ponies so opinionated? Loved bologna. On a prank, I brought her into my dad’s office. (No elevator, just a couple of steps up.) Think of it as “Take your pony to work day.” The expression on his face was priceless. With impeccable manners, she waited until she was outside again to poop.
Bojangles: a chestnut mutt. Sweet disposition, but clumsy and not a good show horse. Completely bomb proof. May have had a lobotomy by a previous owner.
Foxy: a chestnut Thoroughbred-Arabian mix. (pictured above). He was my guy, but strung tighter than a violin string. Nibbles of my peanut butter and fluff sandwiches were his reward. Just riding him was mine.
- Western or English? Or both? (Not at once, though, although I admit I’ve done the tack mash-up in beginner lessons.)
Empress and Snowball were western trained, but the others and all of my training were English/hunter seat. I love the formality and discipline. I enjoy western for trail, but I never say “no” to any opportunity to hop on. I’ll admit, western riding for me was so much more relaxing and comfortable. Now that I think of it, I might defect completely. I write my equestrian disciplines with the English bias. My first novel, THE CHARITY has an intense hunter pace scene. THE TROUBLES, my second in the series, travels to the UK for a steeplechase on the Grand National course. I’m eyeing Rolex in Kentucky for book three’s equestrian note.
- Why write books that feature horses?
In my books, horses are a seasoning, not the meal itself. A character’s interaction with horses can show grit and fearlessness or mealy-mouthed cowardice. I write thrillers and like to create a world where everything is questioned. Are the people good or bad? Is the situation dangerous or safe? Horses effortlessly bring tension and the element of having the reader question every footfall.
THE TROUBLES: Synopsis
In the sequel to THE CHARITY, while riding in a world-class steeplechase, American Jessica Wyeth is unwittingly used as an accomplice in a devastating bombing in an English shopping mall. The group behind the bombing is The Charity, a generations-old support network of the IRA. Meanwhile, Jessica’s lover, who’s also the reluctant heir to The Charity, must choose between his allegiance to his violent family legacy or the woman he loves. Jessica’s fight for her life leads her to uncover her mother’s secrets and Ireland’s the divided soul.
Connie Johnson Hambley grew up on a small dairy farm just north of New York City. She was a child when an arsonist burned her family’s barn to the ground. Memories from that experience grew the stories that became THE CHARITY and THE TROUBLES .
Learn more about Connie, as well as where to find her on social media, at her website.
Photos courtesy Connie Johnson Hambley.