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Interview with Robert Barclay, author of If Wishes Were Horses

Posted by inkpopbecki on February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines Day! When trying to decide what to do for this great day of love, we decided to bring you an interview with a new author whose book is said to be like Nicholas Sparks meets The Horse Whisperer. Our hearts jut melted when we read If Wishes Were Horses. Just for fun we’re giving you a chance to win a free copy of this book. Just leave a comment. We’ll randomly select two commenters to receive a free copy of If Wishes Were Horses.

Q: Writing was a lifelong ambition for you. What finally propelled you to sit down and write If Wishes Were Horses?

Robert Barclay: After I sold my businesses in New York, I moved to Florida.  I had always wanted to write a novel of some kind, and my wife, Joyce, suggested that I do it.  She said something like:  “Okay, big shot.  Now you’ve got the money and time, so go and write your book!”  So it came in the form of a challenge that I couldn’t refuse!  She’s my rock, that one.  Many folks who know us call her “my better two-thirds”!

Q: Your wife, Joyce, is a practicing psychologist, and she too suffered a tragedy similar to the plot of your novel. Did that make it easier to write—or more difficult?

RB: Both, I would say.  Joyce lost her younger son to a drunk driver.  Sadly, I witnessed the true pain and sorrow of someone who was actually going through it.   That meant I could both write about it with a greater sense of reality, but it also forced me to watch Joyce endure the most difficult period of her life.  From that terrible reality came the idea of Wyatt losing his family.  I only hope that I conveyed it well.

Q: You revealed that much of the novel is drawn from your own past. Can you share with us one or two examples from the book in which a situation in your own life inspired a part of the story? How do you as an author balance your own experiences with your fictional narrative? Were there ever times that you thought you had to change something because it was too close?

RB: Because Wyatt lost his wife and son on his birthday, he finds it impossible to take the blessings during his weekly church service, which is a celebration of blessings, anniversaries, etc.  Instead of participating, he always leaves the church just as the priest commences it.  The inspiration for this came about while I was in church one Sunday.  As the priest called for people to come and take the blessings, I saw a man of about my age rise from his pew and head for the aisle.  Rather than heading for the sanctuary, however, with his head hung low he gave some cash to one of the ushers, and he quietly departed the church.  Although I never saw him again, I knew that his tale had to be an interesting one.  That became the inspiration for Wyatt’s inability to remain in church during the blessings.  Seeing that unknown man leave the church seemed so poignant, and it rang so true, that I knew I wanted to use the occasion in my book.

And yes—novelists must do their best to balance their fictions with their own, true-life experiences.  The secret, I think, is letting your life experiences get close to the storyline—but not so close that you are actually recreating them onto the written page.  If the writer falls into that trap, he or she will begin telling the story of their lives, rather than those of the characters.  Plus, every new tale will smack too loudly of the preceding one.  Personal experiences are highly useful.  But no matter how enticing they might be, they should be used only as a guideline, and nothing more.

Q: Equine Therapy is a central part of the story. Why did you decide to focus on this type of therapy versus another? Based on your research, do you think this type of treatment is effective for troubled teens?

RB: I had heard of equine therapy, and what little I knew about it at the time seemed like a good premise around which to wind a love story.  As I did the research and interviewed people who actually ran such programs, I realized that not only was it an effective form of therapy for troubled teens, but that it could also be incorporated into a ranch setting, which might make the novel more interesting.  Plus, I set the book in Florida, which is not usually the first state that comes to mind when people think about horses, or horse ranches.

Q: You have several very strong female protagonists in this story: Gabby, Aunt Lou, and Mercy. As a male writer, do you find it hard to capture the voice for your female protagonists? Explain.

RB: I very much enjoy writing female characters, but they’re tricky to do well.    Women can be so emotionally guarded one moment, and yet become so vulnerable only moments later.  I think that’s what writers of either gender need to better understand. For the most part, I think, men tend to think and act decisively, in straight lines.  Things are far more black and white for them.  Women, on the other hand, tend to think more before acting, and they seek deeper meaning in both the words they say, and the ones they hear.   Which by the way is a good thing, I think.  I truly do believe that if women ran the world, there would be fewer wars.

Q: How have your family and friends reacted to your success as a novelist? What has the experience been like for you?

RB: My family was amazingly supportive about my writing a book, especially when one considers how difficult it is to be published.  Frankly, I was shocked to learn not only that the book had sold, but to also learn how much support it is being given by my publisher, HarperCollins.  Everyone—including myself—is eagerly awaiting February 15th, the day the book hits the shelves.

Q: What writers have influenced your work? Which writers do you admire and what are you currently reading?

RB: As a kid, I very much enjoyed Ian Fleming and Mickey Spillane.  Tough-guy spy stuff, things like that.  In fact, I spent a lot of time wondering who would win the fight if James Bond went up against Mike Hammer, but I never did figure that one out!  Later on my tastes matured, and I read all kinds of things now.  Lately, I‘ve taken to gobbling up biographies.  My all-time favorite is, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, which is Errol Flynn’s autobiography.  It’s an oldie, but a goodie.  Right now, I’m in the middle of a fascinating one called, The Last of the Playboys, which is a detailed account of the life of Porfirio Rubirosa.  It was Rubirosa’s amazing life that inspired Harold Robbins to write The Adventures, and a film was made of Robbins’s book.  If you’re looking for a highly interesting read, I suggest them both.

Like this post? Interested in reading If Wishes Were Horses? Leave a comment and win a chance to receive a free copy of this book.

12 Responses to “Interview with Robert Barclay, author of If Wishes Were Horses”

  1. Autumn said

    Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody!

    Wow, this sounds like a great book 🙂 Haven’t heard of too many novels with Equine Therapy as one of the main focuses.

    -Autumn

  2. Sounds like an interesting book. I used to love horse books myself and then I got sick of them when they were just about horses. Looks like this one has some strong characters, too. I’d love a copy!

  3. gabriellan said

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    Nicholas Sparks meets The Horse Whisperer? Awesome! 😀 Of course, I would read a cereal box if it had a horse on it. But this book sounds cool. And the cover is gorgeous.

  4. Beaver said

    Hmm, this book actually sounds rather interesting. Equine therapy is certainly a new spin I haven’t read of!

  5. Lexie said

    Like everyone else, I must say, the premise definitely intrigues me, and I adore the cover. And horses. ;] I love horses.
    I think it would be an interesting book to read.

  6. Sakira said

    I tried posting a comment last night, but it’s still not showing, so I’m going to try again.

    I love the premise behind this story, and learning the context behind this book made me more eager to read it. It sounds like a great story. I took some horseback riding lessons before, so I’m interested in seeing how all it ties into the story. I would definitely love a copy of this book!

  7. john sullivan said

    I’m reading the book right now and enjoying it immensely. However, just wanted to let the author and editor know that Deadwood is in South Dakota, not Colorado. I would recommend the book to anyone.

  8. Wendy said

    Just wanted you to know I read your book and I hated to see it end. I enjoyed it from start to finish. It was so well written, I felt like I actually knew the characters. You have an amazing talent and I will anxiously await your next book. Keep up the excellent work!

  9. Jessie said

    A wonderful book! Couln’t put it down. Loved the gruff old guy and his interaction with Trevor. Also liked the idea of “don’t wrestle with a pig” etc. A good book for teen discussions.

  10. Rhonda said

    I just finished the book this morning, and was SAD to learn that this was Mr. Barclay’s first–I wanted to get more by him ASAP! The book was romantic, poignant, spiritual,”clean”, and just plain captivating! Refreshing! Hoorah! I’ll be anxiously awaiting his next and recommending to my friends!

  11. Ruth said

    I just read the book. Yes, I would recommend it to Nicholas Sparks fans. I enjoyed the book, but have one small quibble with it. When Wyatt introduces Sadie to Trevor and Gabby, it says that he took ahold of her by her bridle. You don’t leave a horse in a stall with a bridle on. Halter yes, bridle no. I’m sure the editor’s missed this one.

    BTW, there are a lot of books out there about Equine Therapy. Try Kim Meeder’s books about Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch or the more recent book The Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacson.

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