Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Clint Goodwin, author of Leather to Steel.
FQ: Let me start out by saying thank you for your honor toward our country and your service. There is something to the tone and voice in your writing that projects a healing quality to it. How has writing helped you in your life after service?
GOODWIN: Post-war Iraq presented difficult adjustments for me, as it was for thousands of my brothers and sisters who served. The VA doctors—with good intentions— offered all the drugs needed. I declined. I chose to confront and not to ignore the haze. Writing for me is that drug. I needed a healthy outlet to better manage my anxiety, anger, and frustration attributed to combat service in Iraq. Since my return to the states, literary projects provide safe opportunities to overlay unwanted emotions onto my book’s fictitious characters. Writing my books helps me permanently record my perspectives and feelings about war, post-war challenges, and self-reconciliation.
FQ: There is tremendous depth to your writing in that it seems you leave no stone unturned as the story evolves. How long did it take you to write Leather to Steel?
GOODWIN: I labored over two years performing aggressive research, fact-finding, and recalling childhood memories of my parents; whose young lives survived the Great Depression. Their familial guidance served as realistic behavior exemplars—for me— to ensure Leather to Steel human characters were true to the era.
FQ: I’m sure there have been countless hours of fact-checking, writing endnotes and simply keeping all the characters straight. How many editorial passes do you go through before you are confident the book is ready for print?
GOODWIN: Never enough. I focus on the story lines. What is most important to me is ensure characters are realistic, storyline flows and most important to me; the story is historically accurate. With that said, I honestly need to give more time for independent editing. Once I finish a manuscript, I am already thinking about how the next book in the series ends. I am afraid to go back a re-read my own galleys. For good reason. I fear reliving feelings purposely left between the four corners of each page. I am working on that.
FQ: In line with the questions above, was there a time (or were there times) when you had to step away from the story before you could continue? If so, how would you get back on track?
GOODWIN: Yes. There are several times I have had to stop writing. Every book gives me cause to step away to breath, and in some cases, cry. In Mine Eyes… I describe a battle scene where horse character—Lucky—witnesses the violent death of fellow horse. The emotions superimposed on the primary character were based upon my own combat experiences: sights, smells, sounds, and fear.
In Comanche’s Wars, I wrote a scene recreating another heartbreak; one I personally drew upon to establish a mournful dialogue between two horses. I had to summon unwanted emotions to create real and painful words to define my characters’ interactions. Though therapeutic for me, those words often translate to tears while I type. Leather to Steel was no different. Unwanted emptions superimposed over characters whose existence depended on others. In each of those situations, I took deep cleansing breaths, for I must reengage to finish dialogues representing for me, a coming-to-terms phenomenon - relief.
FQ: Knowing there are more installments to come with this series, how much ‘downtime’ do you allow yourself between transitioning from one story to the next?
GOODWIN: Great question. There is no particulate schedule driving me to write. However, writing is like living in a movie one starts, or stops when the imagination becomes dormant. You don’t want the movie to end. When that feeling overwhelms my senses, I start writing again. I suppose on average, I have taken a couple of weeks off—between books—to reflect on my characters’ journeys.
FQ: In my writing experiences, I find it is a very cathartic process. When I read your work, this seems to resonate as well with you. Are there times when you are getting too close to a ‘healing moment’ when you need to step away? How does that affect the tone when you sit back down to the project at hand?
GOODWIN: Writing is healing. Projecting my personal, innermost feelings onto a fictional character releases the truth. The raw anxiety, fears, and hurt are projected onto imaginary horses whose disposition can handle the truth without burdening real human beings. The healing moment occurs when the raw truth is buried on paper and not in my heart.
FQ: I am a huge fan of how each of your stories casts a bright and wonderful light on the horse. You ‘corral’ the beauty and essence of their spirit which leads me to believe you have spent a fair amount of time not only ‘in the saddle’, but around the barn as well. Tell me about your equestrian experience.
GOODWIN: I was born and raised in Cowtown USA—the great state of Texas. In my younger days, horses were “only” working animals. They had a job to do: cutting cattle. I also used them to compete in rodeos. In Texas, football, baseball, and other sports took a backseat to rodeoing. Our slang used to describe my kind – Goat Ropers. I was a Goat Roper. Why? We practiced roping goats to prepare for rodeo competitions. When you learn to rope a goat; you can rope a sideways steer. As far as horse riding style. Using today’s modern language, I rode pure western. In my time cowboys did not call chaps, chaps. We called them leg’ns. We did not call cows, cows. We called the heifers, bulls, or steers. Now, fast forward to the 80s, I did use an English saddle (once) to break a green quarter horse. The horse was broke, and I was bent. Never again. I have earned my spurs: kicked, bit, and thrown.
FQ: The honor and admiration toward our men and women in service is inherently important to me. I applaud you for the consistent honor you pay to our servicemen and women (and horses) in all your work. What is the most important message you would like to impart on our men and women in service and why?
GOODWIN: Their military service made a positive difference for those who could not protect themselves. My brothers and sisters’ lives added up to something greater than all of us. They will never be forgotten.
FQ: Clearly, your stories have a resounding patriotic theme. What does our flag’s significance mean to you?
GOODWIN: Freedom, suffering, selflessness, determination, resilience, joy, and hope.
FQ: In closing, I thank you for your time and congratulate you on your well-deserved 2017 Feathered Quill Gold Award for Leather to Steel. This is a truly phenomenal read and I cannot wait to read the next installment in this series. Are you able to give us a sneak peek at what’s coming off your future press?
GOODWIN: I would be glad to do so. My fourth installment—War-to-War: The Last Cavalry Horse continues the lives of beloved characters who survived the Great War. Their maturation is linked to historic events years leading up to and during to the Second World War. Specifically, the last U.S. Army cavalry charge is addressed. My research for the book has been very rewarding. I am honored to have communications with a surviving widow; her husband led a mounted charge against a Japanese stronghold in the Philippines. She has provided me insights to her husband’s—and his horse’s—brave and honorable service to our great Nation.