‘Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America’ is a memoir that tells the tale of the journey taken by John Egenes in 1974 with his young horse, Gizmo. Together they rode across the United States, coast to coast, seven months, forty four hundred miles.
Have you ever wanted to ride across the American wilderness? John Egenes and his horse Gizmo has done just that, and has kindly taken a few minutes from his day to recount his forty-four hundred mile adventure documented in ‘Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America’. John, what can readers expect to see in ‘Man & Horse’?
The book describes some of our adventures, along with some personal history and homespun philosophy thrown in for good measure. It’s a tale of challenge and accomplishment.
I’m sure there are one or two readers out there who may not believe that you rode coast to coast across America, so can you confirm for the sceptics among us that your book was all your personal experience.
This was all life experience. It took me a very long time to finally write this book. In waiting many years to write it, I was able to paint the picture with a much broader brush and, hopefully, arrive at a vantage point from which I could view the experience from a more contemplative place.
Do you feel it was a good move to wait until you’d reached that more contemplative place?
I’m glad I waited, because I was able to view the ride with enough hindsight and (I hope) wisdom that I could put it into a proper perspective, for both myself and the reader. I tried to intersperse the past and the present, and to illustrate how very different America was back in 1974–an America that no longer exists.
I love that juxtaposition between the past and the present that you tried to create to show these changes. Since it’s been a few years since 1974 how did you make sure the characters and American life from that time was accurately portrayed?
I kept a logbook on the ride and I used it to jog my memory. I was able to recall characters I’d forgotten about, and they’d come back to me as vivid as the day I met them. It was such a profound experience, going over old maps and reading a diary that I hadn’t looked at in many years. So many unique and wonderful folks that Gizmo and I met along the way.
I’m sure that what made it into the book was only half of the amazing and unique encounters that you had on your travels. What was the most important aspect that you hope people take from your journey with Gizmo?
I wanted people to know what a wonderful horse Gizmo was, and how lucky I was to have had him as my compatriot for his entire life. I hope I did him justice in all of it, though I’m not really sure if that’s possible.
It’s hard to feel like you’ve given justice to a compatriot like Gizmo who took up such a large part of your life, but I’m sure you did him justice. You wouldn’t have published it otherwise. Looking back how do you feel that you have been personally rewarded by looking back on your adventure and documenting it for others?
Just the fact that I could do it, I reckon. I set out to put words on the page and just kept at it. Eventually, the book just sort of popped out, though it took an incredible amount of editing and other work to finally publish it. I have a huge, newfound respect for authors now.
Was editing one of the areas where you experienced the greatest amount of learning?
Being a songwriter, I know a bit about editing, so that wasn’t as difficult as it might be for first time authors. But being introduced to the whole publishing thing, well…. that’s a whole different deal. I was a babe in the woods (still am, for that matter), and I’ve been fortunate to meet incredible people who have helped me along the way.
I agree, there are some amazing people out there who have fantastic advice for all of those new authors who feel like a babe in the woods. Have these incredible people inspired you to work hard to develop your own author brand to distinguish your work so that you feel less like a newbie?
I’ve produced record albums for a lot of people, so I do know a little about creating an author brand. But I don’t pay much attention to that sort of thing for myself. I just write, put it out there for the world to see, and maybe try to promote it a little. Hopefully, if it’s any good, people will find it.
I like that method of giving it a little help, but ultimately allowing the work to speak for itself. What is it about writing books or even songs that keeps drawing you back to write another work that will speak for itself?
I like to write, probably because I’ve always loved to read, and I like nothing more than reading a brilliant writer. And though I certainly don’t place myself among the brilliant writers of the world, they do set the bar for me and give me something to shoot for.
Becoming close to the world of brilliant writers is a great start! When you’re thinking of starting a new project, what do you do to make sure your storyline in shooting in the right direction? Do you like to plan out where you’re going to make sure you hit your target, or do you let it unravel as you write?
I think it’s a bit of both. The way I write, I tend to plan things out very generally, without too many specifics. Just a general idea of what I want to say. Then when I start into it, ideas pop into my head and I put them down. Afterward, when I get to the editing stages, I realize that a lot of those ideas were terrible, so I start cutting things out. Eventually, it all winds up together (if I’m lucky).
What steps do you take when you’re writing to try and guide your ideas and your writing into the brilliant realm?
I try to write a little every day. It’s not always the same piece. I write songs, compose music, and write blogs and short stories all the time, so I’m always involved in writing something. I think the best way to write good work is to just write a LOT of work. It’s okay to write bad stuff, as long as you recognize that it’s bad and don’t try to convince yourself it’s something better. By writing sheer volumes of material, you develop the habit of writing. Pretty simple, really.
Once you have something written, how do you go about editing your work so that it becomes close to your bar and the work of the writers that you admire? Is editing a task that you like to take on yourself?
I do edit a lot, and am reasonable meticulous about it. That said, I turn it over to a story editor who points me in the right direction. After I finish editing that part, I send it to a line editor who corrects all the typos, spelling, grammatical errors that I was certain I had already fixed. But, at some point you have to let go of it and consider it “finished”.
As you’ve successfully reached the finished stage, do you have any tips for other authors who might be looking at their old logbooks and thinking of documenting their stories?
Not really. Maybe sharpen your pencil periodically. I’m a newbie, so it’d be a bit presumptuous of me to try to offer tips to others. But there are lots of writers’ forums and social network places online where writers can get good advice.
Yep, great help is only a Google search away. When you’re not searching for the next piece of advice, what writing project or projects have been piquing your interest?
I’m starting a fictional story that takes place along the Texas-Mexico border in the 1960s. It has lost treasure, hippies, bandits, bounty hunters, and even some aliens. Lots of side stories going on, so I’m hoping I can actually tie them all together by the end of it all.
With a cast of characters like that it sounds like you will have the challenge to wrangle them all into a single story. Maybe you just need a little more creativity to get them together. Let’s see if we can entice a little more imagination into your life by playin with your quick-fire questions today. Let’s kick off the fun with what is your favourite word?
That’s a great word! What is your zodiac sign?
Are you left or right-handed?
I’m ambidextrous, believe it or not. I often get confused as to which hand/arm/foot I use for any given task. For instance, I write with my left hand, eat with my right hand, bat from both sides of the plate, play musical instruments right handed (though I could just as easily learn them left handed). I shoot pool right handed, but I shoot a rifle left handed. I’m confused…
*Laughs* It sounds like you have everything working well despite your confusion! If you could breed two animals together to defy the laws of nature what new animal would you create?
I don’t need to breed a new animal. I have cats, and they already defy the laws of nature.
Yep, I have to agree with that! Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavour, and dishwashing liquid made with real lemons?
For the same reason that they don’t call them lemon liquid or dishwashing juice.
*Laughs* I quite like the sound of dishwashing juice. It makes the dishwashing process sound a lot sweeter than it really is! What happens when you get scared half to death twice?
Well, half of a half is a quarter. So, I reckon you’d have a quarter of a death left over.
Is a quarter of death fatal though? It might be something worth considering while we ponder the wonders of TEFLON. If nothing ever sticks to TEFLON, how do they make TEFLON stick to the pan?
TEFLON is a myth. There is no TEFLON in the pan because there’s no such thing as TEFLON. They just want you to believe there is.
Just another marketing myth! Now for something that is much more than a myth, what is your favourite line, quote or statement from your book?
“Unrequited love to the sound of a steel guitar.”
Is there anything beyond the unrequired love of a steel guitar that we should look for after we’ve polished off ‘Man & Horse’?
Hmmm, let’s see…. I suppose that after you read my book, you could go over to my Bandcamp website (look me up there) and download some of my music for free. That’s right, it’s there for the taking, folks.
Your talents continue! John, thanks so much for sharing your cross country journey, and I wish you the best of luck with your 1960s fictional adventure.
Excited to read the book we discussed today? Find it here on Amazon: ‘Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America ( ASIN: B075821TZ7 )‘.
Want to find out more about John Egenes? Connect here!