Leanne Owens - Humans, Horses, and the evil People Can Do
Leanne Owens is an Australian English teacher with a Master's in Education who has written for magazines for decades. She also wrote and reported for Horse Talk TV. Leanne writes mystery, crime, romance, and teen mystery novels, mostly with equestrian themes. She enjoys engaging with readers who love her books. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, Muted.
Please give us a short introduction to what Muted is about.
Muted, the first book in The Dimity Horse Mysteries, is about an Australian horseman who challenges a pharmaceutical giant about the fate of the horses in their laboratories. It starts with the most heartbreaking Prologue ever written - skip it if you don't like crying - and grows into a twisting, suspenseful, uplifting story that, ultimately, is about life itself: love, friendship, mystery, crime, romance, grief, greed, fear. loss, joy, and the power of good.
What inspired you to write this story? Was there anything that made you want to tackle this?
I've had a lifetime around horses and people, teaching, writing for magazines and tv, winning scores of national titles with my horses, and meeting some amazing people. I wanted to write a book that encompassed the best and worst in people, the amazement of horses, the absolute beauty of falling in love, the importance of friendship, and so many other issues - I wanted to write 'the great Australian horse novel' that non-horse people would love. It was a massive expectation, and resulted in a huge book, but judging from the reviews, I think I did it.
Tell us more about Lane Dimity. What makes him so special?
Lane Dimity is the best of humanity with the vulnerability that makes him easy to love. He stopped speaking on his eighth birthday when his voice could not save his horses. As an adult, he dedicated his life to making life better for horses and horse people around the world. Hundreds of millions follow him on social media, his close circle of friends protect him, and he puts his life on the line for his beliefs. He is a good person. And when he falls in love with the woman who is helping run the pharmaceutical company that he's fighting, he has to choose between his cause and his love because it seems he can have one or the other, but not both.
Interesting cover. Tell us more about how it came about.
When I envisioned more than a thousand horses spending their entire lives in the pharmaceutical company stables, I wanted a breed of horse that people picture galloping free. Friends own some of the leading Friesian horses in Australia, and their photos of the horses cantering across fields with their manes flowing free made me realise that was the breed I wanted. There were other reasons why I chose them (revealed in the book), but the cover encompasses the feeling of a horse running free - which is what Lane Dimity is fighting to achieve.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I'm an English teacher with a Master's in Education - so I'm good at academic and teacherly things. I paint - mainly horses, but other animals and scenes as well. I'm good with horses and have bred, trained, and ridden many national and state champions. My skill at procrastination has no equal, and I'm a brilliant day dreamer.
Where does your fascination with horses come from?
Horses have always been in my life thanks to my aunt, Carol Cavanagh, who lived her life for horses. I rode before I walked. I showed horses, jumped, evented, did endurance, ran barrels, played polocrosse, trained racehorses, spent thousands of hours trail riding, worked cattle, ran horse shows, and judged horses. Horse people get the addiction.
This is book 1 of The Dimity Horse Mysteries. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
I wrote this book as a standalone, but I received so many thousands of requests for more crime and mystery with Lane and his friends, that I turned it into a series. Each crime or mystery is solved within each book, so there are no cliff-hangers, Each book is set weeks or months after the previous one and has the same group of people with others added.
Muted has a very dark beginning. Why did you create it this way?
I love books that make me cry and feel strong emotions. I wanted readers to fall in love with Lane, so knowing the events of his eighth birthday that caused him to stop speaking seemed important. During our Australian droughts, I knew farmers, graziers, and cattlemen who felt so lost in depression and failure that they ended their lives after putting down the last of their starving livestock, and I wanted this as a nod to them - to say, "I understand why you did that I grieve for you." I cry even talking about that Prologue, and I do tell readers to skip it if they don't like crying, but I think it's important to understand the relationship between people and their land, and to cry for fictional characters. This is Australia - this is what drought does to us.
Do any of your characters ever take off on their own tangent, refusing to do what you had planned for them?
I'm sure every author experiences this. The enigmatic Joe Kaiphas became so much more than a thug doing the dirty work for the pharmaceutical company. Isabella, whose husband owns and runs the company and whose daughter is the one Lane loves, demanded a bigger role. I love her - she could never remain a background character, and appears in the entire series with her humour, flamboyance, and suspicious looking health drinks.
Readers say the story pulled them in right from the beginning. How did you pull this off?
I think it's because I genuinely loved this story, the messages in it, and the characters so much, that my passion for them is there in every page. I didn't try to write to a formula or copy another work. This amazing story burst into my mind one night while talking to a young friend who worked on the Leonardi DiCaprio movie The Revenant. He's a famous horseman and said he'd like to work in front of the cameras but was worried he'd forget his lines, and I said, "You need a role for a great horseman who doesn't speak..." and - bam- Lane arrived in my mind, complete and wonderful. My ridiculous level of excitement for friends, horses, romance, people, laughter, and everything else in life seems to come out in my words. At least, that's what I think.
When starting on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
Daydreaming is always the first thing I do when starting a new book - I daydream stories into life. Characters are born in my mind, mysteries and crimes take place, and I see the story from start to finish in my mind before I write a word. It's like there's another universe and I'm just telling the stories I see and feel there. I don't try to write to a successful formula - I let the story and characters do the telling. Once I daydream it, then I write down a brief chapter summary, so I ensure every chapter jumps us forward in the story and has something happen.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
Procrastination and negative self-talk are two of my biggest failings, so overcoming them every day so I can write is a struggle. I want to write 2,000+ words every day, but many days I achieve nothing at all. I'm not a good example to follow.
What are you working on right now?
I'm halfway through the fourth book in the Dimity Horse Mysteries, with lots of readers asking for me to hurry up (their messages are great motivators). I also have a strange standalone about an unusual girl and her dog - I love it but it's very different. Then I have a gripping action trilogy about two Australian women battling an extremist group after they kidnap the daughter of one of the women. i jump between the books to keep my mind fresh.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
My books are all on Amazon as paperbacks, eBooks, and on Kindle Unlimited. Readers can find me on Facebook and TikTok. If they Google 'Leanne Owens' with a word like 'author', 'books', or 'horses', they'll find me. I try to answer all messages sent to me on Facebook.