Chat with Nell Walton - Author of The Bone Trail

Nell Walton is an avid horsewoman and also owns two wild horses, both of which came from a herd near Elko, NV. She is also the founder and managing editor of the online equestrian news magazine, The AllHorses Post. She has degrees in journalism and biology from the University of Arkansas, spent many years as a professional journalist and worked as an intern for former President Bill Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas. She lives in East Tennessee on a small horse farm with her husband, four horses, one donkey, two cats and two dogs. The Bone Trail is her first novel.


Welcome to The Writer's Life, Nell. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

A: I wrote my first short story when I was about seven years old. It was some ridiculous tale about people on safari; they were floating down a river and the local population was chasing them, crocodiles and hippos were trying to eat them – the usual things that fascinate a seven year old. I also started a novella when I was about eleven that had a plot amazingly similar to Raiders of the Lost Ark, and this was several years before that movie was produced. I always wondered if Spielberg had some of his movie aliens dig around in the trunk where I used to keep my stories to get his screenplay! So, I’ve been a writer for a long time now. When I was in college I majored in my two loves: journalism and biology.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

A: The Bone Trail is the story of journalist and horsewoman Kate Wyndham. She is sent to investigate the disappearance of two wild horse advocates in a remote area of northern Nevada. When she tries to gain information on the disappearance from the FBI and federal authorities she is stonewalled. She turns to Shoshone Indian Jim Ludlow, a local rancher and horse "whisperer" for help. During the course of their search, Ludlow and Wyndham develop a passionate, emotional relationship; one that if pursued, will alter their lives in ways neither is prepared to accept. Their search for answers soon imperils everything they hold dear and may even claim their lives.

I based this book on a couple of real events that happened last fall in Nevada. In an uneasily similar incident, a friend of mine who is a wild horse preservationist discovered a hidden trail of horse bones, and was harassed by agents of our government in a very unsettling manner. And, various extraction industries continue to put pressures on indigenous populations throughout the world. There are many legal battles being fought in Nevada right now by some of the people in Indian Country who are trying to protect both their rights as well as their very way of life.

America’s wild horse population is being wiped out, and I am convinced that one of the motives behind it has to do with the exploitation of natural resources.

What kind of research was involved in writing (please italicize book title here – no caps or quote marks)?

A: The wild horse details came pretty easily to me. I own two wild horses myself and have been active in wild horse issues for many years. I’ve also been a horsewoman for most of my life. The details as far as Reservation life and substance abuse rehabilitation and recovery took weeks of research and phone calls to several Reservations in Nevada. I spent hours upon hours watching videos of pow-wows, and also researching various successful substance abuse treatment programs being utilized in Native populations in both the United States and Canada.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

A: It is extremely difficult to get fiction published these days, and, at the advice of several successful authors, I decided to utilize the publish on demand option offered by Amazon. I was submitting the manuscript of The Bone Trail to agents, but I stopped pursuing that avenue once I offered the book for sale.

I did invest in having an independent editor go through The Bone Trail for both grammar and content problems. Fortunately, she loved the book as written and made only minor grammatical changes for the most part and gave me advice on changing the pacing in Chapter 1. I am very comfortable with computers, document layout, etc., so that part was pretty easy.

In addition, it is critical that the wild horse issues be addressed now, before it is too late. I didn’t feel I could wait the eighteen months to two years to have The Bone Trail available to the public if I went the traditional publishing route.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

A: That is the nice thing about publish on demand, you can get your work out to the public immediately. However, I would always recommend writers have a good, professional editor review their work prior to release.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

A: There has been some talk about film rights for The Bone Trail. If I am fortunate enough to have someone want to make a film based on the book, I will contact a good agent who is very successful at negotiating film rights.

Do you plan subsequent books?

A: Absolutely! I have started a new mystery series that is very exciting.

Can you describe your most favorite place to write?

A: Actually, I love to sit in the living room with my husband at night and work on my Macbook. The TV is usually on, but since I am rarely interested in anything that he likes to watch it just makes nice, soothing, white noise that I find very conducive to writing.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

A: A major motion picture!

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

A: I think it is critical, whether you are a first time novelist like myself, or an author that has been published for many years. For myself it has been a learning process, and I am utilizing Pump Up Your Book to help me reach a wider audience. I am also very active on Facebook and Twitter, and I have a blog as well as an online equestrian news magazine.

What’s the most common reason you believe new writers give up their dream of becoming published and did you almost give up?

A: I actually did give up. I didn’t write for fourteen years because of a terrible experience I had with a writer’s group. I received stalking-type hate mail from another writer and it was devastating.

For myself I had to get to a point in my life where I was ready to take the emotional risk to tell a story successfully. And, I have reached an age where I have decided that I am going to stop letting other people define who I am.

As far as why writers give up their dreams and stop writing, the tolerance for rejection varies considerably from person to person. Some may come to believe that their work is poor, when it may not be poor at all. It’s just that someone makes a subjective decision that a writer’s work is unsellable.

There is a big difference between the two. That’s why I love it that writers have so many more options now than just a few years ago.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

A: I would say to any writer very strongly, don’t let other people define who you are. If you believe in what you are writing, keep writing and put it out there for the public to see. Someone, somewhere will totally get what it is you’re trying to say, and there is no better praise than that.

Thank you for your interview, Nell. I wish you much success!
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