February 12, 2018

Why Do I Write Horse Fiction?

My name is Toni Leland and I’m a horse addict. 

Seriously...I could have been the poster child for the classic horse-crazy girl.

I discovered horses when I was about 7 years old. Unfortunately, about the same time, I discovered that my father was terrified of them and that there wouldn’t be a horse in my future any time soon.

So to fuel my passion, I hooked up with another horse-crazy girl. We spent hours talking about horses, dreaming about horses, pretending we were horses. . .the boys on the playground were terrified of us!

I took it one step further and wrote stories about horses. Girl rescues horse. Horse rescues girl. Horse and girl have an adventure. . . I wish I had some of those stories now!

Anyway, when my BFF got her very own horse, I was both thrilled and devastated. She no longer had much time for me and our imaginary steeds, and I began the press to convince my father that a horse would be a good thing for me to have.

He relented the year I turned 12 and, from then on, my life revolved around horses—sometimes more, sometimes less.

But one thing remained constant. To this day, even though I no longer have horses of my own, I still get that quickening in the pit of my stomach any time I’m near one.

Write what you know and love. The writing experts have it nailed.

When I set off on this journey of writing fiction, I naturally settled into the comfort zone of my addiction.

My first book was a romantic mystery, built around the Arabian horses I raised in the 80s. Though they were long gone, I held them near to me as we worked our way through the story and revisited characters from those years in the “horse business.” The process was sometimes painful and poignant, but it was also energizing. I’d found my niche.

As Winning Ways finished, I was already well into my next novel. Being fairly adventurous, I’d decided to see if I could write a straight romance—follow the formula, but write one with a horsey setting.

I was a little skeptical about the endeavor. After all, when does a busy horse owner have time to date, let alone nurture a strong, loving relationship? And into what niche would an equestrian romance fit?

When Hearts Over Fences hit the streets, I quickly learned that I had no clue as to “what works.” The book exploded in popularity and today it is still selling in both print and ebook.

So you’d think I’d jump on this gravy train, right? Nooooo. I was already off on another tangent. I wanted to write a thriller about the possibility of terrorism in one’s own backyard, er. . . barn. After Gambling With the Enemy was published in 2006, I headed back toward romantic suspense.

Deadly Heritage embraced that age-old theme of love lost and found. But my characters were constantly challenged by danger and family treachery.

As the nation’s economy nose-dived in 2009, so did business. Horse farms and breeders were deeply affected as the cost of keeping animals skyrocketed. If you can’t feed ’em, what do you do with them?

Horse rescue operations were overwhelmed and the horror stories began to hit the news.

Addressing two similar subjects, I began work on Rescue Me, the story of a horsewoman trapped in a brutally abusive marriage. The research alone on this book made me ever thankful that I didn’t have answers from first-hand experience.

Always a fan of Dick Francis, I began thinking seriously about a mystery series. What I needed was a couple of independent, horse-loving individuals who would save the horse world, case by case. Never did I imagine what hard work this would be! But the team of Kovak & Quaid was born in 2012, and they've been chasing bad guys ever since!

My lifelong love affair with horses has served me well...given me joy and inspiration, and a ton of memories. Now if I can just get them all down on paper....


  1. Nice post, Toni. Very inspiring for people who are starting out.
    Continued success!

  2. Thank you! "I may not be there yet, but I'm closer than I was yesterday." (author unknown)

  3. Hi Toni... I put your link on my site for the Blog Jog. Have a lucky Sunday!

  4. So neat how you turned your passion for horses into a writing career!

  5. Your books sound interesting. Wishing you much success.

  6. Wow what a great story (about your life and love of horses, I mean.) Glad to have found your blog. Whew, I gotta rest after all that jogging! ;)

  7. As another horse crazy girl who never outgrew it, I'm so glad you continue to pursue your passion and give us all page-turning reads. Can't wait for the next one!