I first discovered Aryn Kyle when I reviewed her ravishing debut novel, The God of Animals, for The Boston Globe. (I gave it a rave.) She has a new book out, the superb collection of stories, Boys and Girls Like You and Me and because she's also really, really funny, I asked her if she would do a guest blog for me. Thank you so much, Aryn!
That Horse Book
My first novel is about horses. I didn’t mean for it to be about horses—really, it’s about a family—but it’s set on a horse ranch and, draft by draft, the horses became more important to the plot until my friends began to joke that I should just call the book Horses. Think how much easier it would be to market, they said: “If you like horses, you’ll love Horses, the debut novel by Aryn Kyle!”
Every time I thought about this, I kind of wanted to die. I’d read the horse books growing up, had watched the horse movies on television—they were full of earnest girls who pined after geldings like they were forbidden lovers and saved the day, though barely, with their grit and good nature, their commitment to doing the Right Thing. The world did not need any more of these books, I thought, and I did not want to be the writer of one. But my novel was full of horses; there was a horse on the cover. People would ask, “What’s your book about?” and there really was no answer that didn’t include the word: “Horses.”
In interviews, I tried to minimize my own horsiness: I didn’t grow up on a ranch, don’t live on a ranch now, don’t, in fact, live anywhere near a ranch. But it’s impossible to control every situation, and I have the unfortunate habit of sometimes zoning off during my own interviews, which accounts for the occasional horsey sound bite. Quite near the top of an ever-expanding list of regrets I have in life would be the comment I once made during a video interview, now immortalized on YouTube, declaring that my first love was an appaloosa.
Overseas, things were even harder to control: Everywhere I went, they took my picture with horses. In Antwerp, I was driven to a stable for a television interview and instructed to walk through the barn, feeding the horses as though this was what I did every evening—a scenario which lost a little more credibility every time a horse nipped at me, causing me to shriek and run away.
A few days later in Amsterdam, I rode with my Dutch publicist, Ingeborg, to a photo shoot at yet another stable. During the drive I tried to explain—more than fifteen years had passed since I’d even ridden a horse. It made me feel a little sleazy to keep posing beside them for photographs. Ingeborg told me that the magazine I was being photographed for was the Dutch equivalent of Mademoiselle. I should not feel sleazy—they would do my hair and makeup and dress me in designer clothes!
I’ll spare you the details of the horror show that followed and just say that somewhere in the world there now exists a photograph of me dressed like a colorblind go-go dancer and kissing a horse on its cheek.
Eventually I realized that my best hope for escaping a lifetime of faux-equestrian photo ops was probably just to write more books about fewer horses. The very last thing I did before I sent my story collection off to my agent was search the document for the word “horse.” One had managed to make its way in after all, and I considered rewriting the sentence to cut it. But within its context, this horse was more metaphorical than literal, and I thought it might be bad luck to have an entirely horseless collection. Besides, who has time to worry about one little horse in a story collection that includes puppet therapy and a pirate dinner theater? I look ahead at book tour and imagine the photographic possibilities.