Interview with High Country Horsewoman/author, Susie Drougas

Drouglas.4.Me at White PassTS. This new author does her research ‘in the saddle’.  An experienced high country rider this horsewoman knows the trails her protagonists ride.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? (please provide  photos of your shed, room, closet, barn….)  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

SD. We have a great room that I love to sit in. It’s decorated like a hunting lodge with deer mounts, a wood stove and huge windows. We live in a canyon with rugged hills surrounding it. Sitting in my chair in the early morning, the sun hits the tops of the peaks and lights them up in beautiful golds. The high desert sky is blue around it. That’s usually where I write.

My favorite place to write, however, is in our living quarters horse trailer aftertrailer.Susie a day’s ride in the high country. We take care of the horses, eat and sit by the campfire. Then I go into the trailer and write. Since my books take place on the trails, all the sights, sounds and smells are fresh in my mind. It flows out of my fingers.

Q. Do you have any special rituals when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

SD. I’m a coffee person. I do my best work with a cup of coffee next to me.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

SD. My friend and I entered the one-horse pack at the Back Country Horsemen Rendezvous in Ellensburg, Washington in 1992. We were the first women to enter and we took first place and won a belt buckle. The minute I threw that hitch I had an overwhelming feeling of being where I belonged. It was a huge event for me. My husband asked me to marry him shortly after that, I told him I wanted my wedding ring made in the likeness of my belt buckle: horse, pack-horse, trees and mountains. He wanted the same thing. Our gold bands are worn now, but the images are still there.PackSaddles.scan

Q. Do you have a set time each day to write or do you write only when you are feeling creative?

SD. I write best in the early morning. I also write when I need to get another chapter ready for my writer’s group to critique.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

SD. Find a local writer’s group. I attended a western writer’s conference when I wanted to start writing. They said find a group. I live in a community of about 90,000 people – there was one group. Today, I am the moderator. The original participants were older and left for different reasons. Through the consistency of meeting, I was able to stay on track and consistently write. We encourage each other and offer helpful criticism. I couldn’t have done it without them.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

SD. I have been a member of the Back Country Horsemen of Washington for over 30 years. There is a community of people that spend their spare time in the back-country. Over time, being a part of this group of people, I am very familiar with personalities and vernacular. In the contemporary west there are still people that are as colorful as any that rode in the old days. You’ll find them riding their horses and mules through the wilderness today.

Q. What inspired your story/stories?

SD. I think the love of riding horses is kind of an inborn thing. I grew up in the suburbs of Tacoma, Washington. My dad was a lawyer and an avid boater. I spent much of my youth exploring Puget Sound and Canada by boat. Reading a lot of books.
The big game changer for me, was when I was 5 and my grandpa put me up on his big black quarter horse, Smoky. I always have loved animals, but to ride one – something clicked in me.
The second big change was when my dad decided the family should backpack. I was 12 years old and found myself hiking around the Olympic and Cascade Mountains. I found I could easily stay up there, rather than come home.
And the final “aha” moment, when I was on a 50-mile backpack trip with three girlfriends in high school. A lone rider went by pulling a pack mule. I told my friends, I’m going to do that someday. I meant it.
I’ve ridden and packed my horses in the mountains for over 30 years. I’ve seen trails close and horses banned. Less and less youth are taking up the sport. Outfitters are closing their doors, insurance and Forest Service regulations are making it next to impossible to do business.
I want to get the word out about this activity that I so love. I figured the best way was to write a present day action adventure series, with fictional characters. The goal was to take my readers on a pack trip and educate them about horses and horsemen in the mountains—at the same time keeping them on the edge of their seat.
All of my books are based on real trails. You could saddle up and ride them right now. The characters are fictitious, but the places are not.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

SD. Oh boy, I’ll say. I’m a court reporter in my day job. One of the experiences that really stands out is I was set up in a law office library waiting for the attorneys. The assistant came in and told me they’d be late. No problem. I switched computer screens and started writing. Literally, my characters were talking around the fire. Night had fallen and the stars were out. With the smell of campfire smoke in my nostrils—I suddenly noticed the beige walls and conference table in front of me. I was gone.
I write about a book and a half a year. My last book, High Hunt, takes place in the Pasayten Wilderness in the fall high hunt. My husband and I take several trips with our horses over the summer. My brain incorporated my book into one of the rides. I literally felt like I had been there last summer. It’s a weird process when your books become your own reality.

Q. Who or what is your “Muse” at the moment?

Drougas.12.DSC04397SD. My husband, Mike, is my muse. He is an amazing packer and rider. He inspires me.

Join us Monday for the conclusion of this terrific interview.

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DON’T MISS BLOGS featuring INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!       Julia LondonMJ Mooresand actor/narrator Tavia Gilbert.  In April, a long awaited interview with Kathleen Grissom (The Kitchen House)

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One Response
  1. noelleg44 says:

    Nice interview, Trish. This gal is really interesting – one of my favorite vacation was at a ranch where we did a lot of trail riding and also just some flat out galloping on mesas. Freedom!

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