Local Author Kate Horsley
By Amanda Jackson
Albuquerque author Kate Horsley's latest book was
set to be released this month, but it's been delayed until July. A lot of
up-and-coming writers would be crushed by such a setback, but Horsley
seems to take it in stride. She's already had three books
published, the first of which, Crazy Woman, is considered a
regional classic, and the second, A Killing in New Town, won
her the 1996 Western States Book Award for fiction. Besides the book
that's been delayed, she's got another book on the way, and recently
she got a plug from Julia Roberts in O Magazine.
however, claims she gets more satisfaction out of people telling her
that they learned something from her books than she does from
celebrities talking about her in magazines. Horsley doesn't even
know how many copies of her most recent book, Confessions of a
Pagan Nun, have been sold even though Shambhala Publications
released a paperback version of the book because it's done so well.
"I'm on to those authors who doesn't keep track of that. I
focus on the writing aspect of it. That allows me to write what I
feel is true, without compromising," Horsley said.
writes what J.B. Bryan of La Alameda Press calls
"genre-breaking historical fiction." La Alameda published Crazy
Woman (now in its third printing) about an Anglo woman from
Virginia who moves to New Mexico and falls in love with the native
culture, as well as the follow book, A Killing in New Town,
which is set in Las Vegas, NM. Careless Love, the third in
this trilogy, is due out in July, 2003, from UNM Press.
interest in tribal cultures, particularly Native Americans, and
their transformation as a result of contact with nontribal
societies, has influenced her writing tremendously. But she doesn't
always set her historical novels in the Americas. "I saw a lot
of connections between tribal live and pre-Christian Ireland and I
felt more of a right as a non-Native American to write about Irish
tribal history than I did to write about Native American tribal
history," Horsley said. So Horsley wrote about Irish tribes in Confessions
of a Pagan Nun, which is about a pagan woman who, when forced to
become Catholic, decides to become a nun.
Horsley traveled to Ireland four times to soak in
the culture and the atmosphere. As a result, her novel truly makes
the reader feel as if they are in sixth century Ireland experiencing
the struggles the main character goes through as she wrestles with
paganism versus Christianity. "I think these stores need to be
out there for political reasons maybe, and they are stories I'd want
Now in her 50's, Horsley
began writing when she was in the firth grade. "My mother was
the reason I wrote," she said. A painter, Horsley's mother
exposed her to art, both visual and literary. "She gave me the
sense that the artist is a shaman -- something holy, something that,
if you have that calling, it is a calling to serve, it isn't a
calling to inflate your ego. You have to take the calling seriously
but not yourself. If you take yourself seriously as an artist,
you've lost it."
In graduate school at
UNM 25 years ago, Horsley wrote her Ph.D. dissertation about women
from the East who came to New Mexico. The dissertation would change
Horsley's life. While in North Carolina with her first husband,
Horsley used the dissertation to write her first book. "I
missed New Mexico so much that I wanted to be there somehow, so I
wrote a novel set in New Mexico," she said.
she returned to New Mexico three years later, Horsley began teaching
at UNM, then at Albuquerque TVI where she has been for the last 15
years. At TVI, Horsley, who goes by Kate Parker, teaches English
courses and a creative writing class where she brings her experience
and knowledge about writing to her students.
are two reasons that I can't not teach. One is because if I don't
have structure in my life, I begin to get weirder than I'm even
comfortable with -- wearing the same clothes for four or five days,
sleeping in them. The other reason is because I learn so much from
my students. If I didn't have students I would thing that I knew
more than I do. My students are constantly revealing to me how much
there is that I don't know and that is really stimulating."
Horsley doesn't plan on quitting teaching any time soon, but she's
not going to let it get in the way of writing more books. "I definitely
feel that I get better as I go along as a result of living life; observing,
researching, reading more."
writing historical fiction "because I can deal with things like
the tragedies I have experienced in the context of another century
and it's the same story." And Horsley is no stranger to
tragedy. Her son, and only child, dies in an car accident in 2000
when he was 18. Since then she has set up an Aaron Parker Lockwood
scholarship at TVI for students like her son who have their GED, are
part-time students, are interested in what she calls "social
ranting," and are pursuing majors like Political Science,
English or Journalism. "My life and my work are dedicated to
him" Horsley said.
believes that reading brings a freedom to people that those who
don't read cannot understand. "People today associate [reading]
books with things you have to do like eat spinach or take
Metamucil," she said. But for Julia Roberts, at least, whose
interior decorator left a copy of Horsley's Crazy Woman in a
bookcase of her New Mexico home, reading is more like a treat.