A horse-crazy girl from the suburbs, with the help of a colt that nobody wanted, made history in 1992 when Casual Lies placed second in the 118th running of the Kentucky Derby. He was the highest-placed finisher trained by a woman since its inaugural running in 1875. A record that still stands to this day as the 150th running approaches. Casual Lies went on to run in all three Triple Crown races, another record. Now living in a forest in Central Oregon, Shelley enjoys honing her craft as a writer.

Generally, I find inspiration when I am not looking for it: a story in the news, the lyrics of a song, or a life experience, to name three. For example, my latest novel, Labyrinth of Ruin, was inspired by song lyrics and personal experience. One day, as I was writing, I had music in the background, and Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra came on. I have to ask, how many of you can say that song, with its amazing upbeat sound and inspiring lyrics, doesn’t move you? As I listened to the lyrics, really listened, I detected a subtle message, at least for me.

“Oh, Mr. Blue Sky, please tell us why you had to hide away for so long?”

Latching onto this, my main protagonists were developed to show their differences in ways that set them apart from their peers. And how, whether overlooked, tormented, or bullied, each character strives to go unnoticed.

Secondly, it is often said that a writer should write about what they know. As a woman trainer of racehorses for over two decades, a business predominately dominated by men, I find this especially true in the higher echelons of the sport, like the Kentucky Derby. When I came across a weedy colt that nobody wanted at a sale in Lexington, Kentucky, who could have predicted that one day I would be screaming my heart out as that colt, who had become something really special, was in front of the rest of the field as he ran down the lane in that storied race? Certainly not me.

So, using that hard-earned knowledge, I added wings to the equine athletes I was so familiar with and let them soar into that blue sky. While understanding through my own experiences how something or someone can be ridiculed and overlooked only to exceed all expectations, I let my characters discover their strength and self-worth, as once did I. You can read more about Labyrinth of Ruin, dragon racings equivalent to the Kentucky Derby, as well as Casual Lies at my website www.shelleyleeriley.com