First off, what are your thoughts about the coronavirus pandemic, and how are you dealing with it in New Zealand?
We’re living in truly unique and trying times. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s nonetheless true. We are having to come to grips with the tentative and unstable foundations upon which we have built our entire modern existence. I reckon we can’t ever go back to business as usual.
We’re lucky here in New Zealand. It’s still very much an egalitarian society, and as such the people here come first. We know that we need to make individual sacrifices in order to support the entire community. That’s something that has been lost in many places in the world today.
What inspired you to write Man & Horse :The Long Ride Across America?
As corny as it sounds, my horse, Gizmo, did. I have always felt deeply indebted to him for showing me pathways in life that weren’t clear to me when we began the ride. I felt—and still feel—that he deserves to be remembered. Writing about him is a very small thing, but it’s what I’m able to do. It took me many years to finally write the book, but I’m glad I did.
What was your writing schedule when you wrote Man & Horse:The Long Ride Across America?
I didn’t have a schedule, as such. It was a daunting thing, to think about writing a book, and it seemed an insurmountable task when starting out. I broke the journey into small segments, little vignettes, and concentrated upon each one as I went. I wrote mostly late at night, sometimes at two or three o’clock in the morning. I just chipped away at it until I felt it was finished, then I compiled all the stories and sent them off to an editor.
What research did you do when writing Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America ?
I kept a couple of diaries during the ride, so I was able to refer to my logbooks in order to jog my memory a bit. I hadn’t looked at them in years, so they brought back a flood of memories for me. I have a box full of newpaper articles and photos from that time (1974), which also brought the ride back into focus. So, I didn’t do “research” as such… more like “memory recall”.
What has been the best compliment you heard about Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America?
I’ve been stunned at the volume of reader feedback I’ve received, and the overwhelmingly positive responses that people have sent to me. I’m not sure what I was expecting—probably a bit of feedback from horse people and maybe some from folks who were revisiting the 1970s—but somehow Gizmo touched the hearts of people from all over the world, from all ages and walks of life, and inspired them in ways I just didn’t expect, though in looking back, I’m not surprised. And it truly is Gizmo who is the inspiration here, not me.
What was the most surprising thing you learned while writing Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America?
I’ve learned that simple words can have a profound impact upon people. Simple actions can serve as examples to inspire. And people naturally want an underdog to cheer for.
What do you like to read in your free time?
I read constantly, and always have. I read heavy stuff—philosophy, digital culture, economics, astronomy, computer and artificial intelligence books. And I read compelling literature, everything from science fiction to murder mysteries, from historical novels to shoot-em-up westerns. If it’s well written, I’ll read it.
In one word how would you sum up your experience with Gizmo?
What’s your favorite scene from Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America ?
Being as how I lived it, I don’t really have a favorite scene. I think back fondly on the day I spent in the little cafe in Arizona, sharing stories with a waitress there and listening to old country music on the jukebox. It was pretty idyllic.
Silly-Game question: From Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America book, could you please leaf through the pages and point at a random place. What is the full sentence? And what is the page number of this random sentence?
“The things that make you stronger, that feed your soul, are those that take a long time and require so much patience that you think you’re going to burst.”
—page 184 of print version; chapter: “It Ain’t As Easy As It Looks”
Do you visit the United States? If so, what do you usually like to do?
Yes, I manage to get back to visit family and friends every year or two. I am often there on tour, playing music. Other times I go over to attend a conference, or to present a research paper on digital culture or music. I manage to mix the academic stuff with the personal, so I often travel around America quite a bit when I’m there.
Could you express how you discovered Tale Flick and why you decided to send your book there?
It was just a fluke, really. One of those things you sign up for when you’re first trying to promote your book. I didn’t know anything about them at the time, but I figured what the heck, I’ll throw my hat into the ring.
Congratulations on your self-published book Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America being optioned by Tale Flick Production, what scene are you looking forward to watch on the screen?
Thanks for that. It will no doubt take a long time to get to the screen, if it does. And I really have no idea what scene I’d want to see. As long as they make Gizmo look good, I’m happy [grin].
Would you like to make a cameo in the film adaptation of Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America?
Probably not, though I reckon they could twist my arm. I’m not much for the acting stuff. [grin]
Last question, if one was to visit Port Chalmers, New Zealand what meal (or restaurant) should he or she try over there? Is there any place he or she should check out as well?
There are lots of great places to eat, to see, to hang out in Port Chalmers and Dunedin. There is certainly no shortage of things to see here. It’s a lovely place. Being a coffee guy, I spend time every day in a cafe somewhere, sitting at a table and reading a book. In Port Chalmers, that’d be the Union Co. Cafe, run by my friends Keely and Pete. A truly local hangout. In Dunedin, it’s the Good Earth Cafe, which is near where I teach at Otago University. Like everyone else here, I look forward to the day when we’re back to having coffee in cafes. But I don’t want to rush it.
Many thanks to John Egenes for taking his time to answering my questions. I hope you check out his memoir and read his fantastic journey across the United States. I can't wait to hear more news about the film adaptation to his memoir. Hopefully, everything turns out perfect. Thank you for taking your time to read this interview and I hope you have a great day and a happy read with Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America.