As a teenager Lindy Kelly was addicted to the thrills and spills of the equestrian sport of eventing. She travelled the world training and competing, breaking many of the bones in her body along the way and suffering a grand total of seven concussions.
At 21 Kelly married a farmer and went on to have six children so her love of the dangerous sport was sidelined. These days her riding consists of a quiet hack around her Nelson farm but her memories of the world of eventing have formed the foundation of her debut novel, a thriller called Bold Blood (HarperCollins, $36.99).
This is a story that gallops along almost as fast as a thoroughbred around a cross-country course.
The action kicks off as Dr Caitlin Summerfield heads home to tend the horses after her mother is left in a coma after a suspicious riding accident. Caitlin discovers that a sinister someone is out to get her but she is determined to help her mother win a lucrative contract.
The plot has a few quirks that a good editor ought to have picked up but on the whole it's a fun read with strong characters, very Kiwi humour, lots of horsey action and plenty of drama.
How Kelly went from horserider to writer is a story with its own fair share of drama. "When I was about 30 I started suffering from ME so couldn't do much that was physical," she says.
"I'd always been outdoorsy so it was frustrating to be lying in bed for months on end. But everything happens for a reason and that's when I started thinking up stories."
Beyond a tribute piece for Horse & Pony magazine and a few stories for her own kids, Kelly had never written before. But she set to it with the determination she had shown in her competitive riding career.
She has had 113 adult short stories and 13 children's books published. She has also written plays and poetry, and teaches creative writing in Nelson. Bold Blood came from Kelly's frustration at not being able to find much New Zealand popular fiction she wanted to read.
"I thought there was a dearth of books you can read for sheer enjoyment, with excitement, danger, mystery, romance, humour, passion of every kind - and set on a farm," she says. "That's
the sort of book I wanted to read so that's what I wrote. I started working on it about four years ago and set it in the eventing world because I don't know of any other book set there."
Kelly, in her 50s, still has connections in the equestrian world, including champion eventer Mark Todd, who has written a glowing foreword for Bold Blood.
Although Kelly has based some of the action in the book on her own riding experiences, her equestrian career was really only a blip in a very eventful life. Over the years she has tried many things, including working as a marriage guidance counsellor, blacksmithing, haymaking and running an angora goat stud farm.
"Writing is the culmination of all the things I've done," she says. "All these experiences have led me to it. I write for the same reason I eat. It nourishes me."
Last year her husband was killed in an accident on their farm in Nelson. Since then Kelly has had less time for writing, although she still has several projects on the go, including another children's book and a second thriller for adults.
"My goal is to keep getting what I write published," she says. "I tell my students that writing is like communicating, you should share it, otherwise it's like talking to yourself. If you're writing stories they need to be read."
Despite all the falls, Kelly still loves horses. She and her daughter have set up a stud on their farm and are expecting their first foals this year.
However, nowadays, to sate her competitive hunger Kelly is a swimmer rather than a rider and so far she's won five gold medals and two silver at the New Zealand Masters Games.
"I decided some time ago that I can really only ride or write," she says. "I can't risk any more concussions as I have to save the few brain cells I've got left.
"But I've still got that competitive urge - I can't help myself. I think it's what helps me strive to be better at everything I do."