“If you don’t write, you’re not a writer”: Interview with author Peter Lee

By Sam Brake Guia October 29, 2019

They say “everybody has a book in them,” and for Atlanta author Peter Lee, one story stood out to him from an early age, and he was driven to produce a book on this incredible tale. 

He set out to write “Spectacular Bid: The Last Superhorse of the Twentieth Century” a story about the great “Spectacular Bid”, a horse on the verge of a Triple Crown in 1979, which lost the race due to a safety pin. However, just like building a startup, taking a good idea for a book and bringing it to life is easier said than done. 

To get a better understanding of why he chose this story, how he brought the book to life, and how to get started in writing, we reached out to Lee. 

In a previous Q and A you mentioned that Spectacular Bid was your favorite horse at 10 years old. Can you remember the moment you decided you would write this book, and what motivated you to share this story? 

When I was 10, I pulled for Spectacular Bid in the Triple Crown races – and was crushed when he lost the Belmont – but I had no idea how good of a horse he was – an undefeated 4-year-old season, a world record for 1 ¼ miles. 

When I saw BloodHorse magazine’s list of the top 100 Thoroughbreds of the 20th century, I was surprised to see Spectacular Bid at #10. I then knew there was more to this story than met the eye. And I was right. The story of Spectacular Bid is full of drama, intrigue, memorable characters and memorable moments.

When you made the decision to write this book, what was your next step? For example, did you already have publishing contacts, or did you have to go out and make them?

I was all set to self-publish. I had reached out to a few agents, but they all said horse racing was a dying sport, and the book wouldn’t sell. But Jennifer S. Kelly, author of a book on Sir Barton, the first Triple Crown winner, introduced me to the staff at the University Press of Kentucky, who just happened to be publishing a Horses in History series. It was a perfect fit, and I didn’t even need an agent.

Did you hit any hurdles in this process that you had to overcome in order to take the book from conception to being published? 

The story of Spectacular Bid is one of a bunch of unknowns who took a $37,000 horse and turned him into one of the greatest Thoroughbreds of all time. But they’re not household names – no Twitter handles, no websites, no recent newspaper articles. Tracking them down took a lot of detective work. 

Unfortunately, Harry Meyerhoff, the main owner of Spectacular Bid, died just as I was beginning to research the book, and Bud Delp, the trainer, passed away some 12 years earlier. I had to track down relatives and friends to help fill in the blanks and relied a lot on newspaper and magazine articles to paint a picture of their personalities.

What advice do you have for our readers who believe they have a good story for a book but are unsure how to get started? 

I had a mentor who once told me, “If you don’t write, you’re not a writer.” Write the book. Now. National Novel Writing Month is in November, and the goal for participants is to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. You don’t have to finish it, but it’s a perfect time to get started. Worry about publishing it later; you can always self-publish if you can’t find an agent or publisher.

For readers who plan to release a book, what advice do you have to help them gain media coverage of their book release?

The best advice I can offer is pretty simple, but it makes so much sense: find out where your audience is, and then let them know about your book. I live in Georgia, which is not exactly a hotbed of Thoroughbred racing. So I’ve had to do a lot of my book signings and press releases in areas where horse racing is popular – Kentucky, Maryland and New York. I’ve had excerpts of the book published in popular online horse racing websites as well, and submitted a few guest posts on horse racing blogs.

Do you have any other up and coming books planned?

I loved researching this book. There are so many stories about speedy, courageous racehorses that are untold, and I want to bring them to light and remind people of the rich history horse racing has in this country.

That being said, I’m a big music fan – I maintain Hooks and Harmony, a blog about melodic pop music and the 80s – and I’ve been toying around with a book of essays on pop music. Knowing me, I’ll probably try to do both at the same time. Horse racing and pop music – that’s not a combination of interests you see every day.

Disclosure: This article includes a client of an Espacio portfolio company