Horses, writing and me, by Monica Fulford
Hello! Today I bring you the third interview in my series of exclusive Q&As with my fellow pony book authors. This time I shine the spotlight on Monica Fulford, who writes the Forest Adventures series of books under the pen name of Mica Ford. I bumped into Monica at Hickstead a couple of months ago and it was lovely to hear her writing story. Set in the New Forest in the UK, Monica's books are already proving to be a firm favourite with middle grade readers. So without further ado, let's find out what kick-started her writing career, what inspires her and how she deals with the dreaded writer's block.
What do you call a trio of pony book authors - a herd?! Here I am with Monica Fulford and Katharina Marcus at Hickstead a couple of months ago.
So Monica, when did you first realise you wanted to be a writer? I don’t think there was a time when I didn’t want to write. Before I could read or write, I drew cartoon-style pictures - they were very bad. After that, whenever I was asked to write something at school, I always wrote twice as much as the others in the class. And really enjoyed it. I’ve always loved the written word. What was the catalyst that made you actually put pen to paper? I’ve always had stories on the go - but the Forest Adventures series started as a result of a topic we were given at my writers' group. I made up a story which grew into four books. Why did you decide to write pony books? They say you should write about what you know. I’ve always been obsessed by ponies and horses; at school every essay incorporated ponies and my childhood and teen years were spent with ponies. As an adult I added children to the mix. Thus - pony books.
Do you ride or have horses yourself? If not now, perhaps when you were younger? We’d love to hear about your own horses and ponies! I started riding at garden fetes, aged two or so, 6D (old pennies) per ride. Aged three we moved to a farm in the New Forest and I discovered a riding school at the end of the lane. I spent every moment I was allowed - and many I wasn’t - there, ‘helping’ to muck out, collect ponies from the field, clean tack etc in exchange for rides. When I was ten my parents allowed me a pony of my own, then my brother asked for one, too. She came straight from the Forest and, unbeknown to us, was in foal. We weren’t very competitive but went on day-long rides across the Forest, hunted and generally had fun with like-minded friends. I went to university, got married, had children, finding the occasional ride here and there. Then my daughter Zoe wanted to ride. So she had lessons before we loaned a pony. When she was ten, we bought her a New Forest gelding called Piper. Three years later I bought a Connemara x Thoroughbred called Connie who I rode out and she competed, mostly eventing. I helped on the local Pony Club committee, organising rallies, fence judging at British Eventing and keeping Connie fit for Zoe. Connie had a filly foal by Fleetwater Opposition, so we were back to three! Since then, both Piper and Connie have died, so to keep Tally - the foal who was by then seven - company we bought a yearling New Forest x Thoroughbred called Bertie. Tally is now retired, while Bertie is rather good at dressage. We also have a three-year-old pure New Forest gelding to keep Tally company when Bertie is out, who Zoe will back and bring on. The idea is to sell him to make a profit! Ha ha. I haven’t ridden since Connie retired, a couple of years before her death. This is a photo of Zoe riding Connie and leading Piper at the beach.
What’s your writing routine and where do you write? When I was writing the Forest Adventures books, we were doing up a barn in France. No TV, no radio, just a laptop. We took a big desk down there, and I wrote and wrote at the desk or in the garden under the parasol. At home, I write on the laptop in the sitting room, or - now that my sons have left home - at a desk in the back (spare) bedroom. I don’t really have a routine; whenever I sit down I write. Where do you get your ideas? The Forest Adventures books grew out of my own childhood and having my granddaughters to stay. I write short stories for my writers' group each month, based on topics they give. So my ideas come from my life or from the books that I read. Do you ever get writer’s block and, if so, how do you overcome it? Yes, I get stuck sometimes. I tend to talk to someone - my sister-in-law, my daughter, a friend who writes, to get ideas from them. Sometimes I write something else instead, then go back when I feel ready. What’s the best thing about being a writer? I’ve always lived ‘inside my head’ and now I don’t get told off for being vague and not hearing. And the worst? Trying to sell the books and therefore myself.
If you didn’t write what other career would you love to have? As a child I really wanted to work with horses - to run a riding school - but my father told me to keep horses as a hobby. Then I thought I wanted to be a journalist, but I would have hated it - too soft to do the hard stuff. I joined John Lewis on their post-grad management training scheme, but once married I changed direction, working as a secretary and ending up, after the children were at senior school, as a PA/office manager. Writing was never my career and I think it’s too late to call it a ‘career’ now. What was your favourite pony book growing up and why? Monica Edwards who wrote Wish for a Pony and The White Riders. The One Day Ponies by an Australian author and so many more, too many to mention. Also Dennis Wheatley, Jane Austin, and basically anything printed, even the back of the cornflakes packet. What are you working on at the moment? I have an adult novel on the go - I’ve reached chapter thirteen. Also another pony story, and then there’s loads of notes to put into order regarding my mother’s life...
My daughter Zoe on her home-bred horse Opposition Tally Ho, or Tally for short.
Which book are you most proud of and why? So far, I’m most pleased with Forest Festivities, the second in the series. The other three pretty much wrote themselves, but I had to work really hard to find my way through Festivities and now I think I’ve got it pretty much right. Which are your favourite horse and human characters in your own books? The oldest sister Niki is the dominant character but the youngest, Lolly, has a a sparkle which makes me smile. Bracken is my favourite pony; he is a mixture of my first pony and Zoe’s lovely pony, kind, strong, energetic but with a wicked sense of humour. And finally, if you were a horse, what breed/colour would you be?! I would like to be a beautiful glossy bay Warmblood. Unfortunately I think others see me as a scruffy, clumsy, dusty cob, boringly brown.
Anyway, that's all from me for now. I hope you're having a great summer. Speak soon and in the meantime... Happy reading! Amanda