Today it is my very great pleasure to introduce to you my author friend and fellow Kent resident, Jane Ayres.
I first met Jane when I attended a day school she was running on writing and self-publishing back in 2013. I was a complete newbie and only had one book - The Lost Pony of Riverdale - under my belt. Jane, who had her first pony story published when she was just 14, had an enviable backlist and had been traditionally published in many countries.
To say I was in awe was an understatement, but when I sidled over to her during a break to tell her that I also wrote pony books she was kindness itself and even said she had heard of Lost Pony, which made my day!
Jane very generously put me in touch with her agent, as a result of which six of my books were taken by a Scandinavian publisher and were translated into Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish.
I will always be deeply grateful for Jane's friendship and support and we meet up regularly to chat about indie publishing and - of course - the trials and tribulations of being a pony book author.
So Jane, when did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
For as long as I can remember.
What was the catalyst that made you actually put pen to paper?
I loved reading and liked making stories up. English was my favourite – and best – subject at school. I also entered some short story competitions in junior school and had some success, so that encouraged me.
Why did you decide to write pony books?
I have always loved horses and ponies, and went riding when I could, usually working for occasional free rides at the local stables. My parents couldn’t afford to pay for lessons and I lived in an urban area, so life was very unlike most of the pony books I read as a child. There was never any real possibility of owning one, so it was a kind of wish fulfilment to write stories about having a pony.
When I was 14 I had my first story published in a magazine called Pony World. The story was called Dream Pony – about a psychotic pony that goes crazy at a horse show – it was quite dark! I was paid £10 and after that, I didn’t look back. I wrote stories for all the equestrian magazines at the time (apart from Lucky Rider – anyone else remember that one?), then went on to write serials, eventually got an agent while I worked as a secretary for a London-based publisher (then Random House), and shortly after that, was commissioned to produce a collection of my short stories, Horses in the Gallery for Collins Armada.
There have been plenty of challenges and setbacks throughout my writing career, but over the years, I have produced 40 novels and novellas about horses (and one cat novel, Coming Home, about two amazing Norwegian Forest cats) These have been translated into nine languages and I have sold well over two million books during my writing career. Once I discovered KDP, and indie publishing, I started to reissue some of my backlist as e-books, and print.
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 did very briefly have a pony, a really pretty Welsh Section C dun brood mare, called Mellyn. She had a back problem and I never got to ride her. The person who gifted her to me lived more than 50 miles away, and kept her with her own stud horses. Within a few weeks, she had to sell her due to financial problems. So I never really had the benefit of spending much time with her. I do have a picture though.
I haven’t ridden for many years now. In my 30s, I finally treated myself to the riding lessons I could never afford as a child, and embarked on classes at the local equestrian centre. I learned some basic dressage on a wonderful schoolmaster called Soames, a big chestnut cob, and practised transitions on a feisty little dun gelding called Busker. I even managed some cross country jumping!
And I still remember the ponies I rode as a child at the local riding school – bad-tempered strawberry roan, Candy, silver grey dream pony, Starlight (who everyone wanted to ride!) and cheeky dappled grey gelding, Binky, who had rather a dangerous habit. (He delighted in stopping dead and putting his head down at canter – unseating many a rider!).
Many of the ponies I have known and loved appear in my stories in different guises. The photo above is of Paintbox, a skewbald gelding I rode on a Butlins pony trek at Skegness when I was a child. He was a sweetie and I rode him again when we returned the following year.
What’s your writing routine and where do you write?
I’m bad at routines and my writing place has changed from sofa to desk, to cafes and hotels. I am easily distracted! There is no typical day, it varies a lot. But I try to walk at least two miles every day to get fresh air and exercise, as writing is such a sedentary occupation and staring at a computer screen makes my eyes hurt after a while. You need plenty of breaks or your back and bottom get sore!
Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere. I draw on my memories, and am inspired by news stories, conversations and daily life. Walking and travelling on trains are great places for ideas.
Do you ever get writer’s block and, if so, how do you overcome it?
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
When you have finished a story or book. I enjoy editing, and this can take ages, and many drafts, before I am satisfied with the final result.
And the worst?
If you didn’t write what other career would you love to have?
A Tango dancer!
What was your favourite pony book growing up and why?
When I was a child I devoured every pony book I could lay my hands on. It’s hard to name a favourite but I especially like KM Peyton’s Fly By Night. It seemed more relevant to my own experience as a child than most other pony books.
How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?
Six months to a year. I am getting slower as I get older!
What are you working on at the moment?
I have recently produced a fun book for Halloween. Called The Spooky Pony Mystery and other stories, it consists of a novella plus five short stories, all with a supernatural twist. My next project is to finish the delayed sequel to Beware of the Horse. It’s called Angie’s Revenge. It will probably be my last ever pony book.
Which book are you most proud of and why?
The Horse on the Balcony, because it deals with issues around bereavement and depression that I thought were important. Also Transitions, (reissued as The Horse in my Heart) which also deals with love and loss, and was the first of my books to be published in the USA.
Which are your favourite horse and human characters in your own books?
I like teenager Matty – pony-mad and pony-less. I admire her impulsive nature, boldness and sense of fun. Matty and the Moonlight Horse is the first story in an action-packed trilogy. I'm keen to support the work of animal charities, and I donate all my royalties for the Matty Horse and Pony Adventures e-books to Redwings Horse Sanctuary.
And finally, if you were a horse, what breed/colour would you be?!
Appaloosa – I love those funky spots!
I hope you enjoyed my chat with Jane. I love writing, but one of the very best things about writing pony books is the friendships I have made with so many other pony book authors.
You can find out more about Jane's books on her Amazon author page here if you're in the UK or here if you're in the US. To read her latest news visit her blog here. You can also follow her on Twitter.
That's all from me for now.