One of the things I love about being a member of the author community is the chance to make friends with writers all over the world. My friend Angharad Thompson Rees lives in Sydney, Australia, although she hails originally from South Wales.
Angharad, author of the Magical Adventures and Pony Tales stories and the Magic and Mage series, has worked with horses in England, Ibiza, France, Belgium and Melbourne.
When she moved to Sydney with her husband five years ago she swapped riding horses for riding waves and says falling off doesn't hurt anywhere near as much now!
Today I put Angharad under the spotlight and discover why it's inevitable that horses have a starring role in her stories.
So Angharad, when did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I can never remember a time when I didn't have a pen in my hand or ink stains on my fingers. As a child, I was always scribbling something. Mostly, I wrote poems about naughty ponies or little ditties about my calamities at the stables; there were many!
What was the catalyst that made you actually put pen to paper?
I’m not sure if I had a choice in the matter – a story literally burst from inside me and was relentless in its need to be written. And so I wrote, grabbing pre-dawn hours before riding in the mornings, and spending lunch breaks huddled up in the corner of the tack room with a pen and pad, and the familiar aroma of horse sweat, clean leather, and fresh meadow hay to inspire me.
That first novel, titled Ambition, took me five years to complete and, ironically, has stayed in my bottom drawer ever since.
Why did you decide to write pony books?
Having been immersed in the horsey world, from a junior competing at dressage and show jumping on my beloved pony Sonnet (pictured below) to working with Olympic showjumpers, Horse of the Year Show ponies, Badminton Horse Trial winners, and training racehorses, it was only natural that these majestic animals would star in my stories.
I write from the heart and these wonderful animals are part of my soul - ponies do that to you, don’t they?
All my stories have strong magical elements to them, and I believe there is a certain magic that does exist between a rider and their horse.
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’ve been lucky enough to spend most of my life working with horses and even luckier to have had several horses and ponies of my own. But the pony closet to my heart was my first pony, Sonnet.
Sonnet was a fiery Arab X chestnut mare, who by rights should never have been a first pony. The owner refused to ride her in the viewing, claiming, 'I’m going on holiday next week and I don’t want to go with a broken arm'.
So, having read all the tips from pony magazines, I thought I would lunge Sonnet before riding her… except she reared and tore free, churning the ground as she galloped away like thunder to freedom, screaming her shrill neigh like one of the four horses of the apocalypse!
My family immediately decided not to buy her, but I was intrigued by the beautiful mare with the kind eyes and fierce heart. So every weekend, I would trudge to her field to spend time with her, trying to understand how her mind worked, fighting my fear with curiosity.
There was a turning point. Several months on, unbeknown to me, the owner had been trying to get Sonnet out of her stable, and she stubbornly refused for nearly half an hour. Then, the gate clanged open and Sonnet heard me call her name. She barged past the owner and cantered towards me, stopping only to nuzzle my neck with her musky breath. She offered a gentle wicker, and it sounded to me like a promise. I knew then, that no matter what, Sonnet was my pony - and we brought her home that very weekend.
Only a couple of years later, this wild pony and I won the regional dressage championships together. Sonnet was an absolute dream and also the inspiration behind The Girl and her Pony - the first story I wrote in what would eventually become the Magical Adventures and Pony Tales series. Here we are at our first show together.
What’s your writing routine and where do you write?
Currently, I wake up at 5am every morning to write before I head into Sydney city to work - I still have a part-time job to support my writing. I snatch moments where I can; on the bus, on the ferry, in coffee shops, in the wilds of Australia where I camp and surf and roam free like a wild mustang!
And that’s my favourite place to write, with pen and pad on an isolated beach with seagulls singing and waves crashing, and the hope that in any minute a story will appear like a herd of wild horses galloping along the sand and shore with the thrumming of pounding hooves and heart.
Where do you get your ideas?
At the Soul Swap Book Shop! I sell a piece of my soul for the first line of a story… only joking! Although sometimes it feels that way! In all honesty, I have no idea where the ideas come from but I’m glad they arrive, and I hope my readers are too.
Perhaps though, writing is in my genes, passed down from generation to generation. My great grandmother was an award-winning poet and my grandfather an award-winning short story author. I hope one day to follow suit…
Do you ever get writer’s block and, if so, how do you overcome it?
I recently had writer’s block for the first time in my life with Dragon Heart – episode three from my current Magic and Mage series. Like the colossal brick wall my inspiration hit, the only way I was able to get over writer’s block was to plough straight through it.
So I beat down that wall, brick-by-brick, word-by-word until the story revealed its jewels. I’m yet to know if the story truly works… I’ll leave that for my lovely readers to decide when the book is released next month!
Here I am riding a Welsh Section C called Ben at his first show, the Bridgend County Show. He cleaned up - taking the Section C class, the Mountain and Moorland class and the Reserve Supreme Champion!
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
Living lives unlived, building worlds unimagined. Discovering the characters have more secrets than I imagined, more desires than I could ever perceive. It’s that moment when the story comes alive and takes its own direction, leaving me only as the conduit to allow the story to realise itself and come to life. That’s some witchy voodoo magic right there!
Also, as an author, the best thing aside from writing itself is hearing from readers who adore the stories and characters – it always amazes me that writers can sit alone in a chair and somehow connect with so many wonderful people outside in the real world - without ever having met them!
When you find a book you love, it's like the moment when two strangers realise they have suddenly become best friends - pure magic.
And the worst?
There is only one downside - not having enough time to write all the stories I wish to bring to life.
Eventing with my first horse, Reality - the horse of my lifetime. She was the most wonderful and magical being on the planet.
If you didn’t write what other career would you love to have?
Honestly, I would work in theatre or film. I adore visual storytelling and write comic scripts for Dutch equestrian magazine, Penny. I'm also currently working on my first screenplay.
But if I couldn’t write, I’d love to act - and probably on stage in musicals, as I adore dancing and singing along with my little ukulele!
What was your favourite pony book growing up and why?
Easy! The Jinny series, in particular, For the Love of a Horse. It’s a classic, a beautiful and heart-wrenching tale that any modern day pony lover would adore despite being published back in the 1970s.
As a young girl, I would reread the pages again and again, wishing, just like the central character, that some day I would have my dream pony (ironically the horse in this story is also a wild chestnut Arab mare… insert spooky music).
I think I’m so fond of this book because really, it gave me the strength to later believe (when I came across my own wild chestnut Arab mare), that Sonnet and I could work things out together, that there was a way to tame Sonnet’s wild and fierce heart without dampening her soul.
We accidentally learn from stories all the time…
My own young mare Minky tries her hardest at her first dressage competition in Pencoed College, South Wales. Her similarities to Sonnet are striking!
How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?
From two weeks to five years and everything and anything in between! Seriously, some stories are fully formed in days, others need months to prune into life. Some, like my passion project, Caramath (an epic fantasy adventure) is still being tweaked four years after the first word was written.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have a bunch of projects on the go at the moment. I’m in the process of releasing Dragon Heart, part three of the Magic and Mage series. I think horse lovers will adore the first couple of stories - Witch Hearts and Fire Heart. Both are full of magic and wonder and more importantly, horses! Dragon Heart features… something else!
I’m also having The Ugly Pony illustrated. It’s a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s Ugly Duckling and has had some fab reviews when shared amongst my readers.
There’s more in the mix, from epic fantasies to a novel-in-verse but they might be secret secrets at the moment! Of course, readers can always keep up to date by following me on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram… but mostly on Twitter.
With Big Ben, the strongest racehorse I've ever ridden (and responsible for my once Pop-eye style biceps) after he won a point-to-point in Berkshire.
Which book are you most proud of and why?
I’m most proud of my current Magic and Mage series; Witch Hearts, Fire Heart, and soon, Dragon Heart. Many readers have described the books as poetical and lyrical, rich in metaphor and language. And, as a poet at heart, since scribbling those little pony ditties all those years ago, those reviews delight me.
I am also insanely proud of my unpublished manuscript, Caramath, it is, without doubt, the most magical and imaginative story I have ever written. I have high hopes and higher nerves for young Caramath when his tale is finally told…
Which are your favourite horse and human characters in your own books?
I have a secret soft spot for Hannan and his flying pony in The Desert Pony, part of the Magical Adventure and Pony Tales series.
The Desert Pony is such a quirky and humorous little tale about having the courage to seek in life what you most desire without getting side-tracked by greed. Hannan is a peculiar child, and I’m always attracted to the peculiar. Like attracts like after all!
And finally, if you were a horse, what breed/colour would you be?!
I’d be a wild chestnut Arab mare, of course! And I’d probably answer to the name of Sonnet…
I hope you enjoyed my chat with Angharad!
The great news is, The Painted Pony, the first book in her Magical Adventures and Pony Tales series, is free to download as an ebook. Here's the link.
The Siren's Curse, a haunting and chilling short story written by Angharad, is also free to download as an ebook. Here's the link.
To find out more about her books visit her website, her Amazon author page or find her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
That's all from me for now.