It’s been months and months since my last author Q&A, for which I can only apologise.
Life has been busier than ever and I will write soon with my own news – including another horse show success for me and Dobbie!
But today I want to share with you my latest Q&A, this time with British author Anna Rashbrook.
Anna, who now lives in Austria, has two horse books for grown-ups under her belt, Challenger and Compromise.
Find out how she used her lifelong passion for horses and the years she spent working as a riding therapist at The Fortune Centre of Riding Therapy in Hampshire in the UK to inspire her uplifting family dramas.
So, Anna, when did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve written all my life, stories and diaries, but it’s only been possible to follow my writing dream in the past couple of years.
What was the catalyst that made you actually put pen to paper?
A really vivid dream that is the opening of my first book, Challenger!
Why did you decide to write 'horse books for grown-ups'?
A love of horses, they’re in my heart. I read nothing else from about eight until I got teenage-itis.
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 first rode when I was eight, how things have changed if you look at this picture of me on Buttons, taken in 1968!
My mum bought me Emma, my first pony, when I was 13. A 14.3hh Dales cross, she was my buddy and we got into all sorts of scrapes. I was a bit of a rebel (see the photo below with my David Bowie haircut) and wouldn’t go to Pony Club, but pottered about the countryside and taught my friends to ride.
Then, as my friends acquired ponies by various means, we would hurtle around the woods. Sadly, by the time I was 15, boys crept in and we also had to move house, so Emma was sold to a riding stables on the Isle of Wight where she helped with riding therapy. I visited her several times, she lived to 30.
I didn’t have much to do with horses for a long time, I was in Switzerland for a year, then worked in a zoo, then married and had children. When I returned to work when I was 40, my boss had a cob, Dexter, who she let me ride. He was good at napping, but I had the bug again. It’s worse when you’re older and you’re in a position to do something about it rather than wait on parents! I even got my husband hooked.
During this time, I visited the Fortune Centre of Riding Therapy in Hampshire.
I loved it so much I applied for a job there and, to my surprise, got it! It was horsey heaven.
Over 30 horses all kept to the highest British Horse Society standards and great teenagers to work with.
I unlearnt a lot of my bad riding habits from childhood and loaned Monty, 22-year-old Welsh cob (pictured right).
We clicked and I spent many happy hours pottering around on Monty in the forest and with friends.
Then, after seven years at the Fortune Centre, my husband and I moved to Austria. I had vowed to give up horses, but instead found myself in a dream job teaching at a hotel with stables, which had seven Haflingers, an arena, and lots of lovely, wonderful kids.
When that stables closed down I took a job teaching at another stables with Icelandic horses. I only taught beginners and took out hacks, but my trusted partner was Rödi, a liver chestnut (pictured below). He was my pal and partner - we could be in a flat-out gallop and I could turn right around and check the riders and he wouldn’t turn a hair. He’s now happily retired.
I left the stables and trained in equine-assisted therapy. Sadly it didn’t take off despite advertising and workshops, although we did win a grant and provided some fun with horses for children from Afghanistan who were living in a local asylum seekers’ hostel.
I really miss horses, and I am determined to ride again this year. Writing about them makes me want to do it all again!
What’s your writing routine and where do you write?
Early afternoons after dog walking in the winter, whenever I can in the summer. We run a small business looking after holiday homes.
Where do you get your ideas?
Dreams. I had thought my next book was finished, only to dream the start of its follow up. I then build the plots in my head while out with the dog and only put them on paper once all the jigsaw bits are in place.
Do you ever get writer’s block and, if so, how do you overcome it?
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
The sheer joy of writing about things I love.
And the worst?
Marketing. Being an indie author at times I wish I had a publisher so they would do it all for me and I could write all the time!
If you didn’t write what other career would you love to have?
I’d quite like to return to the Fortune Centre, but that’s a bit of a commute. Painting! I have been tinkering with it for years, and have drawn horses since I was a kid but the writing takes all my spare time.
What was your favourite pony book growing up and why?
Wish for a Pony by Monica Edwards. In the book Tamzin fulfils her dream of finding her pony after years of dreaming of one. When I first read it, I was about her age and I envied her so much. It’s a beautiful story, set in Kent in the Romney Marshes. I nearly called my daughter Tamzin. She’s glad I didn’t!
How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?
It varies, five years to six months!
What are you working on at the moment?
The untitled follow up to Compromise, which is the follow up to Challenger.
Which book are you most proud of and why?
Challenger, my first born!
Which are your favourite horse and human characters in your own books?
Keith, the dizzy stallion in Compromise. I wrote him as the antidote to people who have what I call Black Stallion syndrome. They often don’t have a lot of knowledge of horses, how they are or even riding them. They put this stereotype on a pedestal with a flowing mane and tail. Keith is a bit of a prat, fuelled by testosterone he gets into all sorts of scrapes!
Mollie, the heroine of Compromise, is a bit like me, but I’m not saying quite how. I like most of my characters.
And finally, if you were a horse, what breed/colour would you be?!
A fat, hairy, big-hooved, bay cob!
You can find out about Anna, her books, freebies and her life in Austria in her blog, So Where’s The Snow? here.
You can also find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. Anna loves to hear from readers and will send personal updates. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope you enjoyed my chat with Anna as much as I did! That’s all from me for now.