1. What was your inspiration for "Believing in Horses?" I wanted to tell a story about what people are capable of when they believe in what they are doing, no matter how challenging the mission might seem at the time.
The actual idea for writing a story at all came from the previous owner of one of my horses, when I told her to tell her daughter that the horse was going to Washington, DC, to do something important, like be a Senator. The owner suggested I use that idea for a children’s book.
2. How did you decide what age your main character was going to be, and how did that affect the story? As a horse person myself, I spend a lot of time at the barn, and I interact with many young people from ages 4 to 18. I chose to have my main character, Sadie, as 12, because this is an age where young people often seem to start doubting themselves. It is also an age I remember well as still enjoying the pleasures of childhood without the peer pressure of the teens. I believe Sadie’s age affects the story because she takes on a very difficult task at her young age, and while she solves problems on her own, she still relies on others to assist.
3. Your knowledge of horses in evident in this book. Can you tell us about your personal experiences with horses? A mounted police officer put me on his horse when I was three years old, and I was hooked. I started taking riding lessons when I was seven and finally leased my own horse when I was a teenager. I remained in love with horses through adulthood, but due to my Navy career and the moves, was not able to fully commit to horse ownership again until just ten years ago. My husband and I now have one 20-year-old pony, a 14-year-old American Quarter Horse, and my 6-year-old pinto, Lucky, the “star” of the book. I am a Certified Horsemanship Association certified riding instructor in both English and Western riding, a member and volunteer for numerous horse organizations, and I compete in the National Capital Adult Equestrian League and other local amateur shows. I still take lessons, ride as much as I can, and absolutely love trail riding. I’ve ridden at ranches across the U.S. and in Canada, Spain, and Ireland, and even had the good fortune to be able to gallop a young Arabian colt among the pyramids in Egypt. I think horses are magical and have seen what they can do for people, which is why I try so hard to introduce people to the world of horses.
4. The main character, Sadie, has been promised a horse at the beginning of the book. How does this promise transform her character? DelSheree, you ask GREAT questions! The promise of a horse transforms Sadie from feeling sorry for herself about another move and her dad’s upcoming deployment to a girl with an important task. Sadie becomes focused on finding a home for her new horse, and finding her first horse, which distracts her from life’s other stressors at the time. Sadie gains a sense of independence and learns some valuable lessons about decision making and listening to advice.
5. Sadie works with several people, family and non-family that help her through the story. How do these characters contribute to the idea of believing in something? Many of the characters believe not only in Sadie’s mission, but in Sadie. Sadie’s honesty and commitment convinces people to believe in her and what she is doing.
6. What type of research did you do for this book? I’ll break this one down into two parts – the writing, and the story. As far as the writing, since this was my first foray into children’s literature, I began with Write4Kids.com, and then became a member of the Children’s Book Insider Clubhouse. The Children’s Book Insider Clubhouse provided excellent background information, teaching modules, discussion forums, articles, and more, which really helped me with some of the basics such as the length of the book. I also read many middle grade and young adult novels, and re-read a few of my favorites, to get a feel for the genre from an author’s perspective vs. a reader’s perspective.
Concerning the story, having grown up with a dad in the Navy, being in the Navy myself, and married to a man in the Navy, I felt I didn’t have to do any research on life in a military family. For horses, although I felt I had the general background I needed, including having dealt with many of the horse issues Sadie deals with in the novel, I did not feel I had adequate information on the unwanted horse problem. I chose to focus on this issue because I knew of the growing problem and had been involved through some of my volunteer work. But there came a point where I knew I needed to see horse rescues hands-on and speak with the people working these issues every day. I researched and visited the horse rescues in the book and remain involved with them to this day, including providing them a portion of the book proceeds. “Horse savers” are among the most dedicated, hard-working people I’ve seen in the horse industry, and I’m honored to work with some of them. The saddest part of my research was during a live horse auction; I wanted to save them all.
7. Can you tell us about how this book has been prepared to be used in schools? I am very fortunate that my brother, Eddy Ormond, a teacher for 20 years, became very involved during my writing process, including accompanying me on some of the above mentioned research trips. My brother provided valuable input from spending years with fourth and fifth graders, and he is, in fact, the real life Mr. Edwards teacher character in the book. Eddy prepared Discussion Guides and Activities for my web site, and teachers and homeschoolers raved about them and asked when they would be available in print. We listened, and published Teacher’s Tack for Believing In Horses, a comprehensive 76-page teacher’s guide to help make any teacher’s job easier in working with students and the book. Additionally, my brother visits schools with me when he can, presenting a lively Talk Show format about the book, reading, and writing, that engages the kids every time. I’ve been very lucky to have a caring, talented teacher who understands the demands on teachers as one of those characters who believes in me and knows how to share knowledge with students.
8. Who are your favorite authors? All time favorite author and book: Primrose Cumming and Silver Snaffles. Others: Nicholas Sparks; Gennifer Choldenko; Janet Evanovich; Sara Gruen; Deborah Wiles; Michael Morpurgo; Aryn Kyle; Patricia Cornwell….and so many more.
9. Do you have any interesting habits or rituals when you write? I really enjoy when I sit down to write one thing, and the story takes over, and takes me places I hadn’t thought about until I was immersed in words. I like to let the story go where it wants to and see what happens. I can always edit it out later, right?
10. Can you tell us about any other books or projects you are working on? Right now I am working on a sequel to Believing In Horses, with a working title, Believing In Horses, Too. While my first book highlighted unwanted horses, this book highlights equine therapy. I’ve done some exciting research and hope to introduce readers to more about horses, life in a military family, and the continued growth of the main character, Sadie. I was a contributing author to Chique Travel Adventures 2012: Finding Beauty and Inspiration on Your Travels , scheduled for Fall 2012 publication by Flagrans Press, and an upcoming book for the Voice For The Horse organization, also scheduled for Fall 2012 publication by J.B. Max Publishing. I plan to continue visiting schools, conducting writing workshops, and most importantly, encouraging people to believe in themselves and their causes.
You can connect with Valerie by email at Valerie@BelievingInHorses.com, through her Website, Facebook, Blog, or Twitter.
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