AFFIRM is a family festival ACTIS (Aranui Community Trust Incorporated Society) delivers to provide health choices, education, training opportunities and careers information in a fun-filled family day with laughter, entertainment and activities for Aranui and the surrounding communities of Christchurch to get together and enjoy.
2017 is its 16th year.
Do you care? It would be cool if you did. I do, mainly because I’ve been volunteering on the committee for this event since I was 19, but now, because of my chosen career path, I have another avenue for which to encourage community to get involved with the library and vice versa.
Christchurch City Libraries first had a presence at AFFIRM in 2009 and then the following year with the Mobile Library in attendance and a whole tent dedicated to the promotion of libraries in general but highlighting the upcoming build of Aranui Library.
From then, Aranui Library has tried to maintain that presence through special activities on the day of (run at the library), over the mic announcements, free book giveaways, a Storytime session and this year, a colouring competition.
If you didn’t know, now you know. Spread the word, get involved.
16AFFIRM Wainoni Park, Hampshire St. 9.30am – 4pm, Saturday 2 December 2017
Find out more
Pop into Aranui Library and ask a friendly staff member
First up, we learnt that Pony Movies are almost all made from the same basic recipe, which goes something like this:
The Horse. It wouldn’t be a pony movie without a horse, of course.
The Girl. Obviously the Girl loves horses. Sometimes she has never, ever ridden a horse, but she will instantly be a better rider than anyone else.
The Father. The Father is generally either dead or the girl has never met him. Either way, he usually is (or was) a great rider. If there is no Father, there will be Horse-trainer-father-figure.
The Tragic Accident (optional). Someone will often have had a terrible accident while riding. It could be the Father, the Trainer, or the Mother, and sometimes it’s fatal. This generally leads to the Girl being forbidden to ride. Or the brilliant Trainer refusing to train.
The Villain. This is usually a rich neighbour, and possibly the neighbour’s bratty son. They will probably buy, steal, or have other treacherous dealings with the Horse. Or it could be a bratty girl who has been riding all her life and always wins every single competition.
The Colic Episode (add for extra spice). Colic is a very common equine ailment in pony movies. Everything will be going along swimmingly, and then the Horse gets colic. Everyone will be in a complete and utter panic, the Horse will be on death’s door, but will be restored to full and perfect health after a night of being lead around the stable by the Girl. Or perhaps by some horse-whisperer who will have to be dragged from his bed in the middle of the night just so he can put a hand on the horse’s belly and magically cure the colic.
The Competition. This could be show-jumping, rodeo, or a long distance race, or some such. Spoiler alert: the Girl will win. Even though she’s never ridden a horse before, remember?
The Foreclosure (optional). The parents or step-parents of the Girl will be about to lose their house, farm, horse(s), or all of the above. Usually the villainous rich neighbour will offer to buy them out.
Choose your optional ingredients and extra spices and mix all together. Bam! You’ve got a pony movie.
Sometimes, the result will be a fun and exciting family movie. And other times…
Which leads us to the other thing we learnt: sometimes watching bad movies can be just as much fun as watching good movies! Miss Missy and I have just loved picking the plots to bits, spotting the stunt and pony doubles, laughing at bad riding and total lack of horse sense, and “predicting” the ending (will she win?? will the farm be saved??).
The best Pony Movie Marathon moment was when we were watching Amazing Racer, and Miss Missy struggling to hold her derision in, snarkily told the TV to “pick a plot-line!” The makers of that movie clearly thought that more would be more, and threw everything in the mix: not only a dead father, but also a long-lost-thought-to-be-dead-but-not mother, and mean foster-parents (or were they an aunt and uncle, we started to lose track…). There was also a tragic accident (just for variety, it was the Girl who had the accident!), a near fatal equine illness… the list goes on! If you’re curious, you could watch this movie yourself, or you could read this deliciously snarky review.
Pony Movie Marathon Awards
Miss Missy and I couldn’t resist bestowing some Pony Movie Marathon Awards, and decided to award Amazing Racer our Best of the Worst Award.
Honourable Mention goes to: Virginia’s Run. Yes, this was your typical pony movie, but it stood out a little from the crowd. The first thing it’s got going for it is that it stars Gabriel Byrne as the father, and there are some genuinely funny moments. Yes, (spoiler alert) Virginia wins the race, but we cheered when plucky Melissa come in last on her little pony, long after the crowds had gone home.
The Worst of the Worst: No question about it, this award goes to… A Pony Tale! This movie took “bad” to a whole new level. To be frank, I’m not even sure you could really call it a movie. It’s all of 88 minutes long, but I am not kidding when I say that half of that time is scenery shots that are completely unrelated to the plot, or even the location. There are also the random scenes of the Girl riding the Horse round in circles for no apparent reason. And let me also add that this is a movie about a talking horse, but they didn’t even bother to put peanut butter in his mouth, so the scenes where he talks are literally just shots of a motionless horse! We actually decided that watching this movie is a form of torture, and that the worst punishment I could possibly inflict would be making Miss Missy watch it again!
And finally The Best of the Best Award goes to: Horse Crazy. We loved this movie! It was wonderful to watch a pony movie that didn’t stick to the recipe! Not a girl but a boy, no tragic accident, or dead parent, and no miraculous riding ability to win the big competition. I don’t want to give the story away, so let me just say that there is a horse (of course) and a villain, three cheeky kids, a couple of gormless adults–and a whole lot of fun!
Any favourite horse flicks of your own you’d like to suggest?
Janneth Gil, Liam Lyons, Elise Williams, Lucas Perelini and Thomas Herman photographed the people and physical environment of Bishopdale between March and September this year, building a collection of over 350 images that capture both the history of the area and the often overlooked moments of community life. The gathering at the fishing and casting club meetings; new mums learning baby massage at the Plunket rooms; a father and teenage son watching the All Blacks over a pint, a Coke and a bowl of chips — for the photographers, these were some of the moments that conveyed the deep connections people had in Bishopdale, to each other, and to the place.
“Going to a community like that and noticing that there are so many things going on and people getting together – it opens doors and gives the feeling like you can belong to a place,” Janneth Gil reflected after completing the project. Like Janneth, all of the photographers discovered a vibrant and inclusive community in Bishopdale, and were humbled by the generosity people showed as they were invited into their homes, workplaces and clubs.
For Lucas Perelini whose only experience of Bishopdale before this project was Saturday morning rugby at Nunweek Park, he was inspired by the richness of life that exists in suburban Christchurch if you only pause to look: “Sometimes you can walk around a place and it doesn’t seem like there’s a whole lot going on – but there really is. There’s so much going on that you can’t always see at first glance.”
The Christchurch Documentary Project is a collaboration between Christchurch City Libraries and the University of Canterbury, School of Fine Arts that began in 2015. Internship positions are offered to photography students in their 3rd or 4th year of study with the brief to create a documentary photographic record of a Christchurch community. The photographs are then included in the Christchurch City Libraries Digital Heritage Collection, acting as an important social record for generations to come.
Becky, a library assistant at Riccarton High School, has some helpful tips for students at exam time.
It’s that time of year again, when exams are on the horizon. Information is being thrown at you from every direction, pressure is on you to do well at your exams, and all you want is to get a good night’s sleep for once!
Well never fear, we are here to give you some tips and tricks on how to survive this season and make it through to the holidays (yippee)!
How do I start studying?
Find a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted. It can be nice to study with friends, but make sure that you won’t distract each other when you should be focused on your work. If you think your friends will be distracting (or you think you’ll distract your friends), suggest that you study separately, and you can always meet up when exams are done. A good place to study might be your school or local library, classrooms designated for study, or a quiet room in your house, or your friend’s house.
Set yourself rewards to keep motivated. If you’re really struggling to find motivation to study, set yourself a prize after each topic, chapter, or hour of study. A good prize might be a wee chocolate bar, a quick call with a friend or a chapter of a novel (social media is not recommended – that can easily suck away your time if you’re not careful).
Remember to take breaks. It is very important that you give yourself some time to breathe when you’re busy studying. Go outside for some fresh air, take a walk around the block and drink lots of water.
This is my first year of NCEA, any tips for sitting the exams?
Go to bed early the night before. A good night’s rest will help you much more than a late night cramming.
Stay hydrated during the exam. Bring your water bottle!
Eat a good breakfast before your exam so you have given your brain sufficient energy to think.
Remember to take your NCEA Exam Admission Slip into every exam with you. This is so the supervisor can authorise who you are – they won’t let you into the exam if you don’t have it.
Bring spare pens and remember your calculator if the exam requires it!
Look through the whole exam. Make note of which questions you know you’ll be able to answer and what might be a little more challenging. (You also might just find an answer to an early question hidden in a later one).
Double check your answers. Make sure to check over everything you’ve written to find any hidden mistakes or wrong answers.
Stay until the end of the exam. There is nothing worse than stepping out of an exam and remembering an answer to a question you were stuck on. Don’t let that happen when there is still time left. Once you leave the exam, there is no going back.
Read the questions and answer them. This one might seem obvious, but sometimes you might misread the question, and go off answering in a direction that the examiner did not intend. Some questions have multiple parts to them – make sure you have answered every part.
What about my social life?
Your friends will all be going through the same thing right now. And if a friend isn’t interested in studying, they should understand that you want to do well in your exams. You can always plan to meet up after exams are over and celebrate a job well done!
Most importantly, remember that there is life after exams, and there is life after failure. Study hard and try your best, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t do as well as you’d hoped. There will always be a next step for you.
What’s Your Bias? The surprising science of why we vote the way we do Lee De-Wit
This is a timely book considering some of the surprising election results of recent years. We may take for granted that people vote the same way as their parents, but it turns out that this is not so much to do with upbringing, but because of our genetic similarities. However there is so much more that influences the way we vote – or indeed if we vote! With chapter headings such as “Why do you always think you are right”, “What’s in a face” and “Faking it”, De-Wit offers an easy to read and fascinating look at the psychology behind our political preferences.
Children’s Garden: Loads of things to make and grow Matthew Appleby
Many of us want our children to get off the computer and enjoy the outdoors. The beauty of this book is there is no need to travel to the high country, you can introduce your children via your own garden, however big or small. The book is divided by the seasons and includes craft projects, cooking your produce, games, keeping animals etc. It shows that a garden can be full of creativity and fun, whatever the season.
Vitamin C: Clay + ceramic in contemporary art
Ceramics have left behind their image of rather nasty shaped pots created in night-school, and have now been accepted into the hallowed folds of “Art”. Each page has full colour plates ranging from the small and delicate to large monstrosities and installations. There is colour, detail, a dash of ‘goodness my three year old could have made that’, and plenty to be challenged by.
Love it or hate it, Halloween is upon us once again. Today it is a vastly different experience than the one that the Celts traditionally celebrated. For them it marked the reaping of the harvest, the end of summer and an opportunity for the dead to cross over to the living world and scare the daylights out of everyone. Sounds like great fun so far!
For us however, Halloween has become an attempt at recreating what is largely a Northern Hemisphere celebration – with Southern Hemisphere seasons, beliefs and inclination. And more often than not, if we try to emulate what we see on TV we are destined for disaster. So here is a cautionary tale of ‘How not to Halloween’. Sadly parts of this aren’t as fictional as I would like them to be.
Let us think for a moment… the pumpkins will have only just been planted and won’t be ready until around Easter next year. So now we will have to attempt to carve something sourced from the local supermarket. We pick out a nice Crown pumpkin and overlook the insipid grey colour and lack of grandeur. Beggars can’t be choosers. All it needs is a scary face carved in it and a candle to highlight your excellent pumpkin cutting skills. You take your sharpest knife and start to cut the top off what is arguably the toughest skin on any vegetable available*.
After you get back from the doctor, you decide that it is probably wise to do away with the carved pumpkin as you can’t afford to lose the use of your other hand. You may still be able to salvage it as a Halloween decoration however, as it is now rather realistically covered in blood.
Meanwhile, your kids are dressed up in the scariest costumes you could find at the local Opportunity Shop and are already dreaming about the sheer weight of the lollies that they hope to get. They wonder momentarily if that pillowcase is going to be big enough.
Leaving Hubby home in charge of the lollies; you venture forth into the bright sunlight with a handful of ghosts and witches in tow for the trek around what you thought was a friendly neighbourhood. How wrong you were. You find yourself greeted by grouchy people who can’t even fake being nice for the kids. They love to point out the error of your ways for daring to try and experience what is largely an American custom. Others will wander openly around their living room while your kids knock on a door that will never open. Some will go to the trouble of putting out ‘No trick or treaters’ signs to save you the energy of knocking. I like these people. We each know where the other stands.
Of course it isn’t all doom and gloom. There is the occasional legend that will gush over the kids costumes and hand over a lolly or two. But after an hour and a half of what amounted to a crushing failure; we head home defeated. I console the kids with the fact that if we’re lucky, their dad won’t have eaten his way through the entire bowl of lollies at home. It has been a rather disappointing experience. The kids don’t understand why their Halloween bears little to no resemblance of the ones that they have seen on TV. Let’s be honest – it’s still won’t be dark for another hour or more.
When we get home we find that the only other people that have come around trick or treating were teenagers who didn’t bother to dress up. And when my daughter finds out that they made off with her plastic skeleton that I’d propped next to the ‘bloody’ pumpkin; she probably won’t forgive me.
I know that there are houses somewhere that are re-enacting their version of Halloween – I’ve seen the lollies disappearing from the shops. Maybe next year I’ll save myself some time and heartache and just ask them where they live. At least then we can be assured of a guaranteed result!
So if your kids are begging you to join into Halloween this year, you think you can avoid these amateur mistakes and you are looking to earn some easy brownie points; here are some books to help you achieve this.
Nursery rhymes are easy to remember, short to sing and have fun actions! So, in preparation for New Zealand Chinese Language Week (16-22 October) why not start your Chinese learning with Chinese nursery rhymes? Here are some easy Chinese nursery rhymes you can try. The best part is that you don’t have to worry about the different tones in Chinese. Try to match the tune.
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
Diwali or dīpāvali, the festival of lights, is traditionally celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs with the rising of the new moon at the end of the month, Ashvin. However, in a country as diverse as India, where people from many different faiths live side by side, the festival is not limited to one particular faith for it represents the victory of light over darkness and the triumph of wisdom over ignorance. Throughout cities and villages the darkness will be symbolically turned back. Clay lamps (diya) will be lit in homes and shops, fireworks will be released into the sky and the streets will be filled with music.
We have two local dance groups performing on Saturday 14 October at three different library venues.
Revathi Performing Arts will perform a puṣpāñjali (welcoming dance) set to Carnatic (Southern Indian) music at:
Diwali is also closely associated with one of the great epics of India, the Rāmāyaṇa. The focus of the epic is the journey of Prince Rāma, an avatar (incarnation) of the god, Viṣṇu, to rescue his wife, princess Sītā, who was abducted by Rāvaṇa, the king of rākṣasas (demons). Aided by an army of monkeys and bears, led by the monkey general, Hanumān, Rāma laid siege to the island kingdom of Lanka and eventually defeated Rāvaṇa. Returning to their kingdom of Ayodhyā, Rāma and Sītā were greeted by people who lined their route with lamps to welcome them back. The lighting of lamps at Diwali is said to represent the lights guiding the couple back to their kingdom.
This exhibition will show photographs and tell stories of the Lost Cave Baches, located between the east end of Taylors Mistake and Boulder Bay. A booklet will be available with photographs and stories.
In celebration of the opening of the Lyttelton Rail Tunnel 150 years ago, members of the public are invited to share their stories, memories and images of travelling on the Lyttelton to Christchurch passenger train. These memories will be collected and recorded in the Lyttelton Library by volunteers for the Lyttelton Museum. There will be an accompanying display of images and information about the Lyttelton Rail Tunnel at the Lyttelton Library.
Come and see a heritage display reflecting Christchurch’s past in the Classics Building at The Arts Centre. Library staff will be on hand to answer your questions about our heritage images collection and our Christchurch Photo Hunt competition.
All aboard for a special storytimes adventure incorporating stories, songs and rhymes with a Cantabrian flavour (and plenty to please train fans too). Set inside a magical star tunnel, these sessions will run every half hour from 10am to 3pm in the Classics Building at The Arts Centre. Suitable for children aged 3-7 years. Bookings will be taken on the day.
An exhibition for those who love freewheeling. Here you’ll see a fascinating display illustrating Christchurch’s colourful cycling history. It will include heritage bikes on display, as well as images and historical research pulled from Christchurch City Libraries collections.
A history of Governors Bay, Ōhinetahi, Allandale and Teddington, this immensely readable, impeccably researched and superbly illustrated book tells the stories of the families who settled at the head of the harbour, of the homes they built, of their relationship with the land and sea, their working and recreational lives. It traces the influence of well-known residents such as Thomas Potts, Hugh Heber Cholmondeley and Margaret Mahy. Author Jane Robertson has interviewed many residents and ex-residents, whose experiences and photographs enrich a book that is not just for those with connections to this special place, but for anyone interested in the history of Canterbury and of New Zealand.
An introductory session on how to use Ancestry Library Edition, which is free within the library. Come and get some tips to help you discover your family’s history.
You will gain an overview of the wide variety of vital records from New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom, Europe and the United States from this eResource. Free, no booking required.
Stacy Gregg’s latest pony book The Thunderbolt Pony is a children’s novel very close to home, both for Cantabrians and for the author. Set in the aftermath of an earthquake in the real life town of Parnassus, near Kaikoura, the story is about 12 year-old Evie and her determination to save her beloved Arabian pony Gus, her loyal border collie Jock and her aptly named cat Moxy.
Stacy Gregg portrays strong, independent, fearless girls in her books and here Evie bravely overcomes not only the forces of nature but her anxiety disorder, which she has been suffering since her dad became terminally ill. Evie’s OCD manifests itself in the belief that she if she doesn’t stick to set routines, it will cause bad things to happen, making her the ‘bringer of earthquakes.’ Evie must embark on both a physical and mental journey, in a race against time to get to a rescue boat.
Stacy Gregg has experienced the effects of anxiety disorder firsthand, with her own daughter developing OCD a couple of years ago, and she brings the specificity of what it can be like into the story. In fact, Stacy manages to intertwine quite a lot into this pacy yet reflective story. There’s also Greek mythology in here too with reference to Poseidon, who makes the perfect tie-in as not only the god of the sea but of earthquakes and horses as well.
You don’t have to be a horsey person for this story of adventure and animal friendship to appeal. Gregg’s style of historical fiction applied here will particularly resonate with many middle-school children in New Zealand and those around Canterbury, the Hurunui and Kaikoura will feel especially immersed in the familiar settings. Overriding everything, however, is Stacy’s signature quality storytelling.
Interview with Stacy Gregg
We interviewed Stacy on the release of her latest book – she talks about her research and writing process and about her experiences with anxiety disorder in her family.
Stacy, what types of research did you do for The Thunderbolt Pony?
As well as reading lots around my subjects, I’ve always travelled for my research. My books have taken me to Arabia and Spain, Italy and Russia and now for The Thunderbolt Pony, Kaikoura and the East Coast of the South Island. It was important to me to travel the route that my heroine will take, the 64-kilometre stretch between Parnassus and Kaikoura. I was hoping the earth might move while I was there, but it didn’t. I had to rely on second-hand accounts of what the earthquakes were like because I’ve only ever been in a minor tiny tremor once here in Auckland.
What did you find in your research of the earthquakes that surprised you?
That they are noisy! You don’t think about the sound an earthquake makes, you think about the feeling of the land moving underneath you. But everybody I spoke to talked first about the noise. The boom that comes beforehand and the sound like a train surging beneath you. Like the rumble of the thunder that comes before the lightning – it gave me the title for the book.
Stacy, did you have a real person in mind when you were writing the character of Evie, who has OCD?
Evie’s journey is based very much on my own daughter’s struggles with OCD. When I first had the idea for writing the book I asked Issie what she thought about having a character who suffers from OCD and she was really, really supportive of me writing about it. She felt like it was important to raise awareness of the condition so that kids who are suffering from anxiety disorders realise how common it is and that they aren’t alone. There’s been such an overall increase in anxiety disorders in pre-adolescents, but this is especially true in places like Canterbury and Kaikoura where the kids have been through an earthquake and the ongoing aftershocks. Statistics in a recent study in Christchurch have shown that four out of five kids in the region have some level of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). It’s a very real issue.
What did you find in your research about anxiety disorders like OCD that surprised you?
My daughter gets really cross people say stuff like “Oh I totally need to keep the kitchen clean – cos I’m so OCD!” Because that’s not OCD at all – that’s just liking things to be neat! I remember there was a time when the word “schizophrenic” was misused in the same way. Then the mental health community stepped up and reclaimed it and said “hey it’s not okay to talk about schizophrenia as if it means you have a split personality -it’s actually a real condition that people suffer from.” I think the same thing will happen now with OCD.
There are a lot of mistaken preconceptions about OCD being a ‘clean freak’ condition where you have to wash your hands or keep things perfectly tidy. Yes, it can manifest in that way, but it’s just as likely for you to have OCD and have a super-messy bedroom! For many OCD sufferers it’s about wanting to protect people – or animals – you love and make them safe by adhering to rituals and counting. It’s a bit like superstition on steroids. If you have OCD you are compelled to carry out your rituals and you get really anxious and upset if you can’t do them right as you really do believe you are risking harming everyone that you love. You’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. In The Thunderbolt Pony, Evie is fighting her OCD and trying to get a grip on her actual reality, but she’s got a lot to contend with.
How challenging was it to write about a condition in your family? Was this a helpful process for you, to write about it?
It was tough at times to open the wound and examine it – but it’s better than letting it fester I think. Issie and I are both the same like that, we confront stuff head on and she was very honest with me and trusted me to tell the story. OCD is a rough gig. It can totally dominate someone’s life in a very debilitating way. Issie did a lot of really hard work with her clinical psychologist and that work gave her the tools to overcome it. I’m really proud of how open and brave she was, and I’m really grateful to our psychologist Hilary, for the support he gave her. The character of Willard Fox is very much based on him and he gets a big thank you in the dedication.
What has been the response so far from readers of The Thunderbolt Pony?
I just toured in Australia around schools in Sydney and what amazed me was that the kids there all knew what OCD was and they were very open to talking about anxiety disorders and seemed to really naturally engage with it. I’m just about to begin the South Island tour now – kicking off in Kaikoura – and I admit I am anxious about talking to the kids who have actually experienced the real earthquake. It’s going to be special, going back to the place where the book is set, but it’s also daunting. I hope they like it.
One thing really engaging about your books is the historical fiction aspect, how you use real places, events and real experiences in many of your stories. Why do you choose to write this way?
I think it’s the ex-journalist in me – I love to do solid research and I like to have a true story as a base foundation for my fiction. The Princess and the Foal was the start of that for me – it is the real story of the childhood of Princess Haya of Jordan. Her mother died in a helicopter crash when the Princess was 3 and she became really emotionally withdrawn and shut down after her death. When the princess was 6 her father, King Hussein, gave her an orphan foal to raise and said. “This foal has no mother, just like you. It’s on your shoulders now to be in charge and care for this young life.” This was the turning point for Princess Haya and her whole life story, her incredible success as an Olympic show jumper and as a powerful world influencer, came from that moment. It was so special to me to tell her story and to be given access to the royal palaces and the stables. My love of telling a true story sprang from working on that book.
You often write your historically-based stories from two points of view but in The Thunderbolt Pony we have just Evie’s viewpoints, one during the rescue adventure and one reflecting on her journey later (both physical and mental journey). Is this your way of using your ‘dual narratives’ device in this story?
That is a really good question in terms of discussing structure and the devices an author uses. I have frequently used dual narratives in previous books – dovetailing two girls with perspectives that are historical and modern-day up against each other. For this story though, there is just one voice, it is Evie’s story and hers alone. However, I didn’t want to write it in a linear fashion – I felt like we needed to see her two journeys – the physical and the mental – intertwined. It gives the book a different pace and that’s why we make time leap back and forth. The skill for a writer I think, is to construct a tricky timeline and make it feel like it makes sense and is effortless so that the reader doesn’t notice!
You’ve said you like to “get rid of the parents in a story” – can you tell us more about that and why?
It’s not just me who likes to get the parents out of the way. Look at Harry Potter. Or Lemony Snicket. Parents are a problem because they like boring stuff like routines and being safe. They are all about healthy meals and bedtimes and they are also on hand to help you when things get rough. If there are no parents you can have big crazy adventures where you must be brave and do everything yourself and there’s no one to stick their oar in and say “hang on a minute this is madness let’s stop and have a proper dinner!” That is why you get rid of the parents – they are too sensible and they ruin your fun and crush the spirit out of the adventure.
You write about strong female characters who are fearless, independent, self-sufficient. Can you tell us more about that?
I’ve always written strong girls as my heroines. Horses make girls powerful. You can’t be a powderpuff. You need to be mentally and physically tough to handle them. And at the same time you need to stay vulnerable and soft, because it’s in those unguarded moments that you create a true bond with a horse. My daughter rides competitively and when we roll up at competitions I’m always impressed at these women turning up driving massive trucks and handling enormous powerful warmbloods. We just don’t think anything of it – we don’t expect men to come and help with any of it. It’s a very feminist sport.
How long did the writing process take for this book?
I write a book a year. I spend about three months researching, three months writing and then another three months with my editor, pushing the manuscript back and forth through various stages beating it into shape. Then the next three months are publicity and touring and preparing to do it all over again. I love every stage of the process, I’m very lucky to do the job that I do.
What’s next? What are you working on at the moment?
My next book is called The Fire Stallion and it’s set in Iceland. As usual, I have the whole thing plotted out already – but I’m not giving away any spoilers yet!
What have you recently enjoying reading and what’s on you ‘to-be-read’ pile?
I have just finished Neil Gaiman’s book on Norse Mythology (OK that’s a big clue for the subject matter of my next book). But I won’t be able to read anything for a while now. I am an all-or-nothing reader and I can’t read other authors when I am in writing mode as I’m a terrible mimic. I have to isolate myself for the next few months and then I will binge read when the new book is finally done. On the bedside table until then are Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz, The Dry by Jane Harper, and My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent.