Summer Writing Series: Write What You Love

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Okay, Pat had me at she’s a lifelong teacher. We are two peas in a pod. Teachers are exposed to so many books we have to pick up some pointers along the way.

Read another young adult author’s view on what type of stories she writes and why. Today my guest is Pat Gilkerson, author of The Horse Rescuer Series. I love her main character’s name, Piper Jones. 

How Do I Decide What to Write About?

Sometimes people ask me how I decide what to write about. The short answer is that I write about things I’m interested in or passionate about. The long answers are much more detailed.

Why do I write children’s books?

As a lifelong teacher, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the books that are out there for kids. On one hand, there are some that are so good, it’s intimidating. Who would dare compete with them for readership? On the other hand, some are so bad and so obviously created to sell a cartoon character that I always thought, “I could do better than this any day!” When my urge to write got strong enough, children’s books were the natural outlet for my creativity.

Why did I write horse stories?

I’ve always loved animals, but growing up in Kentucky solidified my love of horses at an early age. I read every horse book I could find in my small town library. My father completely frustrated me by not seeing the need for me to have a horse of my own. I selected my college (first two years) by the fact that I could take riding lessons there. I think my father always believed I married my husband Jim because he was a veterinarian and would get me a horse. Well, he did. I got my first horse after I had both of my children and have had horses ever since. Currently I care for three horses, although I don’t ride anymore. My daughter lives nearby and comes out to ride whenever her job and family allow. When I began writing my first children’s book, it was a YA story about a girl who desperately wanted a horse. Every child wants a pony, just like every child wants a puppy. And, like puppies, the reality of taking care of a horse or pony is much more involved than any kid dreams. I thought it would be good to give children an idea of exactly what is involved in taking on the responsibility of a horse. In my Horse Rescuers series, Piper Jones rescues a pony, which then needs feeding, watering, exercising, veterinary care, shelter and acres of land. She and her best friend, Addie, have to tend the pony daily. It helps that her father is a veterinarian, so he is frequently on hand to diagnose health problems that crop up. As of this writing, the Horse Rescuers have saved three horses, with three more books to go in the series. We have The Penny Pony, Nickel-Bred, and Turn on a Dime. Following will be titles involving a quarter, half-dollar and dollar.

Why am I currently writing a YA fantasy book?

A huge influence on me was a book I read in 5th grade called The Unicorn with Silver Shoes. It captured my imagination long before unicorns were a common theme for little girls. The book was set in Ireland, had pookas, leprechauns, and many other kinds of faerie creatures, and I always remembered it. In fact, I found it online about five years ago and was thrilled to be able to purchase a copy.  That book began a lifelong fascination with fairy lore. As an adult, I became interested in Irish music, history and how it related to my family. So when I began a story about a boy who meets a green man and is taken into the Land of Faerie, it was natural that I would include a lot of Irish references, Irish music and Irish mythical creatures. Writers know that interesting coincidences sometimes happen as you work on a book. I finished writing the fantasy while on a trip to Ireland with my husband. Waiting in the Dublin airport for our plane, I noticed a restaurant named the Oak Cafe . A sign explained that in Celtic lore, oak trees were doors to the Other World, in the same way that airports are portals to other worlds. A light went on, and I changed my story to reflect oaks being doorways to Faerie. The Great Forest of Shee will be released in the spring of 2015.

What will I write about next?

When I’m done writing the three more Horse Rescuers adventures, I have some ideas. Having taught preschool for many years and loving Irish pubs–why not a main character who teaches preschool and works in a pub at night? I have the character ready to go, but need a plot line. A mystery/romance mash-up? Possibly. I like both genres. Then again, I love scuba diving and the island of Cozumel, so something could happen with that. I’m also really intrigued lately by magical realism, so who knows? There are lots of possibilities out there and it’s exciting to think about where I could go next!

HorseRescuers

 

You can find Pat here –

Fire and Ice YA books

 

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Horse Sense

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Since I have no real experience or great knowledge about these magnificent animals, I wonder why I keep putting horses in my stories. I’m definitely not an expert on the subject. I grew up watching them on TV so I always felt they were part of my life. I’m not talking about the My Little Pony era.  I go back a little farther than that for my childhood. I’m talking real, live horses like Trigger, Roy Roger’s horse, and the Lone Ranger’s horse, Silver, of the “Hi, Ho, Silver” fame. And let’s not forget Zorro riding his white horse in the opening credits of his show and pulling the animal up and onto its back legs as he gives a wave. Those were real horses and men depended on them.

Roy Rogers and Trigger                             lr_silv8

One more show on my list also deserves a shout out…Bonanza.4horses

It was on for over a decade. Pa Cartwright and his three boys would ride up on their horses during the show’s introduction, stop and smile for the camera. The horses took them everywhere–into town, out on the range and chasing bad guys. My favorite Cartwright was Little Joe and I loved his horse, too. Cochise was a beautiful paint horse that had wonderful patterns of white on it. I wanted one just like it.

So how could any little girl during that era not love horses? I was one of many who did, I’m sure. Then it happened. My sister and I begged to go horseback riding during a vacation at a resort where there were stables. I was probably eleven or twelve at the time. All the riders were in a pen, dismounting at the end of the journey and my horse decided to pin me with its hindquarters against the fence. If you’ve stopped laughing and are wondering what part exactly are the hindquarters, I looked it up. It’s the top part of the horse above the back leg. I don’t remember how long it took to be rescued but it felt like hours. Needless to say, I was traumatized, never to ride or go near a horse again.

So why use them in my stories? I’ll tell you a little secret. I still love them. They are beautiful and majestic and I long to ride one the correct, proper way. I can feel the wind in my hair as I proficiently gallop along in my imagination. And right before my dismount, I have the horse rear high in the air and I give a quick salute, just like Zorro, and say, “Hi, Ho, Silver!” Oh, wait, that’s the Lone Ranger…but you get the picture.

Walt Disney Treasures Zorro