Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Interview: 2 of the Horse Diaries Authors

A few weeks ago, I reviewed the first two books in a new children's series, The Horse Diaries. The publisher emailed to let me know that the authors were available for interviews and that they could do a giveaway of the books. Well, of course, I jumped at the chance because I love interviewing authors and my readers love giveaways. What could be better than getting to do both of those things at once?

This interview is different than others I've done because I am posting both author's answers under the question. You will see Catherine Hapka's answers first, in red, and then Alison Hart's answers below that, in blue. I asked them both the same questions as I was curious about the answers since their books were for the same series. What they had to say was very interesting! I hope you enjoy these interviews as much as I did.

I am honored today, to bring you Catherine Hapka, author of Elksa, book #1 in the Horse Diaries series

and Alison Hart, author of Bell's Star, book #2 in the Horse Diaries series.

Write For A Reader(WFAR): Have you always been an “author at heart”? When did you know that this is what you wanted to do?

Catherine Hapka (CH): I always liked to read and write, but probably started thinking seriously about writing as a career in ninth grade, thanks to a very encouraging teacher (thanks Mrs. Roselle!). After studying English in college, I ended up in children’s publishing – and after that, I knew for sure it was what I wanted to do.

Alison Hart (AH): I wrote and illustrated my first book The Wild Dog in second grade. However, it took me thirty more years to get published!

WFAR: What else have you written besides this book for Horse Diaries?

CH: Many other books for young readers, from young adult novels to board books.

AH: I’ve written over twenty books—early chapter through YA. My most recent book Gabriel’s Journey, which came out in spring 2008, is the third book in my “Racing to Freedom” trilogy from Peachtree Publishers.

WFAR: Were you given your topic to write about or did you get to choose the type of horse, time period, and setting?

CH: The publisher wanted the book to be about an Icelandic horse. Given the history of the breed, it was pretty easy to come up with the rest!

AH: I was given the horse and time period, both of which I loved because horses and history are my favorite things to write about; I chose the setting of Vermont, which was perfect for a story about a Morgan horse.

WFAR: Are animals a part of your life, specifically horses?

CH: Yes, definitely! I live on a farm and have three horses here at home – a retired Belgian draft mare, a semi-retired Thoroughbred gelding, and a buckskin gelding who is currently my primary riding horse. I take riding lessons about twice per week. I also have cats, goats, and chickens.

AH: I have three horses and still love to ride. I also have three dogs and one cat—I am definitely an animal lover.

WFAR: Do you have writing mentors or influences?

CH: I am influenced by everything I have ever read. In my opinion, the best way to learn to write is by reading.

AH: No, although I read widely and constantly. Currently, I am reading nonfiction, and my influence has been the incredible people in our country’s past.

WFAR: How did you get chosen as an author for this series?

CH: I had worked with the editor on other projects. One day she sent me an e-mail asking if I knew anything about horses. As it happened, I had just returned from a riding lesson. The rest is history!

AH: I had written The Riding Academy series as well as the mystery Shadow Horse for Random House.

WFAR: Horse Diaries is being pegged as American Girl meets the Saddle Club. What are your thoughts on this?

CH: I suppose that might be a pretty good way to describe it. The series does share the sweetness and sense of living history of the American Girl books, and also the horsiness and friendship aspects of the Saddle Club. (And I do especially enjoy the Saddle Club comparison, since I wrote about twenty books in that series under the guidance of creator Bonnie Bryant – those were my first of many books about horses.)

AH: I’ve written two books for American Girls so I know first-hand that their books are well-researched, well-written and loved by readers. So I’d say it was a wonderful compliment!

WFAR: What is your favorite piece or book that you have written?

CH: Whichever project I’m working on at the moment or have just finished is usually my favorite. So it’s always changing!

AH: I try to be ‘in love’ with the book I am writing in order to make it the “best” book ever. Keeping that in mind, I would say that my YA mystery Whirlwind, which I just finished editing, is my favorite right now. Unfortunately, it won’t be published until 2010. That’s a long time to wait to hold the actual book in my hands.

WFAR: What are you doing when you’re not writing?

CH: Riding, reading, gardening, listening to music, hanging out with friends or family – the usual!

AH: I teach community college classes in writing and reading, and, of course, there are all those animals to take care of.

WFAR: What are some of your favorite things: book, genre, author, color, music, etc?

CH: Most of my favorite things are always changing, and I usually have far more than one “favorite” at any given time. I guess I like variety!

AH: Long trail rides with my horse, Relish, and long walks with my dogs Fang, Jake and Dozer.

WFAR: Can you describe your writing space for us? Where is it, what’s around you?

CH: My office is a room on the first floor of my house. The house is a stone farmhouse that dates back to the early 1700s, so the office has very thick walls and wooden beams on the ceiling. My desk overlooks the front yard. It’s usually messy, with at least one cat sitting on top of the computer monitor – I can never get a flat screen or the cats will revolt! There are bookshelves on two walls and windows on the other two, along with a large stone fireplace. And did I mention it’s usually messy in here?

AH: I am sitting at my messy desk with Fang curled up on my lap. Files and notebooks of research material are scattered everywhere, and my computer is always on and busy.

WFAR: What do you think about having your book reviewed by book bloggers?

CH: I think it’s great! It’s always interesting to read lots of different opinions.

AH: Love it!

WFAR: What’s in the works for you next?

CH: I have a few writing projects going at the moment. Plus, now that the weather is getting nicer, I’m hoping to ride more often. (That last part may not be what you meant, though, ha ha!)

AH: My YA mysteries Whirlwind and Shadow Horse (reprinted with a new cover) will be out in 2010 from Random House. Emma’s River a young middle grade (Peachtree) will also be published in 2010. It’s a story of a steamboat disaster on the Missouri River—of course, there is a heroic pony!

WFAR: Anything else you would like readers to know?

AH: I love inspiring writers and readers, and I hope that real books—the kind you read in bed or a hammock or lounge chair at the beach, turning the paper pages whenever you want--will NEVER disappear.

WFAR: Thank you for allowing me to interview you!

AH: Thank you!!


The publisher has graciously offered 2 of my readers a copy of BOTH books, Elksa and Bell's Star. All you have to do is leave me a comment about the special relationship you have with one of your animals. If you don't have any animals, then why do you want these books, who would you give them to, read them to, etc? As always, you earn extra entries for being a follower +1, tweeting about this giveaway +1, and blogging about this giveaway +2. If you tweet or blog about this, please leave me your link in the comments.

This giveaway is open to US/Canadian addresses, and will run from today through April 30th, with the winners announced on May 1st. Good luck to all!


Unknown said...

Oh I love my dogs! They are like my kids. 2 hours after I got my latest puppy, we were at the vet and found out she had parvo. $1100 later, she's good as new! People thought my husband and I were crazy. We'd only known this dog 2 hours and $1100 is a lot of money when you're told there's only a 20% chance she'll live. But we did it and I'm so glad! She's the sweetest puppy in the whole world:)

Reyna Meinhardt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KR said...

I love my rescue cat...Cammie..she has 3 legs. It took her a long time to warm up to me, but she's a member of the family now!!

Reyna Meinhardt said...

Thanks for the giveaway!

I have a special relationship with my almost 4 year old Tennessee Walking Horse, Apache's Princess Bailee (Bailee for short). 3 and a half years ago, when I was 11, I started taking horse lessons for the first time in my life! The lady that I took these lessons from breed Tennessee Walking horses, and each of her students got to choose a project horse to train. Since the first time that I went to her house, I have loved Bailee (she was still a tiny foal then!)! However, soon, I realized that I wanted to learn how to ride English, rather than Western and I also learned that the conditions these horses, including Bailee, lived in were bad, they lived in manure, ate out of manure, were lucky to get grain, hardly ever got their hoofs trimmed (one of her Hackney ponies feet were like skies), and they weren't worked/exercised enough. Sadly, starting English riding lessons - were I actually started learning things - I had to leave behind Bailee. That was probably the hardest part of it. Then, two summers ago, we were, much to my delight, started looking for a horse for me! I found one that we were planning on buying, a 1 year old part Arabian colt. However, before we purchased him we decided to look at a horse auction. This was the first horse auction that we had ever been to, I might mention. So, we were walking around, looking at the horses, and I turn a corner and surprise! There's my dream horse, standing there, pawing the ground like she always does when she's upset! It was Bailee! I started crying because she was going to auction, the horse that I had loved the most out of all horses I had ever met! That night, we left the auction yard as a new horse owner. That was one of the best days of my life! Now, 2 years later, my dad and I have trained Bailee together and my relationship with her is unbreakable. However, everything hasn't been perfect, she was malnourished from her former owner so badly that when she rolled, she had a terribly hard time getting back up. She has grown a lot since then and is now much healthier! I'm still working on building her muscles up a little more, but shes almost there! I wouldn't trade her in for a million bucks!

+1: I am already a follower!

Anonymous said...

My niece has a special relationship with horses. She is normally very shy but just shines and opens up around horses. She would love these books!

nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

Staci said...

Excellent author Q&A post! I have a lot of girls that would love to read this series!!

Katie said...

My Niko and I have a very special relationship... she's like a sister to me... today she followed me from room to room and had to sit on my lap while I paid the bills! She's more spoiled than I was as a child!

IceRyder said...

I have Icelandic Horses and am very concerned about how they are represented in the media.

Anonymous said...

I decided I couldn't wait for the giveaway, and bought a copy of the first book for my daughter's birthday. I suspect I'll be acquiring the second soon after!

Thanks for your giveaway, interview & review. I very recently discovered your site, and will be returning.

Anonymous said...

I have a special relationship with my Blue Fronted Amazon Reggy...Reggy talks some and when I am depressed she always says something that will perk me up...she knows how to get me to laugh

Unknown said...

I loved my childhood pet. She was very attached to me and too my dad. I don't have that same bond with my current dog, but hope to have another one someday that I do.

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