– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘Tabby’s Big Year’ blogtour, organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote this book I have a Q&As post, but b
About the Author :
Hollie Anne Marsh is an Australian author who lives in Barcelona, Spain with her partner, baby boy and horse Frieda.
Hollie has been horse riding since she was a little girl, enjoying activities such as Pony Club, showjumping, eventing, and trail-riding in the great Australian bush. Hollie lived in England for almost ten years where she had two horses and trained them for dressage.
The Sweetbriars series is inspired by all the special moments Hollie spent with horses – good, funny, and challenging moments!
Additionally the ‘coming of age’ and ‘growing up’ experiences that Hollie had.
Hollie hopes that readers will be able to identify with the characters, find the books fun to read, and they will help readers learn more about horses.
After Tabby’s father vanishes, a deep rift develops in Tabby’s family. Tabby’s mother is focused on being a star performer in her pharmaceutical sales career, while Ava, Tabby’s older sister, is living with grandparents in Cornwall. Tabby feels neglected by her mother and jealous of Ava and although outwardly diligent and responsible, she’s like a kettle about to blow its top… bottling things up until it’s nearly impossible to keep a lid on her frustration and sadness.
Tabby finds solace with her best friends Cate and Violet at Sweetbriars Farm where she is nursing her dream horse Bliss back to peak performance, to be able to participate in the try-outs for the British Young Riders Squad.
Tabby also finds herself facing other challenges – saving her beloved horse Nancy from the knacker’s yard and finding the courage to tell her friends the truth about her family.
Will Tabby be able to save the horses she loves and be brave enough to tell people how she really feels?
First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I am from Australia, however, I have lived overseas for over twelve years; first in England and now in Barcelona in Spain where I live with my partner and toddler. Since living in Europe, I caught the travel bug and I’ve travelled pretty extensively all over the world; both for work and pleasure!
My horse journey started when I was eight years old… I first had lessons at the local riding school and then I loaned a pony. Once I was able to get a part-time job at age fourteen, I took on an ex-racehorse to retrain. At university, I also rode racehorses at the crack of dawn and when I had a ‘proper’ job e.g. a job that paid a half decent salary, I went on to buy more ‘purpose-bred’ horses. I also participated in various activities and competitions over the years, in dressage and jumping.
I wrote the manuscript for the first Sweetbriars book over ten years ago. I had a dream to create a premium equestrian series; with a balance of pony and ‘coming of age’ themes, like the successful Saddle Club series. After having a baby and being made redundant from a corporate job, I finished the first book; Leaving The City and more recently, the second book; Tabby’s Big Year. It has been great to do something creative again and fulfil a lifelong dream of mine.
Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?
As mentioned, I loved to read ‘coming of age’ series such as the Saddle Club and also the Babysitters Club. I guess I liked these books so much as it was easy for my friends and me to relate to the characters.
I also liked classics such as the Flambards series from K.M. Peyton – as a teenager, I found the classic English horse books captivating, especially since they were so different from what I knew growing up in Australia.
Now I read most genres and a few books that I read recently and loved are Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón and La Catedral Del Mar by Ildefonso Falcones, both set in Barcelona. They bring Barcelona to life in a very different time, with fascinating characters and intriguing stories. They’ve given me a whole new perspective on the city; various sights and streets I pass through every day.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
I think Ernest Hemingway would be fascinating to talk to and learn more from. What a life and I love his books… Timeless, with a unique writing style and full of adventure.
If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
A grown-up Cee Cee Bloom from Beaches would be awesome and fun.
Do you have some rituals or habits while writing?
Nothing super interesting I’m afraid! I usually have coffee, take my toddler to day-care and tidy the house a bit. I’m a bit OCD and have to be in a nice environment with fresh air to work. I usually try to break the day up with exercise, like yoga or running on the beach. I’m quite lucky living in Barcelona, only a ten-minute stroll from the Mediterranean.
Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉
Mainly from life experience, growing up in Australia and then living in the UK and Barcelona. Also, everyday life; watching television, movies, reading, meeting people on the street and funny random interactions or events. I haven’t really copied anyone close to me… but I do get ideas from people in my life and then the character evolves. Also, the animals definitely get copied, but I think they’d be happy about it if they knew! Most of the animals in my life have been lovable… so I mainly write good things about them.
Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
So far, I plotted each book, and as I began to write the first draft, the books evolved somewhat, but they both didn’t stray too far from my original story idea.
Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?
Find a good editor who you will learn so much from.
Allow as many people as possible to read your book before you publish, for feedback. However only take on board constructive feedback!
Be realistic with timelines and enjoy the process of learning. You always need more time than you think.
Create a good cover and research what is working in the genre you want to write in. Again, share it with loads of people to get feedback.
Have a thick skin and be proud of the accomplishment of just writing your first book. I think getting that first book out is really the beginning of something and at least for me… I think it’s something I will do for the rest of my life. Even though I have written since I was a teenager, my writing wasn’t very structured, and I didn’t have a goal. Once I realised I could write a book, it’s a great challenge to have going forward… I also now see situations differently with stories everywhere.
What are your futureplans as an author?
Well, the obvious thing seems to write another Sweetbriars book from the third main character, Violet’s point of view. There is also a quirky neighbour called Sophia that many readers have commented on and seem to love. I think it could be fun to write a book about her life… she is a bit of an enigma. Then the books could continue – as the series is in its infancy. At this stage, I am not sure how far I will take it, but I do think it has a lot of potential.
Last, but not least : Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?
Tabby’s heart was racing and she shivered and swallowed, feeling no pain this time. She rubbed her glands in her neck softly as she braced herself for action. Taking a deep breath, she pressed her finger firmly on the buzzer.
She buzzed again – nothing.
She banged daintily on the gate and waited.
She banged harder, feeling a sense of panic and then another feeling.
Certainty that Nancy was inside.
Finally, the peephole opened abruptly and Tabby jumped.
A middle-aged man with ruddy skin and beady eyes appeared, “Good afternoon. What do you want?” he asked gruffly, jutting out his chin.
“Hello. I wonder if you can help me… I heard that a chestnut horse came here today. A cob,” Tabby held her phone up with a picture of Nancy against the peephole and tried to stop her hand shaking.
The man paused and scratched the stubble on his chin seemingly uninterested. “Yeah, she is here. And what business is it of yours?”
“I want to take her off you,” Tabby said firmly.
The man scoffed, then said, “Look, little girl, we are a business, we aren’t giving away ponies to little girls willy-nilly.”
“Please, I will pay you,” Tabby said.
The man shook his head and said, “Nah, I have contracts to fill and we have plans for her.”
Tabby shuddered and stood on tiptoe as he reached his hand out to close the shutter, “Please – I have money.” She pulled out the fifty-pound notes.
The man paused and opened the peephole again. Tabby stepped back. He rubbed his chin and squinted with mean looking eyes.
Tabby could feel the heat of his stare on her cheeks but she stood her ground and didn’t even flinch.
Finally, he spoke, “Well she isn’t cheap… a solid mare like her.”
“How much?” Tabby commanded, suddenly angry.
He scratched his head, seemingly enjoying the suspense, “She would fetch us around five hundred and fifty.”
Tabby took a deep breath; she wasn’t expecting that much – which she didn’t have.
She knew she couldn’t show weakness. Stay cool, keep calm.
“I can give you two hundred and fifty pounds today and the rest within the month,” she said, thinking quickly and in her best business voice.
“Look little girl I am not a bank,” the man replied shaking his head and he started to close the peephole.
Tabby blocked the peephole closing with the palm of her hand, “Please, I work at The Dales saddlery and I go to Dalesea College, so you know where to find me. I am true to my word,” she said, looking straight into his eyes and trying her hardest not to beg.
He opened the peephole again and studied her face. “OK, but you will have to add another fifty on for interest,” he said slyly.
Tabby was brimming with anger and surprised herself by testing him, “I can’t afford that, and that is my final offer,” she said turning on her heel. She felt a deep hate for this guy and inside she knew she’d have to turn back if he didn’t concede, as she needed to get Nancy out of there instantly.
She shuddered as she heard an ominous scraping noise and turned back around to see the big gate opening.
“OK then, come in little girl, she’s up the end,” the man said in a menacing voice and ushered her in.
As Tabby walked through the gate she was presented with a pitiful sight. Rows of rickety wooden stables were on the left, and on the right, pens for cows and pigs. It stunk of manure and urine. Beyond the pens were large industrial metal sheds. Tabby didn’t want to think what went on there. There was no humanity whatsoever, only dankness and the smell of the end.
Tabby saw horses of every colour hanging their sorry heads over the stable doors. As they walked past, they shied away, back into the safety of their stables.
In the pens were Friesian cows with sweet doe eyes and young calves that stuck to their mothers’ sides.
A shiver ran down Tabby’s back, she felt a strong desire to just run away, but she had to pull herself together. There was nothing more she wanted than to save them all.
As she followed the man to the end of the stables Tabby focused straight ahead and willed herself not to cry. She heard a whinny and Tabby caught her breath as she caught sight of Nancy peering out over the stable door, her eyes full of desperation.
It was no use, tears were streaming down Tabby’s face and she ran to Nancy, completely forgetting the man. Nancy rapped her front leg on the door and rubbed her nose affectionately against Tabby’s shoulder over the door. Tabby held her chestnut head in her arms and kissed her soft muzzle, then whispered in her ear, “I will get you out of here pronto, don’t worry.”
Nancy nickered softly and Tabby asked the man where Nancy’s headcollar was.
He handed over an old headcollar with a broken nose piece and rusty buckles.
Tabby stared at it with disgust.
“This is all I was given, I’m afraid,” he said indifferently.
Tabby hated Emilia even more than the man. Tabby had bought Nancy a new headcollar and left it with Emilia, and she didn’t even have the decency to put the horse in her own headcollar.
She opened the stable door and Nancy pushed her way out eager to leave, the whites of her eyes flashing, “Whoa girl,” said Tabby stroking her shoulder, trying to calm her. She put the broken headcollar on and attached the lead-rope as Nancy stood patiently. Once out in the stronger light, Tabby could see that her leg was swollen and when she began to walk she was lame, but it could have been worse and she seemed eager, nonetheless.
Tabby thrust the money at the man. He stuffed the notes in his pocket and whistled cheerfully as he walked them out. Tabby couldn’t look at the other animals and stared fixedly ahead. At the gate, they couldn’t leave fast enough and the man shut the gate with a scrape and clang behind them, startling both Nancy and Tabby.
He opened the peephole one last time, which made Tabby jump.
“I will see you soon little girl – don’t forget our debt or I will be coming for you,” he said menacingly as his beady eyes narrowed and went all dark.
Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, Hollie Anne Marsh.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds
P.S. Are you an author (or publisher) who also wants a FREE interview like this? You can always contact me via e-mail!