Sunday, April 24, 2011

Interview with Author Jennifer Walker

Jennifer Walker is a full-time freelance writer, editor and novelist. She has been published in numerous magazines and websites, and Bubba to the Rescue is the sequel to her first book, Bubba Goes National, which was released in 2010. She owns some beautiful Arabian horses and enjoys writing about her first love… horses! She also has other interests besides horses. Jennifer is a professional ballroom dance instructor.

Hello Jennifer. Welcome back to my blog once again. Please tell us about your new book.

What starts out as a leisurely trail ride turns into a terrifying afternoon when Alex and Leslie see a plume of smoke rising in the trees. After saving the neighbor's horses from a horrible fate, the two teens must run through the burning woods and get back to Green Meadow before it's too late. On the way, they encounter a strange horse wandering through the woods by itself, and it follows them home. Leslie soon becomes attached to "Spark" when she can't find his owner...but will she get to keep him, or will someone come forward to claim the horse she has come to love?

Readers of Bubba to the Rescue will enjoy an exciting story, but they will also learn about the care and showing of horses while they read about Leslie's adventures. Bubba to the Rescue is the second of the Riders of Green Meadow series, which will showcase horses that are unwanted by one person but are another's dream come true. This installment also digs into the problems that today's teenagers face, like boyfriend troubles and a widowed father who remarries.

I know you love horses very much. Where did you get your inspiration for this novel?

If you poll horse owners about what they fear the most, fire will be one of the top answers. We hate it, horses hate it, and wooden barns full of hay are like gigantic matches. On top of that, a lot of horse people live in the country, which means forest fires are always a worry during the dry season. I have been involved in two fire evacuations, and it is scary stuff. I thought it would make an exciting opener for this story.

I always brainstorm my story ideas with my husband (Greg Walker Blogspot) and my mentor (Michelle Devon). Coming up with the ideas is actually my weak point, so they help me come up with great plot lines and dig me out when I get stuck.

Wow! Now that’s real support. What is the difference from a purebred Arabian horse and other horses? Do they have a longer endurance?

There are lots of differences between Arabians and other breeds—they are beautiful, refined and tend to be good at a lot of different things. They tend to have wonderfully personable dispositions (I wrote an article about that here); there is a legend that the Bedouins of Arabia used to keep their most prized horses in the tent with them. While they are able to do pretty much any discipline (the ones in Bubba Goes National and Bubba to the Rescue do Saddle Seat, which is a type of English riding), they are well known for excelling at endurance riding, which is trail riding distances of 25 miles or more. If you look at the results for the Western States Trail Foundation Tevis Cup, which is one of the most grueling and prestigious endurance rides in the country, you will see that the majority of finishers are Arabians. 

Thank you. I was wondering about that. What kind of research did you do for this book?

Most of this came from my experience owning horses and working for horse trainers, where I’ve had to take care of a lot of different types of injuries. While I’m by no means an expert, it was a good starting point. Since there were some serious injuries in this book, I had my veterinarian, Linda Lauper of H.A.P.P.E.E. Horses, Inc., read the book to make sure I got all the medical parts right. I’m happy to say she only made minor changes! 

This next question can be a fun one. Have you had any amusing or unusual experiences in your life that you would like to tell us about?

Here’s an amusing experience from my childhood horse show days. I was getting ready to ride into an equitation class, which is judged on the rider and you’re expected to be sparkling clean and perfect from head to toe. I was riding toward the in-gate when my horse spooked at an empty puddle (no water, just the indentation in the dirt). He jumped to the side and I didn’t…meaning I hit the dirt in my sparkling clean show clothes.

Before I knew what was happening, four horse show moms (none of which were mine) had me brushed off and back on my horse. I trotted in the gate just in time to make the class and won first place. My mom told me later she had no idea what happened. She was waiting inside to watch the class, and she kept wondering what took me so long to get in there!

What a wonderful story! And you won first place after your little accident! Awesome! Thanks, Jennifer, for this fun interview.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Interview with Author Kaayla Canfield

At a very young age Kaayla Canfield enjoyed spending a great deal of time outside, close to Mother Nature, planting and tilling their family garden. Years later she started doing “Going Green Seminars” for elementary school children in her hometown of Calgary.

Hello, Kaayla. "Going Green" seems to be of great concern now days and what better time of year to discuss your book than the Easter season and the celebration of Earth Day. Please tell us about your new book.

My book is about teaching people how to go green in simple to implement steps. Breaking it down into baby steps, so people are not so overwhelmed by the prospect of greening their life. I have done a lot of research, and give lots of resource material to people, to help them along their green journey.

I started off writing the book for homeowners, thinking that they would be my target audience, but along the way, I found that children in various grades were very interested in this. That is when I started to give talks in schools, to help the children understand how simple things add up and make a big difference.

Then it was suggested to me, to contact Alberta Education, and submit my book for consideration in Alberta’s curriculum program. It was approved in October 2010, and it should start appearing in classrooms soon.

Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

I have had allergies all of my life, so I was brought up finding ways to look after myself, that were healthy and inexpensive. When I was a little girl, my mother did not buy commercial house cleaners, we used vinegar and water to clean mirrors, counters and many other things.

If a room had an odor, we opened a window for a few minutes in the winter, or placed a bowl of vinegar in the room, which got rid of the odor. Febreez did not exist back then, but I never would have been able to use it anyway.

A few years ago, I was working in a warehouse environment, and I developed asthma. After doing some research, I found that peppermint oil worked at helping to open my airways, and allowed me to breath. I have never enjoyed taking medications, so I always try to find natural ways of taking care of it. I really feel that there are too many drugs out there that have harmful side effects, and they lead to really serious health problems.

I totally agree with you. Dr. Quentin G.R. Schwenke said, “I wish that I had had ‘Simply Going Green’ available to recommend to my patients during my many years of Preventive Medical Practice. It prevents illness. That is true Preventive Medicine.” Tell us your thoughts about this and why it prevents illness.

When you study what all these chemicals do to our bodies on a daily basis, it is no wonder that so many people have health problems. I think people need to take more responsibility for their own health, and find natural ways to heal themselves. My book “Simply Going Green” is chalk full of resources to help people find natural ways of healing themselves. By using essential oils like Peppermint to help open airways or to help take the edge off a headache, you are not adding chemicals to your body, which could bring on other problems. I provide website links, so people do not have to do a lot of research, and instead just need to do some reading. Preventative Medicine, starts with us, and our willingness to look for alternative ways of healing our bodies.

Wow! I didn’t know about Peppermint taking away headaches. That’s awesome! How do you save money by going green?

When we repurpose items and find different uses for them, we are saving money by not spending it. When we make purchases, buy quality items, not stuff that will wear out in short order and leave us spending more money in the long run. Research what products are quality, so you know when you do go shopping.

Also, learn to do things for yourself. Grow a garden, and save money by not spending it on food. Learn to grow herbs in the winter, in containers on a kitchen window ledge. Learn how to do simple maintenance on your vehicle, like checking the tire air pressure so you are getting good gas mileage. Instead of buying new jeans when the zipper wears out, learn how to stitch a new zipper in. Take a good look at what you want to replace, and decide if it has a lot of wear left in it, if you took the time to fix it. If the answer is yes it does have lots of wear left in it, then learn how to fix it. There is usually a family member, neighbor or friend that knows how to fix these things, and will happily show you how to do it.

If you think about it, our grandparents lived on a whole lot less, were healthier, and had a good life. They knew simple green methods for everything, and if we pay attention to them, if they are still alive, then we too can learn how to be a lot greener and save money.

Thank you for your good advice, Kaayla. Now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

When I was a small child, my father used to make homemade wine. One afternoon when it was raining, he was sitting on the covered doorstep outside, and enjoying his wine, and let me have my first sip of the wine. Now, when it rains, I always grab a glass of wine and like to sit outside enjoying the smell of rain and the taste of wine. It reminds me of my father. I guess it is a way of being close to him, even though he has passed on. Wine and rain always reminds me of my father.

It sounds like you have some wonderful memories with your dad. How wonderful! Thank you so much, Kaayla, for this interview.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Interview with Romance Author LK Hunsaker

LK Hunsaker grew up in the Midwest. She holds a degree in psychology with an emphasis in art and literature. A detour took her to Texas before graduation with her new Army spouse, and then to Germany. During the 4 years overseas, she and her husband had their first child and did some traveling, setting foot in Berlin just after the Wall came down. She is the mother of two children and the author of five books.

Hello Loraine. This novel is a “sweet” romance. Please tell us about your new book and what time period it’s set in.

Hi Linda! Thank you for having me on your blog. I look forward to talking with your readers. Protect The Heart is the story of Abraham Luchner, a farm boy who is the only family his beloved father still has, and an artist. He’s been raised to believe you stand up and do what is right, whatever the consequences, and so he enlists to help in the war cause. His sometimes overzealous friend, Cameron Terry, who comes from an “outsider” family of wealth, joins with him looking for a grand adventure. The main focus, however, is Maura Laerty. She’s also new in the small town and has some ideas that don’t quite mesh with the community. Cameron has claimed her as his betrothed, but Maura isn’t so sure. When Cameron and Abraham leave, she commences writing letters first to one, then to both. The story bounces between the war front and the home front.

The time period is actually undetermined. I wanted an historical feel, with old-fashioned sensibilities and deportment and sometimes stifling restrictions, but I also wanted to pull in some more modern day issues. So it’s a bit of both, and it’s meant to show a timelessness and a rotation of events throughout history. Times may change, but inside, people are the same in each generation. 

I like that idea. I’m from Idaho, so the picture on the book and in your video bring back beautiful memories of my home state. Since my ancestors settled there, my first 5 historical romance novels are set in Idaho. Since you were raised in the Midwest and lived in several eastern states with your husband, why did you choose Idaho for your setting?

Idaho is stunning, with its mountains and rivers and canyons, especially to someone who grew up in the middle of flat land and cornfields! I first went to visit back in 1987 with my new husband, who was born and raised in southern Idaho’s Snake River valley. I’m a bit of a photo bug so every time we visited, I had my camera along. The cover photos are ones I took on some of those earliest visits. It never ceased to amaze me that I could look out the back window of his parents’ house and see mountains in the distance.

His family moved, so we no longer take those canyon and mountain visits. I look forward to checking out your books and revisiting the state through your stories. 

Thanks, Loraine. Idaho is very dear to me. Where did you get your inspiration for this novel?

Protect The Heart is very much a family-inspired book. My husband is a farm boy turned veteran. Also, I grew up hearing about my great uncles who fought in WW2, and those who joined after the war as soon as they were old enough. One of them is very highly decorated. The other was shot down and didn’t come home. I often thought about his mother who struggled through the loss of her child and the brother who came home when the other didn’t, so there is some of that in the story. I’ve also heard how overzealous my uncles could be. By the time I knew them, they were gray-haired or nearly so the stories brought them back as younger men. Part of that seeped into Cameron as I wrote.

Maura is very much drawn from real experience. She’s not a military spouse in the story, but she is the main support for the two soldiers away from home, as well as for several people who need her at home. Being alone in a new town is reminiscent of how, as an Army wife, I was often the new person in town without family or friends to support me during the rough times. It shows a strength she learns to have that can’t be learned any other way. There’s also an incident that is a take-off of an actual personal event where Maura feels hugely betrayed. 

Your book sounds wonderful: full of emotion, love, and sorrow. It sort of reminds me of what our soldiers and families are going through today. What does your family think about your writing?

I have to say at first it was rough going. Writing takes an incredible amount of time, and back when I became serious about putting a story on paper that had been in planning stages since my teen years, my kids were still young and my husband still active Army. So to suddenly pick up pencil and paper and spend every free minute I could grab with this story they didn’t even know was swirling in my head was confusing to them, at best.

Now though, I’m very lucky they’re fully supportive. My daughter often grabs each new chapter I print while it’s still warm and badgers me for the next if I’m not fast enough. My son tells his tons of friends about my books and hands out bookmarks and pencils. And my husband, bless his heart, tells me this is what I should be doing now that I can.

After years of taking care of everyone else and working part time jobs, I’m in a place now to give my stories more attention and the life they’ve been searching for throughout the years. That is a wonderful gift for a writer. I would have a hard time doing this without their support, which also means having quick and easy meals so I can get back to the current book, and overlooking the fact that I have several plots and a bunch of characters in my head and forget to pick up the milk when I force myself to go to the store because a story line or bit of dialogue took over my thoughts. I do feel sorry for a writer’s family, because everywhere you go, your story is right there with you. 

I understand completely. Now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

This is hard! What do I want to tell that’s memorable but also open to the public? Hm.... Well, when I was in grade school, I was often one of the top finishers in the spelling bee. One year I went on to county level after winning the school bee. The year after that, when everyone was expecting I’d win again or at least be one of the top three, I knocked myself out early. It was quite a humbling experience, since it was a very easy word and I’m such a horrible chocolate addict, so much so that Mom often called me that when I was little, but I missed the word “chocolate”! I’ve never lived that one down, and I’ve never misspelled it since.

That is hilarious. What a great story! So now we know the real you, the chocolate eating author who will never again misspell “chocolate.”

Monday, April 4, 2011

Interview with Author Ellen F. Feld

Award-winning author Ellen Feld began writing about horses more than twenty years ago. Her articles have appeared in 8 publications including Young Rider, Just About Horses, and The Appaloosa Journal. Ms. Feld's stories are noted for their realistic portrayal of horses, their behaviors, and the experiences of young riders. To attain this believability, Ms. Feld uses her horses as the basis for the animal characters within her books.

Hello Ellen. Welcome to my blog. This novel is for ages 9-12 and has won the Children's Choice Award. Please tell us about your new book.

“Frosty” is the second book in my ‘Morgan Horse’ series. In the first book, the protagonist, Heather, was very successful showing a Morgan named Blackjack. “Frosty” picks up with Heather going to an auction with a friend and falling in love with a gray Morgan. She is able to buy the horse and has visions of more blue ribbons with Frosty. But Frosty has other ideas and hates ring-work / showing. Heather is disappointed but doesn’t give up. Instead she takes up trail riding and discovers it’s a blast. A friend convinces Heather to take Frosty on a 3-day organized trail ride in Vermont. Heather is quite excited and the trail ride proves to be loads of fun. But on the morning of the second day, Heather and Frosty are up and exploring the camp area well before others have started to get ready. It’s very foggy out. As they explore, they stumble across a deer grazing in a nearby field. Heather gets carried away and asks Frosty to follow the deer. The horse and deer are soon racing through the woods. But once the deer disappears in the fog, Heather realizes that she and Frosty are lost…

Your book sounds like it has suspense. Where did you get your inspiration for this novel?

While my books are all fiction, much of each tale is based on experiences that I, or friends, have had with our horses. All the horses are based on real horses and in fact, my illustrator uses pictures of each when she’s working on the cover art.

In “Frosty,” Heather gets lost in the woods. Thankfully, that never happened to me but I did have a friend who once got lost. I asked her what happened and she told me, “Well, there was this deer…. and it was very foggy…” so I used that in my book. Also, Frosty gets bitten by a snake while in the woods. Again, it didn’t happen to any of my horses, but I have another friend who had a horse get bitten on the nose by a snake. She gave me every little detail of that experience and I took that information and wrapped it into the story. Finally, there’s a sub-plot in “Frosty” where Blackjack gets ill with all these really strange symptoms. The vet in the book is stumped. Well, the real Blackjack did get very sick (he’s fine now!) and the vet couldn’t figure it out. He had to call in a specialist. So I again used that in the book. I condensed the time – the whole event spanned over 6 months – and replaced technical jargon with much easier text that young readers would understand, but otherwise it was true to life. It turned into a nice little mystery plot. I’ve had numerous vets read the book because of the case – it was quite unusual.

Wow! You’ve certainly got my interest. I read Black Beauty as a young girl and thoroughly enjoyed it. The author wanted her readers to understand the importance of treating an animal right…to treat them with love and respect. Did you have anything in mind that you wanted your readers to learn as you wrote this book?

Yes, absolutely. There are so many horse books on the market today that anthropomorphize horses; stories where a young girl befriends a wild stallion and he helps her with some crises. Well, horses don’t do that! It really bothers me to have kids read that sort of story and think it’s real. So all my horse stories are true to life. I have a veterinarian consultant who fact checks all my stories. I’ve used trainers as consultants and I even have a medical doctor who checks my human action. Have you ever read a story/seen a movie where a character gets injured and is up and doing fine in the next scene when you know that’s just not possible? If a character falls off a horse and breaks her wrist, I don’t want her riding the next day. Of course, having said all this, the story must first and foremost be a lot of fun to read! Without a fun story, everything else is irrelevant.

I agree with you. What does your family think about your writing?

They’re used to it and don’t get terribly excited. I’ve been writing for horse magazines for about 30 years so my kids have grown up with a mother who has always written. They do, however, get excited when one of their horses is featured in a book.

It’s so nice getting to know you in this interview. Now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

Um…. How about that I have an Amazon Gray (parrot) named Razzy who is terribly neurotic and has a nervous head twitch? But he talks up a storm and makes everybody laugh.

I love it. I wish I could listen to him talk. Thanks for your time, Ellen.

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