Jan 25, 2009

Talking about horse books with Jessica Burkhart.

Today I'm talking to Jessica Burkhart, the brand new author of Canterwood Crest. The first book in the series, Take the Reins, is available now.

Time for a quick synopsis!

When Sasha Silver and her horse, Charm, arrive on the campus of the elite Canterwood Crest Academy, Sasha knows that she's in trouble. She's not exactly welcomed with open arms. One group of girls in particular is used to being the best, the brightest, and the prettiest on the team, and when Sasha shows her skills in the arena, the girls' claws come out.

Sasha is determined to prove that she belongs at Canterwood. Will she rise to the occasion and make the advanced riding team by the end of her first semester? Or will the pressure send Sasha packing?

Okay, to the interview:

You've been an equestrian, but unfortunately had to stop riding. What motivated you to finally start writing about horses?

I’d been an equestrian for most of my life, but had a spinal fusion at thirteen for severe scoliosis. After surgery, I avoided horses for six years. I missed my old life with horses! I was always the horse girl and I’d lost that. I needed something to keep me busy, so I started freelancing for magazines. I wrote about everything but horses.

When I was nineteen, I heard about NaNoWriMo and wanted to try it. Great, but I had no ideas. Then, the idea for Canterwood hit. I was so scared to jump back into the horse world, but I went for it. As I started writing Canterwood, I fell right back into the groove of things. All of my equine knowledge was still there from the parts of the saddle to how to do a half halt. Writing about horses gave me back my passion and I’ll never go back to ignoring horses.

There are many, many horse books in the middle grade market. How does Canterwood Crest contribute in terms of fresh ideas?

Canterwood Crest is different because, to some extent, it takes the edge of The Clique novels and mixes it with the horse-centered world of The Saddle Club. Canterwood Crest isn’t just a horse series—it has other elements such as boys and friendship that will hopefully draw tween readers. I try to keep a balance so girls who didn’t like horses would still find the series enjoyable and entertaining.

Has any particular horse book or series influenced Canterwood Crest?

The passion that Ashleigh (from the Thoroughbred series) has for horses definitely influenced me. I put a bit of that in Sasha, my main character. Whenever I reread the Thoroughbred series, especially the early books, I love Ashleigh’s relationship with Wonder, Pride, Fleet Goddess and her other horses. I never wanted Sasha to use a horse as a prop or for riding to come off as an activity that only rich kids did on a weekend. Like Ashleigh, Sasha’s totally horse crazy and she’d do anything for her horse.

Your first attempt at writing a novel-length draft occurred during NaNoWriMo. What were your greatest challenges during that month?

The first challenge was the shock of keeping up with the frantic pace of NaNo. Now, it’s no big deal, but for a first timer it was SO hard. I was sure many times during that month that I wouldn’t make it, but I just kept going.

The other challenge was the carpal tunnel in my right hand that decided to present itself during the second week of NaNo. I’d never had problems with it before, so I didn’t know how to treat it.

Do you have any plans to go the YA route with a horse book in the future?

Actually, I wrote a draft of a YA horse book a couple of summers ago. It’s shelved for now, but it might be something to revisit in the future. Writing an adult horse book (something like Sara Gruen’s Riding Lessons and Flying Changes) would be great, too.

Lastly, what is your absolute favorite horse book ever and why?

My absolute favorite is the fifth book in the Thoroughbred series—Ashleigh’s Dream. A teacher at school gave it to me and she wrote a note inside about how I should follow my dreams of working with horses and writing. It was the first Thoroughbred book I’d ever read and I was hooked. I’m so grateful that I was able to combine both of my loves!

My thanks to Jessica for taking the time to answer a few questions! I will definitely be dropping everything when I read Take the Reins this week. For those who don't have their own copy, it's available now at Amazon.

Links of Interest:
Canterwood Crest
Jessica Burkhart
Jessica's Blog


Bookworm said...

Yay, Jess! I can't wait to read TTR, it looks amazing! Great interview, BTW. I have to agree with her--Thoroughbred rocks!

Monique said...

I'm going to have to order my TTR online. :) Sucky thing about living in South Africa! Very excited to read it, though! Nothing like the first book in a new horse series!

Jessica Burkhart said...

Thanks so much for interviewing me! :) Yay!

Heather said...

Super excited about this series, but it might take me a while to get to a bookstore. Our Waldenbooks just closed and I'm super cheesed about it.