Nov 19, 2010

Guest Blogger: Author Alison Hart

By Alison Hart

I write mysteries, suspense and historical fiction, mostly involving horses, all based in reality.

In Shadow Horse and its sequel Whirlwind, Jas must prove that Hugh Robicheaux killed two horses for insurance money. The mystery revolves around true scams that can happen in any sport, but in this case, the high stakes sport of horse showing:

“One of the worst cases of fraud happened in the early 1990’s,” Miss Hahn told Jas. “Some of the top paid riders and wealthiest owners in the business paid a lowlife named Tommy Burns to kill their horses.

“In one case, a horse named Empire was galloped until sweaty. Then he was put in a clean stall and electrocuted. Based on the sweat and clean stall, the vet ruled colic.”

There were worse details in the magazines and articles that I read for research and at the rescue farms I visited, details that turned my stomach. I wisely left many of them out. An author continually makes choices about the amount of research and reality to include. Too little can result in a bland story, too much can make it gruesome.

In my “Racing to Freedom” trilogy (Gabriel’s Horses, Gabriel’s Triumph and Gabriel’s Journey) set during the Civil War, my research sent me to the dark times when African Americans were treated with brutality and disdain. I definitely had to make choices, leaving out graphic incidences of slaves being hung, whipped and sold from their families. However, there was plenty left for a true and gripping tale such as the scene from Gabriel’s Journey, set during the real Battle of Saltville, Virginia:

Hoofbeats thud in the foggy distance. Then angry words drift down the hillside from the cabin of wounded soldiers. “Drag them coloreds outta there!” a gruff voice hollers.

The surgeon’s voice rises in protest, but moments later the report of revolvers echoes through the hills. I startle with each shot.

“Oh my god,” Captain cries out hoarsely. “They’re killing the wounded.” 

Private Black’s words flash in my mind like a warning. When those Confederates see our black faces charging them with rifles and bayonets, they’re going to attack us with a vengeance.

I’ve written over sixty books. When people ask me where I get my ideas, I tell them, “Just pick up any newspaper. Or read a history text. Horror, crime and mayhem are everywhere.”

And they make terrific stories.


Molly said...

Hey, Alison Hart, I've got a bone to pick with you!

As a tween I was a devotee of the Riding Academy series. I remember at some point seeing "upcoming" books called Rivals in the Ring and Million Dollar Mare somewhere. They never materialized! Amazon lists them as "out of print - unavailable" but given the complete lack of used copies, I'm assuming they were never written.

So I have to know, WHAT WERE THOSE BOOKS GOING TO BE ABOUT? Because it's only been fifteen years; I'm sure you remember! ;)

Alison said...

Hi Molly--the publishing world is a mystery to me, so I'm not sure I can answer your question. My editor and I had discussed the two upcoming books, but no contract was written for them due to lagging sales of the last few titles of the series. I have no clue how Amazon got the titles and why it posted them on the site. Million Dollar Mare was going to be about Jina's new horse to replace Superstar (who was lame). Rivals in the Ring . . .hmm, I'm not sure about that story but the title was great!
I love the series, too, and could never figure out why Saddleclub made it and Riding Acadeny didn't. Another mystery!

Molly said...

Who knows? Though I think The Saddle Club and Thoroughbred got a monopoly on the genre pretty quick...though I liked the RA kids much more than the Saddle Club girls. Well, two-thirds of them. I liked Stevie fine, but Lisa and Carole both needed a good slap upside the head. (Though Andie was kind of a bitch, we were supposed to think so...meanwhile Carole was as snotty as the antagonist much of the time but she was our hero...)

(Also, loved that Mary Beth was a beginning rider who wasn't somehow OMG AMAZING with fake "flaws" to make her appear "relatable" while still being a total Sue. And I loved her giant lazy draft cross.)

Erica said...

Wow. Finally an answer! I've been searching for those last books in the series forever - I have the whole rest of the collection, and I adore them just as much now as I did when I was growing up.

Ms. Hart, thank you so much for being such a wonderful part of my childhood, and for continuing to write wonderful horse books. I loved "Whirlwind" and am looking forward to whatever comes next.

P.S. To those running the blog, you might remember me as Twilight Graffiti from the old Whitebrook message board. I didn't actually fall off the face of the earth, and it's nice to see all of you are still Whitebrook fans too!